How do I handle my friend's owing me money?
February 23, 2016 11:05 PM   Subscribe

A very close friend owes me $1000 and has for several years. I don't feel great about it. I'm not sure how I should handle this situation.

My friend *Quinn is a struggling academic (ABD--she's been working on her dissertation for almost a decade at this point) with a university teaching job doesn't pay particularly well in a discipline that is not at all in demand. She's deep in debt (school loans & credit card), underemployed, and probably on the downside of her career arc (she's almost 50).

Around four years ago she had a tumor and underwent removal and therapy. Fortunately everything went well and she's been given a clean bill of health. Socialized medicine is excellent in her country, but there was still some out-of-pocket expense involved, so I loaned her $1000, telling her explicitly not to worry or rush to pay it back, but that I did expect her to do so eventually.

Now on to me. I have a lot of money. I work extremely hard and have been unreasonably fortunate, and as a result, I've gone from having a couple of nickels to my name to having a net worth around a million bucks in just under a decade. Losing a grand won't change my life. But it's still an amount that feels like "a lot" to me--as I said, I never had any money until I was in my late thirties, and my views on money seem to have settled in before I got some. Quinn has always been broke, and even when I was broke, I treated more or less every time we had a meal or drinks (it felt natural--she was broker). I've also let her stay at my place for brief stints off and on for a decade, and when she's staying with me or just dropping by, she has full access to my booze, food, etc. I'm fine with that and begrudge not a single penny.

After all, I love Quinn. She's an amazing person and a real, good friend, and as I'm the type to choose my friends very carefully, I only have a handful at any given time. Having a conflict about this money is not an option I'd like to consider.

But the fact of the matter is that it does bug me that in the last four years she's made zero effort to pay me back. She mentions it from time to time, but it's hard for me to avoid thinking that if she'd just put 50 or 100 bucks aside every month, she could have paid me back long ago. It also bugs me that I know she could have done so--she has several "collecting" hobbies and purchases new (costly) items for her collections quite frequently. I don't expect her to live like a nun in order to pay me back as fast as possible or anything, but it bums me out a little that she doesn't seem willing to make any real adjustments in her spending or lifestyle in order to make good on a loan I made at a time when she really had no one else to turn to.

Have any of you been through anything like this? What do you think I should do to encourage her to pay me back and/or stop being concerned about it and ensure it doesn't impact my feelings about Quinn?

*Not her real name.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Let it go. Consider it a gift. Tell her it was a gift and to not worry about paying you back. Mean it. Release it from your brain.

You have your health, and you're worth a MILLION dollars. She has no money, and had health problems. Don't count her money. Don't expect her to "put away" anything to pay you back.

I'm not worth millions. We do okay, and pay our bills, and save a little, but you bet that I'd drop someone close to me a grand or two and not even consider that they pay me back in the first place.

Please be grateful for what you have and be happy that you could help someone out during a rough time.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:13 PM on February 23, 2016 [124 favorites]

I think you should reframe your action from "I loaned my friend $1K" to "I gave my friend $1K." Continuing to think of it as a loan leads to madness as you've discovered: being judgmental about her hobbies is really a wake up call that you need to get this out of your head for good.

I suggest you not tell her you've forgiven the loan, just never bring it up again and wave off the subject when she does. This is for two reasons, 1) because this is something you are doing for yourself, for your own peace of mind and thus will be difficult to frame as anything beyond self puffery, and 2) so long as it's out there in her mind as a loan (that quite honestly, barring her winning Powerball, she's never going to repay), she's unlikely to ask you for another loan.
posted by jamaro at 11:15 PM on February 23, 2016 [21 favorites]

Do you want to stay friends with Quinn? If so - forget about the money. When loaning money to friends, you should always do so with the explicit understanding that you may or may not ever see that money again. There's no good way to encourage her to pay back the money. She's poor, leave it be.

Also, you have a fuckton of money. I agree with Crystalinne - let it go. Celebrate your good fortune.
posted by FireFountain at 11:15 PM on February 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

stop being concerned about it

Decide that you're really, genuinely going to stop begrudging her the money and forgive the debt. Consider it a gift to her or the world, a sponsorship of her academic work, an offering to karma, whatever.

