Confessions of A Mooch

photograph by miles aldridge

One word I would be okay with never hearing again would be the word Mooch. Being a Mooch isn’t something I ever set out to do- or be- but the word attached itself to me once I started doing my year-long Spending Fast the subsequent Spending Diet and began living my newly and drastically frugal life.

Whether I wanted to admit it or not (and whether I liked it or not) I found that money interjected itself into just about every relationship I have.

When I started my Spending Fast in 2010 my goal was to eliminate my $23k-ish in debt. I naively thought that my goal would not affect my relationships with others. My reasoning was that since I was the only one doing the Spending Fast and since I didn’t share a bank account with anyone (not even my husband) that I would do my financial thing and they would do theirs. Same as always, right?  I’m sure you can tell where this is headed and I’m sure you can see that what I’m going to say is “I was completely wrong” and I was.

Announcing my plan to eliminate all my “non-need” spending elicited VERY strong feelings from those closest to me. While out and about my friends would empathetically say “I’ll get it”. They felt sorry for me and I would have to reassure them that I chose to do this. I reminded them that I WANTED to do whatever I had to do to get rid of my oppressive debt and even though I would still participate in the most free way possible I knew that the dynamic of the room had changed, at least for the moment, and I only hoped that the strain on my friendships wouldn’t be long-lasting.

Doing without my frivolous spending meant I had to get creative about ways to be with others without being in “money-spending situations” and I had to find ways to be okay with not spending money even if I was surrounded by spending. I had to stand strong and hope that even though I was going through a lot of awkward social situations that it would pay off at the end. I didn’t want to be the person who “could never do anything fun”. I wanted to do the same things I did pre-Spending Fast but without the spending money part. It was as difficult as it sounds. I was happy to discover that as I got more used to my new frugal way of life so did my friends and family. Once the getting-going-beginner-glitches got sorted out things the Spending Fast got increasing easier.

While I insisted on not accepting money or things from friends my view on accepting things from my family was the exact opposite. They bore the brunt of any mooching my friends didn’t. The person who got the bulk of my mooching was my husband Aaron. He says that I mastered the “non-verbal” mooch which includes: a long face and sad eyes. He says I also expertly perfected the “subtle mooch” which was well, subtle, I hoped.

Here are some mooching examples from my husband:

  • Upon a suggestion of doing something Anna would say “your treat!?” It was not so much a question as it was a statement.
  • She would say “you fly, you buy!?” 
  • Sometimes Anna’s mooching would have a purposeful aloofness to it. Here’s an example: I would ask if she wanted to go see a movie and she would pretend not to be interested in it. She would say, “I don’t want to see that movie. I’ll go, but you have to pay because I don’t want to pay for a movie I’m not into.” She’d do the restaurant version of that too. Saying: “I don’t want eat there but I’ll go if you pay.”
  •  Other times we’d be at a clothing store and she would admire an item and say “I’ll LET you buy it for me”. Gosh, thanks.
  •  Anna would also do the classic extremely-slow-wallet-pull-out so she’d hopefully get me to cover the bill. It worked, sometimes.

Despite my natural inclinations to mooch from my husband I eventually settled down with it after the first couple of weeks of the Spending Fast for the sake of our relationship. Saddling him with spanking new mountains of debt while I hopefully had none at the end of my Spending Fast was definitely not part of the plan.

I guess I’m a Selective Mooch and not so much of a General Mooch. Either way, I’m getting better and better at balancing my sometimes shamelessly-frugal-money-saving-techniques with my desire to keep my relationships intact and learning how to remove mooching in all of it’s forms.

How do you feel about the M word – Mooching? Have you ever mooched? Has anyone ever mooched off of you? Is is REALLY all THAT bad? What are the boundaries? Would love to hear your thoughts! 

 

Here’s another post about The Social Side of the Spending Fast that you might like.

