12 Ways to Pay It Forward During the Holiday Season

Interested in doing a few acts of kindness this holiday season, but do not know where to begin? Here are a few ideas to get you started. Happy holidays!

12 ways to pay it forward during the holiday season

  • Donate toys. Donate a new, unopened toy to organizations such as Toys for Tots. You can also take them to a local hospital or women’s shelter. Last year I brought a trunk full of toys to the hospital and they were so incredibly grateful to have items for the kids on Christmas morning.
  • Donate food. Give the gift of helping a family to have a hearty meal or two this holiday season by donating to a food bank for through a charitable organization. Also keep in mind that food banks still have a need in the new year when supplies are most likely to be depleted.
  • Pay off someone’s layaway. I love this idea! It can be done at the store or many times even over the phone. Simply call a retailer who does layaway and ask the customer service department how you can help pay off someone’s layaway to make their post holiday season a lot less stressful.
  • Donate your time. Do not underestimate the value of your time. Serve meals at a soup kitchen. Help veterans and others get to their destination for the holidays. Help people with disabilities wrap gifts for their loved ones. Help you neighbors put up their lights. You can also start by calling a local organization or two to find out their needs during the holiday season.
  • Give Tuesday. #GivingTuesday is an annual day to pay it forward. Make it a family occasion and pay it forward together! The goal is to inspire everyone, from individuals to large corporations, to give back in some way. Any way you like, whether through participating in a charity, sharing acts of kindness, making donations, or shopping responsibly.
  • Make a year-end charitable donation. Especially if you work for an organization that has a matching program. Let whatever amount that you can give get stretched further by your employer for an extra generous donation.
  • Purchase a gift that gives back. Think conscious consumerism and making purchases from brands that give back in some way, especially during the holiday season. You can choose from our holiday gift guide or select a gift of your choice. If you are not sure which companies are giving back, here is a list of about 100 Corporate Social Responsibility reports from well known brands and retailers, so you can decide for yourself where to put your dollars.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Remembering to keep it environmentally-friendly during the holidays benefits the earth, your bills, and future generations. Though the holiday season seems to be a time of wild abundance, there is a definite place for simplicity amidst the chaos. It can still be festive too! One easy example is using your kids’ drawings and artwork to make adorable wrapping paper for gifts. You can find more ideas at http://www.alifeinbalance.net/ and http://www.hacscrap.com/.
  • Donate a tree. I am a huge fan of the Arbor Day Foundation. If you need a gift idea for the person who has everything, or if you want to honor someone special in your life now or someone who has passed, consider this one. Each dollar donated plants a tree in one of America’s national forests. For more information, go to: http://shop.arborday.org/.  
  • Give what you can. Even if it is just paying for someone’s coffee at the drive-thru, one little act of kindness can make a huge difference to someone else. That person whose coffee you just paid for might be having a terrible day. Or perhaps that person might just spread the kindness onto others. Before you know it, that one cup of coffee could start an ongoing chain. Isn’t it worth paying for that one cup of coffee to remind someone else that there is kindness in the world?
  • Remember those who are working on the holidays. Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical responders and the like are working shifts while you are enjoying Christmas dinner or watching your children open their presents. Perhaps you and your family can bring over some baked goods, books or a even just a card to show your appreciation.
  • Spread cheer. Even if you cannot give monetarily. Even if you cannot give with your time. Give what you can. Give a smile. Give a ‘thank you’. Give with your patience. Give with your heart.

How will you pay it forward this holiday season? Share with us!


  1. I love the idea of paying off someone’s layaway! I had never thought about that before.

    At work we adopt several families for the holidays and make sure that they have food, paper products, cleaning supplies, help with bills, and of course gifts under the tree.

  2. I like that last one. We all make these great plans to give and then someone, somewhere gets laid off. But we can always “Give with your heart” – true, a smile can really make someone’s day – as can springing for the coffee of the person in line behind you.

  3. These are great! We try to do at least a few different “pay it forward” things throughout the holidays. It’s just nice to give back!

  4. I bought a homeless man lunch last week….the smile on his face when he opened the bag and saw a sandwich made me so happy. I’m going to try a few of your ideas.

  5. These are great! I love the idea of donating a tree! Definitely going to do some of these this year!

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