You have friends. You go out and do things together: meals out, a day at the beach, movies, a hike on the mountain, cocktails. It’s fun, but the one thing many of these outings have in common is that they cost money. Even if it’s just for transport.

We all are broke at times, and nobody likes to waste money. When we’re out of cash we should stay home and not expect others to foot the bill for us. Everyone should pay their own way in life, but not everyone does. Unfortunately, freeloading doesn’t just have to do with money: it reveals a meanness of spirit as well. And that’s something you can do without in your circle of friends.

Here’s how to spot the freeloader early on:

Wallet gets left at home. This can happen to everyone at some time, but some people seem to make a habit of it. And the friends who pay for their taxi fare, or the hamburger despite all the promises, never see the cash again.

Forgotten drinks. Once a bar bill or restaurant bill arrives, a freeloader often ‘forgets’ that he/she had four drinks and not two. When caught out, they are always apologetic, and pay up, but this seems to happen again and again.

Always a guest and never a host. It costs to invite people over – even if they bring some things. Think of a bring-and-braai – who pays for the wood and the firelighters? The host does. Who makes the salad? The host does? This stuff adds up. The freeloader will never invite people back, as it costs money and requires effort. Vague promises might be made, but nothing concrete ever materialises.

Always on the cheap. The freeloader can sometimes not escape making a contribution such as when asked specifically to bring wine, or chips, or something else. But it will always be the cheapest brand or a small quantity, and there will never be anything extra.

No petrol contribution. These days it’s pretty normal for people to offer to contribute for petrol if a few of you are going somewhere together that is not around the corner. The freeloader will never offer of his own accord, and will also try to avoid ever using his own vehicle for joint expeditions, as it costs money.

A lack of generosity. Friends often give things to one another – clothing, or small appliances or electronics that they don’t use any more. A freeloader will happily take these handouts, but will expect to be paid if he/she is passing stuff on.

Recycled gifts. A freeloader hates spending money on presents, and will rather pass something on they were given and didn’t particularly like. But while their meanness is acute, their memory isn’t always, and it sometimes happens that they give the present back to the person who gave it to them in the first place.

Stealing the tip. Hardcore freeloaders will sometimes offer to put a large restaurant bill on their credit cards, and let people pay them in cash. Watch out for this, as the freeloader will think nothing of pocketing most of the tip the others have put in, and get a part of their own meal paid for.

Out of airtime. It’s fine if someone’s out of airtime and wants to use your phone once in a while, but when it becomes a regular thing and the conversations are long, your generosity is being abused. Put a stop to it.

Susan Erasmus is a freelance writer.

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