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How To Pay It Forward Without Spending Money

How To Pay It Forward Without Spending Money

By Jessica Leshnoff • November 25, 2019

It’s the holiday season and charitable giving is top of mind. However, if you’re on a tight budget you may feel like you can’t support a worthy cause without spending money.

Take heart! There are plenty of ways to pay it forward without getting your finances off track. Whether it’s Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) or you’re searching for random acts of kindness ideas, we’ve gathered some simple, free ways to be charitable during the holiday season and beyond.

1. Use your talents for the greater good

Play the guitar? Strum a tune for residents in a nursing home. Are you a master knitter? Knit blankets and hats for babies in your local neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Like to cook? Whip up something delicious at a soup kitchen. Tapping into your talents can make a big difference in the lives of others.

2. Volunteer at an animal shelter

Love animals? Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers, especially during the holiday season. Dogs need to be walked, kennels need to be washed and cats need to be cuddled. You can even stuff envelopes, make phone calls or help at adoption events. The work isn’t always glamourous, but the four-legged recipients of your kindness are cute, and with every visit you’ll know you’re doing some good in the world.

3. Donate possessions you don’t use (or wear) anymore

Simple acts of kindness can start in your closet (or your basement, attic, kitchen or living room). Many of us have clothes we don’t wear, a lamp or chair we don’t like anymore, maybe dishes — or even just mugs — we’d like to replace. Instead of letting perfectly good items sit around your house, donate your belongings to people who need them. Some organizations will even pick up bags of clothes and larger items (like furniture) from your home.

4. Start a fundraiser

Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s simpler than ever to raise money for causes important to you. Crowdsourcing sites like GoFundMe are an excellent way to pay it forward for friends and family that need assistance with expenses such as medical bills. If you’d like to start a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization, Facebook makes it easy to launch one in just a few clicks, then immediately share it with your network.

5. Give blood

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, and a single blood donation can save up to three lives.1 If you’re healthy enough to give blood, it’s one of the simplest, most effective ways you can pay it forward. Start on Giving Tuesday or any time during the holiday season, then donate regularly throughout the year. It’s an act of kindness that, quite literally, saves lives.

Inspire others with random acts of kindness

If you don’t have time to do anything listed above, simply practice random acts of kindness. Hold doors for strangers. Help someone with heavy bags. Give someone a ride (or a compliment!). Let someone in front of you in traffic.

The great thing about helping others is how it inspires those around you to do the same. It’s amazing how one simple act of kindness can lead to another. It’s the best holiday gift you can give — and it doesn’t cost a cent.


1 “Blood Needs & Blood Supply.” RedCrossBlood.org. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/how-blood-donations-help/blood-needs-blood-supply.html (accessed October 28, 2019).


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