The Difference Between a Handout, a Bailout, and a Gift

by Ron Haynes

A few days ago, I wrote how children learning to manipulate their parents and inadvertently come to believe that money has no end because when parents say “We don’t have the money,” or “We can’t afford it,” money seems to magically appear if the child is convincing enough. Children learn that a good enough story, a loud enough cry, or a well timed tear, can produce the needed cash!

Children take these money lessons with them into adulthood.

Begging DogThe lesson learned? Begging works. Adults resort to the handout just to quell the cries for candy, dessert, a new bicycle, or (fill in the blank). A handout is “a portion of food, clothing, or money given to or as if to a beggar.” Our tax dollars go for handouts to any one one of a number of different constituencies. We give handouts to other countries, defense contractors, university researchers, or any group that can afford to hire a professional beggar lobbyist.

Though bailouts are a little different, they are in essence the same thing. The operative word is “bail.” I was in deep trouble the last time I needed to be bailed out! (another story) Bailouts are defined as a rescue from financial distress. We’ve resorted to bailouts for all sorts of industries, corporations, organizations, and sometimes, people do need to be “bailed out,” but I personally have a hard time bailing out a failing industry or company. Successful companies (those that make money by serving customers and responsibly managing their assets) never need to be bailed out. To do so rewards bad behavior and punishes those who played by the rules from the beginning.

A gift is something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation. When you give a gift, you don’t (or shouldn’t) expect anything in return. When someone gives YOU a gift, you shouldn’t feel obligated to return the favor (though we always DO feel that obligation, don’t we?), but you should always show gratitude. A gift is targeted toward a specific someone and there’s nothing better than giving a gift to someone who cannot repay you!

I love to give gifts to people I don’t know. When a new Chik-Fil-A opened in my town, it gave away free sandwiches in a promotional effort. Two boys, who appeared to be very low income, asked if the store was giving away free milk shakes. The cashier smiled and said, “No, just the sandwiches.” They got their sandwiches and ordered water with them. After they sat down, I bought two milk shakes and asked the cashier if she would deliver them and NOT tell the boys who paid for them. It was such a joy seeing their faces!

What makes giving a gift so enjoyable?

  • It isn’t deserved.
  • In many cases, it isn’t requested.
  • It is unexpected.
  • It makes the recipient feel special and wanted.
  • It makes the giver happy to spread some joy.

What other reasons can you think of that makes gift giving enjoyable?

The Government Racket The Government Racket: Washington Waste from A to Z. I felt both fascinated and disgusted by the amount of waste in our Federal government. From the Amazon review: “The Federal government fritters away at least $375 billion annually on questionable programs and projects, such as the National Swine Research Center ($13 million), a study on mail-delivery times ($23 million), and the Robert J. Dole Institute at the University of Kansas ($6 million). The book reads like a lengthy newspaper op-ed, full of short paragraphs, colloquial language, and pithy observations. By and large, his recommendations will sound like common sense to those who crave a smaller government or those who just want to know why the Pentagon recently spent $5 million to build a third golf course at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside the District of Columbia.” You may not agree with the author’s assertions for eliminating the waste, but you’ll be better able to understand why more taxes are not the answer … more accountability and financial prudence IS.

The Ultimate Gift The Ultimate Gift is one of the best movies for teaching the principles of giving that I’ve ever seen. We’re over-selfed in our society, constantly looking for another thrill. The Ultimate Gift points out that what is truly important cannot be purchased.

From the Amazon review: “The Ultimate Gift is a tale of one man’s tumultuous journey toward personal growth and fulfillment. Surrounded in life, and death, by avaricious family members fueled by a sense of entitlement, billionaire Red Stevens (James Garner) wants to bequeath at least one member of his extended family “the ultimate gift”: something he perceives as immensely more valuable than material wealth. Red’s arrogant grandson Jason (Drew Fuller) holds a deep-seated hatred for his newly-deceased grandfather, so he’s surprised to learn that he’s been mentioned in his late grandfather’s will. Far from a straightforward gift of cash, land, or stock, Red’s bequest comes in the form of a series of mysterious recorded instructions, the first of which requires Jason to hop on a plane for Texas the very next morning without a hint of the trip’s purpose or the nature of the gift that awaits him.”

Good stuff.

photo credit: chad050

photo credit: kennethg

[tags]Ultimate Gift, Washington waste, handout, bailout, gift, money, beg[/tags]

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 988 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.



There’s also something special being the giver, about having picked just the right thing! That always make me feel great about giving gifts.


Good Morning Ron…as a fairly new reader to your blog, I wanted to tell you that I enjoy your site. This post was especially timely…I think it is important to keep the distinction between the types of “rescue” mentioned, lest we all start to believe we need bailed.

At the risk of sounding touchy-feely and “emo”, as my teenage son would put it, my philosophy on giving is based on something Robert A. Heinlein once wrote…to paraphrase, common decency greases the wheels of humanity and it makes it bearable for us all to live here with one another. And I also know that when give something away, the universe brings gifts back to me many many times over.

