Simple Ways to Pay it Forward

Last month I included “paying it forward” in my goals and I wanted to revisit the topic today in more detail. If you haven’t heard the phrase and are wondering what it means to “pay it forward,” it’s giving back with a random act of kindness to a stranger.

I’ve always loved the concept, especially after reading the Kids Random Act of Kindness book and seeing the movie Pay It Forward a solid 15+ years ago. But over the weekend I decided to rewatch the movie when I saw it on Netflix (yay!) and am feeling totally reinspired to make a difference in lives. Even the smallest of actions or words can make such a huge impact on people. Think about it. If someone gives you a compliment or smiles at you, doesn’t it really help to brighten your mood a bit?

Over the next month, I’m going to do three random acts of kindness for strangers, and I challenge you to do the same! Not sure where to start? Here are a few simple ways to pay it forward.

We could definitely use more kindness in the world! Read these simple ways to pay it forward!

  1. Pay for the coffee of the car/person behind you in line.
  2. Smile and say “hello” to people you walk past.
  3. Leave a bigger tip for your waiter when dining out.
  4. Give up your seat for someone who could use it more on the subway/bus.
  5. Drop some change in parking meters for people who are running low on time.
  6. Spend an afternoon volunteering at a local charity.
  7. Compliment someone on their outfit, hair, talent, etc.
  8. Let someone with less items than you go first in the grocery line.
  9. Bring baked goods into the office to surprise your colleagues.
  10. Leave encouraging notes in random places (e.g. in the middle of a book, on a shelf).
  11. Give your leftovers to a homeless person when driving home from a restaurant.
  12. Share your umbrella with someone who doesn’t have one when it’s raining.
  13. Hold the door/elevator for the person walking up behind you.
  14. Make care packages for an organization (e.g. military, cancer patients)
  15. Ask someone how their day’s going and really listen.


Have you ever done a random act of kindness? I’d love to hear your story!

  • Love every one of these :)

  • Alicia Johansen

    I love every one of these. It is absolutely briliant :) Thank you <3

  • It always makes my day when people hold the door open for me. There are indeed gentlemen (and women!) everywhere.

    • Same! It’s the worst when people just let the door close on you, ugh!

  • Marvina Musser

    I love every one of these. I am going to try and make this a goal of mine. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • Hooray! Thanks so much for reading and your support in paying it forward!

  • #5 is illegal in a lot of cities. I know, ridiculous, right?!

  • I love love love this list! I think it’s a great reminder that sometimes even the smallest things can have a MAJOR impact!

    • Thanks, Katie! It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the millions of things we have going on in our day and forget that something so simple can leave such a big mark on someone!

  • Michelle Lynn

    I love this! Great idea. Very inspiring!!

    Keep making a difference <3

  • Hi Rachel, this is a lovely post. We can all do little things every day to make life just that bit nicer for everyone.

    • Thanks, Wendy! That’s exactly my intent with this post!

  • Taylor Smith

    I love paying for the person behind me!!! It is such an easy way to make someone’s day!

    • It really is! And it always makes my day knowing that too!

  • Valerie Vanderheiden-Rath

    My husband and I are both practice paying it forward on a regular basis because we love to bless others.

  • I’ve had someone pay for my food before at a restaurant. It was definitely sweet of them.

    • That’s awesome! So great to hear that other people are paying it forward out there!

  • Anchored Mom Life

    It’s amazing how rewarding it is to do something nice for others!

  • Love this! Making a reminder to pay for someone’s coffee this week! :)

    • Thanks, Jackie! So glad to hear you’re joining in on the movement!

  • Amanda

    Very inspirational post! Great ideas :)

  • Love this and very inspirational! I recently re-watched that movie too,and it a. always makes me bawl and b. is really eye opening! Great post!

    • Thanks, Cara! It’s SO eye opening and ugh the tears just don’t stop in those last few minutes of the movie!

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    You have inspired me to do the same! Love this post! It is so easy to get caught up in my own world and not SEE those around me. Thank you for sharing!

    • So happy to hear that! Thanks so much for reading and joining in, Elizabeth!

