We all like free stuff, but it often comes at a hidden cost: . If you stop asking companies for handouts and mooch off of your friends, you can get even better benefits with practically no sacrifice.
Some of our friends have more than us and others have less. Hopefully we all help each other out a little bit in various ways, regardless of our means, because that's what friends do. Some people like to take advantage of good will, however, and offer more than they receive. We see them as mooches and often avoid their company. A good mooch, however, knows how to keep it a secret. She or he understands the subtle difference between constantly asking for things and making the "trade" seem more even. In this post, we'll take a close look at how you can get stuff from your friends for free without them ever feeling used. In essence, we'll dissect the art of the mooch.
MAKE YOUR FRIENDS PAY FOR CABLE
You may not have enough money to subscribe to HBO or even get your favorite cable shows, but you probably have multiple friends who either have cable or steal it. Figure out all the shows you can't afford to watch and the friends that also watch them. Make one TV date a week with each friend, and then match up the shows with the people who can provide them on a list or spreadsheet. That way you know your options. Feel free to include backups as well for when friends go out of town or can't host you.
Remember: don't ask for too much. If you watch one show with a friend each week, it seems like a fun thing you do together. If you watch multiple shows, you can become a burden, overstay your welcome, and seem like a mooch. You want to be a mooch, of course, but once you feel like one you'll lose out on your good fortune.
INVITE YOURSELF TO DINNER
Nowadays, too few people like to cook. That said, you probably have a friend or two who breaks away from that norm. Invite yourself to their place during dinnertime so you can share a meal. They'll prepare it, pay for it, and give you a portion. This way you can have a nice, home-cooked meal that costs you next to nothing.
Never ask for a meal, of course. Always ask your friend to do something and offer to travel to them. Most people who like to cook would much rather enjoy time in the kitchen than in the car or on public transportation. If you travel to them frequently, they may even feel guilty despite feeding you for free. Just to make sure you 1) get a meal and 2) don't engender any ill will, ask if you can bring any ingredients. Doing so gives you the opportunity to contribute at a very low cost (if any--you can always grab something in your pantry or refrigerator if you've got it). More importantly, you get to ask "will you make me dinner please?" without actually asking it. Instead, a sentence like "are you making dinner tonight, and if so can I bring anything?" makes you come off like much less of a mooch and more of a helpful friend.
USE YOUR FRIENDS AS LENDING LIBRARIES
You shouldn't have to buy most video games, movies, or books. You probably know a collector of each. If you want to watch a movie or play a game, you can always just ask to do it with them. If you want to watch/read/play alone, borrow it. Most people who buy media use it once and then put it on a shelf for the rest of eternity. You're almost doing them a favor by putting it to further use, right?
Some friends like to sell their media after they've consumed it, so it helps to ask what they're reading/watching/playing. That way you can (legitimately) act excited and request to borrow it when they've finished. Not only does this help you get what you want before they put it up for sale, but it makes you seem interested in the things they like and choose to do with their free time. If you don't ask to borrow absolutely everything they get, too, then that interest will feel all the more genuine.
GET FREE BOOZE
If you've ever hosted a serious party at your home for a significant number of people, you know you'll get enough wine and beer to last you months. So, if you want free booze, have a party and tell everyone else to supply the alcohol. People will bring more than you need if they all think that's required and you can save the rest for yourself.
Pro trip: invite recently married friends. Not only do people buy them alcohol, but they'll likely have a ton left over from the wedding. Few people buy too little booze when they get married. Most have leftovers that will last them forever. If you want decent (and sometimes even awesome) wine, hard liquor, and occasionally beer, your newly married friends will offer the best selection and generally bring more than the average guest.
GET FREE (OR CHEAP) HEALTH INSURANCE
If you can't afford good health insurance, you probably know someone who can. If you know them well enough, you can suggest a domestic partnership and get on their plan. Many companies offer free insurance for domestic partners and it won't cost your friend anything at all. (Caveat: in some cases they'll have to pay taxes on the benefit but not for the benefit itself.)
Wait--you're probably thinking you don't want to get almost married to your friend. Before either of you freak out about this minor commitment, you should realize what it means. Domestic partnerships vary from state to state, but if you look at the list of requirements you won't find anything particularly significant. Some just require that you care about each other, share a piece of property (e.g. a toaster--seriously), or list them as an emergency medical contact. In some cities only one of you actually has to live there. That means you don't even have to live together. While this option may not work for everyone, a good mooch does his or her research. If you want healthcare discounts, look up domestic partnerships in the city you live in. You might not have to do much to get one, and you get a nice certificate once you file at your county clerk's office.
This post is part of our series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Knowing evil means knowing how to beat it, so you can use your sinister powers for good. Want more? Check out our .
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10 theoretical bonus points shall be awarded to anyone who can identify the fish in the title photo and their significance to this post!