6 Ways to Help Family With Money Problems

A reader asked for advice on helping family with money problems. These tips will help your family deal with debt and other financial problems – without lending money.

Lending money to loved ones is risky and doesn’t always end well, which is why it’s better to find other ways to help family with money problems! If you’re constantly struggling with finances and don’t know what to do, read How to Deal With Your Money ProblemsIt’ll help you set boundaries — which I talk about below.

And, read on for six ways to help family members who are in debt or have other money problems…

How to Help Family With Money Problems

Before the tips, a quip: “Money lent to a friend must be recovered from an enemy.” ~ German Proverb.

Figure out if you’re contributing to the problem

Sometimes we enable our family by protecting them from the consequences of their actions, or continuing to lend them money even when we know they won’t pay it back. This doesn’t help them solve their money problems – it actually keeps them stuck! For instance, if you lend money and they don’t use it to solve their money problems (by getting a job, stopping the habits that led them to debt, etc) — then you could be enabling. Setting your boundaries is a “tough love” action: you have to decide to stop lending money, or only lend money with clear expectations (for example, that it’s repaid within six months).

Avoid lending money to family

Instead of giving cash or writing a check, find out what your friend or family member needs to survive, and help with that. For instance, you could buy groceries, pay the electric bill, give a gift certificate for gas or a tune up for the car.

Draw up a contract if you lend loved ones money

In Tips for Lending Money to Friends or Family Members, I describe the best way to help your loved ones with money. Don’t just give them money. Make it clear that this is loan is for a specific purpose (paying the bills for a month, taking care of medical problems, etc).

Find other ways to help your family

If your loved one is struggling financially because of job loss, then find practical ways to support her.

How Do I Help Family With Money Problems

6 Ways to Help Family With Money Problems

Offer to babysit so she can look for a job, help her update her resume, connect her with employment counselors. Help her set and achieve financial goals, by creating a spending plan or budget.

Offer a hand up – not a hand out

“Providing a hand up – not a hand out” is the motto of the Harvest Project, an organization in Vancouver, BC that I once worked with. The best way to help family with money problems is to give them the tools they need to help themselves. Help them regain their footing and pull their lives back together. Don’t take ownership of their problems no matter how bad, guilty, or sad you feel for them.

Take care of yourself

“We, the family, are constantly having to help them financially, and it is starting to take its toll on all of us financially, emotionally and physically,” says Sharri, a Quips and Tips reader who wants to help her family member who is struggling with money and limited job options. You need to stay healthy, strong, and happy for your own sake. Make sure that you’re giving yourself the emotional and physical space you need to stay centered.

Helping family with money problems comes down to setting boundaries: you need to find ways to help, but not become enmeshed in or contribute to the problem! You also need to step back, look at the situation objectively, and think with your head…not your heart.

If your family member is struggling with debt, read When It’s Not Smart to Loan Money to Someone You’re Close to.

Do you have any thoughts or questions or these ways to help family with money problems? I welcome your comments below…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 thoughts on “6 Ways to Help Family With Money Problems”

  1. in what ways can you show consideration to any family member who needs your help? (a)birth of the new born baby (b)loss of property are especially when family members need help.

  2. someone i know has been collecting pennies on the ground to save up for a mp3 player. the person has asd and her mother does to. her father is divorced. one day i asked her how much she made she said 6 dollars. And she said she might make it in march. The mp3 player costs 60 dollars and i don’t know if i should just buy it for her and i know she can’t pay it back, what should i do?

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Lizzy,

    Your husband sounds like an incredibly generous, giving man! I hope his generosity doesn’t come back to haunt him.

    I can’t tell you what you should do, but I think the deadline is a great idea. Six months should be MORE than enough time for your husband’s friend to get beack on his feet!

    If your husband is lending money to his friend, please make sure there’s a contract in place. Here’s an article I wrote about lending money to friends or family members – just click this link:

    Tips for Lending Money to Friends or Family Members

    I don’t know if you and your husband can afford to lend money, but you have to expect that you won’t see this money again for a long time. A contract is a great way to protect yourselves and set the guidelines, but it won’t guarantee you’ll get the money back.

    All marriages are different, but if it were me, I’d ask my husband to reconsider lending his friend more money. I’d ask him to be satisfied with giving his friend food and shelter for six months, and leave it at that. No lending money — there are other ways to help loved ones who are struggling financially!

    I hope this helps a little, and that you and your husband can agree on a mutually satisfactory way to help his friend.

    Good luck, let me know how it goes!


  4. We helped my husband’s friend of 27 years move to our home in July this year only to find out that he owed the IRS as the IRS had garnished all his money from his bank. My husband has given him quite a bit of money to start his business for him but he has been spending that money to buy gifts for our daughter. And now my husband has decided to again financially help him by starting a business for him to get him on his feet. I have mentioned to my husband that he needs to give his friend a deadline as to how long he can stay in our home – 6 months tops. This friend has done the same thing with another family from where we moved him from. What should I do?

  5. Thanks for this, Sharri — and good for you for being honest with your family! It must feel like a burden has been lifted.

