Saving Money With “Would You Mind Doing Me A Favor?”

There are a lot of different levels of friendship. There is the guy in the cubicle next to you at work who you don’t really like all that much, but who you still introduce to your significant other as your friend because you don’t want to create awkwardness at work. There is the guy you see every day at the gym who shares your appreciation for classic cars and dark beer’ but who you otherwise don’t really know. Then there are the guys (and by guys I mean men and women, broadly speaking) you know well, whose company you enjoy, and who appear in your wedding pictures, who remember your birthday every year and who you can rely on for favors.

Favors. Ugh! There are few questions more terrifying than “Would you mind doing me a favor?” A favor can mean anything. If I pass the pepper across the table, I am doing someone a favor. It may be the courteous thing to do and I might be a jerk if I don’t do it, but it is still a favor because I am not obligated to do it. The thing is, if someone wants me to pass the pepper, they will ask me to pass the pepper. They won’t preface it with the dreaded “Would you mind doing me a favor?”

When friends do ask specifically for favors, it is a sign that something big is coming. Often, even for the best of friends, when we hear the word favor, our minds start to spin. What am I about to be asked? What if I don’t want to undertake the favor? What excuses can I find? Quickly.

Usually when friends ask for favors to be performed, the friend is going to (i) save money and (ii) avoid inconvenience. The person asked to perform the favor is not likely to suffer any costs, but inconvenience is a real possibility. Often, too, the nature of the favor asked will tell a person a lot about the way he is perceived. After all, there is a reason that your friends will ask you to do something that they might never ask others to do.

Of course, some favors are not that big a deal. Giving a friend a ride home when his home is on your way is not a big deal and you would likely offer that anyway. Giving a friend a ride home at 2 in the morning when it will add half an hour to your driving time and you have to get up for work in the morning — that is a big deal.

Taking in your neighbor’s mail and newspaper each day for a week while she is on a business trip is not a big deal. If she asks you to walk her dog three times a day or to watch her cats, that might be another matter altogether. Driving her to the airport is a big deal. Picking her up at the airport at 11:30pm is an even bigger deal. Helping someone move is always a big deal.

In each instance, your friends could have paid someone to have assisted them. At 2am, your friend could probably have called for a cab. Your next door neighbor could have hired a pet sitting service and she could also have taken a cab to or from the airport. People who are moving can always hire movers. Often, however, they try to save some money by asking friends for help.

As long as friends who seek help are also willing to offer it, relationships will tend to work. Friends also need to realize who among their friends can realistically offer the help that is needed. Perhaps most importantly, when a friend does offer help, they must be appreciated for it.

What have your friends asked you to do for them? What have you asked your friends to do for you? What kinds of favors do you think cross the line?

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13 Responses to Saving Money With “Would You Mind Doing Me A Favor?”

  1. Annie Jones says:

    I think helping people move to a new home (or to move furniture already in someones home) is the most common thing my husband gets asked to do. He is asked quite a bit to help with minor home repairs and sometimes even minor auto repairs. He usually only asks for similar favors in return.

    I am asked to look things up online for my mom (who is not internet savvy at all), to buy things at Sam’s Club for non-members, and to be on the watch for specific items when I go to garage sales. All small favors, and almost always coming just from family members.

    I personally have hang-ups about asking for favors from anyone, especially from family members. I have had to ask another mom to take my kiddo home from school when I had an unavoidable afternoon appointment, and once asked my MIL to pick up a gift card when I was unable to get one in my location. Again, small favors, but I HATE feeling indebted to people, so I usually just won’t ask.

  2. Mark Nava says:

    It’s funny you bring this up Dave… I actually helped some close friends move this weekend. Once uttered, the term “moving” promotes a steady wave of groans and gripes! Luckily I was obliged to offer my services. The two people I was helping were close friends of mine – friends who listen and reciprocate services in time of need. The topic of friendship is one that I hold close to my heart… this past year I have taken inventory of the friends I have chosen to associate with. Sadly, many of them have gone. A healthy decision on my behalf to better my life and the future of my relationships. Now only a handful of friends enrich my life… true friends, the kind you can count on in times of need. The beauty of this is that there is no hidden expectation or hidden agenda – they accept me for who I am in its rawest form.

    Looking outside my circle of friends, in business and everyday folk, I am willing to provide a favor upon a respectful and courteous request. Manners, a dying trait in the human repertoire run deep with me. I am more willing to inconvenience myself if this need is met. A quote that my mother told me growing up ties into this perfectly: “We teach people on how to treat us.” It’s true, the expectation has been set – the bar has been raised. Sadly I have learned the hard way more than once… offering money in time of need (which by the way, ended very badly). Though my easy going character can be misused, I have grown to monitor it more closely.

