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When your friends are moochers

Are you starting to feel like a human ATM? Here's how to call friends on their hands-out behavior.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 26, 2012 5:32PM

Image: Man taking money out of wallet (© Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images)In "Can you afford to have friends?" I noted that nearly 20% of  people in a survey said they spend $500 or more each year on gifts for friends. Anyone else here thinking, "Where can I find some friends like that?"

A related survey question was just as interesting: Almost one-third (31%) spend more on their friends than their friends do on them.

Part of me knows there could be good reasons for that. Part of me wants to tap these folks on the shoulder and ask, "Are your friends moochers?"

I can think of several reasons why you might spend more than is spent on you:

  • You like to give "just because" gifts versus something for birthdays and holidays.
  • You make more money than your friends and like to spread the wealth around.
  • You're too busy/not inclined to shop for bargains, even online.
  • Your friends are moochers.
The forgetful type
Sometimes friends treat friends as a gesture of affection and care. Nobody wants to think that a pal would draft off him, financially speaking.

But most of us know someone who conveniently "forgets" her wallet or debit card during social outings. That kind of person may just as conveniently forget that she promised to pay you back.

And do any of these types look familiar?
  • The guy who orders $20 worth of beer and snacks and throws a $20 into the payment pile rather than include his share of tax and tip.
  • The friend you treat to dinner but who reciprocates at Starbucks: "You paid last time, so this is on me," as though a flavored iced tea is equivalent to appetizer, entree and a glass of wine. 
  • The pal who pleads for a $100 loan. Two weeks later you still haven't heard from him, but you see Facebook photos of him and his date at a hot new nightclub. Well, now you know why he needed the money. (Post continues below video.)
What started out as endearing -- "That crazy Tyler, he's always forgetting his money!" -- can start to become irritating (and costly). When it becomes clear that people have no intention of reciprocating or reimbursing, it's hard not to feel used.


The meaning of friendship
If you've had enough, call a friend on his/her behavior:

  • "You keep forgetting your debit card. Make sure you have it tonight."
  • "Dinner? Sounds great, but I'm not in a position right now to split the check evenly."
  • "Sorry, but I paid your cover charge the last two times we went out. I can't afford to keep doing that."

This isn't a matter of to-the-penny payback. It's a question about the meaning of friendship. I've heard tales of "friends" who stop wanting to hang out once they understand that the bank is closed. Instead, they move on to a new crop of easy marks.

This may happen to you, too. Prepare to feel angry or disrespected. You might also genuinely miss that person's company. Unfortunately, all the other person misses is your wallet.

Personally, I treat friends and relatives as often as I can get away with it. Sometimes I find frugal ways to do it: paying with discounted gift cards, buying from daily deal sites, shopping clearance tables or thrift stores.

But when someone expects his way to be paid every single time, or borrows money and doesn't pay it back, ask yourself whether he's really a friend. Would someone who cares about you treat you like a trust fund?

Have you ever had to stop enabling a moocher? Any tips to share?

More on MSN Money:

