Posted by: Donna Cunningham | May 19, 2010

Boundaries 301: How to Deal With a Moocher

Guest blog: A Wikihow article by:Ladyblair103, Krystle, Sondra C, Eric Wester)

We’ve all experienced a moocher— someone who conveniently “forgets” their wallet at home every time you go out to dinner, “loses” anything you loan them, and always manages to get out of their share of a chore. If you want to maintain both the friendship and your sanity, you will have to set firm but clear boundaries to stop the mooching behavior. The key is to anticipate potential situations where the mooching will occur, and address the issue with increasing degrees of confrontation.

Steps to handling a moocher:

Joke around about their “absentmindedness”. For example, if your friend chronically “forgets” her wallet, assume that she will do so the next time you go out to dinner. Before you leave for the restaurant, smile and poke fun: “You sure you’ve got your wallet this time?” If they want to borrow something that probably isn’t going to get returned, you can say something to the effect of “Pretty soon you’re going to have my entire wardrobe!” Maintain a cheery disposition – the moocher should register that you’re on to them, although that’s not always enough to make them stop.

At a restaurant, ask for separate checks when you order. If the moocher tends to not order anything, but then picks incessantly at your dish, cough lightly on your food and say something like “You might not want to eat these nachos…I think I might be getting the flu. Why don’t I order you a separate dish?” When you order, ask for that dish to be on a separate check. If your friends might think that’s poor etiquette, say something like “I’m writing it off as a business expense; I have to have separate receipts in case I screw up and get audited!”

Casually mention on your way out to eat that you only brought enough money to pay for yourself. Or say when you’re planning the outing that everyone will be paying for themselves. Make sure you stick to this when the bill comes!

Get to the root of their financial woes. Sometimes people are genuinely in a pinch, but if you’re reading this, the moocher in question is probably someone who chronically looks for a free ride, and who you suspect is too lazy or cheap to pull their own weight. Every time they’re short on cash, make it a point to bring up his or her money issues in private, shortly afterward. Approach the matter delicately, but make it clear that you’ve noticed their pattern, so that they don’t feel like their mooching can slip under the radar:

I’ve noticed, lately, that you’ve been having a hard time pitching in when we go out. Is everything OK?

I’m a little worried about you; you seem to be short on cash, even though you just got a job/raise. Did something happen

Assign the moocher a fair share in advance. If you’re planning a road trip or dinner party, sketch out who will bring what. Make a list, and ask the mooching friend what he or she will bring. If they lament their financial situation, empathize and ask them to bring one of the less expensive items, or suggest that they cook something (which is always cheaper, but at least it requires effort). Once moochers see their names on a list, it won’t be as easy to skimp. Just make sure that whatever they’re responsible for bringing, they’re the only ones responsible for it, so that if they don’t, it’ll be noticeable to everyone involved.

 This will also work for that co-worker or sibling or friend who doesn’t chip in for a community gift (for a parent, boss, etc.) yet still wants to sign his/her name for the card. Make a list!

If you have a mooching roommate, put up a whiteboard outlining chores and costs. Cross off an item whenever someone completes their task or pays their obligation. This will make it obvious that the moocher never crosses anything off.

Mention that it’s the moocher’s turn to treat. This is where it starts to get a little more confrontational. If the moocher turns you down somehow, or seems to blow the question off, you must threaten to cancel the event, and mean it.

Since I drove last time, can you do it this time around? -Oh, you can’t? Well, OK. I’m having second thoughts about going, anyway.

I covered the tab last week, can you cover it this week? -If you can’t, that’s fine. Maybe we should find something else to do. Can you cover a game of pool?

Since last time we had lunch/dinner at my house, do you want to do it at your house this time? -Well, if we can’t pin down a host, we might need to cancel the get-together. I can host once in a while, but not all the time.

Turn the tables. Since there have been plenty of times when you helped them out, test them and see if they’ll return the favor. Mooch off of them. “Forget” your wallet, ask them to loan you money, borrow their clothes, and see what happens. It may feel unnatural for you, but you might really discover your friend’s true colors by doing this. Don’t wait until you’re really in a pinch, only to discover that your friend will leave you high and dry.

