No matter how well you did in school, how quickly you get a job post-grad, or how hard you work, you’re going to run into some money trouble at some point. Whether it’s from a broken-down car, a water leak, medical bill, or something else, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself scratching your head wondering how on Earth you’re going to pay that bill. Hopefully you’ll be in a financial situation that allows you to fund it through strict spending and saving for a short period of time, but if that doesn’t end up working out for you and you find yourself needing to ask for a little parental assistance, that’s okay.
Hard times happen, and people who tell you they pull themselves through those times without any assistance are lying, so don’t be ashamed of needing some help. Just make sure that you ask your parents for the help in the right way and handle like the adult that you are, not like a teenager who thinks they’re entitled to their parents’ bank account.
Here’s the right way to ask your parents for money.
1. Figure Out How Much Money You Need
Budgeting sucks, and we all know it. There’s nothing fun about being faced with your bills and expenses and the limited amount of money you can expect from your paycheck. It’s necessary though in order to know exactly how much you’re falling short. Sit down with all of your bills and lay them out in a calendar so you know what’s due each week. Subtract your bills from your expected income, and then determine how much money you need in order to live (food, gas, one to two meals out with friends) for that period of time.
Responsible budgeting says you should put money back from each paycheck, but if you have a large debt you need paid or barely enough money to buy food, then don’t put any money in your savings account. Forward that money to your debt. The amount you have left over is what you’re asking your parents for.
For example, (and I’m dealing in simple, clean numbers here because I hate math) say you earn $1,000 every month, and your rent plus utilities is $600, which leaves you with $400 to buy groceries/gas/whatever. Then let’s say you get a flat and have to replace your tire for $300. That leaves you with $100 for food and gas for the month. If you average $200 on groceries/meals out every month and $50 on gas then you’re short $150 for the month. That’s the amount you need help with. (This is also where a good ol’ fashioned emergency fund comes in handy…)
2. Make a Repayment Plan
You’ve got your number, but at this point you’re still not asking your parents yet. I’m a firm believer in having a set game plan before making a move, so that’s what you’re doing here. If we stick with the above example, you need to plan how you’ll repay your parents $150. Determine a reasonable, but mildly aggressive time frame to repay them. For $150, you could probably pay that back within a month by saving and cutting out your Starbucks and/or Sephora habit(s).
For larger amounts, it will require more time to pay back your parents. Regardless, set a time frame and an amount to put back until you have the full amount or to give them regularly until you’ve completely paid them back. For larger sums, I think it’s best to factor in interest because borrowing money from your parents should essentially be just like borrowing money from the bank, but with less paperwork. Also, by giving you that money, your parents are likely tightening their own belts to help you out. For that reason, you should be paying interest on large sums as repayment.
If you want to be extremely thorough you can also create a backup plan for repayment in the case your parents don’t like your initial plan.
3. Ask Your Parents for Money (Nicely)
Going to your parents with your handout isn’t fun, especially as an adult, and it’s not any easier with the detailed plan. However, when you have no other choice it helps you to remind yourself that you’re going to need some help here and there as you find your footing in your career and financial life. When you speak with your parents, lay out the situation for them. If they don’t know how much money you make, tell them. Explain the bills you can’t pay or the bills that are eating up all the money you have to eat in general.
Then ask nicely if they can help you out for a specific period of time (and try to keep it as short as possible). Tell them how much money you need to get by until you get back on top of your finances. After you do this, tell them you have a repayment plan and lay it all out for them. Answer any questions they have as best you can, and if they want to make any adjustment to the repayment plan talk through it with them until you find an option that works for everyone.
I can’t predict what your parents will say back to you. They might not be in a place to help you out, but you won’t know until you ask. The best you can do is have a plan with specific numbers for them and ask.
4. Stick to Your Word
After you’ve gotten the hard part over with, paid that bill/survived until your next check, and gotten things a little bit under control, it’s time to stick to the repayment plan you’ve agreed on. Cutting back in certain areas isn’t any fun, but you can do so until you’ve paid your parents back. Sadly, being an adult doesn’t always mean having a great time or shirking responsibilities, and it definitely doesn’t mean treating your parents’ home and finances as if they were your own anymore.
Remember that the older you get, the more experience you gain in your career and more time you spend handling your own finances, the better you’ll get at paying things off on your own and with less stress.