General Etiquette > Family and Children

Calling MIL out on false cries of poverty.

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I have been knocking this around in my own head for some time now and discussing it with DH.  We have both become frustrated with MIL's constant poverty complaints.  We don't invite her out much any more due to a host of previous issues, but sometimes DH will have lunch with her (just the two of them) which is fine because I don't want to attend.  These lunches are always, always met with cries of poverty, such as, "OK, but we'll have to go to Taco Bell because I'm so poor, ha ha!"  I think this is her way of getting DH to offer to pay.  This strikes me as rude when she calls up and demands that he put in a lunch appearance, now she's requesting that he pay as well?

Her other cries always come when the topic of our upcoming destination party surfaces.  Both families are attending in large numbers.  MIL, again, cries that she cannot afford airfare, cannot afford the hotel, wah-wah-wah.  (For the record, BIL bought her plane ticket as a Christmas present for her last year, and her sister agreed to share a room with her).  I'm okay with people not being able to afford the trip, we knew when we planned it that not everyone would be able to attend. 

However, here's the kicker - I know that she's spending several hundred dollars a month on spa services.  It's funny how it was discovered - I get my hair done and have sporadic treatments at the same spa she attends.  Our first names are really similar - her name is actually a nickname of mine (for example, hers is Sandy - given name - mine is Sandra, which I go by).  Since we have the same last name, the spa sometimes mixes us up.  I have had many, many phone calls confirming facial, massage, pedicure, etc appts that are for my MIL, not me.  The employees also know we are related and will often mention, "Oh, I saw your MIL in here just yesterday!"

The point is not that MIL chooses to spend her money this way - this is her own business.  The point is that she doesn't seem to have the guts to say something like, "I prefer not to spend my money on eating out/travel, so I cannot take part in X activity."  Whatever it is, she's guilting people into paying her way, and, I imagine - laughing devilishly the whole time as she thinks of people anteing up to help her poor, impoverished self.  I know BIL and MIL's sister are not my problem, so how does DH say politely, "Mom, I know you're full of it, you need to be honest or we're not going to invite you anywhere." 


I'd say there is nothing you can do expect change the subject at the implications, and only speak on about her spending habits if she asks out right for money. If she asks, then it is okay to bring up the contradictions in her spending habits.

I don't think you can really call her out on it, but you can ignore it and not take hints.  If she claims she can only eat at Taco Bell because she's broke, then your husband should smile and say he's been craving Taco Bell.  If she complains she can't afford to attend your party, tell her you will miss her.  I would also nonchalantly mention that you keep getting reminder calls for her spa treatments and see how she responds.

My in-laws are terrible with money and tend to hint that they would love to do certain things, but they can't afford it.  That hasn't stopped them from taking expensive cruises and buying crappy collectibles.  We just nod sympathetically and change the subject. We work hard and save, and I think they think we have a lot of money.  We don't, but we try to be wise with what we do have.

I don't think you can say anything that won't sound nosy and judgemental.  When someone says "I can't afford X" that doesn't mean that they are in poverty or even that they are claiming to be in poverty.  It means the money is not available for X, which could be the case because they already spent it on Y.  For example, I can't afford a vacation right now, not because I'm "poor" but because I just bought a car.   I would hate to think that if I say "oh sorry I can't afford a vacation right now" that people would start scrutinizing my other purchases and basically thinking I'm lying because of them. 

Your MIL perhaps can't afford this destination party and perhaps it's due to her other purchases but that doesn't make her statement false. 

Now the taco bell comment I would just ignore.  If she seems to be fishing for an offer to pay for a better restaurant, just don't take the bait.  Say "ok" and go to taco bell or say "well we could go for a walk instead and just eat later" and see what happens.  And honestly....people I work with use the "we need to go someplace cheap because I'm poor" line all the time and none of us think anything of it.  We are in a low paying profession so it is a running joke.  That doesn't mean that none of us have any nice things.

Honestly I think you are taking the comments a bit too seriously.  I'd just ignore them.


--- Quote from: miranova on November 18, 2012, 03:17:51 PM ---
Honestly I think you are taking the comments a bit too seriously.  I'd just ignore them.

--- End quote ---

I think I'd agree with you if not for the background issues that have come into play.  You're right to say that her spending habits are her own business, and I really want to stress that I'm not judging how she spends her money, just that she makes choices for X and then wants Y covered from someone else's wallet. 

For example, about six years ago, my parents rented a large condo in Hawaii and invited DH and I to join them (they do things like this regularly and they are always wonderful trips).  MIL was also invited and of course, cried that she couldn't afford the trip.  When we replied that we were sorry she couldn't make it, she accused me, DH, and my parents of trying to exclude her by deliberately taking vacations she can't afford.  Her tone regarding our destination event was rapidly approaching that pitch until BIL and her sister smoothed the way for her.


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