pay it forward ideas, red daisy in vase

50 Beautiful and Loving Pay it Forward Ideas (Updated for 2020)

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All Scripture references come from the King James Version of the Holy Bible (KJV)."

What does the Bible say about paying it forward?


I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “pay it forward” before.  Basically, what the paying it forward meaning is, when someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, you pay it forward, meaning you do something nice for somebody else.    


Jesus led the pay it forward movement by giving His life on the cross at Calvary to pay the debt of sin that we all have.  He gave His life for ours.  We just have to accept the free gift of salvation, which is one of the greatest pay it forward examples known to mankind.


John 3:16 KJV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What is the concept of pay it forward?


We have all heard of incredible pay it forward stories.  In 2014 a woman in St. Petersburg, Florida started a pay it forward movement by buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks that inspired 377 other customers to do the same.  It was a chain of kindness that lasted 11 hours.  There are hundreds of stories like that online.


Why should you pay it forward?


Showing kindness is an act of Christian love.  Jesus commands that we are to love God first, and then love everybody else as much as we love ourselves. So look for those ways to pay it forward, any type of kindness.  You never know how one simple act of kindness can impact someone’s life.  Reaching out to show kindness can offer someone hope when they’re struggling and in the midst of chaos.


Matthew 22:36-40  Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

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What are some pay it forward ideas?


What follows is 50 pay it forward ideas.   Have fun with these.  Reach out and touch the lives of friends and strangers alike.  One simple act of spreading kindness, not only makes you feel all warm and tingly inside.  But it lifts the spirits of the recipient.  Most of the time, it gives you ideas for paying it forward to someone else. So don’t hesitate.  When you feel convicted, go!


50 easy ways to pay it forward


Hold the door for someone.  This is the most natural thing in the world.  For me, opening doors is always a challenge, but I still do this because I don’t believe you should open your own door if someone else is there.  That’s my personal opinion.


Fill out a survey and leave the name of someone who treated you extra special (or even if they didn’t). The store will usually reward that person.  For instance, my daughter worked in retail and when a customer, (I’ll admit it, sometimes it was me ?) mentioned her name as giving exceptional service, they gave her coupons for lunch or groceries.  So now, when I complete the weekly survey when I shop, I name someone in the store, even if they didn’t help me.   It’s a beautiful anonymous gift and it is now on my list of pay it forward ideas.


Buy a coffee for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop.  Give the cashier an extra $5 or $10 for their future customers.  It will perk up anyone’s day.


starbucks iced coffee resting in sand, pay it forward ideas


Make a phone call or send a card to a friend you don’t usually call, to let them know you’re thinking of them and what a blessing they are to your life.  Because, if you’ve ever received one of these calls, you know how special they are.  Pass it on!


Give to the veterans.  We have so much to be thankful for from these veterans.  The military is a tough job.  We really cannot take these hard-working folks for granted. So support your veterans, even if it’s just a dollar.  Thank them for their service, always!


Make a meal for someone who is ill, stressed or down on their luck.  When I was in the hospital after my illness and amputations, our local Altrusa community service organization took it upon themselves to provide meals for my family EVERY DAY…for MONTHS!!!  I cannot begin to tell you the blessing this was for all of us.  So if someone is down on their luck, cook a meal or a plate of cookies.  They will completely appreciate it.  


pay it forward ideas, red daisy in vase


Leave an encouraging note in a library book or a bulletin board.  Just a note that says “Have a great day” or “Jesus loves you”.  Another idea is to leave a dollar bill.  How cool would it be to find that in your library book?


Complement a stranger.  If you like their outfit or their shoes or their manicure, tell them.  It’s a great conversation starter, too.


Leave a positive comment or review on a website or blog.  Writing is hard work.  If you take the time to read someone’s blog post and you like it, let them know. I always love your comments. (However, this is not me fishing for compliments.)


