Right now, many are seeing firsthand the difficulties that can come with tough economic times. You may be watching friends and family struggle with their finances, and you may want to help. But you may be wary of lending money — or even just gifting it outright. Money can easily come between the best of friends, and put strain on family relationships. Even when you formally structure a loan and come up with a repayment schedule, things can get acrimonious if the situation changes, or if your family member is unable or unwilling to repay the loan. Gifting money can be one solution to this, but many are wary of becoming a main source of financial support.
Money doesn’t always have to be the solution when you want to help family and friends with their financial situation. My husband and I feel very blessed that I have been able to maintain a freelance business throughout these tough times, and we have been able to help some of our family and friends. Here are 3 ways you can help financially, without handing over wads of cash:
1. Provide a Place to Stay
Our relatives jokingly refer to our home as the “Hotel Marquit.” We are willing to have relatives and friends stay whenever they need to. My brother lived with us for a time while waiting to get into student housing and line up a job, and my husband’s cousin is currently staying with us while he looks for a job and a rental so that his family can join him (she’s staying at her parents’ with the children while they try to get back on their feet). And, every summer, we play host to various cousins and siblings trying to save a little bit between the end of the college semester and the start of a summer job. One of the reasons we are considering buying a different house is so that we have a little more room for house guests.
Of course, this situation can get out of hand if the guests don’t ever move out. We haven’t had that problem, since all of our relatives have been pretty diligent about improving the situation. If you feel like you can trust your friends and family to ardently search for a better situation and move out within a month or so, you can open your home to them, relieving them of the financial stress related to trying to pay rent when there is no income.
2. Feed Them
You can also help by feeding your relatives. My husband and I both have siblings (and their families) that we have over for dinner regularly. They save the amount of money they would normally spend on one meal, plus we often send leftovers home so they can make an additional meal. If your family members are in dire straits, you might occasionally buy a few extra staples at the grocery store and drop them off. My father-in-law regularly purchases basic food items to help his brother and his ailing mother.
This can be one of the easiest ways to provide a little bit of financial relief for your relatives. Making the help somewhat erratic can keep your relatives from coming to rely on you too much.
3. Help with Errands
When we only had one car, and that broke down, a kind friend in my neighborhood offered to drive me around to run errands. This saved me bus fare, and was a tremendous help, since we were struggling at the time. You can offer rides to work, or, if you are running errands, offer to bring your relative along so that he or she can save money on transportation costs.
Related to this can be helping with maintenance and yard work. If you know how to repair something, you can offer your services for free, so that your struggling friends and family don’t have to pay for repairs. There are a number of little ways that you can make life a little easier for those who are struggling.
Bottom line: Providing financial help doesn’t have to be about you handing out money. There are many things you can do to help someone who is struggling, including just being available for emotional support.