Updated on 03.17.07

How To Handle Guests That Abuse Their Welcome – And Your Wallet

Trent Hamm

EddieThis was a very interesting note that I received yesterday that I felt deserved some discussion:

My husband’s brother moved into our apartment complex recently. At first I was happy to have him here, but now he spends all of his waking time when he’s not at work at our place. He raids our fridge and drinks all of our beer (not cheap stuff) and wine. Its costing us a lot of money. What can I do?

This is a very common problem – and one that can cause major financial problems. Even worse, if it’s not handled well, it can trigger a cascade of emotional and relationship problems as well. I once had a female friend who came very close to reaching this threshold of overstaying her welcome – eating multiple meals a day with us without being invited and so forth. It can be very painful to fix – and very costly if you don’t fix it sooner rather than later.

Here are seven techniques for handling situations such as these. Note that not all of these tips will work for every relationship – you should unquestionably pick and choose among these.

Directly ask for financial assistance for food/household purchases. Saying something like “I’m going to the store to pick up more beer/food/etc. Could you chip in a $20?” is a very clear and concise way of handling this. Unless the person is a complete boor, they will usually cough up the cash without much question. I tend to believe that this is the best technique unless you just want the guest entirely out of your home.

Request private time. Tell the guest that you would like some time alone with your husband/etc. Something like “Tomorrow night, Henry and I are going to have a romantic dinner / watch a romantic movie together / etc. We’re intending it to be just a couple’s night.” This should get the person out of there for at least one night; repetitions of this should help the person begin to fly on their own.

Find stuff for the person to do. This technique works well if they’re new in town. Ask them what they enjoy doing and try to find appropriate activities in your community that match them. If you’re already involved in the community, take this guest to as many community activities as possible.

Be boring. Seriously. Many people feel very welcome because you’re putting out extra effort to make them feel welcome. If a guest is overstaying their welcome, sit around and read books with the television off, or spend hours getting your stamp collection in order. It might make this person think you’re boring, but that also means this person won’t be living on your couch.

Ask this person for assistance with household chores. Once a person has been at your place a lot and has eaten a lot of food and so forth, ask them to do things like taking out the trash and so forth. There comes a point where they’ve crossed the line of being a normal guest, so normal guest etiquette doesn’t entirely apply.

Interrupt the flow. Often, guests with daily repetition like this do it because it becomes part of their daily routine. Alter yours a bit so that you’re not home when they normally arrive, interrupting their “flow.”

Buy cheaper things to be raided from the fridge. If you like Sam Adams but the guest downs a six pack of it every night, buy a six pack of MGD instead and save the Sam Adams elsewhere for your own use. This is the technique used by my in-laws in the past.

Ask for replacements. When they go to leave, ask them, “Could you pick up some more insert item here?” That way, they feel obligated to bring something with them when they come again.

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  1. Nishant says:

    Wow, that is a tough situation to be in. Reminds me of the movie ‘You, me and Dupree’. It can really have a bad effect on the interpersonal relationships, if not dealt with. Those are some good, practical suggestions that you’ve listed.

  2. Tim says:

    buy soy milk, tofu, wheat germ, non sugar snacks, dried fruit, and other rabbit food. this, of course, only works if he’s not a vegitarian.

  3. Dave M says:

    “This is the technique used by my in-laws in the past.”

    Do you know you have great comic timing? :^)

  4. j&w says:

    This is one of those situations that one group of people will be direct about, and another will sit and fume silently over. The Aussies have the best approach – pleasantly, firmly, and without a whole lot of built-up angst just say it’s unacceptable, and discuss what you can do.

  5. Kevin says:

    I agree with j&w. Whatever happened to being direct? Your husband needs to man up and have a man to man conversation with his brother. Tell him you don’t mind having him over, but he needs to branch out on his own AND pay his own way if he is going to eat with you more than once/week. Enough of this PC stuff. Sorry if that sounds harsh, I just wouldn’t let someone waltz in and eat all my food.

  6. Be boring. Seriously. Many people feel very welcome because you’re putting out extra effort to make them feel welcome…

    This made me laugh out loud, thanks Trent. This may work for the inlaws… ;)


  7. TheGlutton says:

    This was a problem with my neighbors because his wife is a terrible cook. I now ask them to contribute $300 every 6 weeks which reduced my monthly grocery bill to $200 a month and since I buy from Costco for meats and veggies from farmer’s markets so the volume in cooking allows for multiple meals, extra hands for dinner clean up and they bring the wine every night ….Schwing !

  8. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Dave, FT: humor? What humor? ;)

  9. jake says:

    You can always tell them you love the movie Gigli and play the movie every time they are over. I know what you’re thinking, and I have yet to find anyone that actually liked the movie or can stand it.

  10. nb says:

    What about if you want them to leave

  11. deRuiter says:

    #3 Dave: “This is the technique used by my in-laws in the past.”

    Do you know you have great comic timing? I thought the same thing Dave, this is very funny!

  12. Gert says:

    If you want them to just go nb, fint out what they don’t like to eat or drink and only have that in the house for an extended period of time. Be more subversive by only having stale chips, crackers etc. available. Burn liver & Brussels sprouts for dinner.

    Ask them to help you put together a 5000 piece picture puzzle. Talk to the cat. Act like the cat answers you.

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