How to Help Low Income Friends

At the end of Scrooged (1988) Bill Murray exclaims: “Some people are having trouble making their miracle happen!” For those of you who haven’t seen this phenomenal movie,  a selfish TV executive is visited by several ghosts on Christmas eve and encouraged to change his life for the better. It’s a hilarious and poignant take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

When I googled “how to help low income friends,” nothing really came up. I am a privileged person, but I work for a non-profit that helps families who live in poverty. Here’s are the tips that I’ve come up with:

1.) Listen to your loved one. 

The best thing you can do is really listen to your loved one. What are they going through? How are they feeling? What kind of support do they need from you? Are they looking for resources you could help them access?

2.) Little things matter. 

You don’t have to buy someone something in order to make a difference in their lives. If your loved one has a child, offer to babysit for free for a night. You could also try to find things to do together that won’t cost them anything, like going on a random road trip or going for a hike. Here’s a link to 102 more suggestions about cool things you can do that don’t cost a dime!

3.) Don’t assume that they need your help. 

This is something that I’ve really been trying to work on. Don’t assume that your friend needs your help just because they are low income. People all maintain some sense of pride. They may feel shame, embarrassment, or anger if you suddenly insist on paying for their bills or groceries. It’s important that you offer your friend the support they need to break down the barriers they face themselves, rather than trying to “save” them. At the same time, don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a friend you suspect is struggling. Let your loved one know that you care about them and love them, and that you’re worried that they might be struggling financially. Reassure them that if they are, that is not something that they should be ashamed or embarrassed about, and that you would like to help them if possible.

4.) If they do ask for your help, consider getting them a gift card to a local store or making them a cute care package

Everyone loves getting mail or small gift out of the blue! You could send your friend a card with a gift card anytime. Gift cards are great because they allow the person to pick out whatever they want, but I love love love making care packages for people. See the link above for thousands of ideas about what to include in care packages and how to decorate them.

5.) Help them help themselves. 

Help your loved one to feel empowered. What are they struggling with? Do they need a job, or are they working a job that doesn’t pay them enough? You could help them search for jobs and create an updated resume and/or a LinkedIn account. Are their bills unmanageable? Help them compare rates for different insurance and energy companies. You might find that there are better packages out there that will cut costs. You could also offer to come over and cook dinner with them one night a week.

6.) They are still the same person. 

Don’t forget that your loved one is still who they were before they were struggling, or before you knew that they were struggling. Don’t pity them or avoid inviting them to social gatherings assuming that they won’t be able to go.

If you’re a middle class person like myself, think of all the things you do everyday without thinking about them. Perhaps you buy a coffee each morning on your way to work. When your gas tank is empty, you fill it up. When you’re hungry or thirsty, you can purchase what you need. You know you’ll be able to pay your rent and your bills. For many people, their lives revolve around ensuring that their families will have something to eat tonight. Many people worry about how they’re going to stay warm in frigid temperatures. Some people are having trouble making their miracles happen, but everyone can help.

This is by no means a post written by an expert. Please comment below if you have any ideas about how to help friends who are struggling financially!

Have a great day 🙂

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