Are you generous or just dumb?

October 23, 2012

I wanted to write a huge post about self actualization and the quest to find what you’re meant to do, but I got sidetracked watching a friend make some really dumb money mistakes.

I have a friend. Lets call him Devon. Devon makes 6 figures working for an advertising company. He is really good at his job and as a result has/gets to entertain clients, and rub elbows with some really important people. Devon drives a leased Audi A5 (which is my dream car), and leaves in a condo downtown.  From the outside, it looks like Devon has got it together, but he does not. He has debt. A lot of debt.

See thats not even the issue. Most of us are in debt. Most of us do things like buying things that we shouldn’t just to keep up with appearances.

I digress since thats a post for another day.

My problem, well not so much of problem, but my concerns about Devon as follows:

He insists on paying for everyone when we all go out.

He offers to pay for us if we tell him that we are on a budget and can’t go out.

He donates to anything that comes around. (I’m not saying that you shouldn’t donate, but it shouldn’t a competition to see who can give more)

I had a conversation with his ex-girlfriend who mentioned that he NEVER EVER let her pay for anything.

As you may or may not know, I have a minor in Psych, which makes me an Expert*  in analyzing human behaviour. I feel that this behaviour makes him seem like he needs to pay for affection from others. (*Sarcasm)

I’m not making fun of him, and  I do care about him dearly. Almost all of us do, but I’ve also seen his debt load. Grad school isn’t cheap in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter. Living downtown Toronto is really expensive. And the fact that he has a worse driving record than me makes me certain that his insurance rates along with his car payments are astronomical. Aside from that, I’ve seen his credit card get declined multiple times when he attempted to put 0-0 drink tabs on his card.


Source: via ??? on Pinterest


I’m all for generousity. I believe that you should help out your fellow man whenever you can. I don’t believe in giving away your money when you’re in a bind yourself. Our circle of friends is made up of people who have pretty cushy jobs, and would be considered “well-off”. We can afford to pay for our own drinks, and meals, and most of us are smart enough to realize when we need to ease up on discretionary spending in order to meet our budget.

Devon, unfortunately, does not get that. He has built a reputation of being the generous guy, and is really starting to like the way people look at him. He has conditioned those around him to expect him to pay for everything. He gives great gifts, like the type of girls that makes a girl reconsider breaking up with him.   And I have a feeling that he can’t give someone a book that next time.

Let’s assume for a moment that he wasn’t in debt and that he didn’t owe anyone anything. Let’s assume that he spent his entire paycheck on other people because he was known as the “generous” guy. Would that make a difference?

The reason I’m bringing this up is because he asked me to help set up a budget this week and in exchange he insists in buying me dinner at my favorite restaurant. Meals are rarely under $150 for 2 people at said restaurant.  I’m having a hard time getting it through his head that he needs to look out for himself. No one is going to help him during his retirement when he’s broke. No one is going to remember him picking up the tabs 40 years from now.

Attempting to have that conversation at an expensive restaurant just doesn’t feel right.

And finally, what is your definition of generosity?

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  • Michelle October 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Wow that’s crazy! I can’t even imagine how much debt he probably has.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      I’m scared to find out. It makes me cringe to be honest.

  • Thomas S. Moore October 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I’m not sure it this is being generous or just being stupid. Maybe he is lonely and feels that if he pays people can come out and enjoy the things that he likes doing. Some of the people that have the best salaries are actually the poorest when you look at it in the end. Having a A5 is nice but you are really spending a lot of money when you cover $500 drink tabs. When the orders come tell the waitress its separate tabs before he offers that will help some.

    Also you are picking the place so he has to go where you suggest. So suggest a cheaper place and set up the budget for him. With a friend like you all he has to do is listen.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Thanks, Thomas.

      I’m not sure that he is lacking friends, but I think he feels that he needs to pay to keep them around. We all love him dearly, and would rather go for walks or watch TV then have him all of his money.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter October 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Yikes! That sounds like one super-expensive lifestyle! I consider myself rather generous, because my spouse and I are fortunate to have “cushy” jobs, while some of our friends do not. That said, my generosity usually looks like one pitcher of beer, not a huge night on the town!
    I wish you all the best helping your friend out with some prioritizing!

