DEAR HARRIETTE: A very dear friend of mine recently asked me to help her out of a financial rut. I helped her once before, years ago, and it was a little awkward. This time, it seems like she is right back in the same situation. I don’t feel comfortable giving her money, as I don’t think it is going to help her change her course. I love her so much, but I don’t think this is what I should do. How can I say no without alienating my friend? She is down and out, but I don’t think I can help her through this one, at least not by writing a check. -- Friend in Need, Dallas
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: The easiest, though seemingly most painful, way to handle this is to state your case immediately. If you haven’t already, tell your friend that you will not be able to help her out financially this time. Rather than walking away entirely, you can offer to guide her toward financial stability. Point her to a personal finance adviser who may be able to help her devise a payment plan with her creditors. Often they can negotiate deals with creditors that make it easier to pay. Be your friend’s cheerleader if she will let you, but hold your ground about giving her money if you feel uncomfortable doing that.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)