The questions featured in this occasional column were written by actual people.
Dear Savvy Sister,
I loaned my best friend money about nine years ago – before I had kids – to get her car out of repo. She told me it was the bank’s fault. I also helped her get a different loan from another bank. She agreed to pay me back the money – about $5,000 – as soon as she got things back in order. But she’s only repaid me about $300. Every time I mention the money, she avoids me or says she has unexpected things that have popped up. Now she is pregnant and says she’s stressed about baby bills.
I am at a loss as to what to do. I don’t want to take her to court, but I want her to understand that if I was a bank, she couldn’t just blow me off. Yes, I have learned my lesson on lending money to friends, but I just want it to be all over so I can move on with my friend, or worse case scenario, without a friend.
The poet Bryan H. McGill said, “Never expect a loan to a friend to be paid back if you want to keep that friend.” Damn, I hate when people do my work for me. But it’s really as simple as that. Fortunately for you, I have some white space yawning before me, so I’ll expound.
You say you want this financial boondoggle to be over. GREAT NEWS! POOF! It’s over! Bad news: So long, five grand.
Believe me, your friend knows that you are not a bank. That’s why she came to you in the first place, and why she hasn’t paid you back. And I promise you she has more than justified this in her mind with half-truths like, She doesn’t need the money as much as I do, and I’ve done so much for her over the years, and What does she expect me to do? Sell a kidney? Which is illegal, but who cares? A healthy one might go for $20,000! That’s a lot of Chardonnay. Which isn’t good for the one remaining kidney. So that whole scheme won’t work.
I have given money to friends on numerous occasions, and it has botched more than one relationship. Now I only expect one thing in return: a thank you, and a continuation of the friendship. It sounds like you’ve had both. What’s facing you now is a decision: Do you really want a best friend who continually pushes you to the bottom of the priority pile?
You have two options here, and both choices involve a healthy dose of Fuggedaboutit.
Choice #1 Find a new best friend. Personally, I would find it difficult to remain besties with someone who would allow this wound to fester for nine years. Also – you mentioned taking her to court. That leads me to believe she’s not a true bestie, because the only reason I would ever take my BFF to court is for a special girl date to watch Newt Gingrich being sentenced for something or other.
No long, shallow goodbyes needed here. Just gradually taper off your relationship. You can still have coffee now and again, and by all means send her a baby gift, but branch out. See other people, particularly people who refrain from asking you for money.
Choice #2 Put this behind you and carry on. Is this person a stellar BFF in all other ways? Has she taken care of your children while you were vomiting up parts of your innards? Does she make you laugh so hard you pee in your pants? Do you wish she lived next door so you could hug her every day? Then invite her out for lunch and tell her this:
Esmerelda, You are the best friend I could possibly have. I adore you. But I feel like this money thing has come between us, and I’m sorry about that, because the truth is, I just helped you out in a difficult time, and I think you would do the same for me. You’ve more than repaid me in love and friendship. So let’s just put it behind us and never mention it again.
She might protest, but be firm. Tell her you don’t see how you can carry on being friends if the money issue continues to simmer under the surface, and that you insist the loan be forgiven.
If you cannot stomach the idea of reciting that speech, then she is not really a forever friend and you must choose Option #1.
A final comment: I am not against giving friends money. I’m a socialist in this regard – if I have something that a friend needs, I’m happy to share if I can. I would give my BFF money, a kidney, and my pinky toe, which I never use anyway, in a heartbeat and never worry about being repaid. But money contains a power that us mortals don’t fully comprehend. In that regard, it’s best not to get too attached to it.
Do you have a problem? I can probably solve it. Write to me confidentially at firstname.lastname@example.org.