20 Free and Easy Ways to Be More Generous Today

You don’t need to spend a penny to experience the joy of generosity.

This article was originally posted on Inc.com

We’ve all been told at some point, “It’s better to give than to receive,” but it’s not just a platitude. Heaps of science show that generosity rebounds, making you even happier than the recipient of your kindness.

One recent Oxford study showed that performing just one small act of kindness every day for a week significantly impacted people’s happiness levels. Another study revealed that small good deeds rippled out widely, increasing “pro-social behavior” in the community ten times over. Kindness is even good for you physically and can help you live longer.

In other words, being kind and generous to others is also being kind and generous to yourself. And as blogger Alexandra Franzen points out, you don’t have to be rich to give away riches.

“‘Behaving generously’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘donating money’ or ‘giving away your last cookie,'” she has written. “You can share knowledge freely, instead of hoarding it. You can send a hand-written note, instead of a text message. You can make eye contact, instead of checking out.”

Franzen goes on to offer an incredible list of 50 free or low-cost ways to be more generous. It’s totally worth a bookmark so it’s always there for you on your grouchiest mornings, but to get you started, here are twenty of her most broadly applicable ideas. They cost nothing but a little thoughtfulness and should pay serious psychological dividends.

  1. Compliment three strangers: a child, someone your own age, and an elder. Congratulate them on something highly-specific — “Way to rock that tricycle, kiddo!” — or simply say: “You look lovely today.”

  2. Find a Little Free Library near you and donate a book. Can’t find one? Start one.

  3. Choose a struggling (or not so struggling) artist and publicly thank them on Twitter, Insta, or somewhere else on the Internet. “I love your work. Please keep going.”

  4. Tell your mom (or someone who feels like your mom): “You raised me right. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from you? This: _______________.”

  5. Tell your dad (or someone who feels like your dad): “You’ve given me so many gifts. Like the ability to _______________, and the confidence to _______________. Thank you.”

  6. Prowl through your closet and donate some treasures to Dress For Success — or its equivalent in your country. You’ll de-clutter your wardrobe and help a struggling lady look like a star at her next job interview.

  7. Record a Vocaroo message for someone you’ve been meaning to thank for awhile. Tell them: “Keep this audio note and replay it whenever you’re doubting your awesomeness.”

  8. Create a generous “auto-responder” (sometimes called an “out of office” message or “vacation auto reply” message) for your email … full of links, resources, fun videos, answers to commonly asked questions, maybe a complimentary gift, or whatever else you want to include. This is such an easy way to offer people something inspiring, entertaining, helpful (or all of the above!) automatically. They can enjoy the cool stuff … while they await your reply. (Want to see some creative examples? Check this out.)

  9. Send a story tip to a local reporter. (Especially if it’s good news.)

  10. Brew up a big pot of (good) coffee. Fill up some eco-friendly disposable cups. Offer free java to everyone at work — or the bus stop.

  11. Choose a friend. Any friend. Grab a notebook. (Or … this book.) Fill the book with love notes and compliments written by you, and other people, too. Give it to your friend, and tell them it’s a High School Yearbook for the Soul.

  12. Choose a friend. Any friend. Grab a notebook. (Or … this book.) Fill the book with love notes and compliments written by you, and other people, too. Give it to your friend, and tell them it’s a High School Yearbook for the Soul.

  13. Make an 8Tracks or Spotify playlist for your favorite human. Extra credit: give your playlist a special “reason” or “theme,” like, “Listen to this while you’re getting ready for your first date with Zach!” or, “Pump-yourself-up music to play before you deliver your TEDx Talk. You’re going to do GREAT.”

  14. Leave a platter of treats in the common area of your office or apartment building. Extra credit: a handwritten card with an inspirational quote and a list of ingredients (for folks who are plagued with allergies).

  15. Pray for someone. Or if you don’t pray: send love.

  16. Nominate a talented friend for an award. Like The Bloggies. Or The Webbies. Or The Stevies. Or … any other award in your city, state, country, etc.

  17. Help somebody land their dream job. Proof a friend’s resume. Rock out a mock interview. Loan them your lucky blazer. Tell them: “You’ve got this.”

  18. Volunteer to mentor an aspiring entrepreneur through your local SCORE chapter. (You don’t have to be an “expert” or know “everything.” You just have to know a few things … more than they do.)

  19. Leave a rave review on the iTunes page of your favorite podcast. Gush. Five stars. Bravo!

  20. Ask someone, “How was your day — really?” Let that person talk about themselves, past the point of comfort. Lean in. Stay there. Be present. Let ’em ramble. Give it that extra five minutes.

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