Jul 27, 2012 1:59PM
I am certainly a victim of being taken advantage of!  It's true that sometimes we are better off without friends who "mooch" even though we love them.  I have a friend that I have always been extremely fond of who has taken me for granted for more than 25 years.  Many times when going out to eat, they just don't have money with them or forgot their debit card.  They have "borrowed" $3,000 from me 20 years ago and have yet to pay it back.  Then they "borrow" a little here and a little there and I never get it back.  Once in a while they will go to Costco or someplace and I ask them to pick me up something.  It is never more than $20.00 or so, but I usually just give them the money when they give to me the item.  Recently I asked them to pick something up for me and a week later, the female friend of the couple asked me if I had paid her husband back!  That really hurt since they still owe me money from 20 years ago.  The item was only $16.00, by the way.  I'm done!  No more.  If they want to be my friends, then it will be without my financial help.  By the way, I lost my job and they never offered to help me in any way [even knowing they owe me money].  I guess I should just write that off and make sure I am not so foolish with friends in the future.
Jul 30, 2012 10:50AM
Speaking of moochers and leeches, all these spammers with their sleezy dating sites are at the top of the list.  They are much too cheap to actually buy any advertising space so they clog up every comment area with their junk.  MSN must really like them since they allow it every day.
Jul 27, 2012 6:01PM
Like I heard from a guy who heard from a guy once..."IF you want a Real Friend..Get a dog!" I fear he was right.
Jul 27, 2012 11:25PM
I had friend's that needed a place for a few day's. It turned into 9 month's. They alway's had money for beer or dope but never to help out with expences. Finaly I told them I count afford to pay everything and they would have to leave. Never again
Jul 30, 2012 11:15AM
It's even harder when it's a relative.   My brother has been a mooch for 20 years and for some reason my mother always accomodates him.  Sad thing is he is 51 years old.
Jul 30, 2012 11:09AM
Mooching isn't always just about money - it's easy for me to say no to spending money on other people.  But I had a college acquaintance who lived close enough to catch a commuter plane to my city every couple months.  She would tell me when to pick her up at the airport, what errands I would be taking her around to, which guys' apartments I would drop her off for a few hours, when I would take her back to the airport.  She would take over my tiny apartment with her stuff, invite very questionable men to visit, eat whatever food I had on hand.  If I said I'd be busy or out of town, she would ask for my apartment key to let herself in.  She would offer my services to other friends who needed a ride.  This went on for years for the sake of "friendship" until I told her I didn't want to hear from her again.  She was outraged because (and here's the irony) she worked for a missionary organization and was doing the lord's work.  ARGH - MOOCH!
Jul 27, 2012 8:39PM
I'm also one of the "friends", one of the "dear friends" who has been taken advantage of time and time again. My fault!! Now days it's just a simple sorry but no, can't do it. No reciprocity on the part of these people when you ask for a favor. Friends, relatives, the whole crowd. 3 personal loans currently outstanding and unpaid. Enough is enough!!
Jul 28, 2012 2:07AM

I have a philosophy that has served me well over the years.  I will help them out or pay if it is a  small amount one time, usually 20.00 dollars or less.  If they do not pay me back or pick up future tabs until a near equal amount is paid, I do not pay anymore on their behalf or give them any more money.  I simply reply, " You still owe me for last time".  I have found this is the quickest way to get rid of fake friends.  Plus, I go by the rule; if I still want it, I don't let friends borrow it.    

Jul 27, 2012 9:36PM
A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move the body.
Jul 30, 2012 10:24AM

I call them leeches! They leech off of you like blood suckers! I learned myt lesson years ago, and i stand up to them now! No way am i going to give them my money or food etc! Especially when they have more money coming in the house in a month than i do!

  Im a very generous kind hearted lady, BUT! I have drawn the line! They arent your friends, they are your burdens!

Jul 30, 2012 4:59AM
If friends are constantly mooching then they're not friends. Terminate the relationship if it's draining you. You don't owe any explanations but if asked then be honest.
Jul 30, 2012 4:48AM
Don't ever start lending money. Always pay separately (ask for separate checks). Don't make excuses as to why you won't buy. Tell a potential mooch you don't have any extra cash. Find friends with a job. If your around known cheapskates, let all know how much you detest cheapskates.  Just be honest and carry what you personally need. Don't  pull out that credit card as that makes it too easy for you to spend and them to mooch. Simple stuff really. You owe no explanations as to why you don't blow your money on other people.
Sometimes we must give up a bad habbit, and if a friend is a moocher with no worry or concern for you, except what they can get you to "give" them, it is time to say goodbye.  We can find ourselves paying out of sheer habbit because we always have..... and get mad at ourselves after the fact.  This causes to much doubt and worry.  If you think to yourself "I can't afford to go out with __________ because I can't afford two meals, the gas in the truck, and whatever else they might expect, it is time to leave that habbit behind, no matter how painful it will be at first.  Once you start saying no, it gets easier, and you will find that your confidence and your wallet will grow.
Jul 30, 2012 11:02AM

If I can, I always say when the longsuffering server first shows up, "Separate checks, please. Thank you." I will do this if I know there is a mooch in the crowd or if it is a crowd I don't know. Or "I'd like my own check please, for tax purposes. Thanks.".