Anyway, thanks again for a great site…hope you have a gift-filled day! Time’

Barbara Baker

I must add that this was a very good article post. I enjoyed reading it.

As for other reasons of enjoyable giving gifts; I have been crochetting afghans for many years and have enjoyed seeing the receivers use it afterwards. It just makes me smile to go into a home to whom I’ve given the gift to and see my afghan laying over the couch or rocking chair for display or to see that they use it in bed. It just makes me feel so proud that they love what I made (by hand) for them.



Good article! Along the gift line; Up until this past year when I got laid off from a lucrative job in an engineering company, I loved giving to others. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I had made someone happy with something wanted/needed. This year, I’ve had to learn to be a grateful recipient. Let me tell you, it’s much easier to give than receive. Thank goodness for wonderful friends and family! My life is much poorer in a money sense, but ever so much richer in the human relationships arena…and I am humbled by the amount of love that is in my life.

Bunny Maxwell

Another reason for giving is that it makes you feel more gratitude for your position in life and thankful that you were able to share that with someone else, if only for a moment. It also hits home that we are all the same underneath society trappings. Helps keep the feeling of being united with all mankind afterall. Especially after reading another horrible story about one human harming another, it’s good to reach out in love to someone.


I put The Ultimate Gift on my list of movies to see.

Giving a gift is enjoyable when you know that it is truly helping someone who needs it. My wife struggles with giving to large organizations because you have no idea what the money goes to. These organizations obviously need to advertise to get more donations, but when you think about an organization that you support sends out thousands of mailings each month that cost thousands of dollars, you start to wonder how much good your money is really doing.

I am making it a goal to find specific needs with people or groups of people and meet those needs. For example, a group from my church visited a village in Zambia and drilled a well there, helped set up an orphanage (many of the children have no parents thanks to AIDS), and set the community up to be self-sufficient from now on. That is results. That is what giving should be. But it doesn’t have to be in Zambia; it can be your elderly next door neighbor or co-worker.

K. Schultz

A gift. Undeserved, unasked for. It could be as simple and inexpensive as a smile to a stranger, a non-occasion thinking of you card to brighten someone’s day. My son appreciates the random bag of peanut m&m’s, pack of gum, or $1 bin special I will occasionally leave on his dresser. Daily and random acts of love/kindness can change a person (recipient/giver) and it goes on from there. It feels good to be the cause of someone’s happiness. Global warming = sharing love.


What a breath of fresh air!

Thank you for your gentleness of spirit.
Your children will surely reap the benefits of these actions.
I know your Mom & Dad are surely grateful for your response to others. :)

“The Ultimate Gift” is a wonderful movie rendition of what America has been built upon. That is, hard work for others and then reaping the joy from doing it. What a joy to the recipient and the giver!

That’s part of why we’ve been the most blessed nation in history!
Another part, is that you have been blessed by such a group of people as you have on this blog, commenting in such a heart felt fashion. :)

May our nation be blessed as we approach the most significant election in our history.
For, I believe this is crucial to our continuing as a capitalistic, GIVING society.
Giving, from a God loving heart.

God bless America!!!!!

Ruth Zins

I was once on the receiving end of the giving when I remarried. We had absolutely nothing, and then out of no where the day before Christmas eve a truck came with a box of food, and clothing and stuff for the kids. And in the box was even something for me! It was the local Lions chapter.

I will never forget this. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. We had nothing, trying to make it on one income with my new husband, who took on supporting me and my two daughters from a previous marriage, which I hate to say there biological father decided he could walk away from them. But in the long run, it was the best thing that ever happened to us, having nothing and working our way up, my girls had a father, and we have since then added to the family and come a long way.

I don’t give as much as I probably should but every Christmas my kids pick out a kid to give to off of the giving tree and we go shopping for them, the sad part it many of the things that are being asked for are necessities. I had a baby one year, they were asking for diapers. I always try to give more than just what is listed, and I always add extra to the package for mom or dad, because you know if the kids are getting nothing they probably won’t get anything either.

I also had a struggling mom on e-bay that wanted what I was selling but could not pay for it right away, her son had medical problems and she ended up quitting work in order to care for him. It brought back memories of my earlier years, so I boxed a bunch of items up and sent them out to her for no charge, she was so grateful. Memories like this last a lifetime for the receiver and the giver.

Ruth Zins

In regards to my previous post. Just one more comment on giving, if you need help do not be afraid to ask for it.

I can tell you from the receiving side of it, that there is a great deal of guilt not being able to provide for your family. I really struggled with that even though it was a really short time period, if was hard.

But I will never forget the experience and it has made me a better person


Giving brings “Smiles and Joy”….. and that is what makes giving so special……………….nothing can beat a “happy smile”!!!!!!!!!


I love what you did for those two boys with the milkshakes. For me I believe giving is a reflection of God. He gave His life and son for us… whenever we give, we are honoring Him.

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