Let someone cut in front of you in line at the store.  If they have just a few items and you have a full cart, let them cut in.    The same thing goes if they have a fussy child. This is not just another one of my great ideas to pay it forward, you’ll be a great blessing that Mom.


Buy lemonade from a child’s lemonade stand.  You will absolutely  make that child’s day.  Be sure to leave a big tip, too.


Donate goods to charity.  Food, clothes, or money.  There are so many people out there, who are worse off than you are, no matter what situation you are in.   Seek out where the biggest need is, and donate.


Be polite in traffic.  Let someone pull out in front of you.  It’s such an easy way to show kindness and pay it forward.  Because, are you really in that much of a hurry that you have to inch up so you’re right on the bumper of the car in front of you, that you won’t let that Momma with her screaming kids out?  Make someone’s day and let them out.


Complement a parent on their well-behaved child.  You will absolutely light up their day.  A lot of parents struggle with fussy kids when they’re out in public.  When someone’s child is a perfect angel, it stands out. So let that parent know!


cute litte girl wearing a big hat, pay it forward movement


What is an example of a selfless act?


Give to a homeless person.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe $1 or $2.  Just help somebody out who is down on their luck.  If you’re getting lunch, buy them a meal.  Above all, don’t judge.  You don’t know what their circumstances are. 


When someone drops something, pick it up for them.  This is super easy.  In my situation, I could easily fall if I try to pick something up off the floor.  In fact, one time, I did fall and broke my arm.  You never know someone’s abilities.  If you can grab what they dropped, go for it.


Help another person in line when they’re short on cash.  We’ve all been there. You don’t have enough money.  This is super embarrassing.  So if you see this happening and you have the means to help, why don’t you?  They will be so appreciative.


Pay for a meal for someone in the military.  My son, Michael Jr was in the Air Force. It was not uncommon for people to thank him for his service and buy his meal.   I am extremely thankful for our military, active duty and veterans and their families.  They need our support and prayers.


Drive a friend to the doctor or another appointment.  Sometimes our friends just need someone to go with them.  Give them a ride, or ride along with them. Your time is a valuable thing to offer.


Reconnect with an old friend.  Losing touch with a close friend is hard.  Thankfully, we have some pretty great technology that allows us to pick up where we left off.  


Give away extra veggies from your garden.  There’s nothing like fresh local garden vegetables.  Those of us with gardens love sharing.  And those who don’t have gardens, love the tasty gift.


Pick up random trash as you see it.  I’m not talking about gum that you see on the ground.  But if there’s a bag or can on the ground, grab it.  It’s also a good idea to keep some disposable gloves or paper towels in the car.


Mentor a child.  Become a Big Brother or Big Sister or volunteer at the local school.  It’s surprising to me, just how many young people need a solid parental influence in their lives.


Return a shopping cart for someone at the store.  One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don’t return their cart after they’re done shopping.  I always return my cart.  I figure that if I can do it with no hands and prosthetic feet, then others can too.  But I get that there are people in worse situations than me, so help them out.  You’re taking your cart back anyway, right?


shopping cart, ideas for paying it forward


Clean your friend’s house.  We all have friends who need more help than they get.  Visit with a mop and dust cloth.  She’ll love you forever.


Leave coupons near the item in the grocery store.  If you’re a coupon clipper, grab a few coupons for your favorite products.  Leave them on the shelf for the next customer to get an unexpected savings surprise.


Share your umbrella on a rainy day.  Nobody likes getting wet while fully dressed.  Sharing is caring.?


Be attentive to others when they talk.  Put down your cell phone and listen.  We all like it when others pay attention to us when we talk.  So pay attention to others when it’s their turn to talk.


Give away your parking space.  If there’s a packed lot and you can help someone out, why wouldn’t you?


Sponsor a child.  When you sponsor a child, you help support a child to grow up healthy, learning and safe, no matter where they live.  For more information, Save the Children has all the details. 