  • I love paying it forward. It really makes you feel good when you know you have helped and made a difference in someone’s day. I have yet to bring snacks to my co-workers but I think that’ll be the one I do next.

    • It really does! I brought treats in a few weeks ago which was a nice surprise for them!

  • I love this! There are so many small, simple things we can do that can really make a persons day! Pinned!

    • There really are! Thank you so much for supporting this, Lauren!

  • JeeYoung

    I LOVE this! I’ve been trying to do little things like small gifts for coworkers, and paying for the next customer at starbucks!

    • Thank you! I’m so happy to hear that! Paying it forward is just the best!

  • Love all of these ideas for random acts of kindness. Paying it forward is so important.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • Thanks, Jenny! Totally agree! We need more kindness in the world!

  • Tara Berries

    I love paying it forward at Tim Horton’s and if I receive a pay it forward act at Timmies I continue the action by covering the next person in line.

    • So great to hear that, Tara! Being on the giving or receiving end of paying it forward is the best feeling!

  • Shani Ogden

    It’s the small and simple things that seem to make the biggest difference in a person’s life. I love paying it forward!

    • Such a true statement, Shani! Thanks for reading!


    I love this post! Paying forward is important x

  • I’ve actually done several of these before. Even small simple things can really make someone’s day. Love all of these ideas and I think it’s awesome that you are paying it forward!

    • Love hearing that, Mistle! It’s the little things that mean the most!

  • Bree Hogan

    I agree with the other comments, sometimes what seems like such a simple thing can make such a difference in the life of someone. I love doing things to pay it forward. :-)

    • They really can! Paying it forward is such a rewarding thing to do!

  • Andrea Gonzales Diede

    At my frequented drive thru coffee shop I bought the coffee for the person behind me… the next day the Barista told me that it continued car after var for 11 cars! What a great feeling!

    • That’s amazing! I hope more people start to do the same!

  • I always try to give compliments to people when I think something nice about them! It feels good to make someone else smile!

  • I love this! I like doing many of these as much as I can. I love paying it forward!

  • All simple enough and yet so many people (including me) don’t always think to do them – the world can often be crazy, stressful and scary – I think these little acts of kindness are SO SO important, Great ideas!

    • So true, Allison! I definitely want to get better about doing things like these more often!

  • Chrissa – Physical Kitchness

    Care packages are awesome. My favorite way to give back because I can get creative! I’ve often thought that I should bring my babies to a nursing home too – I am sure it would really light someone’s day :)

    • That’d be amazing! I remember going in when I was younger to spend some time at retirement homes and brought little crafts in that we made – they loved it!

  • Daria Vinning

    I love to pay it forward! You never know what people are going through so when they receive this random act of kindness it’s the best act ever! It’s always a blessing to give and receive acts of kindness. Thanks for sharing!

    • So true, Daria! All the more reason for us to continue to pay it forward :) Thanks for reading!

  • The Famous Ashley Grant

    Paying it forward is soooooo important to me. In fact, for my 30th birthday I ran around Tampa doing 30 random acts of kindness to give back to the community :D

    • What an awesome thing to do – that sounds like a great idea! I think I need to do something like that soon!

  • What an inspiring post. I love the list of ideas to pay it forward in simple ways. Thank you for the great reminders!

    • Thanks, Marlynn! Glad to hear you’re feeling inspired :)

  • Danielle Jacek

    Love this! I will have to add them to my goals for this month!

  • Love these tips Rachel! I miss having an office with co-workers to bring baked goods to sometimes! Maybe I’ll bring them to my gym haha ;-)

    – Rachel |

    • Thank you! I think baked goods are appreciated anywhere.. ESPECIALLY the gym, haha. Post-workout treats :)

  • Love most of these! I’m all about complimenting others. You just never know who needed to hear something nice/a smile.

    • Thank you! Complimenting others is the best – it instantly brightens moods!

  • I like the parking meter one. No one wants to come back to a ticket, and a lot of meters will only let you pay for a few hours at a time!

    • Exactly! Sometimes you’re running a few minutes behind too, so being able to save someone from a parking ticket is huge!

