Etiquette Questions, Answered: Holidays and Gifts
Q. Is it all right to give cash in a card to someone who has lost a job?
Name withheld upon request
A. It depends. Do you know that this person is strapped for money? Not everyone who gets laid off or fired is broke. If she has enough savings to see herself through this challenging time, skip it. Make another considerate (and nonfinancial) gesture. However, if she is suffering and you can afford to give cash, please do so. It will be appreciated, particularly if you handle the situation with grace.
Give the money as a gift, with no strings and no expectations of repayment. That way, you won't begrudge how it's spent, and the recipient won't feel indebted.
Hand the money directly to her with a card that says, "I know you're going through a rough patch and wanted you to know that I'm here for you. I hope you'll accept this gift and feel no obligation to return the favor."
If you think such an offering made face-to-face would embarrass the recipient, you can make a no-name-attached cash gift through an online intermediary. The nonprofit website Giving Anonymously (GivingAnon.org) will forward your contribution, mailing a check to anyone you designate and giving the person a phone number to call to confirm receipt and, if she wishes, to send a word of thanks.