How to keep your boundaries and still be a crowd pleaser: the financial edition

I’ve recently come to realise that some people are treated as piggy banks by their adult children, relatives, friends and even random acquaintances. And I truly think that we all deserve better. In today’s article I am sharing a handful of example responses to questions about money which you might not wish to part with. Feel free to use them at your discretion.

The sob story

Every so often a person known in my family circle by their poor financial choices reaches out and asks me to help them out. Usually, they’ll paint the picture first – how something went wrong, how somebody else’s decision put them in trouble, or how they spent their money on the wrong thing accidentally and now don’t know what to do but ask for help.

The answer is, always: Thank you for trusting me with your misfortune. Unfortunately I am not able to help you financially right now.

If they ask again, the answer is: Unfortunately, I am not able to help you right now.

If they ask for the details of why not: I am just not able to help you right now.

If they ask when you’d be able to help: I hope that by the time I am able to help you, you’ll be back on your feet.

The charity canvasser

I do donate to a handful of carefully selected charities, however I do not offer my bank details to the hordes of ‘volunteers’ canvassing for money on behalf of various organisations in the streets of my city. I just find their conduct akin to aggressive begging – and with actual beggars at least I know that my money will likely be spent at a local off license rather than consumed by admin of some ineffective not for profit or another.

If you are unsure how to ver charities and why not all are good, I’d recommend ‘Dead aid’ by Dumbisa Mayo to self-teach contextualisation and understand what’s effective charity and what’s not. Anyway, onto the example conversation:

If they stop you for a chat but you don’t want to engage: Unfortunately I can’t talk right now.

If you chose to engage and find out what they are about/who they work for but decide the cause is not something you want to donate to: Thank you for the information. I won’t be able to donate right now, but do you have a leaflet I can take away or a web address I can donate through?

The friend who drinks too much

I have this mate, whom I don’t really like going out with because he drinks a lot. Like waaaay too much and then expects that we all just share the bill evenly. I am rarely so generous as to financially enable somebody’s excessive habit, so unless it’s a bottomless brunch and we did in fact all pay for the same tier, I tend to say one of the following:

The redirection technique: We’re paying for our own, aren’t we? Let’s agree the tip first.

The fairness with humour technique, works particularly well in bigger groups: We have some people who barely drank or only had one dish, let’s not make them pay for our excesses!

The sarcastic technique: Let’s pay for what we each had – I don’t want my bank to think that I am drinking the mortgage money away when I just had water.

The office gift

We’ve had some freedom from this one, but I have a bad feeling that office culture, in part at least, is making a comeback. And with it, the circulation of a card and a money envelope. Or worse, a demand for money transfer. And you guessed it, I don’t like giving money away to peple I barely know or don’t particularly like.

Here’s what you say: I’d love to sign the card, but I won’t be able to contribute financially at this occasion.

The golden rule

You might have, or might have not noticed a common theme with all of these. No excuses are used, only a softly dressed and polite ‘no’.

Yes, the rule is to never offer excuses. The reason is simple – it’s not nice to move focus from the person you just slapped with a boundary onto your life’s problems right when they asked you to fix theirs. Be courteous. Offer to listen, ask if they’d like some practical advice (if you have any to give) and respect their answer because they might have boundaries in place for you too.

Hope this helps!

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