8 Pay-It-Forward Ideas You Can Do on a Budget

Here are 8 ways you can pay it forward on a budget.
As a college student, I am familiar with the struggle of living on a budget. It’s hard to give during a time in my life when I feel like I have very little extra to offer. Thankfully, there are many ways to give to others beyond donating a chunk of money. Here are a few ideas for ways to pay it forward, even on a ramen noodle budget!

Offer your place up for someone else — whether it’s a parking space, a spot in a checkout line, or a seat on a crowded bus.

We live in a go-go-go world. The impossible deadlines and tight schedules we set for ourselves often leave us with minimal in-between time. However, it is important to remember that we are not the only ones feeling pressed for time! Maybe you can’t pay for their coffee, but you can buy them a few extra minutes by offering up your spot in line.

Write a positive review (Uber driver, restaurant, Airbnb, etc.).

Part of living in solidarity is supporting one another in our endeavors. When we take the time to leave a positive review for someone who deserves it, we use our appreciation in a way that can reap big benefits for them long term. For small businesses, especially, this makes a huge difference in their success. And it only takes a few extra minutes of your time.

Ask someone about their day.

It makes a big difference when we go beyond the expected “hi” and “thank you” in our interactions with others. It may seem simple and even unnecessary at times, but take the extra second to ask someone how their day is going. On many occasions, I’ve seen people light up at this question, most sounding genuinely surprised and grateful that someone expressed a deeper interest in their well-being.

Take part in a charity run/walk.

This is one that can be a lot of fun, especially if you participate with a friend. Find a race backing a cause you’re interested in and participate to show your support. Smaller, local races often have fairly low entry fees. And the good news is, if you’re like me and running more than a mile is a stretch, you don’t even have to be a runner to take part. Most races welcome walkers, as well!

Make dinner for your roommate, parent, or partner.

After a long day, even a task as menial as making dinner can seem like it takes too much energy. The times I’ve done this for my mom when I’m home, I’ve noticed what a difference it makes in her night. Making someone’s dinner is a nice way to show them that you care about them and that you recognize how much they do for you. It may seem like a small thank you, but it often means more than you realize.

Leave a nice note.

I don’t know about you, but a positive sticky note left on a mirror never fails to put a smile on my face. It can be as simple as, “Today is going to be a good day!” or “You are loved!” Little phrases of encouragement go a long way. It is a small, yet intimate way to connect with both friends and strangers who may need an unexpected but welcome pick-me-up.


There are countless ways we can lend a hand through volunteering. If you like animals, head to a shelter to walk dogs or play with cats. If you enjoy talking with people, volunteer to visit with residents of a nursing home. If you have fun playing with kids, look into babysitting for a parent who needs a little break. Give back to the places and people that do so much for others by offering them your time and presence.

Don’t hesitate to compliment people.

There is nothing like getting a compliment from someone, especially when you’re having one of those days. Surprise someone with a compliment to lift their spirits. If you love their shoes, tell them! If their smile brightens your day, let them know! If you have respect for their work ethic, share that with them! Be a much-needed vessel of positivity in our world.

If you do any of these or think of other ways to give back on a budget, let us know with the hashtag #GrottoActs! We would love to see you putting these ideas into practice in your everyday life.

Grotto infographic of 8 ways to pay it forward on a budget: 1. Give up your spot in line; 2. write a positive review; 3. ask someone about their day; 4. take part in a charity run/walk; 5. make dinner for your roommate; 6. leave a nice note; 7. volunteer; 8. compliment people.

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