7 Begging Tips to Panhandle Effectively

Panhandling and begging are something most people use as a last resort. Situations and circumstances for how you end up needing cash can vary wildly, but most people see panhandlers as all the same.

One of the most effective ways to panhandle is to surprise people by setting yourself apart. People are very unlikely to give money to visible addicts, but very likely to donate some cash to family-oriented people on hard times. How you demonstrate a difference through signs, clothing, and other factors can set you up to be more effective in getting cash quickly.

A Quick Panhandling Story

When I was young we had a panhandler in our town known by everyone as “Beggar John.” He would stand on the corner of the highway exit to one of the busiest streets in the city, which also led to the mall. He was always barefoot and disheveled and never had any food or drink. Every time my family would go down this exit, someone would hand him food or money. He was very successful.

One week our local paper did a story on him that exposed how much money he was making and where he lived. He was commuting to this corner from a $250K house, and making over $60K a year panhandling. This was over 20 years ago and I’m sure his “income” took a hit from that news story since I did not see him again after the story broke. The takeaway from this short story is that you can never be quite sure of a panhandler’s situation. We can look at the successful panhandlers for tips on how to get better results for ourselves.

You may be asking yourself, why does any of this matter to me? You could have a stable job and finances, but is anything 100% stable and predictable? If you need to use this as a last-ditch effort to get some quick cash, these tips may come in handy. It seems like it is a huge chasm to cross to trade dignity for money, but you may be surprised how that gap closes when money becomes a necessity for survival. Although you may never plan on begging for money, these tips can help you at rock bottom. The bottom line is if you find yourself needing to panhandle to survive, you can easily support yourself with these panhandling tips.

1. Look the Look

Looks are one of the most important aspects of panhandling. You make thousands of instant impressions and you need to be aware of the fine line between looking needy and looking scary. Certainly, being clean and looking happy does not help people justify to themselves to give you money. But swinging too far to the disheveled and miserable appearance can be unapproachable for many.

One of the biggest turn-offs for would-be donors is if you appear to be on drugs, so avoid manic looks. Find the happy medium where you look needy but not desperate. Many panhandlers remove their shoes, wear baggy clothing, and do not shave or trim their hair.

2. Be Specific

Do you need food, shelter, a job, or cold, hard cash? Let people know what you are looking for. You will still receive offers of other items even if you are focused on one, but being specific actually increases people’s chances of giving you money and what you are looking for. People are naturally skeptical of beggars and being direct is one step to disarming this skepticism.

3. Have a Unique Message

You may be thinking, how can a panhandler read these tips to be more successful if they are out begging on the street? You may be surprised at how many have smartphones. There is even one panhandler known for taking credit cards with his smartphone! But these tips are not for them- they are living that life already. These tips are for you, and you may need these tips in a personal financial crisis or during a widespread financial collapse. This is where a unique and cohesive message is important.

If millions of beggars are taking to the street to fight over the same scraps and change, what will set you apart? You need to hone a unique message to beat the competition. Entertaining signs, patriotic flags, and other methods of presenting a unique message are all fair game. Being very relevant to a niche is more important in these cases than being relevant to all. In areas where multiple panhandlers are competing, the stronger messages and presentation win out.

4. Location is Important

High-traffic areas with long lights are best, where cars are approachable. If an area has the same traffic every day (like commuter traffic), you may get weaker results as time goes on and you may be recognized as a regular.

Setting up where a varied crowd comes through tends to work betters, such as near commercial areas. Many people visiting these areas have disposable income anyways and may have a feeling of guilt they would be willing to part with.

5. Know the Laws

You may need a permit to panhandle or reflective gear to set up near a road. In most cities where a panhandling permit is needed, you also need a government-issued ID. All the more reason to be sure an ID is in your bug out bag or everyday carry. Permit requirements can be shared by homeless shelters and local police.

Panhandling is not allowed to be outlawed anywhere in the US- it is a form of protected free speech. This doesn’t mean you can’t be trespassed from private property or be in violation of other laws though. Knowing the local rules is always key.

6. Keep at It or Improve It

If you find a unique message that resonates at a specific location, keep at it. Minor tweaks can improve your results, but it is best not to drastically change your plan if it is successful.

If you are in a residential area with the same commuters, it may not last long as people continue to see you. Switch up your timing or location if your message is working but you find your success rate going down.

7. Give the People What They Want

Whether you’ve heard this sung by the O’Jays in the 70s or the Kinks in the 80s, it is sound business advice. People give money to beggars and panhandlers to fulfill a need of their own. Religion, moral obligation, and personal connection are all major factors to why people feel compelled to give to those in need. Having your message and appearance revolve around your audience is important.

Religious signs are very successful in certain regions and veteran signs are successful in others. Remember, that as a panhandler, you are not getting money for free. You are providing an experience to the people giving, and a fulfillment to one of their needs that may be as simple as doing a good deed for the day.

The Final Word

You may find the story of Beggar John at the start of the article difficult to believe, but it happens all the time. There are tough places to panhandle, and there are some places where it is easier.

