Any pickup owner has heard this one: “Do you still have that truck? I want to buy a new bed/sofa, and those crooks want to charge me $75 to deliver it! Can you believe that?!?” Or maybe, “I’m moving into a new place next month, and it costs a fortune to rent a truck. I’ll get us some pizza afterward.”
Bonus exasperation points if these freeloaders are people you know only casually, or if they don’t even offer to pay you for the gas or your help getting that futon and all those boxes up to the third floor.
Moochers have no shame. Living among us are people who’ve turned freeloading into an art form. Why should they pay for stuff if they can make someone else do it?
True story: A gardening friend caught the wife of a municipal court judge picking flowers from her yard. The judge’s wife blithely chirped, “We’re having a dinner party tonight, and you have so many flowers I knew you’d never miss them.” Wow.
Give yourself the gift of boundary-setting. The first few times you call someone out might feel weird. But practice makes perfect, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of continuing aggravation.
Here are some common walking red flags, and how to address them.
1. “I forgot my wallet”
Once you can forgive. More than once? That’s some top-notch freeloading. Especially if you say, “Fine, Venmo me your share later” and have them reply, “Oh, I don’t do payment apps.”
Possible solution: Call them out on it. “Sure, I’d love to grab a bite/see a movie/hit the club. But this time, make sure you remember your wallet – you’ve forgotten it three times so far this year, and you’ve never paid me back.”
The alternative solution is to quit hanging out with moochers.
2. “Can I borrow …”
Your power washer. Your golf clubs. Your pop-up camper, which will likely come back littered with beach sand and fast-food wrappers.
It’s one thing if this is a close friend or relative and you want to help them out, but as for the others, “No.” is a complete sentence.
Prepare to hear, “But whyyyyyy?” in return. “Asked and answered” is a perfectly fine response, and makes you sound as smart as a lawyer.
3. “Can I stay with you?”
Another perennial moocher favorite: “It would just be for a little while, until I get a new place” — and two months later, they’re still on your couch.
If you let someone in, set very clear deadlines: “I’ll let you stay for 10 days, max; sign this agreement so there’s no misunderstanding.” Then stick to that agreement; if they stay too long they may qualify as a tenant, which means you’d have to legally evict them. You might also get in trouble with your landlord for having an unauthorized tenant, which could potentially lead to you being evicted.
4. “You’re so stingy!”
“You’re so stingy! Aren’t we supposed to be friends as well as roommates?” Spoken through yet another mouthful of your groceries, which were clearly labeled as such. Or maybe your roomie thinks your jewelry, your Amazon account or your expensive shampoo is there for anyone to use.
Sometimes being a roommate means always being the one who remembers to buy toilet paper or laundry detergent. And sometimes it means being the patsy whom everyone can rip off.
Short of keeping your food in a locked fridge, and your jewelry in a locked trunk, there’s not much you can do about this. Except, of course, to move on when the lease ends.
Also on the topic of roommates …
5. “Can you front me …?”
Another roommate-from-hell theme song: “I don’t have my share of the utilities right now, but I should be able to give it to you out of my first paycheck next month.”
Odds are that another emergency will crop up next month, and again in mid-month, until the roommate hopes you’ll just forget the whole thing.
Not everyone is able to ask the hard questions; if that’s you, it’s time to show your spine and say, “Why can’t you pay your share this month? I need you to create a budget so this doesn’t keep happening.”
After that, it might be time to look for a new living situation — one with responsible roommates.
6. Never pays you back
This could be that roomie who asks you to front them their share of the utilities. It could also be a date who asks you to cover the lunch tab and will totally treat next time, but conveniently forgets and brings only enough to cover their share of the bill.
Maybe it’s a co-worker who asks for a $5 loan to get a snack from the workplace cafeteria, but never remembers to return that fiver. And when you make a snarky comment about it to another co-worker, you learn that Grafting Office Mate has hit up just about everybody for a couple of bucks right before developing amnesia.
Use this stock reply going forward: “That’s not in my budget.” And keep using it.
7. Has money for everything except what matters
They’ve got the hottest new phone, and use it to post about their courtside seats or designer dog on social media. They spend long weekends out of town, and always lease a cool car.
But when you and your pals hit the sports bar, they haggle over every penny. (“I hardly ate any of the nachos, so I shouldn’t have to split it evenly.”) Or if you ask them to repay that $100 loan, they complain that a real friend wouldn’t be so greedy.
You can’t reason with a shameless person. Never lend them money, and always ask for separate checks.