The 75 Best Panhandling Sign Slogans
Who are those people with cardboard signs?
Have you ever wondered why you see people holding cardboard signs asking for help next to the freeway? I was one of those people for a while, and I'm going to tell you a bit about the experiences I had as a homeless man, and show you a bunch of funny panhandling sign slogans.
Make Money Now... Ask Me How
Is panhandling for you?
Could you use some extra cash? Would you like to make money in the next hour? Do you like to meet new people? Do you like the outdoors? Do you like to drink heavily in public parks?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then maybe panhandling is for you. OK, not really. If you're reading this and you're not using a free computer at the library, then panhandling is not for you. That's good.
Panhandling is an emergency way to come up with money when you're really down and out. Straight up, panhandling is a form of begging. If you've ever been in a major city, then you have most likely seen people standing on freeway off ramps or public areas with cardboard signs asking for money. I've been there. I was homeless for several years, and I've been one of those people. At one point, I survived for nearly a year living on the streets and panhandling to survive. That's how I can get away with making fun of panhandling, I've been there.
Like I said above, panhandling is an emergency way to make money. But people have different ideas of what qualifies as an emergency. For some people, an emergency is, "I need to scrape up three dollars to buy a hamburger and a bus pass today." For other people, an emergency is, "I need a beer." There are a lot of idiots holding cardboard signs asking for money out there. There are also quite a few decent people who've been through some really tragic circumstances and wound up homeless. In this lens I'm sharing the best panhandling signs I've seen and used, along with a few insights of what it's actually like to be one of those people out there on the off ramp holding the sign. Hopefully this will make you laugh and maybe make you think a little different about the next homeless person you run into.
The Five Best Money Making Homeless Signs - These aren't to original, but they bring in the most money for homeless people
2. Homeless and Hungry
3. Homeless, Hungry, and Out of Work
4. Homeless and Out of Work
5. Will work for food
These aren't the funniest signs, but they are the signs that bring in the money consistently. I hate to say it, but it pays to act pathetic and it doesn't really pay to be funny in most cases.
- These aren't too creative, but they're the signs that homeless panhandlers use most to get money for necessary expenses... and not so necessary expenses.
The best movies with homeless characters - Let's face it, homelessness creates drama, and drama creates great stories and characters
Take away thought
There are more spare bedrooms and empty buildings in this country than there are homeless people.
How I Became a Homeless Panhandler
No booze, no drugs... no kidding
The short story is that I wound up a homeless panhandler by working more than 100 hours a week as a taxi driver until business collapsed. Yeah, as you probably imagined, there's a lot more to it than that.
To start with, I've taken a really weird path through life. I graduated from high school in Boise, Idaho, the fourth state I'd lived in growing up. It was the early 1980's, and I got into the new sport of BMX freestyle while in Boise. I "took a year off" to save money for college, and wound up never going to college at all. Instead I moved with my family to San Jose, California, where I made friends with several pro BMX freestylers. I started self-publishing a Xerox zine about the riders in my area, which led to a job at BMX Action and FREESTYLIN' magazines in Southern California. I worked in the BMX and skateboard industry for several years. From there I stumbled into TV production, and worked on several TV crews. I even worked on the crew of American Gladiators for four years. Then I burned out.
I worked a bunch of "normal" jobs for a while. I worked as a furniture mover. I worked in restaurants and a couple video stores, and did I telemarketing on occasion. I got sick of those jobs, and went back to work in the entertainment industry as a lighting technician. If you've ever gone to a concert, you've seen those big rectangles of pipes hanging from the ceiling with all the concert lights on them. I helped put those things up, and worked in a warehouse getting lights ready for gigs. It was a pretty cool job, I made good money, and I liked it. But then I got an injury and had to quit. Then I got the runaround from my medical insurance, and my insurance got canceled before I got a needed operation.
At that point, I needed a job with no heavy lifting while I saved up money to get insurance and eventually get that minor operation. I became a taxi driver. Taxi driving is a weird business, not a job. I wound up homeless and living in my taxi because of the high lease I had to pay to rent the cab. After a few months, though, I got the hang of taxi driving, and was able to get a room to rent. For close to a year, I could drive a cab three days a week, pay all my bills, and have four days off. Since I lived near the beach, four days off a week was a good thing.