Address any mutual friends. If you have mutual friends with the moocher, you may want to speak with them about the moocher’s behavior in as diplomatic a way as possible. It’s best if you can present a united front. For example, say “Joe’s a really cool guy, and he’s a lot of fun to hang out with, but I’ve noticed he really doesn’t pitch in whenever we go out as a group, and I’m worried that it will put a strain on our friendship. It would be great if we could do something about it so we don’t have to have problems.” If you don’t want to (or can’t) drop the friendship, you might need to have some kind of intervention. Financial issues can tear people apart, so don’t let your friend’s mooching habits ruin your relationship.

Tips

Be persistent. It takes time to change a behavior, so you will have to be firm in modifying your response to the moocher.

Be clear that you like the person’s company and personality, but do not like a particular behavior.

If they ask to “borrow” money just say, “I don’t have any money on me.” Or to avoid a possible fib, “I don’t have enough money to loan.” It works. Moochers often ask to “borrow” money only to not pay you back.

Break your friendship. If they are only your friends to take advantage of you, it is probably better that you break your friendships with them.

Watch out for enablers, who are either oblivious to the moocher’s behavior, or actively encourage it. Make sure you handle their behavior diplomatically.

Be Careful These tips may in turn hurt your friend. If you really consider the MOOCHER a friend, you might want to help them out once in a while.

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Responses

  1. Good post – particularly for anyone who may be uncertain as to whether or not they’re giving too much in their relationships. Sometimes mooching can be very subtle; I like that you’ve defined the various ways people can mooch, since it’s not always about money.

    Unfortunately, the moochers I’ve known surround themselves with enablers who turn on anyone who dares to question the moocher’s contributions. In the past thirty years, I’ve probably only been friends with two or three, and looking back, I realize they were emotional moochers as well, with a profound (yet veiled) sense of entitlement.

    At this point in my life, I’m not interested in retraining anybody. There’s no room in my life for “users”, and I can easily live without those friendships. Thirty years ago, it was a different story, especially since a lot of times the moochers were also some of the most attractive, popular, and charming people around – you risked being ostracized by the group if you called the user on their stuff. Most repeat offenders are master manipulators.

    • Great insights, LB. Thanks for adding them. It sounds like a Venus-Pluto thing, the types you describe. Donna

      • Yep, good call Donna! I’ve just learned something, so thank you! I checked the chart of one particular friend, and sure enough she has Venus square Pluto (with Venus in Taurus). I’d never noticed the square before since it was out of sign. And interestingly enough, her Venus was placed in the 10th, which explains her charismatic personality and wide-spread popularity. Pluto was in either the 1st or 2nd; I can’t remember her exact time of birth.

        I still think I’m about the only person who ever recognized her less desirable qualities; everyone else seemed to more or less worship her. Which isn’t to say that she was all bad, of course.

      • Thanks for checking my supposition, LB. I think some Venus-Pluto people believe their charm and beauty is payment enough for their share. I think there’s an article about it on this blog, an excerpt from Outer Planet Aspects to Venus and Mars (The Outer Planets and Inner Life, volume 2). It has a chapter about Venus-Pluto aspects and my discovery that many First Ladies and wives of wealthy men have it. Donna

  2. “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” J Wellington Wimpy, 1932.

  3. Unless, of course, you’re dealing with Minnie the Moocher.

    Who is a red-hot hootchie-cootcher.

  4. For me a bigger problem is how to deal with enablers. I seem to be surrounded by them wherever I go and they almost piss me off more than the moochers!

    • I dunno, Eme. Shoot them, maybe? See, I think of mooching as a behavioral problem that you can condition people not to engage in AROUND YOU by a combination of consistent positive and negative consequences. Enabling is a neurosis/addiction-compulsion, a piece of the codependency syndrome and much harder to cure. Donna

  5. I guess I am the classic enabler, I have a friend who has had dinner at my home 2x a week for 26 years, she has invited us to her home for dinner ONCE! She calls me constantly with sob stories about her children, 2 of which are heroin addicts. She is an energy vampire and I am heartily sick of being her unpaid therapist etc. Just this week I finally had enough of her mooching and have decided to end this one-way street of a friendship. i guess it is my own damn fault for not confronting her before! Thanks for letting me vent and thanks for addressing this topic!

    • Go for it, Donya. I used to have friendships like that where I rationalized that I was helping the person, giving support, but we deserve friendships where the support goes both ways and there’s room for good times as well. Donna


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