    You’ve given good advice about helping loved ones who are struggling financially, and I hope people can learn from your experience.


  6. Hi Laurie
    I had a conversation with my family member, a real honest conversation and asked point blank if they had paid their Bank Bond this month after she had asked for milk, bread and an amount of money for just in case of an emergency, which I did give (caved in). She said they had not and was not in the least concerned about it. I lost it, I went hysterical and screamed at her to wake up that her husband was dragging everyone into the poorhouse with them because he refuses to get a full time job…She cried and said thatI do not know what poverty is like. I do know that our whole family has never allowed them to have poverty pay them a visit and all their needs have been met in the past. They do not have to go to soup kitchens etc. Her husband sent a message for me that he is very disappointed in me. (Cheeky and hurtful, I think) I am disappointed that he refuses to make their financial problem go away by getting a salaried job that they can depend on. My mom was told that the reason he can’t look for a job is because he does not have petrol money. (This is now for the past 7 years) We, the family have always been giving them cash etc as they needed. Yet this man can drink on weekends and my sister can afford cigarettes. Well, my family in my own household have said this is it, No More! We do not need them and they can fend for themselves from now on. I am so glad everything is now out in the open that I told her he was on pension for 7 years from the age of 40yrs while having school going children and that we needed to know where we stand and where all this would end. Surely they cant think that family will support them forever and a day into their old age until death! It was hard saying those things but it is the sad truth. At least we definately do know he will not be looking for a job/is refusing/making excuses and my sister has covered for him/lied for him/protected him/babied him and made us enablers. I will no longer be held to family through emotional blackmail and I have severed all contact with them. What else could I do? I asked, confronted and told her to wake up and save her tears for when she would really be needing them. That is when the Bank comes to repossess their house, then what? Too late and their financial problem will be too big for anyone to help out. I hope other people who are going through the same family crises and who do not know what to do manage to find your website and see that they are not alone or selfish when dealing with family members who refuse to look after themselves financially and are dependent on their families.

  7. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    On People’s Court today, Harvey Levin said that if you keep helping someone with the same problem, then you’re no longer helping…you’re making the problem worse.

    Harvey must have read my article ;-)

  8. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    From now on, the hardest thing will be “retraining” both yourself and your family members who expect you to keep helping them financially and emotionally.

    Before I got married, a wise woman told me to “Start as you mean to go.” She said I shouldn’t do anything at the very beginning of my marriage that I didn’t see myself doing in 15, 25, or 40 years!

    The hardest thing about breaking habits is breaking OTHER people’s expections of your habits.

    I suggest you think of it that way, Sharri. You’ve developed a bad habit of helping loved ones who are struggling financially — you didn’t start as you meant to go — and now you have to break that habit. And, you have to break your family of their expectations!

    Your idea of making yourself unavailable is a great one. But sooner or later, you’ll have to come right out with it: you can’t afford to keep giving financial support. Blame your husband if you have to, or say that you’re saving up for your kids’ college expenses.

    Remember that you’re doing the right thing. This is the best thing for your loved ones (even though it doesn’t feel like it), and it’s the best thing for you and your family.

    Stay strong, my friend!


  9. Thanks Laurie
    I will try to think with my head and not my heart in the future otherwise both will be in the poorhouse.
    It is true to give/help for a specific problem. Been there, done that only to find out via the family grapevine that the specific problem has still not been sorted out. (It has’nt died as I like to call the problem) It seems to resurrect itself for someone or another family member’s behalf to take care of. It is frightening! I have already paid for driving lessons etc for the 1st child and the second one is now hot on his heels. I am made to feel tht I have to pay for this one too. I do not know where it will all end. The family have got together and we have filled their food cupboards and freezer in order to give them a headstart. We all know this is doomed to fail as they will eat everything up without replacing as they go along and within 3 months the cupboards/freezer will be bare again. I feel guilty if I purchase quality toiletry items for my family, have sometimes what is considered luxury food as I think if I bought cheaper I could have got 2 of the same item and shared. Their financial problem and way of living has already affected, poisoned my way of thinking and I have become firmly emeshed in their trouble. My husband and children have supported me on this act of charity although they do voice their opinions loud and clear. I am now going to step back, unplug my phone, give my husband my car keys and just make myself unavailable for awhile. You know, it does take strength and courage to step back and I do realise I cannot keep saving them from their folly (self-caused)as I will destroy myself, my family because of them (financially, emotionally) I am realising that one does not have to keep on giving as they will find someone else, they always do! (as you have read above – they use the same financial reason for many people, hoping to score from each – they have been very successful in the past until we, the givers/suckers started talking to each other. We now have a system in place that the one will tell the other (and its awful, I know) so that there is no more duplication of giving for the same problem that is presented. Problem is, there is always a new problem as soon as the old one has been milked enough financially. I think most of us givers are always in a state of shock, disbelief.
    I think there are many people who have family members baiting them and do not know what is the right thing to do for fear of coming across as selfish and not wanting to give. I would appreciate more advice.
    Thank you