There's the old saying that one should never lend a friend money that they're not willing to part with. You are not entirely wrong in thinking that someone with an expensive hobby could have paid you back already but would you rather be right and risk the friendship? Life's dealt you a great hand and her a poor one; sometimes it's best to let the small things go.
posted by Candleman at 11:18 PM on February 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

You have been, as you said, "unreasonably fortunate" as well as hard working. I would make it a gift and think about as spreading around good fortunate. You have been fortunate in many ways, she is fortuante to be your friend.

I would also suggest that as a way to avoid resentment, start a practice of setting aside $50 a month (as you wanted her to do) and use it to make gifts to other people (not her, find new people). This is not only a way to "pay forward" all of your good fortune but also helps you cultivate a habit of generosity. You can have fun deciding what to do with the money and enjoy the joy of giving in way that might be hard this first time where you got backed into it.
posted by metahawk at 11:19 PM on February 23, 2016 [33 favorites]

I want you to call or email your beloved friend right now and tell her she can stop worrying about the $1000, you are glad she's healthy and you wished you had made her this a gift from the beginning.

There. Now neither one of you has to worry about this ever again.

(Yes. Your friend is worrying about this. It's painful for both of you! Please let it go. This is nothing in the scheme of things, nothing at all. Thank you for making the world a better place by removing her pain and your own by gifting her the money.)
posted by jbenben at 11:25 PM on February 23, 2016 [63 favorites]

Take up meditation. Mentally allocate that $1000 into your charitable donation bucket for this year.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:47 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Everyone is right that you should consider it a gift.

I think your real question is, how do you stop feeling taken advantage of? And that's important and not invalid. I'm sure you're asking yourself if she ever really intended to pay you back. I'm sure you're asking yourself if she is purposefully using you. And you know what? If she is, even if you can afford it, that's really not cool and not a great way to live your life. It would be one thing if she was really, really grateful and admitted she couldn't pay it back soon or ever. But to just expect that you won't miss would probably bother me, too.

I think you need to be careful with boundaries in the future, and make sure you have a friendship that feels equal. I don't think you're selfish or terrible for feeling the way you do. It's not actually about the money.
posted by quincunx at 11:59 PM on February 23, 2016 [25 favorites]

I'm going to give a middle of the road answer to this, and one that differs from everyone else.

I have been on the other side of the equation (I owed a friend money), and probably after a difficult time financially. The friend just made a small comment after I got back on my feet a few months later, something along the lines of "Hey, I want to do X for person Y, do you think you'd be able to pay me back soon?" I did, and I didn't consider it a big deal that he asked. That said, I'm not sure if your friend will be able to recover financially based on your description.

I've also sometimes changed my expectation about a particular person or people. Friend A is still a great friend, but based on situation X, I know to never ever (depend on for whatever, or lend $, YMMV.). In a way, downgrade your expectation, and don't fall into it again.

If it is a small amount of $, or something that I don't want to worry about, I sometimes tell people "Don't worry about it, please pay it forward." My point of view from that is that I gave whatever it was, they get to decide when and how to help someone else, and I never ask about it again, and that's it. You *might* consider that since it sounds like your friend is in a hard spot, and it does sound like a good friendship from your description.

I also think money is something very very emotional, and you don't know what it can do to someone (as in, even if she knows she owes you, it can tear her up with anxiety, being upset, etc., so you could say "pay it forward" as a gift and make peace.).
posted by Wolfster at 12:03 AM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Like wolfster, i've been on both sides of this. I've owed my oldest friend over $3000 in back rent and living expenses, and he's owed me a bunch of money. Not that much, but a lot. He probably still does, i don't know, i stopped keeping track of it. I did pay him back at one point in one lump sum which was ridiculous but... yea.

If they are truly a great friend, and are in a position to help, they'll probably help you some day.

At this point i always write this kind of stuff off. I also write this kind of stuff off if someone steals it from me, and just write them off too. It's pretty much never worth trying to recover money. And it doesn't help that there's always some busybodies who think it's "tacky" that you are, but even without that, just mental health wise... It's so nice to just go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by emptythought at 12:23 AM on February 24, 2016

Two things. First, forgive the loan and tell her it was a gift. Second, ask her that if she is ever in a position in which she has money to spare, that she pay it forward by helping someone less fortunate.

