An Extraordinary Life On An Ordinary Income Pt. 6: Pay It Forward

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An Extraordinary Life On An Ordinary Income Pt. 6 - Pay It Forward

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Origin of Pay It Forward? And When I First Heard It

According to, pay it forward, as a phrase, dates back to “1916 by Author Lily Hardy Hammond…”You don’t pay love back, you pay it forward.”

Astonishingly, I did not hear this phrase until my teen years. It was during my Scouting career. Not so spoiler alert, I may have mentioned it in other posts. Yes, I am an Eagle Scout, and that’s an adventure that we can talk about another time. 

“I’ll Pay You Back.” “No, Pay It Forward.”

I distinctly remember one of the nerdier Scoutmasters telling me about this. I use nerdy as a term of endearment, of course. I remember our conversation, because he lent me either money or something I forgot, that part I don’t remember for some reason. 

“Thanks, I’ll pay you back.” “No, Pay It Forward.” What? What does pay it forward mean? He then explained that paying it back makes something transactional and that he was taught to pay it forward.

One Good Turn Deserves Another

 If you know the Scout slogan “Do a Good Turn Daily,” this makes sense. Expecting a payment back negates this good deed. Paying it forward increases the daily good turn. (My and others’ personal feelings aside of how we feel about the Scouting program, can we agree that doing a good turn daily benefits everyone? Yes, thank you).

The Starbucks Trend of Pay It Forward 

Remember when the news coverage was all about people in drive-thrus paying for the order for the person behind them? That was the first time I remember hearing about paying it forward. I miss that. What happened to all the generous people paying it forward? What happened to being a community and loving your neighbor?

Tip Your Waitstaff and Bartenders: Circle Back to Pt. 5

This is where you want to read up on part 5 so that this makes more sense. But I’ll try to summarize if you haven’t already. Recently attending Econome Conference 2021, my eyes opened to the generosity of my newfound FI (financial independence) friends.

My friends CfireSim and We Want Guac, were paying it forward to a local Cincinnati bartender as I and Slowly Sipping Coffee were on our way to join them for a quick drink before the after-party. Alongside tipping generously, (because that’s how the FI community does it), they also were paying it forward by talking about investing with the bartender. 

Although I missed the fun investing conversation, I did catch the generous tipping as well as the mentioning of Kyle’s book, Personal Finance and Investing, that kicked off the aforementioned conversation. I was even able to tip generously as I preplanned and had some extra cash on hand, budgeted money to spare, and some help from a few friends. 

Pay It Forward: Generosity Has Exponential ROI (Return on Investment)

I really want to not dive too deep into the speeches from the Econome Conference because I really want everyone to watch them on their own. But there was a part from Jeremy Schneider’s speech that stuck out. When Jeremy was building his business, he kept making choices to be generous. One of his employees turned down a raise to pay it forward and invest in the company. She believed in Jeremy and their work. 

Needless to say, it paid tenfold. I won’t go into any numbers (Jeremy mentions some in his speech). However, the employee was very well compensated in the future and I’m sure she and Jeremy agree that they made the right decision at the time. 

How My Partner and I Pay It Forward

Due to our limited income, my partner and I try to use our time and resources to pay it forward. I’ve written a few blog posts for free. My partner has helped and supported small business owners when she can. I was able to use my car to help a few friends at Econome get to the Fowling activity (bowling with a football). My partner and I both give to those struggling when we can. 

There are ways other than money that we can pay it forward. Some bloggers offer their time and attention. Some volunteer to come to events and speak for free just to “hang out.” Others pick up the tab for their low-income friends. I’m glad others assist me on my FI journey so that I can eventually pay it forward. It makes me proud to be a part of this community. 

Taking the Transactional Tally Out of Friendship

Over the 2021 Thanksgiving Holiday, I helped a friend of mine clean up his house. The house was full of things leftover from the passing of his grandpa. I help out with cleaning and other things when offered because it’s great exercise. I end up usually getting compensated (because of generosity) but it’s not why I do it. The money I make usually goes to gifts or helping those when or if I can. I count it as unbudgeted income. 

My friend asked me to pick up a few things over the weekend that weren’t in my budget. Although it was less than $5 unaccounted for in my budget, I’m banking on (pun intended) my generosity having an unexpected ROI. 

Instead of a transactional tally, we have a circle of generous reciprocation. When he or I absorb the cost of helping each other, the one not absorbing the cost pays it forward. For example, when he received an item I asked to borrow, he just gave it to me. He received it from someone else and no longer needed it. Now I can use it for when I need it and save money that I can use for gifts, travel, or other ways to make my life (and others’) extraordinary. 

Check out other posts in this series: An Extraordinary Life On An Ordinary Income