What to Do When Someone Asks for Money

By Rebecca Lake · November 10, 2022 · 10 minute read

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What to Do When Someone Asks for Money

Dealing with people who ask for money can be uncomfortable, and it can put a strain on even the best of relationships. You may feel pressured to say yes when you can’t really afford to. Or you may get tired of handing over your hard-earned cash to someone you view as being financially irresponsible.

Having a strategy for answering when someone asks for money can make those situations feel less awkward — and keep you from making a poor financial decision.

Here, you’ll learn how to:

•   Decide if you have enough money to help

•   Determine how urgent the person’s financial need is

•   Understand the risk involved in lending someone money

•   Provide financial resources to your friend or family member

•   Avoid guilt if you say no

Determining If You Have the Funds to Help First

Any time someone asks for money, there’s an important question to ask before you consider saying yes: What can I afford?

Giving friends money when they’re in a jam could make you tight for money if your budget is already strained. So before agreeing to hand over any cash, review your financial situation first to see how much money you can realistically part with.

This is especially important when someone asks for money, and it’s more than just a few bucks. Say your aging parents ask you for $10,000 to help with medical bills, for example. That’s not exactly pocket change. Talking to parents about money may not be easy but if you can’t afford to part with that kind of money, it’s important to say so upfront.

Recommended: Guide to Practicing Financial Self-Care

Determining If It Is for a Genuine Need or Financial Situation

When someone asks for money, it’s natural to want to know what it’s for. And that might play a part in your decision to say yes or no.

For example, there’s a big difference between your younger sibling asking you for $1,000 to put a security deposit on an apartment and asking for $1,000 to buy a gaming console. One is a need, while the other is a want.

If you’re constantly dealing with friends who ask for money to fund their desired lifestyle, you may begin to feel that you’re being taken advantage of. So it’s okay to set boundaries and specify that you’re only willing to give friends and family money in situations where there’s a genuine need.

However, be wary. Some people might use their hard-earned money on things like, say, the latest mobile device or a weekend away, and then come knocking for cash when a student loan or medical bill is due. Again, you don’t want to fund someone’s extravagant lifestyle.

Recommended: Tips for Overcoming Bad Financial Decisions

Understanding the Risk Involved With Lending Money

Borrowing from friends and family isn’t the same as getting a personal loan from a bank. If someone asks you for money, they probably aren’t expecting you to whip out a loan agreement or charge them fees and interest, for instance. And they might assume that if they don’t pay you back, you won’t bombard them with collection calls the way a traditional lender would.

When you lend money to friends and family, you’re taking on risk. If they don’t pay you back, then you likely won’t be able to get that money back unless you’re willing to sue them in small claims court. When debts between friends or family members go unpaid, that can lead to the eventual breakdown of the relationship.

If people who ask for money regularly seek you out, there are two ways you can try to manage the risk factor:

•   Require them to sign a loan agreement

•   Consider the money a gift

The former can give you some legal protection if they don’t pay, but some people might balk at having to sign it. The latter, meanwhile, eliminates all risk since you’re assuming you’re never going to get the money back anyway. But you have to be sure beforehand that you can afford the loss.

Also, be aware that it may change the nature of your relationship with the person to whom you are gifting the money. Consider whether you want to set a precedent of bailing out, say, your younger sister’s or your fiancé’s finances.

Recommended: 5 Ways to Achieve Financial Security

Paying for Things Directly Instead of Gifting Money

If you’re not comfortable giving cash to friends or relatives who ask for money, you could offer to pay for things for them instead. If your best friend asks for $300 to pay their electric bill, you might not feel 100% sure they’ll use the money for that. You could offer to pay the bill for them instead.

You might also consider offering non-financial help. For example, if you have a cousin who is a struggling single parent and often requests cash, you might offer to watch their kids for free so they can spend time looking for a higher-paying job or take night classes to advance their education. You’re still helping them out, but you’re not giving them permission to turn to you for money every time they need it.

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Watching Out for Your Financial Goals

Saying yes when someone asks for money can be problematic if it means your financial goals suffer. Going back to the example of aging parents, helping them pay for medical bills or other expenses in retirement could mean that you’re shortchanging your own financial future.

Again, it all goes back to looking at how much you can afford to give and whether you’re comfortable giving money to friends and family, knowing that you might never see that moolah again.

If doing so would put your money goals at risk, it’s important to consider whether helping them out is truly worth it, especially if the money they’re asking for is to fund wants rather than needs.

Learning From Your Mistakes

If you’ve gotten into the habit of automatically saying yes when people ask for money or you’ve given someone money in the past and regretted it, it’s not too late to correct those mistakes.

