DEAR KELLY: My friend’s dad is a dentist and her mom is a chiropractor, and they seem pretty set money-wise. But every time my friend goes out with us, she always says, “Come someone cover me? I don’t have any money and my parents don’t give me money.” We used to do it and no one cared because we like her. But now it’s really old and no one wants to do it anymore.
Last week, we were all going to the movies. We were already in line when she decides to say she doesn’t have a dime and someone needs to buy her ticket, or she can’t go. So one of our friends used an ATM and they bought her ticket, then she asked him to use it again and get her food later. Everyone is so tired of her begging off us or saying that she needs to borrow, but never pays back. No one knows what to say. Her parents bought her a nice car, but she never drives it because she always says she doesn’t have any gas, so we end up picking her up all the time.
One of my friends jokingly tweeted her new name is “Moocher.” She flipped out and said, “I never do that and I spend my money on you guys when I have it, and I’m so generous and you eat at my house all the time.” The truth is we eat at my house some weeks, another girl’s house a lot and just sometimes at hers. It’s not like we eat over at her house every day and they supply all our meals. Not even close.
How do I say something so she knows we’re done paying for her, or do we just stop asking her to hang out?
DEAR FREEBIE: There is a big chance you won’t change your friend if she doesn’t see anything wrong with mooching off everyone, but you can learn how to handle the situation so you don’t feel like you are being taken advantage of or put in awkward and uncomfortable situations.
Any time a relationship feels one-sided, it is heading down a bad road. Feelings such as resentment, anger and taken advantage of can be the end of a friendship. The more you do and the more she takes, the less likely the friendship will last.
Her reaction to your friend calling her a moocher might be telling in this situation. One: She may not even know what she does. Two: She is really sensitive to this issue and feels defensive rather than understanding to her friends for all she asks them to pay for. Three: She is embarrassed. Four: She thinks she does a lot for her friends and has no clue they don’t feel the same. Once you talk with her, you will get a better idea why her reaction was so strong.
Speak up but know that drama may follow if you don’t choose your words wisely. If she is not willing to face what she does or has blinders on to how she lives, she will most likely be angry when confronted. If you talk to her as a group, she may feel ganged up on. Your best bet is to go to her and kindly say that people in your group are concerned because it feels like she never has any money to pay her way when you go out. Leave out the fact that her parents seem to be in a good financial position. They may be struggling more than they let on and do a good job of covering up financial struggles.
Tell your friend that if money is tight, she can join the group when you do things that don’t cost any money or things she thinks she can afford. If she seems defensive and says that she feeds everyone when they come over, say, “Yes, thank you. We all eat at each other’s houses, so that’s not the concern. The concern is when we go out to the movies or for food, you never seem to be able to pay your way and since we are teenagers, none of us really have any extra funds to cover you all the time.”
Give her a chance to share if things are tight at home or explain why she never has money. Be understanding but firm about not funding her fun. Let her know that you still want her to hang out, but perhaps she needs to be more honest and upfront about if she can’t pay, maybe she doesn’t join. Or if she can’t afford something, maybe she hooks up with your squad when you are just hanging out. Be prepared: She may be angry and pull back, but at least she will know how you all feel and be aware of how she handles things the next time you all go out. If she stops hanging out with the group, consider it a blessing that maybe she moves on and finds another squad to fund her.
Remember, it takes two people to mooch. The one who always asks and the one who always gives. If you aren’t able to change the moocher, you do have the ability to stop being the moochee.