When Being Generous Doesn't Pay Off

The other day, I was reading Fabulously Broke's post on how her brother seemed to be taking advantage of her.  He assumed that because she was making more money than him… then she should always foot the bill.  She had gone to visit him in Toronto and they were deciding on what to eat.  She said she wanted sushi, and he wanted steak.  Here's a snippet of her conversation with him over dinner (they ended up going to a steakhouse).

FB’s Brother: Ahhh.. steak! What are you getting?

FB: Umm.. I guess the chicken pasta. I don’t feel like a heavy steak. It’s too expensive for $27/steak, especially since I can buy more than 8 oz. for $27 and cook it better by myself at home the way I like it.

See, conscious consumption at work here. I didn’t think the steak was worth it and damn it, I had wanted sushi!

FB’s Brother: Oh.

FB: What?

FB’s Brother: Well, can I get a steak?
FB: *shocked silence*

broken heart Pictures, Images and Photos

After reading this, a memory of something similar that happened to me came to mind.  I guess I had forgotten (and buried it into the abyss of bad memories) about it since I recall my heart was shattered at the time.

My ex boyfriend with whom I wasted shared two and a half years of my life with (though this was the first few years of university), didn't have a job.  I recall he was busy working on completing a few courses in high school he flunked out of.   He didn't really have a job, either.  Hmm.. I'm painting a very rosy picture of him, aren't I?

Because I was more financially secure at that age than he was, I often footed the bill. By financially secure, I mean I was making $9.50 working retail 15 hours a week during the school year.  I would drive him places (he didn't have a car) that we went to together, I would pay for our dates and our dinner bills, and pay for fun activities we did around town (like going to the arcade, or the movies).  I think I also bought some clothes for him too, when I saw something I thought he might like.  I was very thoughtful.  I would also buy him something that he had always wanted (it was $200 for some anime figurine or something completely useless like that) for our anniversary or his birthday, and when my birthday came around, he would get me something small, with sentiment and homemade… which didn't matter to me of course… until we went shopping together one day and I realized I was being taken advantage of.

We usually went shopping together, and nothing upsetting comes of it.  That day though, we went shopping, and there were these orange pants that he was looking at (er.. don't ask.  It was the ‘clubwear' which was “in” back then).  They were $60.  He went to try it on.  I stood by the dressing room, asking if he liked them (because that's what supportive girlfriends do, they stand near the dressing room and give the “yay” or “nay” to the outfit of course).

As he came out of the dressing room, with the orange pants in hand

I asked him if he liked them.

He looked at me and said:

Yeah, I do, but do you have enough money on you to buy them for me?

I looked at him.  My jaw dropped.  My face became flushed.

I don't know how I was giving him the perception that shopping together meant that I instantly turned into HIS sugar mama, but as I ruminated over that situation more and more, I came to the realization that it was mostly my fault.

I had not set boundaries and I had not showed him that I was not his cash cow of instant gratification.  I acted like his mother, providing for him instead of being his girlfriend.

After that day, the imbalance of our understanding towards money continued to drive a rift between us, and I ended our relationship a few months afterward.

Before we broke up, I had gotten him a job at the grocery store I used to work at in high school, and he would complain to me about how labor intensive it was, and how he hated the job.  I also remember that I felt quite unhappy because I worked so hard at getting him that job, helping him get a job, and he was dissatisfied with it… aka ungrateful.  That's when I realized that we are two very different people with different work ethics and different approaches to money.  It was not going to work.

I am now with my current boyfriend of 6 years with whom we share a passion for frugality (I still win in my frugality pursuits though).  We have a more egalitarian relationship where we split the bill equally, or he treats me one time and I treat him for dinner another time.  We have separate accounts and also share a joint account.  He doesn't expect me to buy him clothes too, which is a bonus 😉

Oh, PS.  I told him “No, I'm not buying those for you, do I look like your mother or something?”  To which he did not reply, and he decided to whip out his own bank card and buy those pants himself.  Because he liked them so much.

Readers, have you ever had an experience where you felt people took advantage of your generosity and your heightened responsibility with money?  Have you ever had a girlfriend or boyfriend who was as much of an opportunist as my ex? 😉

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

47 Comments

  1. Fox on May 16, 2011 at 8:35 am

    I have in a few ways experienced “usage” first hand. Particularly by the last ex. Either way, I think generosity is more than just money. You can be used via your generous sharing of knowledge, time and so on.