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      Thank you, Anne. I feel that I have my work cut out for me.

      Also, I try very hard to treat friends once in a while, but most of us take turns. That way every one feels like a big spender.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules October 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Wow, I can’t imagine how much debt he has. It just goes to show you that because you make a lot of money it does not mean you know how to spend it. I am all for being generous and giving gifts, but it has to be done within reason. I think being generous means to be ready to give of yourself without regard to yourself, but that has to be balanced with your own financial well being.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      I agree! I feel that behaviour such as his conditions people to expect certain things.

  • Canadian Budget Binder October 23, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Well either he has more money than he is letting on and forgets to pay his bill so his cards get declined or simply wants to spread the love. People talk and people get used to someone paying all the time or wanting to go out and offering to pay just to get you out the door. I couldn’t take the money or someone paying for me just to hang out or talk in a meeting. I think him wanting to spend that kind of money to chat with you about a budget is crazy but hey, like I said, maybe he has more money than he needs and doesn’t care … rich people still budget too lol.. his entertainment category will be huge. In all honesty I think what he dreamed for himself is not a reality but he is living it. He wants to make lots of money and wants to splurge on all those he loves at any cost. Maybe he feels complete when he does it but you are right, it’s not normal. Mr.CBB

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      I feel the same about it not being normal. I’ll do an update when after we sit down and chat.

  • Catherine October 23, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Tough situation…I know people with similar personalities….if he’s asked you to help budget that’s an open door for communication about money. Maybe discuss budget first then show him that he cannot afford to take you out? There’s being generous and being stupid!

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Im inviting him over for dinner. I feel that its the best thing to do.

  • Evan October 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    “No one is going to remember him picking up the tabs 40 years from now.”

    They might not remember which tab he picked up but they’ll remember he picked up many a tabs.

    Notwithstanding, I really do feel your frustration especially when it comes to friends that have absolutely NO idea what they are doing with money. You can try something that I have used to open up friend’s eyes in the past…Make him put his main CC into Mint and see the break down of payments. When he sees 4K a month at the bar his thinking may start to change and then you can swoop in and REALLY help

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      Thats a great idea. Mint scared me straight a few times, too.

  • Pauline October 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    I would feel so bad letting my friend pick up a $500 tab on his own… At least if 4 or 5 friends of the group share the tab (say the guys and the girls are invited) I don’t feel bad but having just one guy picking up for the full party seems wrong.
    Your friend seems very generous but also covering for a lack in his life, like he wants to be the loved one and wants to be appreciated. Maybe by telling him that just by being himself you are happy to have him around will help him.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      I’m trying, well most of us are trying to tell him that.

  • Kyle October 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    I want an S5, but I’ll probably end up buying a Honda or something once my Toyota finally falls apart. Maybe an Acura if I can get a good deal on one used. A5 is a nice car, though!

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      The A5 is my dream car. Classy without being pretentious.

  • Danielle October 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I know some people like that, none that are THAT close to me as a friend but I always wonder. I have to turn down their invitations quite often because I can’t afford it (and dislike being the tagger-along-er) maybe he just needs some good nights in with friends. Homecooked food, some wine, a movie or board game? Friendship doesn’t need a price tag!

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm

      Or chill day. I really don’t know how to change that about him, but we’re going to try.

  • jefferson @SeeDebtRun October 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    It sounds like Devon is on a crash course that is going to lead to financial disaster eventually.. If he already has cards getting declined, and is continuing to “give” in that way, then he could be in deeper trouble than even you know..

    I understand that it feels good to be generous, but Devon needs to find a way to do it without spending money.. He can offer to help friends move, volunteer his time (not money) to local charities, or find other methods.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Oh I know. I stepped up my volunteering when I didn’t have room in my budget to give as much as I wanted to.