Taxi driving is a weird way to make a living. Drivers don't get a wage or salary, there are no benefits, no insurance, and no sick days. At the time I started, I'd go into the taxi yard, pick up a beat up, poorly running cab, and I had to pay about $85 for each 24 hour shift in the cab. I also paid for the gas, usually about $30 to $40 per day. So I had to pay about $115 to $125 a day just to be able to work. Usually I would get $60 to $80 worth of calls from the taxi company, and I would have to find other fares on my own. If I had money left over after paying the taxi company and for gas, that was my pay. If I didn't make enough money to pay taxi lease and gas, then I worked for free that day. The bad part of taxi driving is that a driver can work 15 hours and lose money on a slow day. The good part of taxi driving is that on big days, like some holidays, a driver can make $300 to $400 in cash. Those days were few and far between, but most weekends I could make about $350 working three really long days.
I drove a taxi and worked a couple other jobs in the early 2000's, getting by, but not getting ahead. In late 2003, I went back to taxi driving after working another job, and was making decent money within a month. Then the company I worked for switched from radio dispatching to computer dispatching, which completely changed the business. From that point on, all of us drivers had to lease our cabs by the week, meaning we had to pay for all seven days. That meant we had to work all seven days. That also meant that there were a lot more taxis on the road on the slow days, like Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The computers also allowed the taxi company to put a lot more cabs on the road. In short, literally overnight there were a lot more taxis working, and a lot less business for each taxi. Before long I was working 16 to 18 hours almost every day, and sleeping on my taxi because I couldn't afford an apartment. Once again, I was in the worst category of homelessness, the working homeless. I busted my butt to get ahead, but business slowly and steadily shrank, and we all had to work more and more hours to make the same amount of money.
Taxi driving is a stressful job for several reasons, not the least of which being that it's the number one job to get murdered doing. When you drive a cab, you either smoke too much or eat too much. I don't smoke. So while I was working those long days, seven days a week, I grew from 210 pounds to 374. My health got bad, and in 2007, I had three bouts of cellulitis in my legs, also known as the MRSA infection. The first infection almost killed me. But I kept driving. When I went to the E.R. for the third infection, the doctor told me I would die in a matter of weeks if I didn't quit driving a cab. I drove for about another month. One morning I took a long drive out in the desert to think. I was homeless. As long as I drove a cab, I at least had food money, but not enough for rent. All of my possessions were in a tiny, closet-sized storage unit. I had no bank account. I had no savings. I weighed about 365 pounds at the time. I had really bad athlete's foot, and could barely walk. I didn't know what to do. No one would loan me money to help get my life going again. On that drive I decided to walk away from taxi driving.
I drove back to Santa Ana, California, where the taxi company yard was. I dropped off my cab and paid the company what I owed them. I grabbed my little backpack and walked out onto the streets of Orange County, California with about $15 in my wallet. I expected to die on the streets within a few weeks. That's how bad my health was. I literally worked myself nearly to death, and then became homeless. Isn't it ironic, don'tcha think?
I started panhandling by asking people for change a couple days later. I started going out to off ramps with a sign a few days after that, out of necessity. Every night I slept outdoors. Sometimes I slept on bus benches. Most nights I crawled into some bushes somewhere and slept in my sleeping bag. My life was reduced to a moment to moment struggle to survive. I kept expecting to die of exposure, or be beat up by cops, thugs, or other homeless people. But I survived. After a couple of months, I realized that I was probably going to live. I usually only panhandled for an hour or two each day, because police would usually run me off. So I got really good at panhandling. I got good at being homeless. Believe it or not, the year on the streets wound up being the best year of my life. Life itself was reduced down to the absolute basics. Every night I went to sleep not knowing if I would live to see the morning. Every morning I woke up and thought, "holy crap, I'm still alive." I learned to take pleasure in the simplest of things. I no longer took so many things for granted, like having a restroom available when I needed one. I wound up spending a lot of my time sitting on the beach, hiking, reading, browsing books at book stores, and doing artwork. I learned a whole new way to live.
