Many of us have encountered at least one freeloading friend or family member in our lifetimes. Some of us have unfortunately had more freeloaders to deal with in our lives than we’d like to.
The typical freeloading scenario usually starts at a bar or a restaurant when the bill arrives at the table at the end of a nice meal. Most of the guests casually lean over for their purses or into their pockets to pull out some cash or maybe a credit card, but inexplicably, one of the guests suddenly excuses himself/herself to either go to to the bathroom or to “make a quick phone call,” which seems to happen almost every time you go out with this particular person.
If you’ve never had to deal with a serial freeloader, just consider yourself fortunate. In a large group, where most parties want to pay cash, my personal preference is to collect all the cash and pay the bill with a cash back credit card to earn all those points!
Unfortunately, if everyone puts up cash to pay the bill and the freeloader doesn’t cover his portion, the rewards that you’ll earn will provide very little comfort having to offset your friend or family member’s unpaid portion of the bill.
The fact is that many people, in an effort to avoid confrontation, will just cover the freeloader’s portion of the bill. Freeloaders often take advantage and prey on that fear of confrontation.
But what if you don’t have the money, or more importantly, the desire or the willingness to continually cover the freeloaders portion of the bill? While you don’t want to offend your family member or lose a friend over a dinner bill — you also can’t afford to keep picking up their tab.
Here are five killer tips for handling your freeloading friend or family member:
1) Set the Payment Expectation Right Upfront.
The first way to neutralize a mooching friend or family member is to immediately set the expectation right upfront by saying, “I’ve got the bill tonight, it’s my treat,” or “I got the bill the last time. Tonight, it’s your turn to cover it.” This is a very effective, non-confrontational way to let him or her know who will be responsible for the entire bill or a certain portion of it.
You can also say something like; “I don’t have the cash to cover it tonight, so I’m going to have to use my credit card. Do you need to stop by the ATM or are you going to use your credit card too?” This technique is a shrewd way to let them know unequivocally that you’re not their personal banker.
2) Separate Checks Please.
One of the most effective ways to deal with freeloaders at dinner is to simply ask for separate checks from your waiter or waitress right upfront. Point out who is on your bill and who is not.
Most restaurants nowadays are completely amenable to separate checks and it also alerts the other guests that they’re responsible for their portion of the bill. If you feel uncomfortable asking for separate checks in front of your guests, you can follow your waiter or waitress to their wait station and ask for separate checks there to avoid any awkward encounters at the dinner table.
3) Getting the Cash Upfront.
The bottom line is that if you’re planning on going out yet again with your freeloading friend or family member for dinner, to see a movie or a show, you have to start letting that person know that you don’t have the money to cover both of you.
While asking for the cash upfront to cover the tickets or the bill might seem a bit awkward, you absolutely MUST talk to your mooching family member or friend upfront to find out if they are having money problems that are prohibiting them from covering their share.
This doesn’t have to be an abrupt conversation with screaming and yelling. Be sure to find out how they plan to pay for their tickets beforehand and try to get the cash upfront BEFORE you pay. Asking for the cash upfront can mitigate many of the problems that occur after the fact with problematic freeloaders.
4) Be Fair But Firm.
If this freeloading behavior has become a regular routine with this particular family member or friend, you’re going to have to put your foot down on it sooner or later. The bottom line is you’ve got to speak up, stand your ground and be firm yet fair.
Again, the conversation shouldn’t be confrontational but conversational and very matter-of-fact, allowing you to simply state the facts. For example, you might say something like “Your half of the bill is $50. Do you want to give me cash for your half and then I’ll just pay the bill with my rewards card?”
This will send a very clear, strong message that he or she will have to carry his or her own weight when paying the bill.
5) Have A Heart to Heart.
While some freeloading friends and family might be doing it knowingly, believe it or not, others may not realize that what they’re doing is creating a big problem for you.
One possibility could be that you’re always picking the restaurant or entertainment and the options that you choose are simply above and beyond their means. They might be too embarrassed or ashamed to let you know they can’t afford it so they just go along with your choice.
Whatever the case might be, it’s not your responsibility to keep carrying the load. Sit down one-on-one and very calmly tell them that it bothers you to always pick up the tab in its entirety when you’re out at restaurants, shows, or whatever your entertainment choices are.
It’s important that you avoid generalizing and be able to point to very specific incidents, times and dates of the behavior that you have an issue with. Being honest about your predicament is critical to maintain the relationship.
Let him know that you can’t afford to carry the financial load (even if you can) when you’re eating out together or entertaining, so he needs to either start paying his own way, or alternatively, choose restaurants or outings that are more affordable for him so he can more comfortably pay his own way.
Using these five tips, you can really change the dynamic of this problem and, assuming the relationship is important to you, still have a chance at keeping the relationship intact.
Most importantly, these tips will allow you to do it in a non-confrontational manner with honor, grace and dignity. If your friend or family member is reasonable, they should understand where you’re coming from. But the end of the day, there might be some people that just don’t get it or simply aren’t willing to get honest with themselves about their behavior.
Simply put, how your friend reacts to you taking charge of the situation is beyond your control. How they respond to it, favorably or not, will no longer be your problem.
This is a guest contribution from Bill Hazelton, CEO and Founder of Credit Card Assist, one of the leading pro-consumer credit card comparison sites online.