Joyful Living Toolbox for growing in faith, gratitude and kindness


joyful living toolbox graphic


If you are looking for a great resource to tweak your pay it forward mindset, look no further.  The Joyful Living Toolbox is for women who are struggling with fulfillment and happiness in their life, who are looking for reminders that through faith, gratitude, and kindness, you can overcome anything.



Joyful Living Toolbox is geared toward making growing your faith, gratitude and kindness easier, saving you time by putting all the tools that you need in one handy place, at your fingertips.  


It gives you the tools that will help you to…


? Grow your faith

? Increase your gratitude (so that the blessings are bigger than the obstacles)

? And serve others through kindness


All of this results in a positive mindset that will help you tackle any challenge to create a beautiful life filled with greater contentment and joy. 


The Joyful Living Toolbox includes over 200 more random acts of kindness and additional kindness suggestions with online resources.  Plus compliment cards for your pay it forward movement. The toolbox is loaded with great tools and resources, 70 pages in all.  So grab it now and get to work. 


How do you repay kindness?  More ideas for paying it forward


Volunteer for a local charity.   Soup kitchens, Scout leader or PTA president, homeless shelters or food banks.  There are so many options.  Pick one and get started.  What a great lesson for your kids too.


Buy your produce from a local farm or farmer’s market.  Not only are you supporting local growers, you’re getting a quality, organic product.


Say “Yes” the next time someone needs help.  I know that this goes against the “Just say No” movement.  But every once in a while, it’s okay to say “yes” in order to help someone who is in need.


Help a stranger change their flat tire.  I get it, there’s a hint of fear when you pull over to help someone.  But if God is convicting you to help someone, He’ll keep you safe.


Donate books, coloring books or toys to a local children’s hospital.  Being sick and stuck in the hospital stinks.  Any way we can help the children lighten the experience, we should.


Shop locally.  When you support your locally owned businesses, you’re supporting your neighbors.  You’re helping to feed their families. They will then, in turn, shop locally. The money stays in the community.


Help someone load or unload their groceries.  It’s such a simple gesture.  But it’s one of those easy ways to pay it forward.


Donate food or necessities to a local animal shelter.  Our furry friends need acts of kindness too.  You could even volunteer your time to care for them as well.


Give a friend a plant for their desk or table.  Succulents are great for this.  A little extra oxygen that the plant brings will lighten their mood.  


Learn the names of the customer service people you regularly do business with.  Greet them by name when you see them.


man looking down wearing a love your neighbor ball cap, ideas to pay it forward


Find opportunities to give out compliments.  This can be done anywhere.  I love the opportunities for sharing compliments on social media.  This is another one of those easy ways to pay it forward.


Donate blood.  Give blood as a precious gift to save the lives of others.


Call an elderly friend or relative to let them know you’re thinking of them.  Many of our elderly are shut ins and don’t have a lot of contact with others.  A simple phone call can lift their spirits and make their day.


Only spread positive thoughts.  What value do you bring to others if you’re negative and spreading pessimism?  Think before you speak.  Spread joy, not negativity.


If someone you care about really loves something, buy it for them.  This is simple.  If your Mom loves flowers, surprise her with a plant or bouquet every once in a while.  If your friend likes M & M’s, bring her a package now and then.


Send a care package to a student or member of the military.  What a great pay it forward idea.  Everyone likes surprises.  Operation Shoebox is a great organization for your military care packages.


Donate clothes you no longer wear.  Why let those perfectly good outfits hang in your closet gathering dust and cobwebs?  Put them to good use.  Donate to those who can use them more than you.


Be gracious and forgiving.  We are given so many opportunities during the day to be forgiving and just let things “slide.”  Why make mountains out of molehills?  Give grace and forgive the sins of others, as your Heavenly Father forgives you.


Bring a home-cooked meal to new parents.  Bringing a new baby home is overwhelming.  Share some food and help ease their burden.  If you’re really feeling generous, grab that baby and let Mom have a break.


Always ask, “How can I help?”  You’ll find tons of ideas for paying it forward if you just keep your eyes and ears open.  Look for opportunities and simply offer to help.  Easy peasy!


