Helping is often more than just giving money

Published 8:45 pm Friday, June 21, 2019


Dave Says

Dear Dave: My husband and I met a young woman through an outreach program at church. She is a single mother with a small child and recently she asked us for money, so she could buy baby food and diapers. This isn’t the first time she has asked us for money. In the past, she has used money we’ve given her to buy alcohol for herself after telling us it was going to be used for the baby. She truly does need financial help, though. Can you give us some advice on handling this situation? — Angela

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Dear Angela: Financially speaking, her problem sounds as much of a mismanagement of money as it is a lack of money. That, and she seems to have an issue with lying. If you’re determined to help this woman, you can put conditions on your help designed to improve her decision-making abilities and her life.

If someone is bold enough to ask for your money, you have every right to attach requirements to the money for their own good. One of two things will happen if you handle it this way. She’ll either graciously accept your conditions and welcome the help, or she’ll get angry and say you have no right interfering in her business. I’ve never had a problem helping people who have good hearts and just need a break. But if someone cops an attitude with me in a situation like this, I wouldn’t be breaking out my wallet anytime soon.

If you choose to do this, make the money a gift and not a loan. Concentrate on trying to get her on a path where she’s a little more honest with you and thinks a little straighter. Hopefully, as a result she will start making better choices. Teach her how to create and live off a budget, or help her enroll in a personal finance course, too. Right now, just handing her money is like giving a drunk a drink.

This whole situation is a lot bigger than helping someone with baby food and diapers. The answer to that is easy. In this case, however, I’d probably give it to her in the form of a gift card. Some of those don’t allow alcohol purchases. You could avoid that possibility, too, by getting things for the baby yourself and taking them to her.

In many cases, truly helping someone is a lot more work than just throwing money at them. Sometimes, you have to get down in their mess, get real with them, and walk with them. —Dave

Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. Follow Dave on the web at and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.