Alys (a_b_cohen) wrote in thequestionclub,

How do you handle "poor" friends who spend lavishly while committing welfare fraud and tax evasion?

Say you've got a friend who has very expensive champagne taste while saying she's living on a discounted hamburger budget because she gets food stamps. Because she's getting food stamps, she asks often to borrow money to "get by." But she's got a business and is just not reporting the income (she confided in me that she makes about $2k a month, which is more than my household income, only I pay taxes). Quite often she'll talk about expensive European bras, or boast about a new thong she just got called Valery Calipso (ladies and gents, that thong is $123 from the site she got it on here). She won't buy any underwear or bras not from Europe. She won't buy purses that aren't Coach. She won't buy shoes that aren't from Nordstrom. And so on.

When we go out to lunch or something, she'll start in at some point on how tight money is and how her food stamp card is almost out and then I feel bad and end up paying half the time, and I want to tell her to stop spending like she's a rich person if she's not. I'll be honest, her complaints about being poor when she has more income than me AND gets food stamps (albeit fraudulently) that she tries using as proof of being poor while talking about the expensive things she buys is starting to drag me down. I already recently had to cut one friendship and don't want to cut another.

I'm not sure she really understands that spending $178 on a bra isn't a good idea if you're tight on money, even if it might last twice as long as a bra for $30. I really think she thinks she's spending money wisely, and she's one of those people who just has to be the hardest to fit in all ways with the strictest diets and the most allergies and she boasts about being the only 5'4" person who weight 210 points who wears a size 2 you'll ever meet (if she wears a size 2, then I'm a monkey's uncle) and the only one you'll meet to achieve complete fluency in one year of college French (without spending any time at all immersed in the language) and the most sensitive in all things. So I'm not sure she even grasps what she doing. I'm not sure if she's delusional or wishful or consciously trying to make herself special. In a way this worries me.

What should I say? Should I just keep grinning and nodding? Is there any way to point out to her her unwise spending without risking too much offense? She's got a son and needs financial help buying his clothes every few months because things worn a short time aren't a priority for her. Just a few minutes ago she started in again on those European bras and a new one she ordered right after complaining that her food stamp worker is being lay and hasn't processed the new paperwork for food stamps this month and that just set me off. I really want to say something, but I'm just not sure what or how. I can tolerate her thinking she's model-thin and the fastest person to ever become fluent in a new language and all else, but this "I'm poor but here's my new expensive purchase" has gotten on my last nerve.

Edit: I wouldn't care about her spending herself broke if she wasn't hiding her income to avoid paying taxes and then lying to the human services department for the purposes of getting food stamps, cash aid, and Medicaid. What gets to me is the lying, complaining about food stamps reloading taking a week longer to process (the cash aid loaded on time), spending lavishly (at this time, she's 3 weeks into a 4-week vacation hitting up Disneyland, San Diego, Hollywood, and San Francisco) but not always buying her son the clothes he needs, and then wanting sympathy when she's broke. The tax evasion and welfare fraud and complaining about not getting food stamps fast enough is what's doing it.

Edit the second: I've been paying when she's claiming to not have money so that the server doesn't get in trouble and get docked for her tab and so that I don't get in legal trouble for being part of a table that didn't pay. Unless things have chanced since I worked in waiting. Back then if a table did't pay, the servers were docked the cost of what wasn't paid. If the table said they couldn't pay and didn't dine and dash, the cops were called and the servers still had to pay for it. I don't want someone else punished or me getting in legal trouble.

And what I see in her I'll copy-paste from a comment. This is how it used to be and why I have't cut her out yet (aside from my lack of a spine and tendency to be a doormat, which I fully own up to):

What she was like before her business took off when she was more humble and would even say she couldn't afford to go get lunch and would offer instead to make something and so we'd potluck in the park, sometimes the two of us, sometimes in a group. We had so much fun then. But then her business started doing well and she started with the entitlement. She didn't even apply for food stamps until her business started doing well. Then, as now, her boyfriend's parents don't charge rent and pay the bills, so she applied for only cash aid so she could try getting her business going so she could leave aid behind. Spring last year is when it took off and she started feeling she deserved to get all she could from everyone for the hard work she put into her business since the previous Halloween. So she decided she wasn't going to pay taxes and to apply for food stamps (which she uses to buy the food her boyfriend's parents can't what she thinks she deserves).

I keep hoping she'll go back to being who she used to be.
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