Although we have given money to family before, we’ve never been asked for money before. There have been little things like school and other charity fundraisers and political candidates, but not requests for spending money.
Usually instead what happens is relatives will have had a tragic event and set up a gofundme or they’ll get married or buy a house or have a baby or we’ll hear through the family grapevine about some need and we’ll send a gift-card or a check or buy something off a registry. We have also offered to pay full college expenses for the kids of one of DH’s relatives, though there’s not been much take-up of that.
Recently we got asked for a short-term (two week) loan from a low income relative, $200-$300 in exchange for a post-dated check to be cashed after the next paycheck (usually this relative is able to get an advance on the next paycheck, but the person able to do that was out that week). There’s a long list of reasons why this relative isn’t quite making pay-check to pay-check ends meet, and they don’t have credit cards or the ability to borrow more from their house and I think it’ll be a few years before they can declare bankruptcy again. There’s a lot of problems with previous mismanagement (and there’s still a heavy smoker in the family… but cigarettes are less expensive than Nicorette), but the big thing is really that there just isn’t enough income or opportunity. When there’s overtime or side-jobs, they make it paycheck to paycheck, but when there isn’t they just run up perpetually short. They’re reminiscent of delagar’s series on poor and middle-class in the US, but on the low end– the line between poor and lower-middle-class. Usually they lean on other family members who are also low income (and get leaned upon by the same local extended family), but those sources, too, must be tapped out.
Obviously we’re not going to be dealing with loans to family, so this would be a gift.
We are of the minority in the US who can easily come up with $500 (or $400, or even $1000, depending on the study that you look at) on short notice. So even with our extremely expensive summer (and even with me not getting paid over the summer), this is not a hardship for us. We’ve certainly made enough mistakes this summer that cost over $500.
But it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because we remember times in the past when $100 was not a hardship, but still a sacrifice for us and sending $100 to buy groceries ended up becoming a game system for them instead (and DH wanted a game system but we didn’t feel like we could afford it yet… we were still saving up for a w/d). It’s uncomfortable because this is a large extended family– one request from one person is not a big deal, but if word gets out… It’s uncomfortable because $200-$300 isn’t going to really make any difference in the long run. There’s still going to be that gap in income and expenditures and that gap is not going to shrink.
It’s uncomfortable because of what it means for the future.
Sometimes giving money makes things worse because it enables people to get into even bigger holes by taking risks they shouldn’t be taking (to take a previous real example, replacing an old car that ran just fine with an expensive new car that then got repossessed when they hit bad times). And, of course, that makes us uncomfortable because it puts us in the position of feeling squicky about “worthiness”– who are we to judge, and yet… we don’t want to make things worse.
So we (mostly DH) made peace with all of this and said no problem, but that a check was unlikely to get there in time, what did they need the money for, gas and groceries or what? And because it was gas and groceries for the week we sent a Walmart giftcard for $249 (since $250 triggers additional fraud protections) which was cancelled by Walmart’s fraud service team in the middle of the night anyway because I guess they caught on to the $250 minus $1 trick. So we had to call up and get it reprocessed, which it is still (as of this writing) in the process of doing, but presumably it will be done before a check could have reached them. So, if you are attempting to send a walmart card to a needy family in a short amount of time, maybe stick with denominations in the $100 or less range. (If the money was needed for something else, we were going to see if hir bank took Zelle, or if we could pay a bill directly.) We also sent a check for $50 in the off chance it can get deposited before the outstanding checks zie’s written overdraw the account.
Then the next question is whether to allow the relative to send a check that we then tear up or if we say not to bother sending a check. DH is in favor of complete honesty, but I’m torn between 1. thinking how zie wouldn’t have a -$25 balance in checking right now if zie thought zie had $299 less in there and 2. knowing that a lot of people really hate it when checks haven’t been cashed because it screws with checkbook balancing and 3. knowledge that the belief that the check will eventually be cashed won’t last very long and might screw with mental accounting in the wrong direction later. We will no doubt go with the honesty option, but perhaps not until after the check has been sent.
Do you get requests from family for loans or gifts? How do you deal with them?