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Dealing With Cheap Friends

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There’s a difference between being a poor, struggling 20-something who’s trying to make ends meet and someone who is cheap.

While the former is unable to spend money, the latter may have money to spend, but chooses not to do so, even on themselves. (Especially on themselves when someone else could pick up the tab.) This insidious nonsense usually occurs after you’ve gone to dinner and the bill arrives. It’s a sticky situation balancing between a friendship and having someone consistently take advantage of you.

Friends don’t let friends pick up their tabs all the time. While a birthday or a bonus or some other windfall may entitle someone to a free drink or two, if it’s a weekly habit that you’re funding someone else’s happy hour buzz, you need to rethink this.

If you’re like me, the last thing you’ll want to do is have a confrontation. That’s what your cheap friend is counting on. I always wonder how do some people get away with that? It’s because people like you and I feel funny about telling someone else that they’re cheap.

Yet, I want you to know this…THEY KNOW THEY’RE CHEAP. THEY LIKE IT.

In fact, you probably won’t be the first (or last) person to have a conversation with said cheapskate about money. Here are some ways to handle it.

  1. Bring only a certain amount of money. Cash is preferable because then you can’t be talked into using your credit card. If you’re shopping, budget for yourself. You’re not a Disneyland Dad who has to buy treats and such for someone else.

  2. When you sit down in a restaurant, you may have to say, “I have forty bucks and that’s all I’m spending on MY dinner.???

  3. Ask the server for separate checks. They do it even when it says on the menu they won’t. Trust me.

  4. Chide the cheapie. Remind them that they have to chip in. He or she will act all put out and offended, but they’ll be quickly wising up to that you’ve had enough. (Remember, other people have dealt with them before on this.)

  5. If you have to bring a gift somewhere, always buy a card. Sign your name. Seal the envelope. Write To: So-and-So From: So-and-So on the envelope. Write something inside about how you hope they love this particular item because you immediately thought of them when you bought it. A trick I learned from going to weddings is that you can actually put the card inside the box and wrap it with the gift. It’s safer and you know that your card didn’t somehow get dislodged. Your cheap friend can’t add his or her name to the card. (They can buy their own card, but you know how that will go…)

  6. You may have to have “The Talk.??? It might end bitterly ugly. I want to gently remind you that a true friend wouldn’t end a friendship over being called out on being a perpetual jerk every time the sordid topic of coin surfaces. When he or she says that YOU are the one being shallow remind them that you are trying to save the friendship. When someone is embarrassed, they’ll lash out about anything to save face. Be prepared for that. This is your friend and you love her, but you need to address this. If it ends over this, well, then, you know how your mother would say, “Then she wasn’t a true friend.??? She’s right.

  7. Remember that at this point in your lives, you and your friends (some you’ve had since childhood) may be at radically different points in your financial status. While one of you may be paying for grad school, another may have landed a big old job already. Some of you may be planning weddings or even have a spouse or a baby. When you choose activities, don’t make people feel uncomfortable. The important thing is the friendship. Scaling back on what you do together may make it easier for everyone. If, having done that, you’re still having an issue, you have to revert to #6.

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