18 comments

in Mooching, Personal, Social, Spending Fast

17 Comments

  1. Leanne // July 12, 2011

    You guys make me laugh! I myself do a couple of those things to my husband and I'm not even on a spending diet…

  2. nicole // July 12, 2011

    Still curious and a bit confused about mooching and all the grey area here. Yes, I find that my friendships/relationships involve bonding over food or activities (movies, music venues, etc.) that involve making a purchase because I guess we are programmed to have more fun somewhere other than our house, sadly. This is unfortunate but likely the reality. For me, I am more aloof now with a spending diet and see friends less. True there are free things to do everywhere but that is usually less appealing than conversation over dinner out. I guess it takes more time than I am able to dedicate to in order to creatively plan things to stay social. I mean I do have a child that comes first so that factors in too.

  3. ad // July 12, 2011

    My fiance just got a huge promotion and since I am trying to be so budget conscious, I have found myself doing the same thing as Anna. I caught myself doing it before I read this post and I hate it. I appreciate that he can afford things but I do not want to be a mooch. I'm trying to change that so he only spends money on himself and not me too.

    I am also in the same boat as Nicole, I have become more aloof with my friends. Most of my friends are very well off and don't have a monetary problem within a mile so it would be awkward for me to have a conversation with them. I am very social so they have noticed and inquired but I just say its due to my upcoming wedding (which is another reason I want to be debt free).

    The social aspect has definitely been the hardest part but I have to say my shrinking debt is very nice and reassures me that what I am doing is right.

  4. HayleyEckstein // July 12, 2011

    I am as of recently in the process of moving from central Arizona to upstate New York. Big change. Before the big move, I saved up a few thousand dollars just to tide me over for the first few months until I found a job. Well, those months are over, that money is gone, and I am still job-less. I hate hate HATE asking for money from my husband for even simple things like gas or groceries. I have mostly lost the interest of doing anything that costs money like going to the movies or going out on date nights because I just don't have the money for them. I feel almost obligated to stay at home avoiding spending ANYTHING because I am so afraid of that big bad M word. I feel bad when friends ask me to go to lunch or to come visit because my automatic response is, well, i don't have the money. This causes them to offer to pay- turning me into a mooch without even trying. Truth be told, it's nearly impossible to avoid if that is your circumstances. Your attitude says it all. If you're not too prideful to take the offers you're given but not too willing to jump at every and any offers you get, then there's nothing wrong with it. Stay humble and willing to pay back in babysitting services or whatever you can give. It doesn't have to be called "mooching" if you don't make it that way.

  5. anna newell jones // July 12, 2011

    leanne, i think they secretly like it;)

  6. anna newell jones // July 12, 2011

    hey nicole, totally hear ya. lots of grey area on the mooching front. seems that most mooching situations need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

  7. anna newell jones // July 12, 2011

    hi ad, hang in there and remember that you're setting yourself up to have a solid future. i think the spending diet is one of those things that is hard to deal with while it's happening and the adjustments can be killer but the long-term pay-off of the daily sacrifices makes it all worth it. you're building new habits and that's gonna be difficult at times. hang in there!

  8. anna newell jones // July 12, 2011

    hi hayley, i love your outlook on this topic! you're so right.

  9. Hannah // July 13, 2011

    I'm a big ol' mooch. My boyfriend makes more money than I do, and his job provides him with a very nice 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment, so I live there rent-free. Otherwise, what would he do with all that space? And I'd rather be a freeloader in a really nice apartment than pay a fair bit for a "meh" apartment.

    I also find myself entering a lot of contests. Like, for example, one of my favorite restaurants was offering a coupon for a free sandwich if you left a comment on their Facebook page with your favorite condiment. So I took the 10 seconds to answer, and I won the sandwich! Woohoo!

    I might just be really lucky though, cuz once I won a trip to Scotland, too.