    Also, friends don’t keep a list of services – you do because you care and that’s it!

    Great article Dave.

    All the best,


  3. Some people like to be asked. I often need a ride, and usually feel guilty about asking. But some folk are willing to ask back. It feels good to help, and generally, though time is a factor, helping doesn’t bother us at all. I would much rather trade help than have my friends spend money on simple things.

  4. Ann says:

    Most friend-type favors don’t bother me… and acquaintances know me well enough to know not to ask ’cause I have no problem telling them “no.”

    What bothers me is when relatives and friends ask for favors that involve how you earn your living — asking a lawyer to do legal work for free, asking an accountant to do your tax return for free, expecting an artist to just give you a piece of their work, asking medical questions of a doctor at a cocktail party, etc. People who do that rank in the skank department in my book!

  5. bobbymoggy says:

    ann, i agree 100% and i am too like that to acquaintances ha. and yes in my profession especially not close friends* ask me for favours which they wouldn’t do themselves! and cost me time and money. its disrespectful, i would never ask anyone for help or favours unless they would do the same and appreciate the favour like I would and also providing that it only cost them minimal time and absolutely no money.

  6. Bben says:

    The same person who wouldn’t dream of asking a doctor or lawyer for advice at a party will have no problems asking a programmer for instant help when they have a computer problem. And even a lawyer who will actually bill for a minor question asked by a friend will be miffed if a programmer charges for answering a question that takes a half hour to explain. The reason I have been given is that programmers are not really professionals – like doctors and lawyers. Luckily, I actually enjoy helping friends and relatives with computer problems and only charge for any parts at my cost.

  7. rob62521 says:

    We had a family member who did not offer to help us move both times we moved (he had a pick up) and we wouldn’t have dreamed to ask him, ask us to help him move to a house over 50 miles away.

    Well written and timely article!

  8. Having a computer geek for a husband I can certainly attest to the frequent questions regarding computers. He never charges for information, though occasionally he will let folk know if he cannot answer simply enough in a few minutes. Some questions lead to side jobs of installing software, or hardware. Others lead to giving favors of the same. Depends on the difficulty and the person. He is happy to be useful.

    I have never quite understood why a medical professional or law specialist, would feel any different.

    You have expertise, share a little of it, and refer folk to the office for big stuff.

  9. Gail says:

    On our last move we had a friend volunteer to help us. It turns out he likes helping people move–and he was a big muscley guy too! Miracles do happen!

    Generally though I hate asking favors of people although I have been willing to help others out if needed. I didn’t drive until I was 23 which meant I had to ask for rides at times and hated it. A lady that lived in the same apartment building as I did and went to the same church as me and would give me a ride there, but for some reason never thought to ask if I needed a ride home, which meant I walked uphill a mile (up a mountain) to get home. Situations like that I always think are odd, but memories of things like that also makes me more considerate about offering rides, etc. if needed.

    Sometimes though the favor being asked is a small one, but the actual asking is the very hard on the person asking. It depends on how willing people have been to help them in the past and some with poor self-esteem are sure others will say no to any favor asked.

  10. A Fan says:

    What about relatives that ask you for money?!?!

  11. This is a really interesting topic. The bitter computer programmer was a shock to me. My husband is a lawyer and he would never imply that a programmer is not a professional. He does get asked for advice by family and friends and usually does whatever they ask without complaint. I think it’s when acquaintances, not friends ask for favors that people get upset. I think doctors get it worse than anyone. Also, interior designers seem to get asked for unpaid help a lot, and it does seem to stem from a lack of respect for their profession. Which is funny, because why ask them if you don’t think they have knowledge and talent? I’m not one, by the way.

  12. Teresa says:

    I used to have a problem with asking for help, but if someone offers now I don’t think twice about accepting the help. Needless to say I am always willing to help someone else out. I live by the creed you reap what you sow.

  13. L says:

    My situation, I helped out a friend with a couple HUGE favours. Friendship is kind of rocky. There’s been no reciprocation and the “thank you” was grudging at best.

    They then go on to ask for two more favours. I say no. The persist, get angry, try to manipulate me. I say no. They give it a rest for a several weeks and then ASK AGAIN.

    What the hell man. I’m still waiting for this person to pay me back and maybe start treating me like a proper friend.

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