    I excel in marketing, interent, websites and so on, so I helped setup ex’s site, get the business off the ground that she was starting and showed her the ropes of writing, managing and updating all things marketing. On top of it all, introduced her to some good people, for the industry she was starting in. In the end, got nothing. Not that I expected anything, but sorta felt used.

    Unfortunately a downside of me has always been that I’m a bigger giver than taker, but I’m working on it. 🙂



  2. Leigh on May 16, 2011 at 8:57 am

    No, I haven’t had a boyfriend who took advantage of my generosity with money like that because I’m not generous with my money.

    My sister, however, sometimes reminds me of FB’s brother. She is always broke, blaming her troubles on our parents, and expecting me to foot the bill if we do anything together. It’s really quite frustrating. We had the same upbringing, the same parents, and both had university paid for, but I worked hard to get a good degree and a well-paying job. I spend money on the things that matter to me and that’s not paying for her ass to not pay for things because she can’t find a job.

    She bought me something for Christmas that I hate. I had showed per pictures of some things I was trying to pick between to buy for myself, but she hated all of them so she bought me something she thought was acceptable and in the same category as what I had been looking for. Now she’s just out $40 and I have a useless present sitting in my apartment.



  3. jesse on May 16, 2011 at 9:05 am

    The joint accounts reminds me of a story my uncle told me from when he got married. One of his relatives asked him about whether or not his wife knew how much he made. Yes, replied my uncle. “Well how are you supposed to keep a mistress now?!?” was the relative’s response. LOL

    I do recommend that one’s spending habits align with one’s partner. It does make things go more smoothly.



  4. chipsforsupper on May 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Back in university (I was near the end of mine) my sister started going. Since university was in the next city, we would commute in. And by we, I mean I would pay for gas and she wouldn’t give me anything for it. For the whole year. When I brought it up, she said “well you’re going there anyway” as if it wasn’t a big deal.



  5. LLF on May 16, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I remember dating someone who had $200 credit card debt that he could not pay off and complained about the minimal payment he makes only goes to the interest not the debt. It was in college and I can understand that $200 is a lot. But really, if he paid more than the minimal on the credit card instead of buying more stuff, he could have paid it off in like 6 months. Other than dinner, I don’t think I ever bought anything for the guy.

    I think there are also friends that are opportunist as well. Like splitting the bill evenly when they clearly ordered 2 appiztiser “to share”, 5 drinks, entree, coffe, and dessert, while you ordered a meal and may a soda.



  6. Sustainable PF on May 16, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I had a pal in high school (sooo long ago) who didn’t/wouldn’t work but was always willing to share my case of beer with me. Meant I wasn’t drinking it alone. But i’d end up paying for late night munchies and such as well.
    When he did have some cash he was at least good about spending it while hanging out with me. So not as bad as your situation but it did lead to discomfort at times.



  7. FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com on May 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Yeah that sounds SO familiar. I’m too generous to a fault as well, and I’ve over-treated BFs in my time.



  8. retirebyforty on May 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I don’t mind paying for friends and family who make less money that I do. It’s not constant though so it’s not a big deal. Most people I know are pretty comfortable financially so we split most everything now. I can see it could be grating if someone always foot the bill.



  9. Henway on May 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Yep, I see this all the time. I’m often guilty of it to be honest.. when I hang out with a friend who has much more money than me, I expect him to foot the bill.



  10. My University Money on May 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Geez, where were all these “generous” young ladies when I was on the dating scene? I have to say that I have been called chauvinistic by a couple of fairly extreme feminist women I have taken on dates due to the fact I always just grab the bill on instinct. I guess I was raised old school and I would feel bad asking a girl on a date and then asking them to pay for it. I also don’t know why, but I absolutely hate the awkward “bill dance” where you decide how to split it, who will pay for what etc. After the first few times out I might not have fought too hard if my date wanted to pick up the odd tab, but most of all a simple and genuine thank you was all I really wanted.

    With my current gf of 3+ years we don’t really keep track of who pays for what, but I would say it’s pretty generally accepted that I pay for more of the dates, but she usually spends more on gifts (even when we agree not to haha), so it all balances out. Most of all, we never take each other for granted financially or otherwise, so that works out nice!



