Personal Development

10 Thoughtful Ways to ‘Pay it Forward’

You have probably heard the saying, ‘pay it forward’ before. In this post, I will be explaining what is meant by this saying, as well as sharing 10 ways to pay it forward and spread kindness in the world.

How to spread kindness by paying it forward

What does it mean to ‘Pay it Forward’?

If someone does something kind for you, and you ask how you can thank them or return their kindness, they might sometimes tell you to ‘pay it forward’. This means they don’t expect you to do anything for them in return, but they are suggesting you pass on the kindness by doing something kind for someone else instead.

Other times, you won’t be in a position to do anything in return for the person who did the good deed, for example, if they are a stranger who helped you out and you will never see them again. You might choose to ‘pay it forward’ by doing a similar good deed for another stranger.

Here is an example that happened to me last year. I had just parked in a busy car park and I needed to pay for parking. As I was walking to the ticket machine, a family passed me and said they were just leaving and I could have their ticket. It turned out to be a 24-hour ticket which gave me parking until the next day – far more than I needed! I asked them if they wanted any money for it but they said not to worry. I was grateful because I was in a hurry and it saved me having to queue at the ticket machine.

When I returned to my car later that evening, I was determined to ‘pay it forward’ by passing on the parking ticket to someone else, because it still had many hours left on it. A woman was just parking and I approached her to offer her the ticket, which she gratefully accepted. It was so satisfying to pay forward the kindness, and to know that that parking ticket got at least 3 uses that evening!

10 ways to pay forward a good deed

10 Ways to Pay Forward a Good Deed

1. Give your parking ticket to a stranger

In my example above, I paid forward a parking ticket that someone else had given to me. But of course, you can do this even if you bought the ticket yourself. If you have time left on your parking ticket, it’s a great feeling to pass it on to a stranger and save them a little bit of money.

2. Pass on books to friends

When I finish reading a book, I like to pass it on to a friend who I think will enjoy it. Some of my friends also pass on books to me, so it’s a cycle of paying it forward. If you don’t think any of your friends will enjoy a particular book, you can also take it to a telephone box library, a book swap or give it to a charity shop so that someone else can enjoy it.

If you are a blogger, another idea is to write a book review on your site and host a giveaway to pass your copy on to the winner. I did this last year when I reviewed The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan.

3. Share sweets you are gifted

Most of us are lucky enough to be gifted sweets or chocolates from time to time. This is an example of something that can be easily shared because if we eat a whole box of chocolates or tin of sweets all by ourselves, we will probably feel sick! (We’ve all done it though!)

Pay forward the kindness by sharing the sweets with your friends, family or colleagues, and light up their day.

4. Share cuttings of plants

I have a lot of houseplants, and I received many of them as cuttings from a plant-loving friend. I have in turn given cuttings of those plants to other friends. This is a great way to pay it forward and share the plant love!

5. Smile at strangers

Smiles are free, easy and limitless. I have got into the habit of smiling at people as I walk past them in the street. It’s a really good feeling especially when you can tell they appreciated the smile and weren’t quite expecting it.  You can say hi to them too if it feels appropriate. Maybe you will brighten up someone’s day, and they will pay it forward by smiling at a few other people that they pass.

A man wearing headphones and smiling as he walks down the street. There are other people walking in the background.
Photo by Yingchou Han on Unsplash

6. Use gift cards to buy gifts

Gift cards are a popular present in our family as you can never go wrong with a gift card! If somebody gives you a gift card as a present, why not pay it forward by using a little of the credit to buy a small random gift for somebody else?

Often I find that my chosen items for myself don’t add up to the exact amount on the gift card anyway. In most shops you can find small gift items near the tills, so you could reach the gift card balance by picking up one of those as a spontaneous gift for someone.

7. Pay someone a compliment

Paying compliments regularly is a kind habit to get into. Anytime somebody pays you a compliment, take it as a reminder to pay it forward and compliment someone else (or the person who complimented you). Make sure it is genuine, rather than just making something up. There will always be something you can genuinely appreciate about a person, whether it’s to do with their appearance, personality or talent.

