shutterstock_1178530654 saving money generic
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Amid rising inflation, interest rates and recession worries in several parts of the world, money is getting tighter for many people - and probably for you.

Yet there may be friends or family asking for financial help and things you want to buy for yourself. It's possible to do these things even on a limited budget. But if you want to be responsible with your money, you have to know where to draw the line.

When is it OK to put your own interests first? Use these criteria as guidance.

When your finances are at risk

Think carefully before spending any amount of money on somebody else. Will it jeopardise your ability to pay bills or save for emergencies? Picking up the lunch tab for a friend or helping put your kid through college shouldn't come at the cost of your own expenses and goals.

A crucial part of this assessment: Assume you'll never get the money back. There's no guarantee your loved ones will repay you, no matter how well-intentioned they may be.

"If you can't afford to give it as a gift with no expectations on your end, then you can't afford to help," said Lacy Rogers, a US-based certified financial planner.

Saving toward a 'giving budget' in a designated account can create a clear separation for your spending, said Valerie Rivera, another US-based CFP. If you don't have enough funds in the account, that signals that you can't spare the money.

Budgeting and saving money step by step
You're not required to hand out money even if you have the means to be generous.

You feel pressured to pay

You're not required to hand out money even if you have the means to be generous. You have the right to say no when you feel stressed or uncomfortable. Don't let others talk you into something you'll regret.

Saying no can be challenging, especially when dealing with family or a close-knit community. Senses of guilt and obligation often cloud judgment. Your mother raised you, so the least you can do is pay her credit card debt, right? Not if it enables her to repeatedly overspend and turn to you for money.

A lot of people who are the first in their families to come to this country or go to college "can really quickly become other people's financial safety nets," Rivera added. That's a heavy burden to bear.

Having conversations about finances with loved ones early and often helps set expectations. "It's totally OK to reestablish or establish for the first time what money looks like in discussion with friends, in discussion with family," saidKate Mielitz, an accredited financial counselor in the US.

Take time to process each money request that comes your way. Consider passing if you're concerned with getting taken advantage of or supporting harmful financial behavior.

You can help in other ways

Supporting the people you care about doesn't always have to cost money. Your time, skills and knowledge are valuable too.

Say you have an elderly neighbor you used to purchase groceries for. "Maybe you can't buy their groceries for them anymore but you can help them out with helping around the house, and maybe that eases the burden on them in a different way," Rogers says.

If you're unable to pitch in personally, point your loved ones in the direction of those who can. "Familiarise yourself or help your friends and family familiarise themselves with resources in the area - if that's a food bank, if that is secondhand clothing, if that is job services or resume help that's in the community - to help them move forward and get a stronger foot up," Mielitz added.

money, savings, coins
Savings grow exponentially when it is a habit Image Credit: Pixabay

You've set aside money to treat yourself

Taking care of your needs and goals (and giving to others) is important. But everyone deserves a little fun, too.

"We're human and we need balance. We can't only save for later and not enjoy life today," Rivera added.

If you have discretionary money, don't spend it all on others. Leave room for self-care, entertainment or whatever brings you joy.

"A lot of times, we use the money to find ways to enhance our mood. Whether that is dining out or going out for a drink with a friend or buying a book," Mielitz said. "But you've got to put together a spending plan and know what you have access to, because there are times when we don't have the money and we spend it anyway."

Regularly setting aside funds or shuffling expenses around can give you the flexibility to splurge on yourself without hurting your finances. If you can't find extra money, make use of freely-available resources. An expert can help guide your money in the right direction.

"Life, in general, is a series of trade-offs," Rivera said. "So it's picking and choosing, what really is going to add value to your life?"