Bits and Bytes of Advice by Athena
My sister is constantly asking if she can borrow money. Two weeks ago she asked to borrow $50 for food and gas money. She said she would pay me back later that week, well she didn’t. She lives in Texas and is having a hard time getting back on her feet after losing her apartment and car. She would rather pay for an expensive meal and fun with her friends than take care of responsibilities. I know this to be true because she hasn’t changed since living with our parents, she asked for money then, too. She rarely pays back the money she borrows from anyone which has cost her a lot of friendships. I want to stop giving her money, but I know she will go to one of our parents or someone else in our family for money, and I feel she has taken enough from everyone else that it almost feels like it’s my turn to be sucked dry.
Please help sincerely,
Bitter Little Sister
Dear Bitter Little Sister,
Loaning money out can turn into a sticky situation, especially when family is involved. It’s important to look at your finances first and ask yourself, ‘would paying my bills and covering my necessities be dependent on this person paying me back?’.
Approach this question as if you will never see the potentially loaned money again. Could the electric bill be paid, and will you have enough for gas money to last until your next paycheck?
If extra money is available after all financial obligations have been reviewed and you choose to help, consider if you want to give money as a gift (meaning you don’t expect it back) or if you want to make it a loan.
A very honest conversation about a repayment timeline should happen between the borrower and the lender. This will keep everyone on the same page and hopefully prevent any misunderstandings over the terms of the loan.
In cases like your sister, would giving her more money help get her back on her feet or will it help enable and reinforce poor spending habits?
Giving more money to someone who asks often is not the most advisable, sometimes the best course of action is to say “no”.
Enabling someone to expect help when they have financial struggles instead of budgeting and prioritizing through the rough patches robs them of the learning experience of handling money on their own.
You can also offer help in other ways like discussing a realistic budget, financial prioritizing and keeping a journal of spending habits to review at the end of each day.
The proverb ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,’ comes to mind and sounds it like a good time to teach your sister how to fish.
Contact Athena at firstname.lastname@example.org