As you can see, a little kindness can go a long way. I challenge you to make random acts of kindness a part of your life. It doesn’t have to cost you anything.  There are things you can do for free.  

Want more ideas? 105 of the Best Random Acts of Kindness and 101 Amazingly Simple Ways to Spread Kindness have many more ideas to pay it forward.  The bottom line is, if you’re in a situation and your heart feels led, go ahead and bless that person’s day.  It will bless you in the process.

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The best rule of thumb when you’re looking for how to pay it forward is to keep the following in mind.

      • Pay attention to what’s going on around you.

      • Look for opportunities to help others.

      • Do something nice for someone you don’t know.

      • If they offer to pay you, just ask them to participate in the pay it forward movement.

Do you have any other pay it forward examples?  I’d love to hear about your favorite ways to pay it forward. Please share them in the comments below.


***All Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible


Please share your pay it forward ideas

wendy signature, one exceptional life 

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  1. In 1995 my mother was ill in the hospital. I lived in Santa Rosa CA. I had to travel into San Francisco over the SF Bridge (toll). I was surprised when the attendant waved us through and said the car in front had paid our toll. I was pretty young at the time and didn’t realize I should have done the same.. But it left an impact on me 🙂 Thank you for sharing everyone!

    1. I agree, Laurie. It’s such a blessing to be on the receiving end of a gift like that. But keep in mind, it’s always better to pay it forward because you want to. Not because you feel the need to keep the chain of giving going. Sometimes I think that people give out of a heart of maintaining the chain vs just wanting to be a blessing to someone. I hope that makes sense. Give what’s in your heart.

    1. Thank you, Sandy! I’m so glad you enjoyed them. There’s a printable right there so you can hang it on your fridge.

  2. This is my best reading today! I love the idea of paying it forward. It leaves one with such a good boost for the day!
    And with that said, all the very best to you and yours for a fun and festive holiday season.

  3. These are wonderful! I’m sharing on my twitter account – I have started a RAK Memorial in memory of my brother & dad! I am wrapping up site this week and I will link to your blog for ideas for participants! This is awesome!

    1. Hi Emma, I was just thinking about that last night as I was reading my library book? What could I do to lift someone’s spirits who reads this? I have half a book to decide.

  4. When I worked at Starbucks, we once had a 17 or 18 car record in the drive thru of people paying it forward and buying the drink of the person behind them! It was so moving and wonderful. 🙂 This inspired me to go do the same today.

  5. I LOVE these practical ideas of showing kindness. The thought that kept running through my head as I read them was how easy it is to do these things. Sharing this right now!

  6. Wendy, I love these ideas! I have had someone pay for my Starbucks order before, and it was such a treat! Also, I can tell you that after my first son was born, it was absolutely wonderful when a family we went to church with called and asked if it would be alright to drop off supper for us. They brought it piping hot to our door and all we had to do was sit down and eat it! I felt so cared for. You had so many great suggestions here, and I can’t wait to try some of them out with my kids! What an awesome way to care for others.

    1. Hi Brianna,
      It’s so great to be a recipient of such kindness, because then you know what a wonderful feeling it is. I promise it’s a bigger blessing to be the giver.

  7. What a great resource for someone like me who is not very creative! We often talk about paying forward but when it comes to practical aspect of it we often don’t know how to do it. Now I have the whole list of ideas that I can implement. Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad I can help you, Galina. I look forward to hearing how implementing some of these ideas works out for you. Please let me know.

  8. You’re an incredibly nice person. If the world were filled with people like you, war would end, and political discourse would cease. This is a simple list. Every one of us can do these things. What would happen if we did? If we simply practiced these tiny acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, our own small corner of the world would be transformed. Thank you for this, Wendy. You make it obvious how simple and within our grasp this type of kind living actually is.

    1. Thank you Melinda,
      I appreciate your kind comments. Yes, I do believe everyone should be kinder. Such simple ideas can go so far.