I wound up taking an offer by my family to fly across country to a state I'd never lived in. The financial collapse of 2008 had just happened when I made the trip. Jobs have been really hard to find. I'm still struggling four years later. I'm sleeping on my mom's couch and I'm unemployed. But I found that I'm a pretty good blogger, and I'm starting to work on ways to make some money using my writing and art talents. Life is still really tough, but that year on the streets taught me how to deal with tough situations.
Signs I've Actually Used While Panhandling - I thought of myself as The Off Ramp Comic
6. Why lie? I need a pizza
7. Bet you can't hit me with a quarter
8. Bet you can't hit me with a $20 bill
9. Bet you can't hit me with a Twinkie (they still existed then)
10. Time traveler... need money for flux capacitor
11. Like Obama, I need change
12. I see you texting (this got my photo taken a lot by young women)
13. I beat anorexia ( I weigh over 300 pounds)
14. Don't give to panhandlers (got a lot of puzzled looks from drivers with this one)
15. Eat more 'possum (take off on Chick Fil-A slogan, rednecks loved this sign)
16. " " (completely blank sign)
17. Why lie? I need a Lamborghini
18. Donate at my website: Bum.com (not really my website, but a tech geek gave me $5 for this sign)
19. My yacht needs new sails
20. You didn't send me a card on father's day
21. Hey, at least I'm not related to you
22. Check out my blog: Make Money Panhandling. blogspot.com (This really is my blog)
Ten Cheap Things You Can Give To a Homeless Person That No One Thinks Of - Street people are people, and they need many of the same things you do
1. Clean socks
2. Bus Passes (1 day, 3 day, and 7 day passes REALLY help)
3. Small packets of pain killers (acetaminophen or the equivalent)
4. Adhesive bandages
5. gift cards (Even $5 could really make someone's day)
6. nail clippers (and nail files for women)
7. disposable razors
8. travel size bottles of hand sanitizer (I've taken a "shower" with these on many occasions)
9. plastic shopping bags (they keep stuff dry in rainy weather)
10. home made cookies, cupcakes, or other goodies
Homelessness is really urban camping when you think about it... - Here's a few things you cold buy for your favorite bum... or for yourself
Signs Homeless Veterans Use - It sucks that so many soldiers and sailors wind up homeless
23. Homeless Vietnam Veteran
24. Homeless veteran
25. Homeless Gulf War Vet
26. Homeless Iraq War Vet
27. Homeless Afghanistan War Vet
28. Clone War Vet (wear Star Wars costume)
29. Trojan War Vet (wear a toga)
30. Cranial Amputee Civil War Vet (think about it)
31. Vietnam Veterinarian... Dog Bless
Better Off Than Britney
How Britney Spears turned me into a panhandling performance artist
About two months into my year as a homeless panhandler, I saved up enough panhandled money to get a cheap motel room for the night. How cheap of a motel room? It didn't have cable. I took a really long, hot shower, and had enough money to buy a combo meal at a nearby Chinese restaurant. It was the best night in two months of living on the streets. I turned on the TV, sat back in the heavily stained chair, put my feet up on the side of the bed, and watched TMZ. As luck would have it, this was shortly after the Britney Spears head-shaving incident. On that particular day, Britney went to a court appearance, with a herd of paparazzi in tow. As she came out of the courthouse, an L.A. panhandler walked up to her and asked for some change. In a bad British accent Britney told him, "You're better off than I am." I laughed at the weird scene as they aired it on TMZ.
