How To Ask For Financial Help Without Sacrificing Your Independence And Confidence

Asking for money can be a tricky thing, and when it involves family and friends, the topic can become especially fraught. The last thing many of us want to be is a burden on the people we care about. 

Unfortunately, for many of us, there may come a day where asking for help is inevitable. Whether we like it or not, we all need cash to meet our basic needs, including housing costs, food, utilities, and transportation, among many others facets of living. And with the cost of living climbing every year, along with factors like student debts, it has become more challenging for people to keep up on their own. According to a Pew research brief, households across all income levels give and receive funds to family and friends.

Needing financial assistance is nothing to be ashamed of, nor does it make you a failure. In fact, knowing how to ask for help when you need it can both give you the confidence to follow through with your plans, and strengthen your independence in the long term. However, it can still be an uncomfortable situation, especially for those who are struggling. Here are some tips to help you approach the conversation with confidence.

Be honest about how much really need

When we have a friend or family member who's willing to be extra generous, it can be all too tempting to ask for more. But this is only a recipe for slowing down your chance at financial independence. Remember, borrowing from a loved one is still another form of debt that you're taking on, so it's important that you're realistic with yourself about how much you can take.

When determining how much money to borrow, be as honest about your situation as possible. According to OppLoans: ask only for what you believe you will actually need, not more or less, to avoid placing undue strain on both your future self and the lender. One tip that can help here is writing down specifically why you need the funds. Is it to cover rent while looking or a job ? To pay for repairs on a car? Pay off a credit card? You'll also want to be clear on how long you may need assistance. Perhaps your expenses constitute a one-time payment, or perhaps you need assistance covering an ongoing expense spanning months. In some cases, Psyche says borrowing a lump sum can actually create greater stress for ourselves down the line than whatever financial strain we're feeling in the moment. This is why doing a full check in before you ask for money is super important. Plus, confronting the realities of your financial situation can prompt you to be more aware so you don't fall into a cycle of having to depend on others.

Have a plan to pay them back

The key to staying independent when borrowing money is taking ownership in your side of the deal. This means no matter the amount, always have a plan for when and how you're going to pay someone back. It can be as straightforward as letting the person know how much money you plan to set aside from your paychecks or pointing out a date when the full repayment will be made.

Having a clear plan demonstrates that you're serious and capable of handling another debt, which can help both parties feel secure in their agreement, should there be some hesitation. You could even go as far to create a payment schedule to show how you plan to keep yourself accountable.

As you consider your repayment plan, it's also important to be clear about what you'll do if unforeseen financial circumstances, like unemployment, preclude you from being able to repay the person back for the foreseeable future. The last thing you want to do is leave a person hanging, potentially ruining their trust in you. This doesn't mean you can't still pay it forward and show your loved ones that you plan to make good on your debt. This could be anything from household chores, including cleaning or gardening, to providing childcare, grocery shopping or running errands. Anything you can do to give back to your family or friends could be appreciated as you work toward regaining your financial independence.

Explain how you are taking action

Another way to demonstrate confidence when asking for money is to show your family and friends what you have already done to work toward getting your finances back on track. For instance, perhaps you've taken a second job but are coming up short on money and time, or perhaps you've cut back on certain expenses, like Netflix or dining. Whatever it may be, it's important to let people know that you're not merely taking advantage of their kindness and that you have goals to be financially independent down the line. 

Outlining how you have taken steps on your own shows that you have exhausted your own agency and could, perhaps, make your friends and family more willing to lend you money as a last resort. 

As you reflect on this process, now could also be an apt time to examine whether you have an unhealthy relationship with money and consider ways you can improve it. Financial advice abounds online, even in the most unlikely places. For example, TikTok's "Financial Cleanse" trend to help you manage your money could spur inspiration. But it's always best to consult a professional financial expert.

Be okay with hearing no for an answer

Remember that while you can prepare your plan and hope for the best when presenting it to a trusted family member or friend, getting turned down for their assistance is still a possibility. 

In this case, instead of feeling slighted, consider that your family member or friend has done you a favor by not committing to a plan either of you will ultimately be happy with, thus creating the potential for resentment or tension. When this happens, it's important to not take it personally. Keep your cool and stay confident. "You might wonder if the person you asked is upset with you, or if the request offended them. But perhaps they are simply maxed out and the task would be too much. Accept the answer, let it go, and move on. You can still consider asking that person for help again another time," Sorenson writes for Psyche. Identify another trusted friend or family member to ask, and keep going graciously.