Not having enough money to buy everything we want can be disappointing. But true poverty is not having enough money for basic human needs like food, clothing, or a place to live. Governments and organizations are looking for effective ways to help people escape poverty. Some programs give people cash unconditionally – meaning it is given with no strings attached. Others give them conditional cash – for example, only if their children attend school. So which approach is more effective? We compared the impacts of unconditional and conditional cash for schoolgirls in Malawi, Africa. Unconditional cash improved girls’ wellbeing and reduced teen marriage and pregnancy rates. But the positive effects disappeared when the money stopped. Conditional cash led to the girls achieving more at school. Each approach has its unique benefits. We think implementing them together would be a more effective tool to fight poverty than either approach alone.