      I really don’t know how much trouble he’s in yet. Will update as soon as I know.

  • ForHerByHer October 24, 2012 at 5:53 am

    I WAS Devon down to insisting on taking care of the bill when most of the people at the table may have actually been doing far better than I was. In my case, it wasn’t generosity, it was plain stupidity. Nobody really cares, nor will they remember that you picked up the tab countless times.

    I’m not sure how to get through to someone in that situation. I had to hit rock bottom to ‘get it’, hopefully your friend will get it before then.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      I hope so too. I’ve been that person a few times too, but its a once in a blue moon and I know those friends come around and pick up my tab the next time.

  • AverageJoe October 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Wow, that stinks. He’s rolled that boulder uphill and there’s no way for him to let go without it at least partially running him over.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      Hoping to avoid that fate.

  • Andy Hough October 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    That sounds more like dumb than generous. It is going to be hard for him to change now that he has conditioned those around him to expect him to pay for everything. If he doesn’t want to be broke the rest of his life he will need to change though. If he just picked up a check every once in a while people would probably still think of him as generous.

    • Marissa October 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm

      I’m sure if we stopped doing it people will notice, but no one is going to get upset at him for paying for their drinks.

  • The College Investor October 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Being generous doesn’t mean giving away all your money. The guy is dumb. Generosity is also spending real genuine time as well.

    • Marissa October 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Exactly, my friend!

  • Renee October 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Maybe it’s guilt because he’s earning so much? Who knows?

    • Marissa October 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Ah, I hadn’t really thought it that way.

  • CF October 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    It’s great that he wants help with his budget, but I would agree that his spending habits are a bit silly. Sure, some people may not flock to hang out with him once he stops footing all the bills, but his real friends will. Maybe you and a few other friends should start being a bit more forceful about paying your share – jumping in when the bill comes or asking for it to be split before he can cover it. After a few times, he might start seeing that he doesn’t have to pay for everyone all the time.

    • Marissa October 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      We’re trying to do that. He has a habit of opening up a tab when we get somewhere and just tells the waitstaff to put everything on it.

  • Boss' Assistant October 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I had a friend just like that. She and her husband were living in the basement of her mother in law’s house and were late on all of their bills, but they couldn’t stop buying other people stuff when we went out. I got so uncomfortable that I stopped going out with them.

  • Vangile Makwakwa October 30, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Yes Decon does seem to be buying everyoe’s affection. But what if Devon feels guilt about all the money he makes and is buying acceptance and forgiveness? Guilt is an emotion that could force him to “give” away his money. If you feel undeserving of money or that it’s wrong to make the money you make when others in the world are starving (we live in a world where all we hear is about how others have so little) you will feel like you are betraying someone or something humane within you, when you start making money and to rectify this situation you will seek forgiveness from others by being overly generous. Perhaps what Devon needs to be told is that it’s okay that he makes all that money he makes and he isn’t taking anything from others.

  • Budget & the Beach November 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I know a couple of people like this. I do think there is something in there that makes them want to feel loved because of it. I don’t think he understand people will still like him regardless (assuming he is a nice person). Being generous means also being generous to yourself, and taking care of yourself. Something is obviously not doing.

  • TB at BlueCollarWorkman November 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Well. He wants you to help him with a budget. That’s great, it means he sees he has a problem. Being generous with others is obviously a priority for him and one he’d likely prefer to keep (no matter the psych reason for the generosity). So I tend to think that when you create his budget you make a category for “paying for others.” And put as much money as you can in there. And then tell him, that he has $X/month that he can use to spend on drinks for others, gifts for girlfriends, or whatever. So spread that generosity out over the whole month, and get used to sometimes letting people take care of themselves. People will still see him as generous, so he doesn’t have to worry about that.

  • Veronica @ Pelican on Money November 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    I’m curious why it is you dream of owning an Audi? You gotta set your friend straight lol, he is aware of the fact that some day he won’t be able to work.. and that with debt it’s going to be a major headache? 🙂