Friends dining out and sharing dishes at a restaurant
January 16, 2019
4 mins read

Money Sen$e: The dos and don'ts of freeloading

Money Sen$e

Hi, my name is Meg, and I’m guilty of stashing free samples when I visit T&T...and occasionally changing my disguise so I can go for round 2.

Let’s be real—it’s hard not to love free things. When we’re on the edge of attending an event, the words “FREE FOOD!” might sway our answer to a “yes”. When we walk down Main Mall on Imagine Day, we might be tempted to sign up for a newsletter just for that free water bottle.

Casual (and occasional) freeloading is usually harmless. But, believe it or not, there are chronic freeloaders who aren’t conscious of how their actions affect others.

Before you scoff and say, “Pffft, that’s definitely not me!”, read on—these scenarios may be more relatable than you think.

How would you react?

Scenario A: You’re at a dinner with friends where everybody is sharing the dishes and splitting the bill evenly.

Possible freeloader thought: “Sweet! I can try different dishes without having to pay the full price!”


  • Stuff yourself as full as possible and treat the meal as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Eat all of the calamari and justify it with “it’s my favourite dish!”.


  • Remember that the bill is being split evenly, so everybody deserves a fair share of the food. If you’re just hungrier than all your friends, offer to pay a greater share of the bill to make up for what you ate!
  • Be mindful of how much of each dish is left. Wouldn’t you feel sad if your favourite dish was emptied before you had a chance to try it? Before taking the last piece of something, ask, out of respect, if anybody else would like to have it.

Scenario B: You’re attending a formal event where buffet-style food is provided. You’re hungry.

Possible freeloader thought: “All I can eat and drink? My stomach is ready—and oh!—I can wrap those scones up for tomorrow’s breakfast.”


  • Fill your plate to the brim with food, and spend all your time eating instead of actually interacting with the people around you.
  • Go for rounds of seconds or thirds before everyone else.


  • Be reasonable about the portion that you give yourself—if the amount of food on your plate is on par with that of the people around you, you’re on the right track.
  • Only go for rounds of seconds or thirds when you’re certain that everyone has had enough to eat, or if permission has been granted.

Scenario C: You really want a bag of chips from the vending machine or a cup of coffee from Tim Horton’s. Problem is, you don’t have change to spare, so your friend offers to pay.

Possible freeloader thought: “Free snack? Count me in. Man, I love having friends.”


  • Bluntly accept their offer to pay for you without any intention of paying them back.
  • Remember their name for the next time you ‘run low on change’.


  • Thank them genuinely for their kind gesture.
  • Offer to pay them back, or treat them to a cup of coffee next time in return.
  • Make an effort to remember to bring enough cash so you don’t need somebody else to pay for you next time. Check out these 21 money saving tips and tricks to help you out!

Scenario D: It’s your birthday, and you’re throwing a birthday bash with 20 friends. You know that birthday parties often mean gift-giving—and in this case, you’re the receiver.

Possible freeloader thought: “Time to check off everything I want on my wishlist! Person A can get me that perfume I’ve been eyeing, Person B can buy me those cool pens...”


  • Automatically assume that everyone is obligated to give you gifts, and if not priorly agreed-upon, shove a wish-list at your guest list to tell them what you want for your birthday.


  • Remember that birthdays are a time for celebration, not obligatory gift-gifting.
  • Respect that everyone has different time and money budgets, and may not be able to get you presents you want. You don’t even need to mention gifting—after all, it should be out of the free will of your party guests.

Scenario E: It’s clubs day, and there are a LOT of booths giving out a LOT of free swag.

Possible freeloader thought: “Who needs to go school-supplies shopping?! These booths have got everything I need. I don’t know what ___ stands for but I sure want their clipboard.”


  • Visit every booth that’s giving out free sodas, water bottles, cardholders, pens, etc. and take these goodies without stopping to learn what these clubs actually do.
  • Sign up for their email list to grab a goodie, and then unsubscribe the moment that you’ve snatched their swag.


  • Make a respectful effort to chat with the boothers and learn about the club before taking their free swag.
  • Sign up for the email list with the real intention of keeping up-to-date with the club.
  • If there’s a club you aren’t interested in at all, but they’re giving out something you really want (free mints?!), resist the temptation—the goodies are better saved for prospective club members!

Freeloading isn’t a crime

I’m not the freeloading police. In fact, it’s okay to enjoy free/cheap things. Some benefits include:

  • Feeling appreciative of the presents that your friends thoughtfully bought for you.
  • Bonding with your friends over trying different foods at an AYCE buffet.
  • ‘Accidentally’ signing up for a club’s email list that you end up joining and loving.
  • Taking the opportunity to save a bit of money! (I mean, duh.)

After all, life is full of wonderful gifts, and accepting these little blessings can make your days brighter!

Just remember that it’s not 'all take'—you should give back as much as you receive. Be mindful of the implications of your actions.

The pre-freeloading checklist

So before you take your next dive at freeloading, either consciously or subconsciously...ask yourself these questions:

  • How would my actions impact the feelings of the people/organization providing the “freebies”?
  • How would my actions impact the people around me?
  • How would my actions impact my self-image and people’s perception of me?
  • Will my act of freeloading come at the expense of other people’s access to it, or their enjoyment of it?
  • Do I really need this? Do some other people need it more than I do?

As long as you keep all of these in mind, feel free to keep free-loading—respectfully. Happy consuming!