  11. Financial Samurai on May 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Ok, I just want to say that your EX sounds like a complete LOSER! Is that OK? I mean seriously, what the hell is wrong with him? He sounds like a dead beat. How can he expect you to pay $60 for his clothing? Why did he flunk out of HS?

    What I really want to know is why oh why did you, and other capable women out there go out with guys like this? The world has tons of good looking, kind, hardworking, considerate men out there. Why settle for anything less? I think this would be a fascinating blog post!!

    Thnx,

    Sam



  12. My University Money on May 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Thumbs up for Sam’s comment haha!



  13. SavingMentor on May 17, 2011 at 5:07 am

    I had a friend who didn’t have a lot of money and he had no qualms leaching off of almost everybody around him. He was a good friend for a time and I knew I was being taken advantage of. I even “lent” him some money once to help him afford to go to university but I gave it to him knowing that I would most likely never get it back and I never did. I pretty much considered it a donation to charity – haha.

    Funny thing is, I think it made HIM uncomfortable because our friendship kind of slowly faded away after. I don’t know for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was was feeling guilty about that money when we were together so he slowly started to avoid me to ease his discomfort.



  14. Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter on May 17, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Growing up ,especially in Junior high people thought I was a rich kid. My parents managed money well but we weren’t rich. Often people only wanted to be my friend to use the stuff the I had.



  15. Van on May 17, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve been there before, caring about an ex and trying to help them while being taken advantage of. To answer Sam’s question, both men and women help their partner because they care about them and want to help them become successful. These people aren’t usually all-around asshole losers or we wouldn’t stick around. They contribute to the relationship in some way, with fun company, advise, and being there for you in other ways.

    I had one ex that I helped in the same way described in this post. I’ve learned that in order to be truly compatible with a partner, things should be equal and you should have the same amount of ambition! (No more Scrubs!)



  16. Evan on May 17, 2011 at 8:51 am

    How has anyone not jumped on the orange pants? I don’t know fashion but I can tell you that orange pants are literally NEVER appropriate for any situation that doesn’t involve lots of X and glow sticks.

    Notwithstanding, I can be the first to admit that I think I completely took advantage of The Girlfriend (that eventually became The Fiance and then The Wife). She graduated before me, and was working while I was still in law school. I basically lived with her and paid zero rent. It worked out well for us (and she doesn’t work all that hard anymore in the traditional sense lol) but I would have to guess she would have written a similar post if we broke up in those years.

    Any update on the hipster?



  17. krantcents on May 17, 2011 at 10:43 am

    If I pick up a lunch tab, it should be reciprocal. Otherwise it is a gift. Gifts are supposed to be appreciated. If someone is taking advantage of you, you should stop the abuse. If you keeping giving in, you are participating in the abuse.



  18. Little House on May 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I know this feeling first hand. I just seemed to pick the most financially unstable men during my college and even post-college years. I’d be working 2+ jobs trying to make ends meet, but date someone who was unemployed and living at home.

    Prime example: in college, I dated a guy for almost 4 years who was unemployed the majority of those years. Then when he finally graduated and got a good-paying job, he pretty much dumped me for some twit at his office. I felt so stupid.

    Thankfully, my husband and I are on the same path most of the time (but I’m still much more frugal in comparison).



  19. MoneyCone on May 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Glad you dropped the deadbeat! (Sorry, had to say it!)



  20. young on May 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    @MoneyCone- Don’t apologize as I agree! I was actually going to use the term “Douchebag” in my post, but decided against it in last minute editing. 😉



  21. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    @Little House- 4 years is a long time! I can’t believe that jerk did that (went for the office twit).. I think some guys really don’t appreciate what they have. I think i am adding fuel to the fire, but this ex-boyfriend was cheating on me too! Meeting girls online (ugh!). I am so glad he is a thing of the past. I’m glad you’re with your husband now, who has the same values as you do. As cliche as it is to say this, sharing similar values is really important.



  22. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    @krantcents- Very good point- gifts are supposed to be appreciated. He was really nice in that he never argued with me or disagreed with me, but that’s probably because I held the purse strings and wore the pants (and perhaps that’s why I stuck with him for two and a half years? To get the thrill of being needed? Not sure…).



