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."