Spend

Americans like acts of kindness best when they take the form of money

A scene from NBC's "The Good Place," featuring Ted Danson as Michael and Kristen Bell as Eleanor.
Colleen Hayes | NBC

When it comes to thoughtful gestures, Americans would like them in cash, please.

Roughly half of Americans (54 percent) say they do at least one nice thing someone else on a daily basis, according to a new poll by TD Bank of over 1,500 people. They appreciate it when they're on the receiving end on an act of kindness as well.

And Americans appreciate consideration most when it comes in the form of money. Financial support is even more valued than receiving access to a "special experience" or getting a helping hand with childcare.

"Think of how you feel when someone holds a door when your hands are full, surprises you with a gift, or treats you to a cup of coffee. These small gestures can change your day," says Pat McLean, chief marketing officer at TD Bank. Especially, it seems, when the small gestures involve big spending.

Of those who appreciate financial help the most, one-third say they'd ideally like $500 toward their holiday budget, while about 26 percent would opt for having a bill paid for them. Paying a month's worth of their rent or mortgage and shelling out for their groceries rounded out the top four preferred kind gestures people really want.

That makes sense when you consider that over half of Americans, 52 percent, say they don't have enough money put away to handle a $1,000 emergency, according to a recent survey from LendingTree. That means millions of Americans would have to raise the funds by borrowing them, putting them on a credit card, or by selling something.

And nearly 80 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Americans have repeatedly said that what they want most is money. For the past 12 years, gift cards have been the top pick on people's gift lists, according to the National Retail Federation. TD found that total 2018 holiday gift card sales totaled $83 million, with the average amount per gift card coming out to be just over $80.

Even entrepreneur and "Shark Tank" star Kevin O'Leary says money is his present of choice. "My favorite gift in the holidays is an envelope full of cash," O'Leary tells CNBC Make It. "Everybody loves that. They really do."

Don't miss: Millennial couples are being smarter about money than their parents in this key way, experts say

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VIDEO1:0501:05
When actress Debra Messing was broke, here's how she splurged
A scene from NBC's "The Good Place," featuring Ted Danson as Michael and Kristen Bell as Eleanor.
Colleen Hayes | NBC
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