  • These are all awesome! Love that you included not ordinary ways to pay it forward. Love that they’re all so simple and it shows it doesn’t take much to spread love!

    • Thanks, Summer! There are SO many simple ways to pay it forward – and most of them don’t even require money!

  • Clare Speer

    Such simple but important and kind gestures! Love this and such a great post – we all need to be reminded that there is always someone that needs a hand or a smile …. this is great!

  • We should all make it a point to be kinder! The world needs more of it for sure! I’ve never seen the movie, Ill have to check it out while its still on Netflix!

    • I definitely think so too, Amanda! Thanks for reading!

  • Jessica Hughes

    I love this! Especially the tip of buying coffee for another person, a cheap and easy way to pay it forward.

    • Thanks, Jessica! I think a lot of people are intimidated thinking they have to shell out money to pay it forward but there are so many ways to do so without spending a penny!

  • Samantha

    I have been trying to leave bigger tips lately when we eat out. Great ideas!

    • That’s great! I try to do that more especially at Christmastime but I want to do so during the rest of the year too!

  • Great post. Paying it forward makes such a difference. If everyone did it, I think we would all be happier people. I love the idea of paying for the coffee of the person in front of you or giving up your seat on a subway.


    • Thank you! I absolutely think so too. Hopefully by starting some acts of kindness more people will continue them!

  • I love this post! I have done the coffee thing when I went through Starbucks one day. I’m a huge giver so I love giving people things or making things to brighten others days. :)

    • Thanks, Christine! I love to hear that! Keep passing the kindness on :)

  • these are all such great ideas! i always try and smile and be friendly to people, you never know how their day is going. i keep meaning to pay for someone’s drink or something one day, i rarely go to starbucks or the like because i don’t drink coffee lol but maybe one day!

    • Thanks, Kristen! It’s so true – that’s why kindness all the time – even just a smile is the best. And I still can’t believe you don’t drink coffee! What’s your source of caffeine?! lol.

      • lol i drink diet coke? and tea… but caffeine really has no effect on me, never has!

  • I am happy to say that I do many of these things regularly. Not to boast at all, but it makes me feel like my parents taught me well. I see my daughter doing many of these things as well. The world will be a much better place if we did even one or two of your suggestions. I definitely want to send some care packages! Thank you for sharing.

    • I love to hear that, Angela! So glad to hear you’re teaching your daughter to pay it forward too. My hope is that more people will too!

  • Smiles, compliments, and genuine listening can really go a long way! I love these ideas!


  • I love this! It’s so easy to think you can’t make someone’s day with a simple gesture, but you really can.

  • some of these really speak to me. Whenever someone lets me go ahead at the grocery store, or holds a door for me, I feel so grateful. They’ve taken time out of their lives to be kind and that’s worth every added second.

    I once had a fairly public meltdown in a Starbucks (guy broke up with me then left me there) and as I sobbed into my venti latte, I had one person anonymously buy me a cookie, and another person (an older woman) come and sit with me and talk with me and offer advice until I felt better. I’ve never forgotten it and have tried to pay that forward when I could

    Laura @

    • That guy sounds like the biggest jerk, ugh! So glad to hear that people stepped up to do kind acts, especially during such an awful public experience to have! Love that you’re continuing to pay it forward too!

  • Dia

    These are too sweet. I think I’ll have to try the leave random notes places. I love the idea of someone having a bad day finding a note from a stranger that says, “You got this!” Thanks for the idea.

    • Thanks, Dia! I think that’d be a great note to leave somewhere (or multiple places). It’s the little things that matter most!

  • I have never paid for coffee for the person before or after me in line, but I definitely really want to do that! I recently tipped 100% on a meal, and that was a really good feeling!

    xx katie // a touch of teal

    • You definitely should! Tipping 100% on a meal is such a great idea too – I’ll have to try that one soon!

  • That’s so wonderful! I bet it did! Thanks for joining in on the movement!

  • Mardene Carr

    As humans we should always seek to play it forward. Others are helped and we feel so much better

    • Totally agree, Mardene. Thanks so much for reading!