Just about every definition of a true friend involves someone “who is there for you no matter what.” Heartbroken? True friends are supposed to stay up with you to reassure you that *insert name of guy or girl here* is missing out, and that you’re much too pretty/handsome/special to stay single for long.
Determined to get that #Boracaybod (perhaps to make *insert name of guy or girl here* see exactly what they’re missing)? True friends should support you by helping you find the right gym, the right diet, and in some cases, flailing about in the umpteenth CrossFit session with you.
We could go on and on about the lengths that true friends go to for the ones they love, but let’s talk about the darker side of that equation: friends who take advantage of your willingness to do the same thing, especially financially.
Mind you, these people aren’t necessarily bad friends. You might enjoy their lively company and they may even have demonstrated a fierce loyalty to you on more than one occasion. It’s just that you’ve also felt a lot like their personal ATM at times, and that’s not good for either of you.
However, dealing with a dear friend who occasionally capitalizes on your having more money than them can be a bit tricky, especially if you want to keep your friendship intact. That said, let’s take a look at the most common types of freeloading friends and how to handle them:
1. The Borrower.
It’s not really unusual for people, especially those who are just starting out, to be short on cash.
Quite a few of our friends probably borrow money to tide them over in times of financial trouble. Since we all want to be a good friend, we usually agree to this, even if it might sometimes mean compromising our own budgets. (Plus, it’s pretty hard to resist when a friend says things like “My pay still hasn’t arrived and they’ll cut off my electricity if I don’t settle my bill today.” Cue your “Sure, I’ll lend you money.”)
It’s fine to help a brother or sister out, but if they seem to abusing your generosity (or worse, if their money problems are largely rooted in their own bad habits), you need to politely decline.
How? You can either just say that you can’t (and then resist the urge to explain yourself), or you can divert the conversation to something else, such as the cause of their monetary woes (“I’m a little worried that you seem to be short on cash these days. Is something wrong?”).
The latter’s especially effective since it will either dissuade them from prodding you further or it could open up a constructive dialogue where you could give your friend advice on how to better manage their finances.
2. The Free-Rider.
No, we’re not talking about a rap star (Come on, s/he could be Flo-Rida’s cousin or something), but the type of friend who crashes at your place and mooches off your food, electricity, and water for days or even weeks at a time.
In some cases, this person might even be a family member. You know the kind. They tell you that they need a place to stay in Australia while they figure things out and apply for a visa. That’s all well and good, but this arrangement can get old real quick when they don’t seem to be in a rush to get off your couch or contribute to household expenses.
This is one case where preventive measures can spare you from a lot of trouble down the line. When the Free-Rider comes calling to ask about a place to stay, institute a deadline. You can either ask “For how long?” when they ask about staying at your place or you can drop hints about how long they can stay (e.g., “Okay, but I’ll be cleaning out the house in two weeks, and I’ll need you to stay elsewhere by then. You understand, right?”).
3. The Artful Dodger.
Here’s the scenario: you’re out to dinner with friends and then the bill arrives. Just as everyone’s digging into their wallets to pay for their share, the artful dodger either conveniently goes to the restroom (and doesn’t come back until after the bill has been paid) or explains that s/he somehow “forgot” to bring their wallet with them.
There are usually two reasons for this happening: one is that your friend can’t really afford to eat at the places you guys meet up at (and is too embarrassed to say anything about it) or s/he’s simply doing it until someone notices (and even then, would be too embarrassed to say anything about it).
In the former’s case, you can gently nudge your friend towards meeting at a place that’s friendlier to their budget (e.g., “Let’s meet for lunch. How about you pick where?”).
If it’s the latter, you can either refrain from inviting the said friend out for a while (hopefully, they’ll get the hint) or you can mention that it’s their turn to treat (“Since I paid for lunch last week, can you get the tab this time?”). If they refuse without a valid reason, feel free to cancel on them to reinforce the point. (“You can’t? Okay, let’s hang out some other time.”)
There’s nothing wrong with helping a friend out, or in being the friend who needs help. And yes, a truly good friend won’t leave you in the dust in times of need, but it’s not their responsibility to provide you with a good life either.
As adults, we all have our fair share of work, bills, more bills, and a myriad other responsibilities and while your friends might be counted upon to lessen the load from time to time, the one person you should ultimately count on is yourself.