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Home » Random

10 brilliant ways to make a difference for $0

Back for his regular slot after a brief holiday to the Welsh countryside, author Ben Lumley is back with another guest post on 10 brilliant ways to make a difference for nothing.

You can catch Ben over at his Blog on Facebook or on Twitter

Ben is today’s Friday Follow (#FF), over to you Ben:

So Matthew’s post on Monday inspired me. That’s not to say that his posts don’t normally, they do, but this one was a bit different and really made me rethink what I wanted to write about today.

When Matthew first asked me write regularly here, we talked about kicking off things with a series of posts about how to “make a difference” and that’s exactly what we did. Some of them, posts like How to make a difference using Twitter and How to make a difference whilst making your fortune are still some of the most popular posts on the whole site and I’m very proud of that.
What I’d like to do today, inspired by Monday’s post (The $100 Start – Up) and with a little help from my friend El, is to drop back into one of those early posts and look at what you can do today, for no money at all, to make a difference to someone. And you never know they might make you smile and feel good about yourself at the same time!

In my post, How to make a difference whilst making your fortune, I touched on the idea of Acts of Random Kindness and very wisely (even though if I do say myself) said;

When did you last do something kind for someone just because you could? We often get so drawn into our lives and making that first million that we forget the joy of doing something nice for another person just for the sake of it.

Put your neighbour’s bin out for them on bin day. Offer a lift to a stranger who’s getting soaked in the rain whilst waiting for the bus. Make breakfast in bed for your partner. You get the idea (I hope).

I remember hearing a story about a boy whose parents had sent him out to shovel the snow off their drive. The boy, feeling in a good mood, decided to not stop at just his drive but in fact cleared the driveway of every house on the street. Now that’s a random act of kindness!

Well today I want to give you 10 brilliantly simples Acts of Random Kindness that will make a big difference to someone else and put a smile on your face too.

1. Take out the trash – ok this was in the example last time but it’s still a great act to do, especially if the person you’re helping is someone who really struggles dragging their bin out once a week or who always forgets.

2. Babysit – want to do something really nice for a parent? Give them the night or day off so they can be a human being again. Give your time up and have an evening playing mum or dad for them. They’ll love you for it.

3. Pack some shopping – ever been in a queue in the supermarket and the pregnant lady behind you is also wrestling a 3 year old who’s been on skittles all the way around the store? Why not stay behind after you’ve done your packing and help her pack her bags? It might just make her day.

4. Hold a door – we live in a door slamming society where, when we walk through an entrance, we don’t stop to think about who’s coming the other way or who is behind us. Hold a door open for someone. You don’t even need to go through it yourself but it will sure make a difference.

5. Say a kind word – all too often we don’t say nice things to people. Why not give someone a compliment? Thank them for a job well done. Tell them you’re grateful they’re around. It only takes a few seconds.

6. Smile at a stranger – why? Because they are some miserable looking strangers out there aren’t there? Maybe they’re having a bad day, bad week, bad year or bad life. Your smile might be the only one they see all day.

7. Let someone out in traffic – I love doing this one. When you’re queuing let someone in who’s trying to join the traffic. Don’t be one of “those” people who nudge forward and shut you off and pretend like you’re invisible. Go on, be nice.

8. Ask how their day is – it’s easy getting caught up in what we do so try to break that pattern by randomly asking the waitress how her day is going. I recently did this in a clothes shop and the girl behind the counter didn’t know what to say because she wasn’t used to being talked to.

9. Wash the windscreens of all the cars in the street – got the old bucket and sponge out to do your ride? Got some water left over? What are you waiting for? Go make that windscreen clean! A good alternative for this is the winter version, where you scrape the snow off of other people’s car when you know they’re leaving for work shortly after you.

10. Send an email to someone you’ve lost touch with – we all lose touch with old friends and sending a letter cost money right? Well drop them an email or message them on Facebook to get caught up and tell them you’ve missed them being around.

Acts of Random Kindness don’t need to be like little Billy’s where he shovelled the snow from an entire street! They can be in the little things too but they always add up to make a big difference in the quality of people’s lives.

Be nice to people today – what will you do?


  • Eleanor Edwards said:

    I knew this was coming (obviously – and thanks for the mention Ben. Very kind) but I’ve still got to say, great list. Acts of random kindness are a delightfully beautiful way to improve your day and someone elses. Great twist on Matthew’s fab Monday post and some lovely thoughts to lead into the weekend. Thanks Ben 🙂

  • Ben said:

    Thanks El – and thanks for your input on this.

    Go make some people smile today

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Great colaboration between the two of you Eleanor, it’s been really inspiring stuff.

  • Karen said:

    Hi Ben,

    I feel quite shamed when reading this as I do come across ways that I can perform random acts of kindness and yet often don’t. I think I will be giving some money to the homeless people that I see on the street today. “There by the grace of God, go I”. Rather than not looking at people and keeping to myself, I’ll offer people a smile today. You’re so right – it can really make someone’s day and it’s very easy to do.

    Thanks for the reminder,

  • El Edwards said:

    Hey Karen 🙂
    Just wanted to say, these things aren’t meant to make you feel guilty. It’s great that Ben’s got you to take action but instead of going for an all or nothing approach (not saying you are, just I know what I’m like when I see something that shows me I need to make a change) why not pick one thing (like smiling at a stranger) that you can purpose to do on a consistent basis?

    And just watch for the difference in that person’s countenance. It’s truly amazing to see.
    El x

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Absolutely right!

  • Ben said:

    Don’t feel shamed Karen – I think we all do this to an extent. The trick is to be very conscious of your actions and actively try to complete say 5 acts a day. That way you can build it as a habit and then it becomes natural

  • Matthew Needham said:

    I don’t think you should feel ashamed Karen. I think we all could do better (that’s not to say I’m perfect). Just by making a concious effort to say ‘good morning’ and smiling, can make an enormous difference. I used to work in a large office and I used to walk by people’s desks everyday. No one spoke. Well, until I got in that is. Before you knew it row upon on row of people were merrily saying good morning. What’s more, more people took the lead and before very long the office was buzzing.

  • Savings Sally said:

    Thanks for the inspiring message. I think we all to often forget how much little gestures can mean to the people around us. I always try to ask my service person how they are, at the checkout counter or restaurant or wherever.

  • Ben said:

    Thanks Sally!

    Have a great weekend!

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Sally, just having a conversation with the ‘annoynmous’ people you come across every day is a really great way to make a difference and make someone’s day.

  • Steve said:

    Think of how much better the world would be if everyone attempted a few of these methods. It would certainly be a happier place. Big donations are great and surely appreciated by many fine charities but common decency and caring should never be overlooked.

    Simple kindness from or to a stranger you have met before and likely will never meet again is one of the most important things a single person can do individually to make a tiny slice of the workd a better place.

  • Ben said:

    I know Steve – it would be bearly recognisable wouldn’t it?

    Hope you perform some this weekend

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Steve

    Thanks for your input here (and the inclusion in your Sunday Selections). You’re absolutely right, the World would be a much better place doing some of these things. So why don’t people do them!!!? My mum always told me treat others as you’d expect to be treated yourself, which for me, is a great mantra to live to.

  • Steve’s Sunday Selection August 29, 2010 | Lifestyle Design Blog and Personal Development Tips said:

    […] start with an important call to action.  Ben lets us know about some powerful ways to make a difference in people’s lives for no money.  If only everyone followed his words of advice the world would […]

  • Bishwajeet said:

    Plant a tree in your backyard, I can do this for free 🙂

  • Ben said:

    That sounds like a great idea!