If you have a generous heart and at least a little bit of money in the bank, you may find yourself constantly being asked for cash or loans from family members and friends. All of us go through personal or financial challenges in our lives. But when you start feeling like a piggybank for those closest to you, it’s time to establish healthy financial boundaries with relatives and other loved ones.
Here are five tips to establish clear financial boundaries with others, and help you break the cycle of serving as the family ATM machine.
1. Identify those seeking recurring financial requests
It’s one thing to help a relative or friend out of a single jam – or perhaps to come to their rescue more than once if they’re going through a particularly rough patch like unemployment.
But if you’re constantly being asked for money or “loans” – month after month – or if you receive numerous requests for financial assistance, you’re likely caught up in an unhealthy financial relationship. Sometimes, you may even be simply getting taken advantage of because people have come to rely on you as the “dependable” place where they can turn. If the latter scenario rings a bell, make a list of those people who often come to you for money frequently or who have recurring requests for financial aid.
2. Deal honestly with your emotions
Once you identify who frequently asks you for money, take a moment to think about how those requests make you feel. Perhaps being asked for cash all the time makes you frustrated, guilty or mad. Or maybe you’ve spent so much time simply feeling sorry for the person in need that you’ve neglected to get in touch with your own emotions about the situation. Regardless of what’s happened in the past, it’s time to take a stand and set some limits for the present and the future. You do this by first addressing your own emotions – honestly addressing them, whether they’re positive or negative.
Yes, you read that right: You may actually have some positive feelings associated with being asked to help out friends and family. Are you the type of person who enjoys being able to play the financial hero and come to someone’s rescue? Do you pride yourself on being so generous that you practically give others the shirt off your back or are willing to part with your very last dollar? Or maybe you secretly get an ego boost out of knowing that you’re the one in your family circle who’s at least stable enough that people come to you for help.
But what about the more likely scenario: that being constantly petitioned for money creates negative emotions? Most of us don’t want to acknowledge negative emotions because they make us uncomfortable. But it’s important to recognize what’s going on with you internally. That exasperated “Oh no, Not again!” feeling, or that knot in your stomach you’re experiencing, are your mind and body’s way of giving you red flags and warning signals. And sometimes, paying attention to our emotions – whether it’s being angry, fed up, or simply calm and at peace because you have a moment of clarity – can be just the thing we need to motivate us to make the right choices.
3. Ask yourself the right question
In cases where you really want to say ‘no,’ but are afraid or reluctant to do so, ask yourself one simple question: “Why am I hesitant about saying ‘no’?” Once you answer this question honestly, you’ll probably realize that you’re worried about one of three things:
1) You’re worried about hurting the other person’s feelings or offending them 2) You’re worried about the other person rejecting you in some way, or not loving you or being as close/friendly to you 3) You’re worried that the other person will get mad at you, think you’re selfish and inconsiderate or that you don’t care about them Note: that in all these scenarios, what you’re really worried about is what will happen to your relationship with the person if you decline to provide help.
Unfortunately, if you follow this line of thinking, you’re neglecting to think about the flip side of things: namely, what will happen to the relationship if you do provide help? It’s far more likely that the relationship could be damaged by money actually changing hands than money not changing hands. That’s because any number of situations could happen.
The person may not pay you back on time, or at all, upsetting you and damaging the relationship.
The person may end up coming back for more money, also upsetting you, and ultimately damaging the relationship.
The person could feel beholden to you in some way, unnecessarily shifting the power dynamics in the relationship, again thereby damaging it.
So clear your mind of worries that a “No”