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How to Help a Financially Struggling Friend (without making things weird)

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A few months ago I wrote about why I cringe when someone’s financial pain goes viral. We love seeing someone in need get their needs met, but it often means we’re witnessing that “needy” person at their lowest, most painful, most vulnerable moment. We see their gratitude, but we forget it may come at the price of their dignity and humanity as their financial inadequacies are exposed.

So now that we’re aware of what we DON’T want to do, let’s personalize it– how CAN you help someone who is struggling financially without complicating your relationship with that person? How can you help them and still honor their dignity? I’ve got some Dos and Don’ts for you.

DO:

Give anonymously. I addressed this in my previous piece, but anonymous giving is the simplest way to help a friend in need without making things awkward. Send them an encouraging card with cash or a gift card in it. Slip a note in her purse, into her car, or leave groceries on her front porch. With online grocery ordering and delivery, this can be a really simple, practical way to be sure your friend isn’t going without, without causing tension in your friendship. You can also organize others to give anonymously– churches are uniquely suited to this task. If you coordinate with several families, your friend doesn’t know who gave what. That means she doesn’t need to struggle with feeling like she’s indebted to certain people.

Be clear about financial expectations when you’re going out. I have friends who like to have fun and I like to have fun with them, but I can’t always afford the same kind of fun they can. If you know your friend is struggling financially, but you want to include her in your fun, just make it clear to her what your expectations are. You may not realize the reason she’s turning down your dinner invitations isn’t because she doesn’t want to spend time with you, but because she can’t afford dinner out. You’ve got to decide if you want to scale things back so she can be involved, or if you want to make sure she knows she’s covered. Being low-key about this is an important component to not making things weird. It’s great if you can say, “Hey, I’d love to get together for a movie this weekend. My treat!” That way there’s no ambiguity.

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