After I finished eating, I pulled my panhandling sign out of my backpack, along with my marker, and wrote "Better off than Britney" on the back of my sign. I just did it to amuse myself, I didn't really have anything else in mind. The next day I went out to one of my prime panhandling ramps and pulled my sign out and began panhandling. After a couple groups of cars went by with no action, I had an idea. as the next group of cars rolled up, I stood there with my "Hungry and Homeless" sign facing the motorists. No one offered any money. So I flipped the sign over, showing everyone the "Better off than Britney" side. Within seconds, a big, burly guy with lots of tattoos honked his horn and waved me over. When I ran up to his car window, he said, "Man, that's hilarious, I saw her on TV last night," and handed me a five dollar bill. From that point on, I always had a funny saying on the back of my sign. Not long after that, a car full of college girls came by and one hung out the window, and tried to take a photo of my sign as they drove by. Apparently the picture didn't come out well, because they went around the block, and came back a few minutes later. Three of them were hanging out the windows with cameras. I started doing funny poses, and they all laughed and gave me a thumbs up. That same carload of girls drove by two more times, and I did funny poses each time. It suddenly occurred to me that my panhandling had crossed the line into performance art. I also made about 20% to 30% more money that day, all thanks to my "Better off than Britney" sign.
As I sat at McDonald's later, wallowing in a dollar menu lunch, I thought about what happened. I'd been panhandling nearly every day for two months, always asking complete strangers for money. I suddenly realized that I could actually give something back to all those drivers passing me by. I could offer them a funny saying to laugh at. As I struggled through nine more months of living on the streets and panhandling to survive, I put a new funny saying on the back of my panhandling sign every few days.
When I wound up panhandling again a couple years later here in the South, I used only funny signs. Believe it or not, I actually had fans, people who would give me a thumbs up every day as I made them laugh on their commute. Dozens of people took photos of my funny signs, even police officers, believe it or not. The more I thought about it, the more I came to see panhandling signs as a form of folk art. Sure, most panhandlers use signs with slogans to invoke pity, and those signs work the best to get money from strangers. But there is a subsection of the panhandling world that comes up with funny slogans, offering people a laugh in exchange for any donation they might get. When you're homeless, hungry, and struggling to survive, putting in a little effort to try to make other people laugh isn't such a bad thing.
Panhandling Signs as Performance Art - Panhandling sign slogans used by performance artists and in film projects
32. Need money to @#!*% away... hey, it worked for my ex
33. Crazy glued this sign to my hand- please help
34. Unemployed millionaire- please help
35. Sign of the times
36. This is my job (Hey, someone's got to do it)
37. I (insert hardship) Please Help!
38. I made some wrong decisions... so here I am
39. I take only gold and silver... Aaaaaargh! (It helps to dress as a pirate)
40. I neads monay 4 Inglish gramor lesons- Plese Hep!
41. Bush took my last sign and Obama took my change
42. I'm a one man bank- Please bail me out!
43. Don't blame me- it's my parents fault
44. Need money for a bigger sign
45. I'm to lazy to spin real signs- please help!
46. This is what I do best
47. Long haired freaky people need not apply (One of my favorites, can you name that song and band?)
48. Just give- never mind why
49. My internet is slow
50. The economy is so slow... I take checks or I.O.U.'s
51. My Lexus needs a tune-up
52. Why lie? I need a stock tip
53. My ipod is full
54. My suburban needs snow tires
The Funniest Panhandling Signs I've Seen Or Used Myself - Could you make a complete stranger laugh with a few words on a cardboard sign?
55. Granny needs a new hip
56. Granny needs a new spittoon
57. Granny needs a new tattoo
58. Granny needs a tattoo removed
59. Granny needs a new Ferrari
60. Why lie? I need a beer
61. Money needed for alcohol research
62. Why lie? I need a Lexus
63. Why lie? I need a Mercedes
64. Why lie? I need a helicopter
65. Why lie? I need a personal jet
66. Hugs for nugs
67. Jokes 25 cents
68. Visa and Mastercard accepted
69. I accept Paypal
70. Father killed by ninjas- need money for karate classes
71. Spaceship broken- need parts
72. My wife has been kidnapped- I'm 99 cents short for ransom
73. Will eat for food
74. Give me a $ and I won't throw this rat in your car
75. Parents eaten by pigeons- need money for BB gun
76. Will take verbal abuse for $1
77. My dog needs braces
78. My liver is evil and it must be destroyed
79. 16 wives, 7 hungry dogs, 3 thin cats, 25 kids and still dating... please help with loose change
Graffiti and Street Art - Somebody has to make the streets look good
You can't spend much time wandering the streets without seeing some form of graffiti or street art. Here are some great compilations of the best random urban art.
Last updated on June 14, 2013
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