Embarrass the h--- out of 'em enough times and the mooches will fade away.


All of the above tips are great. Too bad we who pull our weight have to deal with this.


I'll bet moochism extends into all areas of the moocher culture, though I don't care to find out. Ick, stay away (making sign of cross in the air and backing away)

Jul 30, 2012 11:35AM

This article doesn't address the "weekend moochers" out there!


We retired with homes at the beach and in the mountains, and enjoy entertaining our friends often with warm hospitality and plenty of quality food and drink. We don't like to keep count, but...There are those who always contribute to the feast, pick up the occasional bar or lunch/dinner tab, and who extend reciprocal invitations to come visit them and then return like hospitality. And,we always exhibit the same generous spirited behavior when we visit them.


But, there are also those friends who, in the five years that we have relocated, show up with little in hand, have never mentioned a word about coming for an overnight stay (even though their kids are gone and they have 2-3 extra bedrooms), have ordered cocktails on our round after they've bought a round of beer, or when we have stayed with them, have prepared soo little food, that upon leaving their home, we've gone elsewhere to finish our meal! All of these friends are financially well off and most are retired. It is said that you pick your friends based on their faults, and we value and try to maintain all of the friendships that have been made over the years, but sometimes moochers can irritate and try the soul!

Jul 30, 2012 11:32AM

I find a lot of the women that I date are moochers.  They're just looking for a free meal, free entertainment with no intention of going on a 2nd date.  It's really sad because often they make more than me.  You wanted women's lib, start paying your own way ladies.

Jul 30, 2012 1:18PM
Moochers would NOT be occasional borrowers that do pay back promptly, they are the opposite, regular borrowers that seldom pay back at all and continue to ask for more ...................... those Moochers are NOT really friends, they like the availability that your relationship keeps them in contact with your money and little more!

No different than almost all money situations, learn from experience and divest yourself of the FRIENDS OF YOUR MONEY, you have enough of those with all the Federal, and local governments and charities!
Jul 30, 2012 1:03PM

I'm reading these comments and am utterly amazed at the length of time it takes to drop someone with a mooching spirit. Apparently the moochers have something else to contribute because they didn't get dropped after the first or second apparent act of mooching. That said, you can nip someone getting a free financial ride off you early if you ask yourself a few questions:


1) Can you see yourself being friends for life with this person with all flaws present?


2)Has the other person exhibited mooching habits with someone else?


3) Can you really afford to lose your money to someone else in the first place?


4) Do you have a control issue or a real need to be valued by someone to the extent you would leave yourself open to "buy friends"?


Two times have been the limit for me to shell out my hard earned money on someone who won't pay it forward in some sort of way. Thankfully because I took a hard line stand and was able to honestly answer the above questions, I didn't have moochers and don't have them now.


Jul 28, 2012 12:28AM
When a friend asks to get together, tell him or her  you need alone time.
Sep 26, 2012 4:38PM

I've just experienced a visit from hell - a long time pen pal and her husband came over, mooched everything without any thought or consideration for us, or what it was costing us and took over my computer most times to fetch her emails from friends back home!  Never lifted a finger to clean up after themselves in the bathrm, or bedrm, never helped with preparation of food, used washer and dryer how many times, telephone, and ate like they were starved for months!!  Never once offered to pay or get food, or pay for the gas in the vehicle for driving them miles upon miles, and wanted to stay 2 wks, but my husband finally got them to leave (white lies) after a week.  I nearly had a heart attack for how much I hated them and I should have mentioned I feel like such a fool!  I treated them as I'd like to be treated, and we never ever stay with anyone - we pay for rooms when we're holidaying.  I totally hate them now.


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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.