If you follow the tips above, you can make a fair amount of money at it. Another example of this is shown in this video, where a young mother obviously is doing well panhandling:

I sincerely hope you do not have to panhandle to make ends meet, but knowledge and preparedness are irreplaceable. There may come a point where you must trade some dignity for dollars.

Here are some other reads our subscribers have found helpful:

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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7 Begging Tips to Panhandle Effectively

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

27 thoughts on “7 Begging Tips to Panhandle Effectively

  • I think I want to panhandle because It seems like good money from what I hear ? I am not homeless but not periocular wealthy so if people gave me money I would put it to good use and if I was sugsessful I would spend some of the money on the church and homeless shelter?

    • You already have a job ? If so, then I am really curious as to what kind of job? Secondly, make sure you work on your spelling some​…Might want to go back as far as about third grade to start…If not then it seems very likely that you run the risk of people not understanding what your sign says which means they will have no clue what you are asking for and then in that case you might just want to stick with the job you have now since they are willing to employ you despite your lack of certain basic skills!!!

    • It’s only 8 to 10 an hour plus or minus 3.
      So every day or end of the month is different. And it doesn’t matter what kind of car a “fundraiser” has. He or she still needs gas for it. So don’t judge if they’re driving a BMW or Mercedes because those cars are very inexpensive these days.

      • Have you spent much time actually panhandling yourself? If so you must be doing something wrong. Your income numbers seem very low to me, i must say first though that of course there is no set wage for this sort of gig but on a good day you could (and i have) made about $100/hour, i generally wont stay out once i get to around 100 because that is enought for me for the time being and dont want to be greedy but i imagine if i put in an 8 hour day of panning, i could most likely scrape up close to 1000, maybe more maybe less who know its a very unpredictable business.
        But youre definately wrong so quit trying to say your misinformation as though it is a fact

  • I’m pregnant. Any advice how to not get jumped while on the side of the road with my sign?

    • Try to aim for upscale crowded areas on ‘the good side of town.’ Even if you have to go far to get there, you will more than make up for it with more cash, better safety, and less hassle.

    • pregnant women would not be my choice to jump

      • Dear I’m a woman and homeless for over a year now no one jumps you unless you trying to get drugs I thought that to back then but many actual want to help be honest grateful and share any extras to others out with u

    • Stick to gas station and or mini marts

  • I don’t know jumping a pregnant panhandler might be fun.
    Just kidding

  • I’m a mother of 3 kids facing eviction and need to raise cash fast. I wonder if bringing my flute playing daughter and setting up a sign at the train stops would be successful? I’m truly desperate. Any advice?

    • I read on another article that if you sing or dance or do anything like that and then people give you the money that it is no longer tax free and you will be required to pay taxes on what you make but if you just beg instead then it would be a gift and they cant tax a gift. So I would leave the flute home, and probably the daughter too so no one calls cps on you

    • You really don’t have to go all out like that.
      People will give without a song and dance.

      • I am a 65 year old woman who has recently began panhandling to pay my rent after a recent fall which broke my hand and caused me to loose my job
        it is not as easy as it looks believe me!!!

  • Hello i read this artical on tips for increasing your chances for being a successful panhandler, and I would agree with what is mentioned here. I myself was homeless for three years streight and just to add another tip or two for the ones reading this arrival is to always keep in mind your is to have a friendly appearance and I mean that by just having a kind of sad it concerned look on your face then when you look at the traffic or people in front of YOU give them a little smile letting them know you are friendly and that alone will take that concern of being harmed or that your not a crazy personaway from people that wanted to help you. And always remember there are good productive days and there are very slow days, when your thinking of stopping just give it another twenty minutes cause you never know when that person comes and hands you a good amount of cash!!! Just my personal record happened on a very slow day panhandling I was already two hours in and not even a couple dollars when out of no where a guy walked up to me and asked if he could buy me something to eat and of course you never refuse unless its a obvious crazy dangerous person, anyways bought me some fast food and then handed me $300 dollars cash and said he hopes this help me get back on my feet! In witch it really did!! Well i hope my little tips and true story helped you. Thank you…

  • I’m seriously glad that I came across this article tonight. I have been having panic attacks the past 4 days. My fiance left me and my 2 daughters with nothing. No, not true….he did leave me with a car, but not one dime for gas and the light is on. I literally have 73 cents to my name, and I’m supposed to have money for my oil and electric on Monday, or we won’t have that either. I’ve always been a stay at home mom, so I’ve never had money of my own to put away just in case. I was one of those people that always thought, I’d be too embarrassed to “beg” people for money, but my kids are more important than pride.

  • This is sick, if you have a job and are not struggling then your one peice of shit to go panhandle, it’s for when you are in desperate need and can’t take care of your nessesities and have so much fear that you can’t sleep at night

  • I Agree with the comment above. I’ve done this. I hate to do it. I’m also self employed but winter sucks nothing is happening this time of year esp witn Christmas less than a week away. The winter job I took is 1 day at best and its every week waiting on a phone call to deliver corn. So. Imma have to do this bc I’m out of everything. Do I really want to? No! But I’d rather fly a sign than rob someone.