For example, say you have that one friend who, when you dine out, always asks if you can pick up the tab when the check arrives. Maybe they say they haven’t gotten paid yet and that you are lucky to earn a higher, dependable salary.

Remember, it’s perfectly okay to say, “I can’t afford to keep picking up the tab for dinner. What’s another way we can enjoy time together without spending as much?”You could suggest that instead of going out, you do potlucks at home instead. This could help you to avoid feeling like you’re being taken advantage of.

If you feel like you’ve made a mistake with money by lending it or giving it to friends and family, don’t shy away from it. Analyze the situation to figure out what went wrong, then commit to not repeating those same mistakes again. Just because you gave a person money in the past doesn’t mean you must continue to do so.

Teaching Them Smart Financial Habits

If you find yourself dealing with someone who asks for money on a regular basis because they’re terrible at managing their finances, you could offer to help. For example, you might introduce them to some online resources for learning about money or share your favorite budgeting app with them.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t always work. If someone has learned poor financial habits from an early age and doesn’t seem inclined to change them, you may not be able to put them on a different path. In that case, you may need to kindly but firmly say no to their frequent requests for money and know that you tried to improve their situation via education.

Providing Financial Resources to Help Them

If someone asks for money and you either can’t afford to give it or would prefer not to, you can still point them in the right direction. You can help them explore other ways to borrow money, such as personal loans, lines of credit, or credit cards.

Just be mindful of steering them toward loans that might worsen their financial situation. Payday loans, for example, can feature astronomical interest rates that can quickly lead borrowers into a downward spiral of expensive debt. Cash advances on credit cards are another very expensive way to borrow money that one may want to avoid.

Valuing Yourself and Your Hard Work

You work hard for your money, so it doesn’t make sense to give it away without some thought beforehand. A request in and of itself isn’t a good reason to part with your cash. For all you know, the person asked half a dozen people who said no before they came to you, and they may have several people they are planning on asking for funds if you decline.

When people ask for cash, check in with your money mindset. Don’t undervalue the effort it took for you to make it, even if that’s not something that’s on their radar. Also, be clear about how it will be used.

For example, finding out after the fact that the $500 you thought was going to buy groceries for your sister and her kids actually went to funding a trip to an amusement park might make you feel resentful. You may feel like your hard work to make that $500 was all for nothing since it went to a frivolous expense.

Not Giving Out of Guilt

Guilt can play a big part in influencing financial decisions. For example, perhaps your spouse’s parents gave you the money to put down on a home after you were married. That can lead to sticky situations with how to handle money with in-laws for years to come if they later need financial help and automatically expect you to provide it.

You may feel too guilty about the down payment gift to say no, which could put a strain on your finances or even your marriage. Or it may be your parents who are putting a guilt trip on you to justify asking you to pay for their expenses in retirement. Talking about money with your partner can help you to avoid conflicts in these kinds of situations.

Guilt can also come into play in other ways. For instance, you might feel guilty about making more money than your friends and use that as an excuse to always pay for nights out or give them money. But allowing guilt to guide you can lead to everyone you know treating you like a personal bank. So it can be important to not let guilt cloud your decisions, and feel comfortable saying, “No, sorry I can’t” to money requests without feeling obligated to explain your reasoning.

Managing Finances With SoFi

Knowing how to navigate the conversation when people ask for money can make those situations less stressful. You don’t always need to say no, but it’s important to know when doing so makes sense for your financial situation — and your personal relationships.

Meanwhile, you can keep working toward your own financial goals by saving regularly. When you open a bank account with SoFi, for instance, you can get checking and savings in one place with a competitive APY. Plus there are no fees, which can help your money grow faster.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

When should you say no to someone who asks for money?

It may be a good idea to say no to someone who asks for money if you truly can’t afford to give it or if you believe the money will be wasted on wants vs. needs. You should also consider saying no if you suspect the money will be used for illegal purposes.

How can we trust if someone is telling the truth?

There’s no way to tell if someone is being truthful, short of giving them a lie detector test. When someone asks for money, you essentially have to trust your instincts. If you suspect they might not be truthful about why they need the money, then you can say no.

How can I avoid disputes if I choose to say no?

Telling someone who asks for money that your answer is no could lead to conflicts. If you’re worried about a dispute, you can explain your reasons for saying no or simply say, “I’m sorry; it’s just not a good time.” Don’t allow them to argue with you or try to wear you down to change your decision.


Photo credit: iStock/Sergey Nazarov

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