Providing reassurance without embarrassment

What to Say to Someone Who is Having Money Problems

by Shelly Burke, RN

Money problems are embarrassing, no doubt about it. If you know someone who is having money problems (and who doesn't?), here are some ways to reassure her and help out without embarrassing your friend or acquaintance.

What to Say

"Almost everyone has money problems at some point; we did too a few years ago."

If you'd like to do something with your friend, but know her finances are tight, take the pressure off and say, "Let's go to the craft fair this weekend. My treat!"

To help by giving her food or something else she needs, without embarrassing her, use one of these phrases: "I went on a cooking kick and made four casseroles today. I thought you might enjoy a day of not having to cook, so I brought you one!" "I was cleaning out my freezer and found some stuff that needs to be eaten before it gets too old. We'll never eat it all, so here's some for you." "I cleaned out the kids' closet; we found some clothes that I think will fit your kids."

If the person is embarrassed or does not want to accept your gift, say, "Someone helped me when I was having money problems, and I promised to pass on the favor." (If this is indeed true. If not, just say this last part.) "I'm able to do this for you now; when you are able, I hope you'll pass it on by helping someone who needs it."

What Not to Say

"What did you do to get yourself into this mess?"

"I can't believe you did that?"

"Why did you buy that, if you're short of money?"

"Here is exactly what you need to do."

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What to Do

If you know of job opportunities, mention them, but without the expectation that the person "should" take the job.

Give the person information on low-cost housing, insurance, etc., as needed for the situation. Be tactful and matter-of-fact about it. Say something like, "I heard about this great program for insurance for kids of parents who are having financial troubles. Here is the phone number."

Give the person or family a gift card to a local grocery or department store. If you think they would be embarrassed by your gift, mail it anonymously.

What Not to Do

Do not offer clothes, furniture, monetary, or any other help unless you are able to give unconditionally, without expectation of how the person will use what you give him.

Do not continue to enable someone who is not willing to fix the problem. If you repeatedly help a friend and she squanders what you give her, makes no effort to improve her situation, or you do not approve of her lifestyle (which contributes to her financial troubles), help only by offering your support in words, not with money or things.

Reviewed January 2018

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Shelly Burke, RN, is the author of Home is Where the Mom Is. Home is Where the Mom Is is the most comprehensive resource for all moms, especially at-home moms. The above article is an excerpt from Home is Where the Mom Is. Shelly believes moms need to care for themselves, first, so they can better care for those around them. Shelly's next book, What Should I Say? is also available.

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