There is a major difference between someone who asks to stay with you for a few days and a freeloader. Unlike a friendly houseguest, a freeloader doesn’t care about what you have going on in your life—only their own comfort. They may even make complaints about the bed they’re borrowing.…Typical.
Bottom line, freeloaders stink! But when they come into your life, you must combat them with grace, wit, and as much patience as you can, before you have to put your foot down. Which you have a right to do. I’ll explain that and more with these three quick and dirty tips on how to deal with freeloaders.
Tip #1: Deadlines
We all have deadlines. In fact, as I write this podcast, my editor has already emailed me asking where it is. “Come on, I’m an artist! You can’t rush creativity!”
Life is a team sport, and in your life, you are the star player. You may have a lovely team, but if you can’t captain your own self, you can’t help others.
The good thing about deadlines, though, is that both parties know where they stand. Some people may think it’s rude to give a friend or family member deadlines on crashing with you, but it’s the mature choice—and the safe choice. After all, a freeloader doesn’t care about your time or money. If you make an open-ended invitation, their “one-week visit” could turn into months. They’ll stay until you throw them out.
Before anyone comes to stay, you have to ask, “How long?” Not to be rude, but to be practical. Is it two days or nine weeks? If you don’t ask, they can argue that they assumed it was until they were ready. Instead, sit down (or write an email, or make a phone call) and ask them how long. Also ask what they will need—food, to borrow your car, for you to take them out, etc.—and then tell them your deadline.
“No problem, Rachel. But in two weeks I’ll be cleaning out the house, so it may be hard to have you here then. You understand, right?” Or, “I’m happy to have you here, Ben, but Melissa will be staying with me next month and it might get kind of crowded. You understand, right?”
Tip #2: Your Money
Freeloaders aren’t hard to spot. Their reputation usually precedes them. So when they hit you up for something, you shouldn’t expect the deal to work out as planned.
One Modern Manners Facebook friend told me that his old college roommate, Aaron, visited while interviewing for a new job in his town. Mike had known Aaron for over 10 years, and despite Aaron being “flaky” at times, Mike was happy to open his home. And with that, Aaron began to open up everything in Mike’s refrigerator and pantry. He even used the gym in Mike’s apartment building without paying a guest fee. This is an example of a situation where Mike needed to set down the money rule ahead of time.
The only way to deal with a freeloader “borrowing something” is to make sure you’re both clear on what is yours. When Mike came home from working a 15-hour day and saw Aaron still in his pajamas, polishing off two frozen pizzas and a six-pack of beer, Mike was a little pissed, to say the least.
We all have difficult lives with a lot of moving parts. It’s proper to state up front how your house operates. “I’m happy to have you, but is it cool if we split the groceries while you’re here?” Or, “Hey, buddy, a month is fine, but do you mind pitching in for utilities and food?” They should say yes without thinking twice. If they have to think about it or follow up with, “Well … um …” then that’s the first sign they are a freeloader.
The key to surviving and living a full life is making sure you are taken care of, by you.
Yes, you can treat a friend to meals when they need it, or lend them your space in a tight bind, but ask yourself, “Am I being taken advantage of?” Your bank account has to take priority over someone else’s lack of one.
Tip #3: To The Curb!
This last tip on how to deal with freeloaders may be a bit harsh, but deep down we all really want to kick a freeloader to the curb and not think twice. As I mentioned already, freeloaders take advantage of you. Despite your history or relationship with them, they probably do not care about your feelings. You have to ask yourself, “How much more can I take?” And if you have to ask yourself this question, then you may have hit your breaking point already.
Being an adult comes with a variety of roles. We have bills, more bills, relationships, work, more work, and family, to name a few. In all these situations, the key to surviving and living a full life is making sure you are taken care of, by you. Life is a team sport, and in your life, you are the star player. You may have a lovely team, but if you can’t captain your own self, you can’t help others.
In the end, freeloaders don’t respect your wellbeing, only theirs. They don’t care if you had a hard day at work while they watched TV on your couch. They don’t care if your relationship is rocky, because they are living the good life via you. This is the opposite of being a friend. Whether it’s in a letter, saying it’s best if they’re not there when you return, or a sit-down where you say they have to leave by tomorrow, it’s best to cut ties. Don’t leave a knot for them to hang onto. It’s time for them to swim on their own.
Do you have any upcoming graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career? Check out my book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success.