  23. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    @Evan- LOL!!! GOOD EYE Evan! I was surprised no one jumped on the orange pants either! Yes, I will admit, I was a wild child back in the days. I myself have a pair of light blue pants in the same material. They are good for traveling- quick dry fabric 😉

    Well, I would have to agree that The Girlfriend-Fiance-Wife would probably be bitching to high heaven if you guys broke up after all that time! I think it’s alright to have a little give and take, if you know there is some long term potential, or if you are making up for it now (which I assume you are 😉 ). I think I just shouldn’t have showered him with so many gifts like I did (all that money wasted!! 0% return on investment! lol)…. I am so unromantic now with my current boyfriend (case in point- buying usher concert tickets for his anniversary gift to benefit myself! haha)

    Update on the hipster? You mean what he’s doing now? I think I stalked him on facebook one time just to see what he was up to (definitely not regretting the demise of our relationship) and saw he was still in a deadbeat job.



  24. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    @Van- Yes- similar ambition is important, though there has to be give and take- e.g. if both are very career minded and driven, don’t compromise, one partner moves to another city to follow his or her career dream, then that isn’t very good for the relationship either.

    I would have to agree with your answer to Sam’s question, and also say that perhaps it was because I liked to feel needed, and often with financial disparity, there comes “power” disparity too. I would have to say, I called the shots in the relationship back then (which probably led to him cheating on me, in retrospect).



  25. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    @Miss T- Did you like being considered to be well off? I guess it must have been hard to differentiate between true friends and those using you (which is 10x harder at an age like that, in junior high).



  26. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    @SavingMentor- Wow, hope it wasn’t too much! It very much sounds like it made him uncomfortable. My friend had a roommate who asked to borrow money from her (in the sum of $2000), why my friend lent her that money, I don’t know. Anyway, my friend started to try and hound her down for the money, and the roommate moved out and refused to talk to my friend again! That was a very expensive lesson learned…. don’t lend big sums of money to friends expecting to get it back!



  27. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    @Financial Samurai- That’s okay Sam! 😉 I 100% agree he sounds like a loser. I’m not sure why he flunked out of high school… he just didn’t seem very interested in it. I think he was busy trying to woo girls… he was a kind of guy who always had his head in the clouds. Always ‘dreaming’.

    I think he expected me to pay for his clothing because I often bought him things out of the blue, or bought clothes for him while I was shopping for myself. I take some blame for his behaviour for sure.

    For my current boyfriend, he used to offer to foot the bill so often, and I told him that we should be more egalitarian/equal, and now he often says “I think it’s your turn to foot the bill” LOL. So I take partial blame again, for his behaviour!! Oh my god….Am I a jerk creator?!?! 🙁

    It does sound like a good blog post Sam 😉 Kind of like the parallel to your Super Motivated Boyfriend post!



  28. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    @My University Money- hahah BILL DANCE. So true!! Especially when one first starts dating. I am so glad I am out of that awkwardness!

    Glad to hear you’ve worked something nice out with your current girlfriend. Does she pay for your home as well? How do you guys split household costs?



  29. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    @Henway- Really? Do they “pounce” on the bill or do you and your friend do the bill dance? Usually if I go out with friends and I invite her out, I usually treat (but this is only for birthdays).



  30. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    @retirebyforty- the thing is, I’m doing well financially, but because I automate everything (by paying myself first automatcially), I feel poor all the time! I don’t expect my friends to pay for me though, but sometimes if they are SUPER insistent, I just leave it. My friends in the corporate world- I don’t know how much they make, but they are pretty BALLER so I can’t tell if they are financially well off or if they just don’t save.



  31. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    @FabulouslyBroke- How about with your current boyfriend? How do you guys work out the bills and dates?



  32. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    @Sustainable PF- Oohhh we have friends like that too! Moochers of beer. Usually guys are pretty good at ‘calling out’ other guys who are being cheap, I find 🙂



  33. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    @LLF- Oh my god, that sounds terrible! It probably would have been easy to pay off $200 in less than 2 months, really. The credit card companies are forced to tell you how long it will take you to pay the bill off if you only paid the minimum balance now.