  9. When my son-in-law was a youth pastor, someone from the church saw him and his wife in a restaurant and paid their bill. It was a big gift financially but also in the appreciation he felt. This is a nice list. Thanks.

    1. What a wonderful blessing to be the recipient of such a gift. It’s also quite a blessing to be the giver. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Dear Wendy!

    I love the idea of paying it forward 🙂

    My favourite was number 6 (make a meal for someone who’s ill).

    You are right; being kind helps us a long way. And life is also much more fun that way.

    With love!
    Edna Davidsen

    1. Hi Edna,
      How awesome does it feel inside to help others and it blesses those folks as well? It’s especially fun if done anonymously. Thanks for your feedback.

  11. Thank you for some great ideas Wendy – you are right, it is the small things that count and every small thing adds up.

    Paying it forward, being generous, open, receptive and supportive of others is a mindset – a way of life and one we are called to a Christians

    1. You are absolutely right, Bob. As Christians, we need to love one another, care for others and treat others as we would like to be treated. Thank you for your comment.

  12. I love the fact that you mentioned leaving a survey. My husband used to work on a job where their bonuses where based on the result of the surveys. I don’t think most people realize that. It usually only takes a couple of minutes and if you were treated with excellent customer service, it will help that person out.

    1. Wow! I knew of small rewards but I had no idea that the surveys affected their bonuses. You heard it here, folks…leave those surveys. Thanks, Luisa, for sharing.

  13. Great example of ways to pay it forward. I experienced the unexpected payment of my coffee when I pulled up to a window and it is such a great feeling. I try to return the favor when I can. God bless

  14. Wendy, what wonderful ideas for simple ways to “pay if forward”! You are right, when someone does a small kind thing, it is always a lift to the spirit. I will ask the Lord to help me see opportunities to pay it forward in the week ahead. Thank you!

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Thank you for the reminder to pray for the Lord to lead us to those opportunities. I love that reminder!

  15. Awesome ideas! I especially like the one about leaving a kind message in a library book. My youngest was returning from basic, was with a buddy and they were both still in uniform. Someone at the airport in San Fran paid for their burgers. It totally made their day. Yes, little acts of kindness do make a difference.

    1. My son gets his meal paid for sometimes too. They should! They serve this great country. We should spread that kindness more often. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Hi Wendy these are awesome suggestions. I love #7 and 9 in particular. Will be putting into practice this week. Here’s to making the world a kinder place one small act at a time. 🙂

    1. Hi Rosemarie,
      All it takes is a little kindness to make someone’s day. How great does it feel when we are the recipient of that kindness? So I’ve found its just as much fun to turn it around. Have a great time!

  17. Great thoughts, Wendy. What you’re talking about is really important for Christians to grasp. Generosity is such a neglected virtue. Being randomly kind forces us into new territory. It creates opportunities to exercise that muscle. I love the concept. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It’s a sad thought that generosity is a neglected virtue. It seems as though people are more interested in being hurtful than kind today. We need to get better at kindness. Thank you for some great thoughts, Chip.

    2. Chip, I love your statement that “Being randomly kind forces us into new territory.” It’s especially true because it’s relatively easy to be kind to those we know and love, but to be kind to strangers (for “no reason”) is next level and SO IMPORTANT if we want to become more like Jesus and help those within our sphere of influence to do the same.

    1. It’s is definitely better to give than to receive. You’re absolutely right. It’s fun to be the recipient of kindne. We need to show it to others more often.

  18. These are such beautiful and encouraging ideas! I love them all. We also try to focus on saying “thank you” – e.g., I texted my hubby thanks for emptying the dishwasher this AM, and my girls thanked their bus driver today for driving them home safely in a blinding snow squall yesterday!

  19. These are very good suggestions! I think it makes us feel so much better when we are doing things for others. And, all of those little connections have a huge ripple effect in making the world a better place!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I completely agree. It’s important to be kind to others. I love your comment about the ripple effect. That is absolutely true.

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