How can you go about helping friends who are struggling financially without embarrassing them?
When Your Friends Struggle
When Friends are Laid Off
I'd like to have some suggestions on helping friends who are having a hard time financially without making it seem like charity or condescension. The two of us don't have financial issues (although we don't have cash to give away), but some of our friends, who aren't spendthrifts, have lost jobs or had sudden financial emergencies. I pass along things I get with two-for-one specials (the second bag of potatoes, etc.), and when I bake, I make a double batch. But I'd like to be able to do something more other than give emotional support. Any ideas?
Nancy in Santee
Give Utility Assistance Anonymously
Once, when a relative of mine was suddenly widowed, I began paying part of her utility bill without her knowing. We live in different states, but all I did was call the utility company and let them know the situation, and that I did not want my relative to know where the money was coming from. I paid what I could, using my debit card over the phone. I always felt good knowing she would be happy when she saw her electric bill!
C. P. Fisher
Invite Your Friend to Dinner
One non-threatening way to offer assistance to a proud-but-in-need friend is with some pantry items. Explain that you were cleaning out your cupboards and have extras that you'd rather see go to good use than to waste.
Another idea is to buy her a grocery store gift card in whatever amount you can afford, with the request that she pay it forward by helping someone else in the future when she's back on her feet. This makes it seem more like a loan than a handout, which might make it easier to accept. Send it anonymously in a card "from someone who cares about you" if you think she'd be too embarrassed to receive it directly from you.
You could also invite her over for dinner one night (making sure you've cooked enough to feed a small army), and "plead" with her to take plenty of leftovers home with her since it's simply way too much for your family to finish.
Send Work Their Way
Do your friends have special skills that you could "hire" them for? I've hired friends to alter clothing, do handyman jobs around my house, help with my yard, etc. All were jobs that I would have hired someone for anyway, but being able to send the work their way helped them without making them feel like a charity case.
Become a "Secret" Friend
When my grandmother was having a hard time, I wanted to help her, but she was too proud to accept help. I did a little sneaking and found the address of the store where she bought her TV, and I began making additional payments directly to them on her behalf. I did the same thing for the electric company. She never questioned the additional payments. So if you're concerned, by paying a few dollars directly to the creditor, your friend has a few dollars more in her pocket without accepting it directly from you. You can be a true "secret" friend.
Easier to Accept a Gift through the Mail
How about sending a gift card to the local grocery store as a birthday or holiday gift? Or to their favorite coffeehouse? The latter provides a sense of abundance and can be a real treat when they have cut it out of their budget, along with other non-essentials. If they love going to the movies, how about giving a gift certificate to the local movie theater or video store? An offer to baby-sit? If you mail them the gift cards, they will feel your love and support but less shame potentially than if you give it to them directly. It's easier to accept the gift.
Share a Garden Plot
It's the perfect time of year for starting a garden. Perhaps you could suggest sharing a plot. With half of the work and a little planning, you could split a nice sized harvest. We do a lot of canning, so our summer garden saves us a decent amount of money over the winter months. When you join forces to plant, maintain, harvest and preserve, not only is it fun, but also as the old saying goes, many hands make for lighter work.
Know Your Friend
I have been the recipient of friends' help and have so much appreciated it. Here are some ideas for helping friends and what you do depends a lot on your personality and your friends' personality and on the quality of your friendship.
- Just give them cash, maybe in a card. This could be $50 or $100. This is surprisingly well accepted. Make it very clear this is a gift not a loan, and make some reference to how you've been helped when things were tough and how you're glad you can help someone else now. This is undoubtedly the most useful thing you could do. It does depend on the person and you have to know them pretty well. Maybe you can call it an early birthday present.
- If there's something you know of, for certain, that they really need to spend money on, you can offer to pay for it. For example, their car needs brake work and they can't afford it.
- Ask if they would like to do some odd job for you and make the payment fair but generous. This will depend on their skills and your needs. It may be yard work, hemming some skirts, putting in a garden, setting up a website, typing up something, organizing your photos, debugging your computer, etc.
- Offer to pay some monthly bill for them. Or offer to pay for needed tutoring or a summer camp for their child.
- Bring over dinner once a week.
- Think of something you have but aren't using that might be helpful to them. It should be something that they might have to spend money on if they didn't get it. This could be yard tools, a bike, furniture, etc.
Helping Friends Secretly
The best way of helping friends is secretly. Buy a Wal-Mart gift card and leave it on the front porch or mail it to your friend without a return address. Tell no one and just smile when the friend tells you about the gift. Your reward will await you in heaven.
Offer Them Some Free Time
I wish more people thought like you! Obviously, it will depend on the needs of the individual. Perhaps you could offer to baby-sit while they job hunt or even so a couple could have an evening at home to themselves (since they probably can't afford dates right now). Just a little peace and quiet can go a long way to help deal with stress.
Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!
Take the Next Step:
- To read more on helping friends or to add your own ideas, please visit The Dollar Stretcher Community.
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