When Your Friends Struggle
Working with Others to Save Money
Several of our friends have been laid off recently. Fortunately, my husband and I still have our jobs (so far) and would like to help them as best we can. We don't have large sums of money to give them, but what help would be most appreciated by people who have recently been laid off?
Many people are not able to handle a straight out cash loan/donation/gift. Instead how about a "gift basket" from the local grocery store? Cold weather is approaching and nothing would be better than all the ingredients for a good pot of homemade soap. By the way, my grandmother always uses a can of corn beef in her soup and not stew beef. The soup is delicious, the cost is less, and corn beef can be easily stored. Add a box of crackers and that particular basket is complete.
Baby in their household? Same idea but instead use baby formula, cereal, jars of baby food, and throw in a bib and bottle.
How about an updated version of an old fashioned community get together? In this case, get a few close friends and families together and bake or cook big quantities of food to take home. Spaghetti, pasta, cakes, pies. Put the teens outside on washing the cars, doing lawn work, cleaning gutters. Everyone works and plays and eats together. The friendship will be well worth the cost and time to all concerned.
Just keep your eyes and ears open and tailor the situation/basket/ideas to that particular family needs. You might be surprised at how much you also get from helping someone else. Tuck inside a card or note of encouragement. Also a pre paid phone card would be great. That lets their out of town family members know they are ok, and often when looking for a job it is often necessary to make long distance calls. Be flexible, be creative and always be willing to lend a smile and helping hand to others.
If you can't help financially, offer to type up letters and resumes for them, job search on the net for them, and put the word out to everyone you know that you have a friend who's available.
Having a husband who has been laid off and out of work for 3 and a half months now, I can speak from our own situation. The fact that you don't have a lot extra but are still willing to help your friends in their time of crisis means more than you'll ever know.
Give a gift certificate to a local grocery store. They can be purchased in small amounts and are always helpful. If you can or freeze fruits and vegetables, share with your friends. When stores have buy one, get one free deals, then save the free ones and put together a mini food pantry. A gift certificate to a restaurant would be greatly appreciated because chances are they haven't included dinners out in their already tight budgets. Friends did this for us and we did so appreciate it.
Christmas is fast approaching. If your unemployed friends have young children, consider purchasing a gift for the child or children. As a parent facing Christmas with a spouse unemployed, my only desire is that my 16-month-old daughter has a good Christmas. That in itself is gift enough for my husband and me.
Don't be afraid you'll embarrass your friends. They will simply be grateful someone cares.
Having had my share of non-working time, I can tell you that when you have to suddenly and without warning start living on your savings or on only one income, you have no choice but to cut out everything that isn't absolutely necessary. The necessary stuff is the mortgage, car and food. Everything else is unnecessary if you simply don't have the money. Even the car can become unnecessary if you don't have money long enough.
So, my suggestion would be to help your friends with the things that they were forced to give up and really miss. Depression is a big possibility when you are laid off/unemployed and though looking, not finding any work.
So, how about renting a couple movies, ordering a pizza or take out Chinese (a big treat to those without funds), and inviting your friend over for one evening each week. Since you will also get to enjoy the movie, the extra amount of food even for your friend and his family shouldn't be that much extra. But the friendship and the evening without worry are priceless. If it's not possible for them to come over for this evening because they live far away or because though friends you aren't truly that close, then have the pizza delivered to their house and buy a gift certificate for the local Blockbuster.
Basically, just think about what your friend is likely missing the most in these lean times and see if you can provide it somehow. Does she usually get her nails done each week? Well, invite her over for a home manicure if you can't afford to foot the bill at the salon. Did he go to a sporting event each week? Join him and pay for both tickets or invite him over to watch the game at your house including hot dogs and beer. Did they usually take their kids to the zoo once a month, or to the movies, or miniature golfing? Again, invite them over and do something fun!
Friendship is probably the very best you can offer and will most readily be accepted. It's tough on the unemployed to accept cash, but friendship is easy for anyone to accept. Obviously, if you have extra cash, offer it. If not, offer yourself. That's priceless.
My husband was laid off for three months after years of continued employment. He then got a job only to be laid off six weeks later. I was laid off a month ago after five solid years of employment.
Our situation is better and worse than most. It is better since we have very little debt and unemployment provides enough to cover our bills. It is also better because we have good references and training so getting another job will happen eventually.
It is worse because in order to get the jobs we lost, we had moved from Florida to Kansas. Now, we are stuck in Kansas without the support of friends and family. Also, we do not feel that we are sufficiently able to relocate to Florida just yet.
What can you do to help? From my prospective:
1. We are both used to working. We find that staying home all day (to save money and gas) gets very boring and depressing. Come and visit us! We are very lonely since we are used to working and having that constant interaction.
2. We don't pay for cable, so we only have regular TV. Invite us over to watch cable TV with you one night. We won't pay to rent videos, but we would love to see them. Loan us your old videos. We have exhausted the library's supply.
3. Don't treat us as if we were bums. These circumstances can happen to anyone. Don't act as if you are any better off than us. It could be you next.
4. Please don't expect us to feed you or buy you extra items as we have done in the past. Just because we always helped you out in the past does not mean that we can afford to do so now. Every penny is precious. Since my husband has lost his job at least three different people have expected us to continue cooking and feeding them. Granted, I can make a good meal for $5 or less, but again, every penny is precious. That extra food may be the difference between us starving and eating. Why not bring some food to feed us for a change?
5. Call us, even if it is long distance. I have always made an effort to call those that are long distance on my dime. Now, when funds are tight, these same people continue to expect me to call and foot the bill. We need to cut every extra expense now, which includes calling you. Again, we really need your support now more then ever. We are very lonely and worried.
6. We have a neighbor that doesn't have a car. We always made it a point to offer him rides to the store when we were going. It would be nice if our friends would offer us rides to the store. It would save us some money on gas and provide us with some companionship.
7. My husband recently went fishing with his friend. We thought it would be a cheap trip. Instead, his friend expected him to pay for gas and the park fees. Maybe you could pick up the cost this time or at least split the cost. We will remember those that help us out and will make amends when we can.
8. Do you buy the Sunday newspapers? Do you realize they cost a $1.00 each? Maybe, you wouldn't mind giving us your old one? How about any magazine you are done with?
9. Do you need your gutters cleaned, a babysitter, some work done? Could you spare a couple of bucks to pay us to do that work? I can feed my family on $50 a week. Every little bit helps.
10. Most of all, "Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you". You may be next.
You can help by making a little extra when you cook and sending the extras to your neighbors. This way they don't have to worry about cooking and you can stretch your meals to include a few extra people. This doesn't cost too much if you make a big pot of stew or chili. When you're in dire straits, sometimes just knowing that someone cares is enough.
I am laid off and the nicest things people have done for me are to keep in touch, include me in cook-outs, drives in the country, books passed on and things that cost little or nothing. Just treating me normally! I may need more help down the road but for now being included in gatherings and knowing I have friends out there is wonderful!
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