A group of friends talking and laughing.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

8. Practise tithing

Tithing is the practice of giving a portion of your earnings to charity. It has roots in religion, but anyone can do it regardless of their religion. Traditionally you would give 10% of your earnings to charity but it can be more or less depending on your financial situation.

If you can afford it, I think tithing is a great idea for paying forward some of the money that you earn. I practised tithing for a while but nowadays I just give randomly to charity rather than working out an exact percentage of my earnings.

9. Replicate other people’s good deeds

You don’t necessarily have to receive a good deed yourself in order to pay it forward. Sometimes, you will witness or read about someone doing a good deed, and it may be something you hadn’t thought about doing before. Take note and let it inspire you to do a similar good deed for someone!

A pair of cupped hands holding coins and a piece of paper saying 'make a change'.
Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

10. Teach others what you learn

If you learn something, whether a piece of practical advice or something more profound, pass the knowledge on to other people. You never know what difference it could make in their life. They might also pass it on to more people, so you will be creating ripples of goodness in the world and humanity will keep learning and growing as a whole. I like to think I am doing this with my blog!

How do you pay it forward?

Do you know of any ways to ‘pay it forward’ that I haven’t mentioned here? Have you paid forward a good deed lately? I would love to hear about what you did – let me know in the comments!

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10 thoughtful ways to pay it forward


  1. What a positive post! I do regularly give to chosen charities but I do occasionally like to pay it forward by giving new socks to homeless people, participate in charity drives etc.

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      Thank you! That’s so great that you help homeless people and charities in those ways x

  2. Rebecca says:

    What a lovely positive post – thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      You’re welcome – I’m glad you liked this post! xx

  3. Great post! A perfect reminder that 1 simple thing can make someone’s day!

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      That’s so true! Glad you liked the post xx

  4. I always pass on my parking ticket if I can, it’s such a simple thing to do and can really make someone’s day xx

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      Me too, if I have time left on the ticket I look around to see if anyone has just arrived. It’s a great feeling xx

  5. Lovely ideas! I like to donate unwanted items to charity or sell them myself for a lower price to make sure it gets to another person who will love it for a reduced price!

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      I love that idea – it’s a great way to make things affordable to people who might not be able to afford them at full price! x

  6. These are brilliant examples on how to pay it forward, I always try to swap books with friends or pass one on if they are looking for it. And using gift cards to buy gifts is a great way to pass on the kindness, especially if it’s for a store you wouldn’t normally buy from yourself.

    Jordanne ||

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      Oh yes, that would be a great way to use a gift card if you can’t find anything you want personally from a certain store! x

  7. People have passed on parking tickets to me; it really does bring some sunshine into my day so I too love to pass on parking tickets to other people before I leave. Passing on books to my friends also opens doors to conversation; it is awesome being able to talk about something we have all read and see how we experienced the same writing differently.

    Love the idea of picking up little gifts with gift cards! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      I love passing parking tickets to other people too! And I agree about sharing books and having conversations about them! 🙂

  8. I love small gestures like the thing with the parking ticket, it’s such a small thing and that random act of kindness can totally make someone’s day x


    1. Sophie Harriet says:

      I love little things like that too, they can make a big difference to someone’s day and they make you feel good too! x

  9. Shortly after the lockdown hit our area last spring, a Facebook group was created for local gardening lovers where they could share what they were wishing for and gift one another (often anonymously) by dropping off cuttings, potted plants, etc on people’s front steps. It was such a sweet gesture that grew out of an otherwise uncertain time, one that I enjoyed participating in!

    1. Sophie H says:

      I love that idea, that’s so sweet! I would have loved to participate in something like that xx

  10. Brilliant ideas on how to pay it forward. So many people could learn from this post. I have done a few things in the past, but this makes me want to go out and do more good in the world. You never know what one nice deed could change in someone’s life.

    1. Sophie H says:

      I’m so glad I’ve inspired you to go out and do good in the world! It’s true that one nice deed could make a big difference in someone’s life – and it also makes you feel good too xx

  11. I love little gestures like this and I’ve really liked seeing people doing it throughout the pandemic!


    1. Sophie H says:

      Me too, that’s one silver lining to the pandemic!

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