Tired of Giving Money? Here's How to Just Say 'No'

When a friend, family member or organization asks you for a loan or donation, here's how to respond.

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Hands with money
Getty ImagesWhen you're telling a friend or family member "no," you should always be firm but never rude.
By Geoff Williams

It's a problem everyone with a few bucks faces from time to time: how to gracefully turn down a request for money.

Most of us have perfected the art of hanging up the phone when a telemarketer calls, but it gets harder when you're approached by your alumni association, a favorite charity and especially family or friends. For those who struggle with the word "no" and fear hurting or angering someone, here are some tactics to try.

Keep it short. If the request is from a close friend or family member, you may feel that you have to give a reason why you're saying no. But as a rule, you don't need to provide a lengthy explanation.

"You don't need to explain or feel guilty, which is the motivation for long explanations that lead to engagement, and the unintended message that your arm can be twisted into making that gift or donation or loan," says April Masini, an online advice columnist at AskApril.com. "Terse is clear. Rambling, circular responses are not."

Be polite. If you're nervous about saying no, this won't be a problem. But it's good to keep in mind that there's no reason to fly off the handle or make the person feel bad for asking for a loan.

"They just asked you for money, not a kidney or a sperm donation. Keep your perspective," Masini says.

If this request is from someone you know well, it may have been a big deal for the person to ask you for money -- and quite possibly the last thing he or she wanted to do. Your friend may feel humiliated and agonized, which is all the more reason to keep perspective and be kind while you're declining the request.

Start a foundation. Maybe you've had someone ask you to help pay for a kidney operation or a donor sperm insemination procedure. And much as you'd like to, you just can't. If you have deep pockets, you could start a foundation. (Most experts suggest you'll need to start with at least $1 million.)

That's what Charles Crutchfield, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, did. He says his brother, an attorney, came up with the idea.

"Now when people ask for money, I tell them, at the strict direction of my accountant, we have a special foundation that meets twice per year to review such requests. If they would like a detailed application to fill out and submit, we can have the request considered at the next review cycle," Crutchfield says. "This eliminates 90 percent of the requests, and the remaining 10 percent then can be reviewed and awarded if there is funding left, and they are deemed worthy."

Know what you can afford to give. Even if you are nowhere near wealthy enough to start a foundation, it makes sense to think like a foundation. "Determine an annual amount that you are willing to give to good causes, both charitable and family and friends," suggests Kelley Long, a certified public accountant in Chicago.

That way, at least you will know if you have the money to give when someone asks.

Be firm. If you're going to say no to a request for money, don't get squishy and suggest you might be able to pony up funds later. Keep in mind that if you're dealing with an organization with no feelings or shame, you will be asked for money again -- and again.

And if that happens, "don't expect them to suddenly stop," Masini says. She advises: "Use your caller ID, and don't pick up calls you don't want to take. No guilt required."

Offer advice instead. If a friend or family member needs money, and you can't help but wish you could, you could suggest ways they could earn or raise money in a hurry. Even if you just bore or discourage the person, at least you're showing that you care -- just not quite enough to give up any cold hard-earned cash.

When a friend, family member or organization asks you for a loan or donation, here's how to respond.
Two friends talking outdoors.

When you're telling a friend or family member no, you should always be firm but never rude.

Offer time. If your alumni association, a charity or a political party contacts you with a monetary request, you could instead offer to volunteer for the organization. Say you don't want to donate money, but you'll be glad to make phone calls like the one you just received.

And you can always give your time to a friend or family member. Perhaps you can clean their house or watch the kids while your friend goes to a job interview or spends time putting together a garage sale to earn money.

Of course, requests for your time may be a problem, too. Maybe friends, family members and your child's school, your church and your local animal shelter are always asking you to volunteer your time. In that case, you can politely tell the PTA, church or family member that you're too stretched and can't possibly help out.

Then, to ease your guilt, you can offer to do something else instead -- like give them money.


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