Q. I am quite handy with most minor (and major) household repair tasks, and often help family and friends with such matters.

When offered money, I generally refuse. However, I find that some acquaintances quickly take advantage of this, calling me to help them with all sorts of things. Would it be proper to accept money when it is offered, or agree on a price before starting a job, or simply refuse to help altogether?

A. "Okay, but it will cost you" is not a nice thing to say to family or friends. You are apt to find bills presented to you on your dessert plate when you visit them.

This does not, however, suggest that you should allow people who are not genuinely participating in an exchange of favors to take advantage of you. It's all in how you say it.

If you want to go for the money, say, "I'm doing this professionally now, on the side. I'd hate to charge you, but if I don't, I'll be in trouble with friends who really ask me to do an awful lot and are paying for it."

To avoid the work, say, "I'm so stacked up now with repairs I'to do for other people that it might be awhile before I get to it. You might be better off just getting a professional to do it." The definition, in this usage, of "awhile" is "never."

Q: The birth of my first child is expected any day, t realized that I have a problem with birth announcements.

I was given three surprise showers, and just about everyone I know was at one of them. I want to send birth announcements to all these people, but I don't want them to send another gift. I think writing "no gifts, please" is tacky, and my husband thinks thanking them again for the showerlike we're asking for another one.

A: "No gifts, please" is a phrase of which Miss Manners disapproves under any circumstances, but in your case it would be worse than usual, as people would start to wonder if it applied retroactively and they had been had.

Send these people announcements in which you mention the present or future use of their presents--as in, "Daniela looks just adorable in the diaper pins you gave her."

Q. What is the correct and most polite way to turn down the invitation to be a bridesmaid? I will be able to attend the wedding, but for very personal reasons, I do not feel that I can be in the b A. Rule one: Do not explain what the very personal reasons are, even though Miss Manners is dying to know. (so obvious as the expense. She has decided that it is that you are in love with the bridegroom and, while wanting to cure yourself by witnessing the act that will assure its hopelessness, cannot with a clear conscience stand with the bride well.)

You need only say that you are honored by the request but are so heavily committed elsewhere in your life that you feel you will office justice.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.

Copyright (c) 1983, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.