Next to prostitution, begging is probably one of the oldest professions known. Whenever a country is falling apart and people are in desperate need for help, some women turn to prostitution, some men turn to crime, but all try to panhandle. It’s not a noble activity, of course, generally associated with the homeless, mentally ill, and drug addicts, but it can get you by.
But isn’t the point of prepping to be in a situation where if something goes wrong, you don’t have to beg?
You prep because the unforeseen can happen. Know that. You could have a stable job, some money in the bank, and a pantry full of food, but is anything guaranteed? Everything could be going along great and then – wham – you lose your job, you get sick, you’re on the verge of eviction, and the kids are getting hungry. What can you do!?
Swallow your pride and prepare to panhandle.
Like all things in life, if you’re going to do it – do it well. Panhandling, believe it or not, can be quite lucrative, in some cases yielding $200 a day – or more! Like Irwin Corey, who begs in Manhattan only to give the money away. Then there’s this beggar who told police, “I’m lazy and make $60,000 a year panhandling.
Don’t be fooled into thinking most people make that much, however. See this panhandling survey from Portland, Oregon that states the average hourly income is about $5.00 an hour.
But with the right knowledge – you can panhandle better. Not only could begging get you by, but you are your own boss. You set your hours. You’re free!
Follow these tips to prepare for panhandling.
Location. Location. Location.
- Like the first rule of real estate investing, location is everything. Find a place with lots of traffic. That could be an intersection where cars stop a lot, or a street corner or subway station with foot traffic. The upside to asking at traffic intersections is you don’t have to talk to people. The downside is it’s easier for people to ignore you. Try multiple locations, the intersection at rush hour and the street corner at lunch time.
- Research has shown that men give more to panhandlers than women. Maybe women are more intimidated? Who knows? But if you need to focus your efforts, focus on men.
- Middle class areas are ideal. The poor can’t afford to give. The rich are more apt to ignore you (or call the police). College towns are also good. Students are naive and idealistic.
- Be mobile. Don’t use the same spot too often. You’ll annoy store owners or just become part of the background. Mix it up. You might even consider going seasonal. Hit New York City in the Summer, then D.C. by fall, then Miami by winter.
- Know the law. Many cities have instituted restrictions on panhandling.
- Positioning yourself outside a store that is likely to give shoppers loose change can help. Many people don’t carry cash anymore, and they don’t want to carry change.
Dress the Part
- Match your story. If you’re a disabled veteran, wear an old military jacket. The danger here (if you’re lying) is that a true veteran may ask you specifics about your service.
- Don’t look like a bum. If you’re too gross, too smelly, or too repulsive, people are going to think you’re a drug addict, only caring about your next bump. Comb your hair and wash your face.
Get a Sign
- Be creative. Make the giver feel good. “Homeless – please help” will not be as effective as “Your help is appreciated.”
- Be bold. Make the lettering big and easy to read.
- Use cardboard. It’s free. It’s classic.
- Be nice. Saying please and thank you is a given, but make sure people also see you pick up trash, talk kindly to police officers, and help old ladies across the street.
- Have a story. There is nothing worse than a general ask. Stand outside a pizza shop and ask for money to buy a slice. Stand outside a bus station and ask for money to get to San Diego. You get the idea.
- Ask for an odd amount of money. “Can you spare forty cents?” is more effective than “Can you spare a quarter?” People assume you have a good reason to ask for that amount.
- Try humor. “Insult me for a dollar” might work. “Need money to finish ninja training” might also work. Test different sayings.
- Stay safe. Panhandlers are robbed a lot. Hide the cash on yourself, ideally in multiple locations, some under your hat, in a belt, in your socks.
- Supplement your begging by utilizing other resources. Ask for money to buy a slice of pizza, but when it’s your lunch break, go to the food pantry or soup kitchen to eat.
- If you can play an instrument, juggle, or have some similar talent, put that to use as part of your ask. This becomes less about begging and more about street performance, but it can work.
- Don’t ask for money while smoking, drinking, or doing anything that shows frivolous use of money.
- Take extra precautions if you’re a woman, for obvious reasons. Beg in very busy areas, and never after dark.
- Don’t give up! If one street corner doesn’t work, panhandle another. Stay persistent and you’ll find a system that works.