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Funny Money: A Field Guide to Money-Sucking Friends, Family Members, and Acquaintances

leeches on person's faceYou know the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Remember the part at the end where it shows that no man is poor as long as he has friends?

It’s all lies.

Sure, there may be some people in your life who stand ready to shower you with money when you’re on the brink of losing your building and loan because Old Man Potter stole your bank deposit, and those guys are great. But when you think about it, there are also a lot of people in your life who tend to suck on your finances like leeches.

Let’s observe the specimens you may encounter both at home and in the wild as they subtly seek to separate you from your wealth.

Loser Boyfriend/Girlfriend (Keptus Amoriti)

  • Identifying traits: Uninterested in seeking a job while “working on a novel” or “a killer Kickstarter pitch.” Would be living with his or her parents — or maybe even your own parents — if not with you.
  • Known phrase: “Oooh, you got a bonus? What are we gonna do with it?”
  • To neutralize: Place them on strict allowances or demand in-kind contributions in terms of home chores. Demand they produce evidence of ambition and discourage “get-rich-quick”schemes in favor of “get-financially-solvent gradually” plans.

Guilt-inducing Parents (Proginata Guiltinducinatrus)

  • Identifying traits: Continually drops unsubtle hints that they’re teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Prone to dumb, sweeping decisions that they proudly announce after the fact for your approval. Request “loans” with no intention of repaying. Fond of bringing up anecdotes of what great parents they were to you in your youth.
  • Known phrase: “Oh, put your checkbook down, sweetie. Dad and I don’t really don’t need heat this month. Don’t worry about us.”
  • To neutralize: If invited as a benefactor into the morass that is their finances, sternly seize some control with active micro-management. Remind them that while you’re appreciative of their parental love, federal and state laws required their support. Hand out advice and encouragement freely, but actual green sparingly.

Snobby Rich Friends (Snobicus Belittlus)

  • Identifying traits: Always showing off pictures from their latest vacations on devices that are so expensive you can barely afford to glance at them. Encouraging you to pony up to sit with them at ritzy affairs. Belittling your austerity.
  • Known phrase: “C’mon, treat yourself! It’s only money.”
  • To neutralize: Always have “other plans” at the ready when asked to take out a fourth mortgage in order to get the best seat at a basketball game. Suggest reasonably-priced alternatives for rendezvous. When all else fails, flash your meager bank account balance or pay stub.

Self-pitying Poor Friends (Sadica Lumpidus)

  • Identifying traits: Uses money as an excuse to never do anything, forcing you to subsidize them if you’d ever like to see them. Sluggishness. Aloofness. Selective lack of confidence. Mysterious ability to procure expensive clothes and tickets while lacking the means to chip in for a pizza.
  • Known phrase: “If you can spot me this time I’ll get you next time. Or maybe the time after that.”
  • To neutralize: Offer loans, not grants. Consciously suggest low-cost activities, and be ready with excuses to shoot down accusations that what you want to do is too expensive.

MLM-pires (Sneakida Vulturos)

  • Identifying traits: Always inviting you to “parties” or “get-togethers” which turn out to be textbook marketing pitches meant to trick you into both buying and selling their stupid, overpriced foods, beauty products, bags, jewelry or medicinal oils. Tend to pop up as old friends looking to get back into your life before quickly disappearing when you decide not to become a low-level brick in their pyramid schemes.
  • Known phrase: “The great thing about this stuff is you’d buy it anyway!”
  • To neutralize: Tell them you’re busy the night of their so-called parties but invite them to alternate events free of high-pressure sales tactics. Share articles about how multilevel marketing schemes are disastrous rackets. Don’t buy one of their products or hand over friends’ contact information just to be nice. It only encourages them.

 Seriously, though: How do you deal with friends or family that — willfully or not — try to separate you from your money?

Published or updated on March 21, 2013

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.


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  1. Ben says:

    I am recent engineering graduate who is constantly dealing with high school and college finance major friends trying to “help” with my personal finances. Hard to tell them that I trust Vangaurd more than I trust them.

  2. Scott says:

    What a relief to know I’m not in this alone in regards to both money sucking family members and guilt inducing parents. I’ve sadly, against better judgement given loans that I’m clearly not getting back, fortunately though without sacrificing my own financial standing. However, I’m concerned about the long term.

  3. Katherine says:

    My mom wants back charge me for health insurance. From before I was 18.

  4. Megan says:

    These posts always come at a perfect time for me. I moved in with my money grubber sister to try and save up money for my own place and promptly moved out two weeks later. She’s been borrowing money off me for years. I’m a sucker. She owes me so much. I was actually feeling bad just now about moving out cuz her daughter told me she missed me. Then I read this and she went back on a promise to give me some of the money she owes me, and poof. It’s gone.

  5. Bucksprout says:

    This post is hilarious we all have money sucking friends or family members. My snobby rich friends always invite me to expensive restaurants. I’ve tried being frugal and getting an appetizer or just drinks but most of the time they don’t like it. I make sure we do activities that involve little to no money, like playing tennis.

    • I always get invited over after the big activities to hear all about it and to see the new thing with a fancy label bought at the duty free.
      It is just too much. I cannot go to Paris for the weekend or have a personal trainer in to my home 3 days per week so I am actively hunting for new lower income friends like me. This is much harder to do when you are in your 40s but if I want any hope at a social life I need a crop of friends who will go to the free concerts, the free days at the museum and love pot luck.

  6. Laura D says:

    Ugh. I’m currently dealing with a guilt-inducing parent. I’m trying to keep her from losing her home and keep having to give her money. Every time I do, though, I write down how much I gave her and why and that I expect to be repaid and have her sign it. So far she’s paid me back for everything I’ve given her. We work together to make sure that she’s handling her finances better than she was in the past so that she can dig herself out of her financial mess.

    • Allen says:

      This is awesome. I need to suggest this to a friend of mine whose mother does the same thing. It’s unfair because she’s just starting out and is so responsible with her money, but she risks her own situation for her mom.

  7. Mel says:

    Do not offer loans to friends. #1 way to add unneeded stress. Definitely just do stuff you both can afford, or treat them.

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