It sucks that she isn't paying you back and that she is spending money on luxuries when she's broke and in debt. I suggest, though, that you try not to take this personally. I would guess she doesn't have the skills to adjust her life in the way that was needed, or, that she is dealing with more than she can handle and couldn't take on such a project. What would be easy for you might be extremely hard for her. It does mean you have to lower your expectations of her, of course.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:30 AM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]

Bring it up with her. I wonder if part of the problem is the will she/won't she aspect to it? If it is, ask her what's going on with the money and when she's going to pay you back.

If she actually starts making plans and paying you back, great. If she waffles on and comes up with excuses, then you'll at least know that you're not getting it back and be able to move on from there, rather than being stuck in limbo and waiting.

In future, remember "if you can't afford to lose it, you can't afford to lend it". There's a reason loans generally have interest attached.
posted by Solomon at 12:31 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm definitely leaning towards suggestions of writing it off, since $1000 is a small amount of money for you and good friendships are invaluable.

I'm wondering whether it wouldn't be completely out of line to gently encourage her to put the $1000 into an emergency fund for herself if she doesn't have one already. The idea of paying it forward is nice and all, but it doesn't sound likely that she will be in a position where that's really a great idea.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:45 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

You have an amazing friend, good health and more money than you can spend. How much would you pay to have your amazing friend in your life forever? Because you got it for the bargain prize of $1000. For all you know, your money did literally save her life and I know if I could afford it, I'd pay a lot more than $1000 to save the life of my friend. Money extremely well spent. Good friends are rare. That's how I would view your situation anyway.
posted by Jubey at 12:54 AM on February 24, 2016 [17 favorites]

I have the same situation. A few years ago a dear friend of mine got into a mess with her taxes and asked me for help, and I loaned her a few thousand dollars.

She's never paid it back, or even really tried. It's annoying even though I don't really need the money. (I don't have anywhere near as much as you have, but I'm okay.) I've decided to not "forgive" it or reassure her even though I've written it off. If she'd been struggling to pay me back small amounts then I might have done so, but since my friend (like yours) is avoiding the topic then I've decided to just forget it and ignore her occasional half-hearted apologies. I'm sure she's uneasy about it, but I really do believe it's her responsibility to open the conversation if she wants to have it. It's okay-- really okay-- for her to have borrowed money she can't pay back. But it isn't okay to expect me to do the emotional heavy lifting to make her feel okay about it. I don't resent the first, but I would resent the second, if that makes any sense.

To your question-- I think you have to do some similar math. You now know something about your friend you wish you didn't know-- she's not respectful enough about the loan she took from you to even raise the conversation about if/how/when she can pay you back. And at this point you know she's never going to pay you back. Are you able to live with a friend like that? I'm going to take a position that's a little different than the others here and tell you it's okay not to be able to live with it. It isn't about the money she owes you, it's about the disrespect she's showing you. Disrespect hurts, even when you can afford it. I would be willing to bet that if she sat down with you and said "Look, I don't think I'm ever going to pay you back. I feel terrible and ashamed about it, but this is what it is," then I bet it wouldn't hurt nearly as much. Anyhow.

I love my friend. I decided to put it to one side and that I could be her friend even with this in our history. Making it a conscious decision made me feel better, and maybe it will work that way for you. But if you decide it doesn't, then that's okay too.
posted by frumiousb at 1:03 AM on February 24, 2016 [20 favorites]

I've been in your situation, but with one of my sisters rather than a friend.

As I see it, you have two choices: you can either push her (gently or otherwise) to pay you back, or you can drop the subject and never mention it again.

Flat-out asking her when she'll pay you back --- not hinting or waving her off with a 'whenever you can', just a direct 'when will it be repaid' --- is the most likely action to lead to an actual repayment, although let's face it: realistically it's VERY unlikely you'll ever see one penny of that money. The strongest probability is that you'd then be out both the money AND the friendship.

