7 Amazing Ways to Pay It Forward for Under $10


By now, most people have heard of folks paying it forward at Starbucks, and some of us have even experienced it for ourselves. There's really nothing like driving up to pay for your drinks, only to find that someone else has covered the bill for you. Even if it's just a couple of bucks, it will make your day.

I know that folks are sometimes hesitant to keep a chain like that going, simply because they have no idea how much it will cost them. When money is tight, paying it forward can feel impossible. Fortunately, there are some ways to guarantee that paying it forward won't cost you much, so you can still make someone's day better.

1. Cook a Meal

If you know someone who is struggling and you can't afford to take them out (or they can't go), consider making them a meal instead. It's easy to make a meal that will feed a whole family, or a couple or a single person for several days, for less than $10. And if you're still concerned about cost, make something hearty like a vegetarian chili or jambalaya, which doesn't require meat to produce a hearty meal.

2. Donate Blood

If you qualify, you can donate blood for free, minus the cost of your time. Sure, this is less personal than some of the ways you can pay it forward because you won't get to see the person who receives your blood, but that gift will surely make someone's day. Since most people who need blood need it fairly urgently, you can be assured that your donation will be appreciated. Be sure to eat well before you donate, so you don't crash afterwards.

3. Feed a Meter

Do you see a meter expiring soon? Toss in a quarter. If you like this idea, you can even keep a roll of quarters on you or in your car so that you can toss one in whenever the need or desire arises. There are few things worse than looking at the clock and suddenly realizing your meter ran out 20 minutes ago, or knowing that your meeting won't be over before your meter runs out. What a relief, then, to run out to the car and discover that someone took care of it for you! (You may want to double check with your local traffic ordinances. Depending on where you live, metered parking may also have time limits whether or not the meter has expired, and your act of kindness may put its recipient over the limit.)

4. Tip Extra

Servers don't make that much money, even when people tip well. If you'd like to make someone's day, add an extra $10 to your tip. If you want, leave a little note wishing the server well or telling them to put the money toward their dreams. Sure, it's not a lot, but it's amazing how much better people feel when they know they were noticed.

5. Pay Their Toll

You could also offer to pay the toll of the car behind you. After all, the cost of commuting can be a major expense, especially for folks who aren't making much to begin with. You paying that toll might provide someone with just a bit of financial relief, and it will make them feel special, too. And who knows? You might start a new trend.

6. Leave Quarters by the Vending Machine

If you work in an office with a vending machine, try leaving some extra money in the coin return. You don't even have to cover the total cost of a drink or a snack. Just leaving a quarter or two could brighten someone's day. If you do this regularly, make sure you stagger the times when you leave the quarters, since you don't want one person to be the only recipient of your generosity.

7. Let Someone Have Your Spot

Are you at the front of a long line but not in a hurry? Did you time it just right to get a killer parking spot? If you give your prime place to someone else, it just might make their day a little better. This is particularly true if you can tell that someone is in a hurry or is stressed out. As a mother of small children, I can testify that having someone give me their place in a grocery store line when my kids are on the verge of meltdown has entirely changed my day for the better. And the best part is, it's free!

How do you pay it forward for less than $10? How do you feel after you do it?

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