We here at Lifehacker advise against nickel-and-diming your friends and family. A better mindset is to think, “Hey, you get me this drink, I’ll get the next one, right?” But unfortunately, a casual approach to money only works when everyone holds up their end of the bargain. It falls apart when one friend is a certified mooch.
From group dinners, to shared car rides, to borrowing your belongings, there are plenty of opportunities for freeloaders to do their freeloading. Some harsh advice would be to simply cut these people out of your life, but it’s rarely that simple. The mooch in your life might be a roommate, an old friend, or a coworker you can’t avoid. And you can still want someone in your life even if they’re bleeding you dry. If you’re tired of someone always asking for money and never paying you back, here are a few ways to help handle them.
Open up the money conversation
I despise conflict. Money is a sensitive subject, and I understand how tough it seems to bring up debt you’re owed. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the funds to stay conflict-averse forever. So at some point, it’s time to be direct and let your friend know you aren’t their bank.
Rather than letting resentment build and one day blowing up at your mooch friend, try to open the money talk now. But first, try to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume best intentions: that they’re somehow unaware of their freeloading behaviour, as opposed to a devious mastermind intentionally sapping you dry.
The key is to avoid shaming your freeloader. Instead of muttering, “Hey, you never pay your share,” you might say, “Hey, I sent you a Venmo request. Could you pay me back today?” While the former example is passive aggressive and emotional, the latter is sending a clear message with fair expectations.
From there, depending on your relationship, you might even have the grounds to get at the deeper issue. Are they going through a hard time? Did they learn inappropriate money etiquette from their family? Will they appreciate your honesty on this subject? If you manage to get at this level of transparency, you’ll be doing them a huge favour by helping them change — or at least recognise — their ways.
Clearly state your expectations
After you voice the problem, establish a solution. Essentially, the money conversation is a boundary-setting conversation, and as we’ve covered before, the first step to getting people to respect your boundaries is to clearly express what they are. For instance, the next time you go out to dinner with them, be sure to communicate that everyone’s going to pay for their own share. Or, if they always expect to be able to borrow your car, let them know that you’re no longer comfortable with that arrangement and that they’ll need to find an alternative ride. Always try to give someone as much a heads-up as possible so that they don’t feel attacked and start protesting your boundaries.
Be ready with receipts
You should be ready with receipts…literally. If you’re worried your friend may get defensive, have some concrete evidence to highlight that while they might not be aware of what they’re doing, you’re 1) on top of your budget, and 2) establishing boundaries so they don’t negative affect your finances anymore.
Stay strong in saying no
Once you set your expectations, you have to stick to your guns. No more loans, IOUs, and the other routes you may have taken to avoid giving an outright rejection. Make it clear that for you, the “no” is bigger than any one line on your budget — it’s about your relationships and the boundaries you set with friends and family.
You might be afraid about the damage a firm “no” will do to your relationship, but if you’re reading this article in the first place, you’re probably at your wit’s end. Their freeloading is doing more damage than boundary-setting will. Ultimately, the only way for them to change their relationship with your money is to change how you respond to their requests and expectations.
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