    That happens all the time with me (going out with friends and splitting the bill). It annoys me abit, because I am OBVIOUSLY trying to save money by only ordering an entree and water, and they order drinks, coffee etc. and want to split the bill.



  34. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    @chipsforsupper- That sounds like a very “sister” thing to say. My sister is like that too, expects the big sister to look out for her. That sounds similar to FB’s experiences too.



  35. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    @jesse- hahahahah Did your uncle give a big WINK as he said that? Hopefully it wasn’t true!



  36. young on May 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    @Leigh- ugh that sucks! 🙁 She didn’t even listen to you! Why don’t you sell it? Do you think she’ll notice?



  37. young on May 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    @Fox- Awe man… she sounds like a big digger, not just a gold digger, but a knowledge digger. I think that kind of usage happens much more than money usage, but I guess money usage is more “overt” and so it’s easier to spot. Hope your next/current girlfriend is great and a non-user!



  38. LLF on May 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    @young

    for those friends that like to split the bill evenly, I like to either go to family-style all-you-can eat with them, or order whatever the hell I want to eat and not look at the price. I used to try to save money when I go out with those friends and it’s really pointless. If I ordered something I really want, it’s usually only $2-$3 more than if I just ordered water and soup(a $20+ bill for a bowl of soup?). Needless to say, we only go out with those people 1-2 times a year.
    Now if there’s only a way to ask for them to pay for thier own drinks on a separate bill.



  39. Leigh on May 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I think I might sell it on my work’s internal selling list, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a waste of money she didn’t have, you know? I think what bothers me most is the vindictive reasoning she had for buying it and the tone she used when she tossed it at me.



  40. No Debt MBA on May 18, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Wow, this post and the comments make me feel really grateful for my family, friends and SO. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a position like that. My SO and I have a spreadsheet and just split everything down the middle.



  41. Kevin@InvestItWisely on May 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I’m glad that you didn’t stay his suga momma! It’s good you realized it; I think I agree with Sam haha, but sometimes even well-meaning actions can have bad consequences. That’s why my belief is in doing the best action meaning what will end up being the most rewarding for the person, not what will immediately satiate them. Sometimes that means tough love.



  42. Financial Success for Young Adults on May 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I’d have to say that I’ve been in somewhat of the same situation. i have a family member that enjoys the income of everyone else. At a restaurant they will run up an expensive tab of appetizers, entrees and even dessert when they don’t have to pay. But when they do have to pay it’s usually just an entree. Unbelievable.



  43. young on May 21, 2011 at 9:54 am

    @Financial Success for Young Adults- wow.. that’s pretty crass! Has this happened just a few times (it could be a coincidence??) or is it a regular thing.



  44. young on May 21, 2011 at 9:57 am

    @Kevin @Investitwisely- Tough love is hard to give! I’m glad I didn’t stay his suga momma. I hope he was able to find another one. He seemed to enjoy having a suga momma 😉 Great advice Kevin 🙂



  45. young on May 21, 2011 at 10:12 am

    @No Debt MBA- That’s great to hear 🙂 I was surprised there were other people in the same boat as me too!



  46. young on May 21, 2011 at 10:13 am

    @Leigh- Ughhh didn’t know that she TOSSED it at you. She sounds very disrespectful and ungrateful and vindictive. Do you feel okay enough to call her out on it? My sisters and I bicker all the time and I do call them out on things like that. Just because you’re blood doesn’t mean she can treat you like that 🙁



  47. Melinda on January 11, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    I know someone going through this exactly – her bf is always short on money, doesn’t ask outright, but often hints at things he would like and my friend often feels guilty and goes along with it. She foots the bill for most things in their relationship. It’s pretty sad to watch…shes in her early 20’s just finished school and working at first real job , really hard working. Her be is a couple years older, pretty lazy, no real desire to get ahead unless she pushes him. Shes hoping things will get better. It’sounds to her like its all about the money that we are warning her, but really, his attitude towards it tells a lot about him and will surely spill over in other areas of life. Seems to be more women fall into this trap thinking they are helping. I wish there was a way to make her see how poor her future will be if she stays with him. Would have been good to have personal finance classes in high school, maybe they would have helped her identify the red flags that have been there from the beginning. Financial education is helpful for many areas in life. Fir now we can only stand back and watch. Great site by the way!



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