If you have a few good friends, you should consider yourself lucky. A 2012 Men’s Health survey conducted with MeetMe found that men have an average of 4.8 close friends. Keeping close friends requires commitment: you will need to show that you are there for your good friends, and you will need to share things with your friends too, which can be difficult if it leaves you feeling vulnerable. Still, 73% of those surveyed said they would talk about anything with a close friend, and that means many men are opening up to at least some of their friends. If you are hoping to draw closer to your friends and have a meaningful relationship, or you are wanting to support a good friend who is going through a hard time, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. There are many ways to help (and therefore bond) with your friends.
1. Reach Out
It costs absolutely nothing (or at the most, ten cents or so), to send a text to see how someone is doing. According to Men’s Health, 73% of guys stay in touch by texting. If you haven’t talked to a friend in a while, let them know they are on your mind by just sending a text to see how they are doing. Even if you don’t get together for months, you can send texts to stay in touch. Since texting is clearly the preferred method of communication for most men, if you don’t have time to get together, often a text is enough.
If you are concerned about someone or you know that they are having a hard time, then it might be better to pick up your phone and actually call. Phone call are more personal, so they can be especially effective if someone needs extra support. Of course, sometimes you will need to get together in order to stay close, or to really support a friend who needs you.
2. Bring the food
Bringing food is a great way to support someone who is hurting. Prepared food (or gift cards) can be especially helpful if one of your friend recently lost his loved one. Everyone needs to eat, and sometimes in the midst of hurting, people forget to eat as much or as well as they should. Pinterest has a great page with ideas of different meals you can bring for someone else. Also, check out Man Tested Recipes. If you are not into cooking, gift cards or prepared food from the grocery store can also work.
Picking up the tab is another way to help a friend out; if your friend recently lost a job or is just feeling down, you can support them by paying for a meal while you are out. If they argue, simply say, “You get the next one”; you don’t have to let them pay when the time comes.
3. Be there
Obviously, you will want to see your friends once in a while face-to-face. While bringing food is a great way to support someone, a close friend may sometimes need even more from you. This is especially true if your friend has recently lost a loved one. According to HelpGuide.org, you can help someone grieve by being honest and acknowledging the situation, asking how the person feels, and offering your help and asking how you can assist them. If you are able to help in a tangible but affordable way (like helping to notify relatives) then you can try to assist that way. Genuinely listening to them if they want to talk is another way you can help, and it won’t cost you anything.
If you have a friend who is reeling from another kind of loss, such as a breakup or a job loss, your physical presence might help distract them. You can take your friend to do something they love doing, or if they prefer, just stay in and spend time with them as they are hurting.
4. Give tough love
As hard as it sounds, sometimes the best way to help a friend is to help them learn to be better. If you have a friend with a serious problem, you may need to be honest and call them out on their issue. They probably won’t like it, and they may even pull away from you, but if they are risking their own lives or hurting someone else, then you need to give them some tough love.
You also might need to simply say no if a friend is asking you for a loan and you are uncomfortable giving them that loan. You might be able to help in smaller, more affordable ways, like spending time to help them spruce up their resume, or ordering business cards for them if they are looking for a job. If you give too much money to a friend, you may end up resenting them later. However, if you do decide to lend money, be sure to make an agreement ahead of time; you may have to take extra steps if things go sour later.
Also, if you are building a new friendship and your new friend is constantly asking for money, it’s probably better to set boundaries now.
5. Lend something
Lending something to help a friend (besides money) is practical and easy, and it can save money for that person. Of course, you will need to decide what you are comfortable lending. You might be happy to lend your favorite dress coat for your friend’s fancy date with his new girlfriend, but you might not want to lend out your car for that same date. If you do work out a reciprocal lending relationship, you might be able to help each other practically, and also grow your friendship. Also, consider lending a service too: if you know how to fix a malfunctioning appliance, offer to help your friend so that they don’t have to pay someone. If you’re comfortable with it, they can pay you back by taking you out to watch a game at a local restaurant or bar.
Helping friends and building relationships doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. There are many ways to help that cost very little, or nothing at all.
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