  • Ask about religious or their charities and about welfare like programs in the area. Also tell if any rude experiences about rude people to them while they begged or anything for sympathy. Ask for ideas for whatever help so they can. Ask for non money goods and job recommendations and job ideas and be sincere try to connect. Maybe religion… ask them and say me too I have that religion . Also an idea say how god or your god still loves you and sent them don’t make them mad though. So don’t go too far idk on these ideas . Maybe but ask about food banks maybe ride to shelters or adresses or have them call and u talk to shelters. Use them for help ask for advice and ways to get it and ask if u can use their tools to get t ridewise kr phone and others. Maybe call a company or random person or acquaintance or nine one kne maybe not the last one that might be illegal to not call for not emergency. Invest but don’t lose money dis safely not risky companies just cheap shares mnemonic big getters that re consistent. Don’t get addicted. You’ll get even poorer if u risk to much. Or over invest and don’t get return don’t invest all your cash just a portion so u can still live on the saved money ur chose how much u need to save tk live on bare Essentials or comfortably.

  • Hi I recently lost my job I got kicked out with the people I lived with because I had nothing to offer I now live in my car and I cant have my daughter living in the car with me so Im having family watch her until I can get on my feet. Rent is to expensive and I miss my little girl I just want to be with her and give her a life that she deserves I lost her dad in 2015 he passed away when I was 9 months pregnant it was the hardest thing I have ever gone through we loved each other very much Im really sad about how unfair life can be and now I cant be with my little girl because I cant get help I just need a push an opportunity to make a life for my daughter and I. Anyone have a way of helping me get on my feet?

    • Why can’t the family who took your daughter in also take you in? You could get a fresh start much more easily from there (& be with your daughter) than from living in your car.

  • Me and my husband were in a bad car accident, and he can no longer work right now, so we lost a lot of income and our home, I still work but can’t pay all the bills on my one income and have tried all the recourses available with little help I have had to resort to panhandling, I stand on a main street near a mall and shopping center like Wal-Mart and I only make about $20 a day sometimes not even that, that’s not even enough to cover out motel room for our family of 5 my sign say’s ” Family of 5 in need of help after car accident” is there anything I can do to get more $$ ?

  • I am a busker in the uk and its not lucrative. I wouldn’t advise people to rely on panhandling income unless its their only option. It’s not as glamourous life style as some are saying. However I’d advise people to learn a Musical instrument, take photos and do creative art. Heavenly ways are to be creative and help people you meet on the way through healing prayers. It’s not about being greedy.

  • So i became homeless in Ssn Antpnio Tx in Nov ,Of 2018
    So roughly 1 yr ago & found myself w/o the normal everyday essentials.Now my circumstances at the time were pretty extreme on the bad side & i was desperate and just recently being released from prison wrote about my misfortune on a piece of very large cardboard.My sign reads::
    *Recently released from prison after doing 10 yrs.
    I have no immediate help & very little support, but im
    **SOBER**& MOWING LAWNS .Ufortunately im also HOMELESS. I REFUSE to
    Dumpster dive, steal or sell drugs to survive.I really need some help please .Thank u & GOD BLESS..
    So thats my sogn and i have been in shock & awe over tje $ i make..since last Nov i have been given a 100.00 bill 26 twenty six times and make as much as 120.00 “”YES””ONE HUNDRED TWENTY DOLLARS AN HR!
    & As little as atleast 10.00 dollars an hr but on the average i make 40.00 an hr & i go out 2 to 5 hrs a day…my best day was 3 hours and i made 485.00!!
    Yes four hundred eightyfive dollars & have made 400.00 atleast 6 times , 300.00 dollars over 20 times and over 200.00 over 40 times and have averaged 125.00 a day during this year and maybe under 40.00 12 this year & that was because Cops were running us off.
    Christmas & income tax season bring in the most money But Aug, Sept,Oct,were rough due to kids going back 2 school,gas being higher due to summer
    Utilities up , end of summer vacations, and the up comming hollidays keep donators tigjter but its already nearing black friday and panhandlers are going whipper wild

  • I am a 54 year old who has spent my entire life incarcerated in prison due to various crimes. Now instead of “taking” I have given to “begging” in the form of panhandling. I make approximately 30 dollars in a day which I use for food. If I can get more I will try to get a room at a motel so as to wash myself and my set of clothes. I really want to get out of this and perhaps I may be blessed with an opportunity someday soon. I remain hopeful and optimistic despite my condition. I do have a phone which a friend has loaned me and pays the bill. This helps to look for employment yet people are reluctant to hire me on the premise that I may “go postal” as depicted by my “criminal jacket.” I have changed my ways yet it is difficult to convince people of that.

  • Hello, I am thinking about panhandling this week because I need money, my waterline busted and have no running water almost 2 months now and no money for that expensive repair, on top of my fridge, washer, and vacuum gone out on me, also have an over payment claim from SSi. I’m hoping for the best in this.

  • The article keeps mentioning “panhandling” while then going on to describe flying a sign. They are two different things. I know people that fly signs who would get mad if you said they were panhandling.


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