Your other choice is what everyone is recommending above: 'forgive' the debt, consider it a gift and never mention it again. (Also never lend her another cent, but that's a side issue.) This is the option that is best for YOU, never mind which might be best for her. I would not, however, TELL her that you've forgiven the debt and no longer expect repayment: yes, she knows she owes you, and knowing that is frankly the only thing stopping her from asking for MORE money. Just accept in your own mind that that money is as gone as if you'd lost it on a bad bet --- and in a way, it WAS a gambling loss: you gambled on your friend's sincerity and lost.
posted by easily confused at 1:28 AM on February 24, 2016

Is your friendship with her more valuable than the money she owes you?

Tell Quinn she can consider the $1,000 to have been a gift and put it all behind you.
posted by Kwadeng at 1:37 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think it's easier said than done to just forgive this; I can imagine it's something that niggles at you. After all, she could commit to paying you back 20 cents a week if she were someone who felt obligated to repaying a friend. Not everyone sees borrowing money the same way which is why the advice is usually to give a gift rather than a loan, but it's pretty galling when it happens to you.

That said, I'm glad to hear how fortunate you've been and I feel for Quinn's troubles and you should forgive the loan. But I don't think telling Quinn of our decision is going to bring satisfying closure (as it would if she had been trying to repay). This is a long winded way of saying that I think doing a little ceremony for yourself would be helpful. Something tangible to tell your mind that this is done, over and you won't be thinking about it ever again.

I cross a river on my way home and like to picture my troubles packed up in a box and sunk in the river. I think writing things down and burning the note also works well. Or you could make something or do something. whatever works for you to tell your mind that when this is done its gone, forgotten.
posted by kitten magic at 1:49 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with frumiousb - it's not necessarily the utility of the money, but the way the transaction has been left for you to do the emotional labour of raising the conversation, and how to do this. This is the stuff of openly reciprocal relationships - when you borrow something and break it, lose it, or can't pay it back, it's not fair to leave the worrying to the loaner. It's on the borrower.

I was in a somewhat similar situation with a family member who, I later realised, would never pay back a similar sum despite him buying whatever he wanted for himself, and probably enough money to pay me back in the bank many times over the years. Like you, and frumiousb, I feel the part most hurtful is that I was supposed to be the one to do the emotional work. Even with other commenters saying 'let it go' and 'tell her the debt is forgiven' the labour of the emotional fall out, falls on you.

How to deal with that? This may not be for you, but it helped me mentally do the shift: When I needed busy work done at my house during a renovation, I hinted around family and friends for help, but then just got brave and I directly asked my family member to join in for a few days. "Hey mate, how would you like to not worry about owing me $ ? I need someone with arms for a few days. Help me dig up my back yard, bring a carton of beer.' Maybe you have some way of matching something like that up - more for the mental thing than the actual money thing.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:03 AM on February 24, 2016 [13 favorites]

I am sorry to jump on the bleeding heart liberal bandwagon here but you basically just said that $1k would be a drop in the bucket for you. It would not be a drop in the bucket for her.

Money has a way of ruining even the best of friendships. If you care about this person, let it go and consider it a gift. And don't feel obligated to loan her money again, because you are not obligated to do so.

I say this as someone who was once bailed out by a good friend, long ago, when I had an emergency medical situation for which I was not insured. He explicitly told me, "This money is a gift." That was his choice, but the point is that he took the pressure off of both of us and made it clear he valued our friendship over any repayment. Since then I have tried to pass that on or "pay it forward" as you will, and once bailed out a close family member in a sticky financial situation - with the same stipulation that this is to be considered a gift. Again, it was my choice to approach it that way, but much like my friend I did it because I cared more about helping the person (and maintaining our good relationship) over any expectation of ever being repaid. I don't loan money to people because I personally cannot handle the "elephant in the room" atmosphere it breeds for all parties involved. That's why the only way to get past this, retroactively, is to now tell yourself that the money you gave her was a gift and you are glad you could at least help your friend at the time.

