Friday, October 24, 2008

More Thoughts on Accepting Charity From Friends and Family

I keep thinking about my post from the other day about accepting charity from friends and family. I am just as stubborn as the next person when it comes to accepting "charity." I have no problem extending charity, but I have a hard time taking it ...or at least that is what I always thought. Lately, however, I've come to realize that isn't exactly true. I do have a hard time accepting money, but I have become okay with accepting other kinds of charity. Wow, isn't it interesting that I feel sort of slimy admitting that? Isn't it American tradition that tells us to be good people we need to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps? Aren't we supposed to be strong individuals needing no one but ourselves? Yet, I am finding that I am doing just that, the American Ideal: fighting hard to keep out of foreclosure - it just also happens to be that I'm getting help from friends and family to do it.

Okay, this is getting a little cerebral, let's pull it down to real life examples. As I mentioned, my mom and my sister have both offered me money. I've chosen not accept to it yet, but instead keep them as my "ace in the hole" and use them only if I really need to. However, both my mother and my sister have given me numerous things to sell on eBay. This isn't a profit split situation - they have just donated to my cause. My sister gave me nine boxes of things to either sell in the garage sale I had in July or sell on eBay. My mother constantly checks in with me to see if I need a few more things to sell - she's got a basement full of stuff! It isn't just my family - I have four friends who have all given me items I can sell either on Amazon, Half or eBay. Notice that my ticker on the sidebar there just took a leap recently? That's because one friend gave me a pair of designer eyeglass frames to sell - and they went for $149.99. I offered to give him back the purchase price he paid for them, but he refused.

I guess I feel like I can take this kind of charity because I am still working for it. Listing things online takes time and effort - both to get them up and get them shipped out. It takes work on my part. What they sell for is also up to me since I'm setting the prices, which is somehow more acceptable than asking people for checks. Does that make sense? I mean, take this pair of glasses - if my friend gave them to me and I didn't do anything with them, then that is all they would be - a pair of frames I don't need and he didn't like the color of. But, by taking this gift and doing a bit of research and finding that these same frames were selling for over $500, then taking the time to write up a really good listing on eBay, taking multiple photos and including links to the site selling them at full retail - I was able to make a nice little windfall. On the other hand, had he offered to write me a check for $150 I would have refused it outright.

Here's another example that cuts a little closer to home. In the MasterYourCard post that inspired me to write about charity, the author wrote about a woman who was going through hard times who would rather take out a loan than accept monetary gifts from family. One of the many things that happened to this poor lady was that she had a severe illness and lost a lot of weight, because of that and her position at her company, she had to purchase a new wardrobe. That combined with other problems had depleted her emergency savings. Here's the thing I keep thinking about - I can understand not wanting to take those financial gifts, I really can. However, I would have been tempted to ask my family for gifts of clothing as an early Christmas or birthday present. Maybe ask a parent to buy me a new suit or two or even send a gift card - as a present. That way they get to help you but you don't have all the guilt. Recently I did that.

My hair was getting ridiculously long and I knew I needed it trimmed, but hair care is not in the budget right now. So, I asked my sister for a gift certificate to see her friend the hairstylist for my birthday. It turned out to be the perfect gift! My hair looks fabulous (my mother says this is her favorite cut and color ever), my sister's friend got some business, and my sister got to give me a gift that I really needed.

I don't know... I don't want to be a sponge off my friends and family, but at the same time, it seems insulting for me not to accept their help. I was willing to help them when they needed it (and still will if it is within my powers) so to say that I am too good too accept their help seems pretty rotten, frankly. I guess what it is all about is figuring out what you can live with and accept that fits your own personal morals.

Beautiful photo by: autumn_leaf


Anonymous said...

At this point, I would never accept money from my friends...the closest I came is when I let one friend buy my $6.55 meal because I did a favor for her.

My parents on the other hand? If they want to slip me a $10 or give me groceries or even buy clothes for me when I go shopping with Mom, I feel like that's okay. Like you, I like knowing that they're available if I need money in an emergency situation that's taken any of my savings, but I wouldn't let them just give me a bunch of money without working out lending terms and interest percentages....

I guess that I don't like the idea of receiving charity because I feel like that should be for people in a far worse situation than I'm in.

Dawn said...

My friends and I buy meals for each other all the time - on time it is one person's turn, the next time it is the others. It works out well.

Like you, if I do take out a "family" loan I will definitely work out terms and conditions. Hopefully though it won't come to that.

Louise said...

thats an interesting observation, I would never borrow money from my family or friends, but like you it would be easier to accept 'stuff' from them. I had a friend who years ago turned up one day with a big box of home made italian meals for my freezer, she just came in and started unpacking.