Ready or not, the Christmas season is in full swing! And with all the traveling, feasting, and gift-giving, your budget might be starting to feel the strain.
Do you love giving, but are committed to staying out of debt over the holidays? No sweat! There are plenty of ways to be kind at Christmastime without ever opening up your wallet. You don’t have to buy more stuff to bring joy to others this season. In fact, one of the best things you can give in the coming weeks is kindness.
It’s absolutely free and will do you (and those around you) a world of good! Here are 20 simple ways to be kind and brighten someone’s day:
20 Ways to Be Kind Without Spending a Dime
1. Send a handwritten note (or email).
This isn’t a "thanks for the gift" card. This is an out-of-the-blue note you write to someone who’s impacted your life. Maybe it’s a parent, pastor, sibling or friend. Maybe it’s your favorite teacher from high school or college. Whomever it is, let them know how much they mean to you. Don’t assume they already know!
2. Recreate a special day.
Think of a day (or event) in your life that meant a lot to you. Maybe it was your first date with your spouse or a road trip with your best friend. Find little ways to share that memory all over again. You can recreate the memories and sentiment with photos, music and stories. They’ll be touched by your effort, and you’ll both have a great, new memory to share.
3. Listen without distractions.
Sometimes we’re too busy multitasking to give our undivided attention to those around us. Put down your phone, mute the TV, and give folks some good old-fashioned eye contact (yes, even in meetings at work!). Try to make a conscious effort not to interrupt people when they’re talking to you. Let them finish what they’re saying before you chime in. This simple practice signals that you value the person speaking. And you don’t even have to say a word.
4. Include someone new.
Think about how you can be kind to those you see on a daily basis. We all have our comfort zone when it comes to our friends. They’re our go-to invites whenever we’re hosting a cookout or heading out to lunch. But be conscious of new people too. Maybe it’s been a long time since you were the new person. It can be pretty lonely. Add someone to your next guest list and you might just make their month!
5. Smile more.
One of the easiest ways to be kind is to give someone a genuine smile. We’re not talking about a creepy glare-and-grin at strangers. We mean look up at your cashier and smile. They aren’t robots who scan your groceries. Be kind by acknowledging them as a person. The same goes for waiters, neighbors, and the receptionist at your doctor’s office. You never know what people are going through. Your smile could be the kindest thing they see all day.
6. Look for common ground.
All of us know people who disagree with us on just about everything. You have conflicting views on everything from politics to parenting to potato salad. Instead of dreading another conversation with them, try seeing things from their point of view. We’re not saying you have to become best friends, but keep your cool and keep it friendly. The more grace you give, the more Christmas spirit you spread!
7. Assume the best in everyone.
This one’s all in your head—but it’s still another one of the many ways to be kind this season. When you assume the best in people, it changes your attitude toward them. When a friend cancels lunch plans at the last minute or a stranger says something that hurts your feelings, give them the benefit of the doubt. This saves you the effort of trying to figure out their motives. And it gives them the kindness of your good opinion.
8. Share your prayers.
It’s a blessing to be able to pray for those you love. If your sister is home sick or your church friend asks for prayer, stop what you’re doing and share in their need. If you aren’t in a place where you can pray out loud, just type out a short prayer and text it to them. It will bless them to know you are thinking of them, and your words will bring them comfort.
9. Affirm someone.
When you’re in a meeting (or on an email chain), uplift the ideas of others. If someone has a great idea, tell them how much you like it in front of everyone! You’re being kind by encouraging them among peers. This will give them a self-esteem boost and bring the best thoughts to the top.
10. Apologize early and often.
The next time you strike up a fight with your spouse, yell at your kids, or snap at your friend, don’t wait hours to mend things. Go to them right away and ask for their forgiveness. You can’t undo what you said, but you can humble yourself and strengthen your relationship because of it. Oh, and remember to forgive yourself too! You’re only human.
11. Be clear (but polite).
Around Dave’s office, we say, "To be unclear is to be unkind." This doesn’t mean you should blurt out whatever you’re thinking. It means you should be direct while keeping the other person’s well-being in mind. If you want your spouse to do the dishes, don’t stomp around the kitchen and hope they get the hint. Ask them to do the dishes without any biting remarks. If that’s not kindness, we don’t know what is!
12. Be kind to yourself!
You know that annoying voice in your head that beats you up whenever you forget to mail your second cousin a birthday card? Or the harsh voice that tortures you with that unfinished to-do list? Learn how to be kind to yourself by letting the little stuff go.
13. Lend a hand.
'Tis the season! Run an errand for someone who is busy. Pick up groceries for an elderly person if it’s too cold for them to leave the house. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway instead of just doing your own.
14. Pay it forward . . . for free!
Do you think paying it forward is all about picking up the check or paying for the person behind you at the drive-thru? Believe it or not, you can still pay it forward without spending a single cent! Give away unused coupons to people in the grocery store. Give someone in line next to you your reward points. Or let the person who only has a few items go in front of you at the checkout.
15. Offer to babysit.
Kids—we love them, but everyone can use a break from their kids from time to time. Why not offer to babysit for a single parent so they can do their Christmas shopping? Or bless a couple by watching their kids while they take in a much needed date night.
16. Donate unused clothing.
Make it a goal that for every new piece of clothing you get for Christmas, you’ll donate an old one. And we mean the wearable ones! You can easily pass on your old clothes to a local shelter or thrift store.
17. Curb the road rage.
We know it goes against everything in your gut to do this, but drive with a little compassion this season. Let someone into your lane, don’t cut in front of people just to get two seconds ahead on the road, take it easy, and assume you don’t have the worst drivers in the country. Keep your cool! (It will reduce your stress too!)
18. Give your time.
Spread a little Christmas cheer by simply offering your time! Help a friend set up their outdoor Christmas lights. Not feeling up to braving the chilly weather? Offer to help them put up their tree and deck the halls inside their home. It’s one of the perfect ways to be kind while getting in the Christmas spirit yourself!
19. Let people know they matter.
Learn the names of the people you see every day—your coffee guy, the crossing guard at the kids’ school, the neighbor next door. Go out of your way to greet them by name. And while we’re on the subject, say hello to strangers just because. Try stopping to say a nice "Good Morning!" or ask someone how their day is going. People take notice when other’s make an effort to care.
20. Share the wisdom you’ve learned.
Did you read a book that had significant meaning to you and shaped your life? Share that knowledge and wisdom with others! Give someone a copy of a book that means a lot to you. You might have even received one of Dave’s books like The Total Money Makeover from a friend. Why not pay it forward and gift the book to another person in your life who really needs it?
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Practicing ways to be kind doesn’t have to cost you any money at all, but it can multiply your happiness beyond measure. The sooner you begin practicing how to be kind to yourself and others, the more joy you’ll get out of the Christmas season. And really, what better gift is there?
It’s even easier to be kind when you’re in control of your money, so if you haven’t created a budget yet—what are you waiting for? Our free budgeting app EveryDollar is exactly what you need to feel a little more holly, jolly this season!