Have you ever had a stranger pay for your coffee for no other reason than he or she just wanting to do something nice? Random acts of kindness have the potential power to brighten our day, whether we are the ones giving or receiving the act. Daily life in America can be stressful and expensive, and doing something kind just for the sake of being kind can really make a difference to someone else.
There are so many different ways you can be kind, and sometimes kindness can even be free, like helping someone cross the street or carrying his or her groceries to the car. If you have a little more money to spend, you can consider completing one of the five random acts of kindness on our list, all of which are reasonably price but slightly more expensive than paying for a coffee or a hamburger.
1. Pay for lunch
If you are feeling generous, consider paying for someone else’s lunch. This could cost you anywhere from less than $20 to $40 or more, depending on the restaurant you are at. If you have a set amount that you can spend on your kind act, make sure you pick a restaurant that offers food at a price you are comfortable paying for.
Remember, the point of a random act of kindness is to help someone else, but if you are worried about the cost of the food, you might stress yourself out in the process. Once you pick a restaurant (sit-down or not), tell the waiter (or the cashier) that you want to pay for a specific person’s meal.
2. Sponsor an animal
Humane societies and other organizations that take care of animals depend on donations in order to keep running. Consider sponsoring an animal so that the animal’s food and care are paid for. Or take it a step further and pay ahead for someone’s pet adoption fee.
The cost of adopting an animal will depend on which animal and which agency you want to pay for the animal at, but you can choose a smaller animal with a less expensive adoption fee. This will be a joy to the person who chooses to adopt that animal, as well as to the animal when it gets a wonderful new home. You can sponsor an animal locally or consider Best Friends Animal Society, which has the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals.
3. Donate food
Many of us regularly donate a few groceries to local food banks or specific food drives. This is an important way to support those who are hungry in our communities, and this small act of kindness needs to be done regularly. You can take this act a step further by sponsoring multiple holiday meals at a shelter or by providing food for the residents at a shelter for an entire day.
You can also organize a food drive and bring in the food to give, rather than just donating money or a few cans. Lastly, consider donating your time to actually serve the food: that will cost you nothing and will make a big difference. Volunteering at a soup kitchen is a great way to help during the holidays especially.
4. Offer free entertainment
Many Americans can only afford to go to sports games, movies, concerts, or other entertainment venues once in a while. Often, the entertainment fund is the first thing to go when money is tight, so giving a night of entertainment to a person or a family is a great way to provide a much-needed night of fun. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look behind you in line at a movie theater — if you see a family or even a couple, determine how many tickets they need and then prepay for them.
If the cashier wants to know which movie they are going to, simply buy a gift card, or you can go online to Fandango and purchase tickets to a specific show, then hand them out. The same can be done for a concert, sporting event, or bowling. This random act of kindness will allow the family or person to save their money for something else.
5. Pay a bill
Bills are such a hassle, and paying someone else’s is one of the easiest ways to brighten up a person’s day. Depending on privacy practices, some companies won’t let you prepay for someone else. However, many utility companies have sharing programs in which you can donate money for people who are having a hard time paying for their bills.
Churches often have a similar program, whereby they take a collection for people in the church or the community who need help. You can also consider paying for someone’s late fees at a movie store or completing a similar act. Even if you can’t pay for a particular person, you can probably find a sympathetic cashier who will let you purchase a gift card and will save it to give to the next person who comes in with a hefty late fee.
While spending $20, $50, $100, or more on a stranger — or even someone you know but who will never know it was you who spent the money — might seem irrational, remember that the money you spend will likely make a positive impact on the person (or family) that you are giving to. Most of us spend $30 or more each month on things we don’t need, so why not make a difference and spend the money on someone else instead?