  10. melani rae // July 13, 2011

    The one and only person I ever mooch off of is my mother-in-law. NOT because I don't like her, in fact I love her. But she is one of those types that gets pure enjoyment out of being able to treat. Unfortunately, I never get to mooch off of my guy. We have a rather unique system I think. We take all our income, combine it, pay all the bills, put money in savings, then divide the left over 50/50. It works for us, and since he is uber-awesome with money we have no debt.

    However, we are the 'cash poorest' of our friends, and I know how it feels to be in the position of trying to figure out how to participate without spending like everyone around you is. It's fuc*ing hard. I give cred to anyone who can master it. I still haven't.

    • Paula // February 21, 2013

      I think your way is the most common. The fact that you have cash left over after paying bills is a good sign! I can tell you that in a marriage, what your’s is mine and what’s mine is yours. Except this little part over here:) and because you both agree on it and it works for you that is the best part. also, don’t forget that some people are in a lot of debt that appear to have money, so don’t be discouraged. the value of friendship is priceless.

  11. Beth B // July 22, 2011

    Oh my gosh – thank you so much for posting this!! I'm only a month into my spending diet / fast, and I've been trying to figure out how to handle the awkwardness. The hardest part is when a friend INSISTS on buying something, and all you want to do is curl up in a big embarrassball and pretend you owed them money from a loooong time ago. Ugh, the guilt is killing me.

    I agree though, when it comes to the family, by all means – mooch away! HA! It's so silly, really. I think my parents are more happy that I'm being so conscious of making a change though, and this is their way of helping without actually giving me money. Ex: my mom will pay for lunch, or pick up toilet paper for me when she comes over. Little stuff like that goes a long way. And I'm OK mooching like that!

  12. Anna Newell Jones // July 23, 2011

    you're cracking me up beth! "embarrassball" that's awesome! and SO TRUE!

  13. Anna Newell Jones // July 23, 2011

    lucky lady hannah! nice!

  14. Anna Newell Jones // July 23, 2011

    hey melanie, i think there are alot of people that DO truly enjoy giving. if your mother-in-law is one of those people and you know you're not taking advantage I say by all means- let her be generous with you! and wow, that is a unique income split situation! thanks for sharing about it.

  15. Bana // December 23, 2012

    I’ve always been the person to take care of others. My boyfriend and I have lived together for quite some time, the first 2 years I felt guilty for “mooching” off of him while working and going college. Then he was laid off, and together we had no other option but to move in with his folks. I am so thankful to have them, but at the same time, I’m completely racked with guilt for mooching. After a year, I felt so guilty about “being down and out” that I made a plan to move in with a girlfriend, and begin a job working with children. I would sae up enough to pay my boyfriends parents back, and everything would be great! I had all my ducks in a row! (or so I thought). It became apparent to me on the first day of my new job that many of the actions were unethical against kids, and I subsequently quit. I worked there for as long as I could and scrounged away every penny while looking for another job, fearing the worst- that I’d have to mooch off my very sweet friend, or my boyfriends parents again. I’m still without a job, and the finances I’ve saved are long gone. I’ve kept to myself and stayed home most nights when my girlfriends go out, just to avoid the “big m word”. I’m definitely trying not to continue mooching, while still getting on my feet. It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced something like this, I don’t want to be known as the “lazy, unemployed, mooch”.

  16. Bana // December 23, 2012

    Update: I just read Hayley’s comment and I have to say it’s very helpful. Thank you very much for posting it. I feel as though I’m in a similar situation, and that is such a great outlook.

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  1. By Out of Debt: The Present | What to do now.... on July 30, 2013 at 8:16 am

    […] never eat out, Mr. Wonderful does like to treat me but I’ll still keep that under control. Lesson learned from Anna, the creator of The Spending Fast ®, about not leaning on others to supplement your […]

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    Hi, I'm Anna! I paid off close to 24k in debt in only 15 months & it completely changed my life! I want you to have a debt-free life too so here you'll be able to read all about: How to do a Spending Fast®, saving & making more money, DIY's, & a lot about living awesomely with less. Let's do this!

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