And I reiterate that it's in your best interest not to loan money again in the future, to anyone you care about, because the expectation of repayment (if repayment does not come) will poison everything.
posted by nightrecordings at 3:27 AM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

My policy is never to lend. It's a gift, and if it comes back - yay! (I don't tell this to the people I "lend" money to - too patronising).

So you wanted to know how to get Quinn to pay it back or how to stop caring? You could ask her for the money, knowing that even paying back a bit a week is going to change her lifestyle. She probably wavers in between thinking you've forgotten because you won't miss it and feeling relieved; and feeling guilty.

As near as I can tell your attitude to money isn't influenced by Quinn. How comfortable are you with donating to charity, buskers, tipping? How invested are you in the idea of a meritocracy- that the reason you own more is because you're a better human being? Or what about converting money into hours worked? $1000 is 20 hours for some people, 100 hours for others. Is the first group 5 x as deserving/capable/whatever than the second group?

We get opportunities sometimes, to pay our good luck forward, to contribute anonymously or unacknowledged, where the only people to revel in our generosity is us. These moments are gifts, where we can be the people we promised ourselves as children that we would be.

The cost to Quinn to repay you is far greater than any benefit you will receive. Are you comfortable with pushing her to make a sacrifice to return cash you won't miss? it's not fair or just, I know, that a loan remains unpaid (which is why all my loans are gifts).

I don't think I'm eloquently sharing my point of view. It looks like I'm a bleeding heart socialist - and I am - but money is nothing! It's paper or a conversion of labour to goods. If you are worth $100 an hour, would you spend 10 hours on your friend's wellbeing? Would you have her spend 100 hours paying it back (assuming $10 an hour pay)?

Let it go, for both your sakes.
posted by b33j at 4:04 AM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]

If I were in your position, I might be feeling a little taken advantage of too. I understand that.

I would also encourage you to think of it along broader social terms - you helped Quinn because she asked; she needed it; and you could. By making it a gift, as everyone else is suggesting, you are setting her an example to follow in the future. You are also providing her with that bit of financial breathing room which might allow her to actually follow the example.

So this time you helped Quinn. If you encourage her to 'pay it forward', next time she might help someone who needs it even more than she did. It's not just a gift that way; perhaps you can think of it as the start of a sort of legacy of kindness.
posted by citands at 4:28 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you actually asked her to start paying it back? It seems from the question that your last communication to her about repayment was "not to worry or rush to pay it back". If you do actually want her to start repayments, you may have to nudge her into it by saying "oh, do you think you'll be able to start repaying that $1k yet?" and suggest a repayment schedule "How about $100 a month starting on 1st April?" (but say you're open to negotiation around the specifics).

It may be that you're assuming she will take the initiative and start repaying when she's ready, but given your "no rush" comment, she might be waiting for you to ask her to start repaying.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:25 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Listen to Marge Gunderson: "And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don't you know that? And here you are, and it's a beautiful day."
posted by sallybrown at 5:35 AM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yeah, along the lines of what EndsOfInvention writes, you might bring it up and say: remember that money - forget that money!
posted by Namlit at 5:51 AM on February 24, 2016

it's hard for me to avoid thinking that if she'd just put 50 or 100 bucks aside every month, she could have paid me back long ago.

As an underemployed, deep-in-debt struggling academic? $50 or $100 a month might be everything she has, after bills and rent and loan payments and food. There have been times in my life where I literally could not have come up with $100 a month without resorting to theft.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:05 AM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]

Let it go. It really doesn't matter. Are you wondering if she's not paying you back because she thinks you can afford it? Are you suspicious that she's not paying you back because she thinks you're a sucker and plans to fleece you for more money? Are you gritting your teeth every time you see her having an expensive fancy coffee from sbux instead of using that $7 to pay you back? Stop.

Never LEND friends or anyone money, period, whether or not you can afford it. GIVE friends money if they need it and if you are so inclined, with zero expectation ever of having that money returned to you. Let go of this obligation you feel to police their spending and think to yourself "well if they REALLY wanted to they could pay me back" and stop feeling this low level long term resentment.

I wouldn't even bother bringing it up with her one way or another. It's just mental energy and stress that you don't need. If you feel like you can't really be friends with her anymore unless you just SAY SOMETHING about how she's hurt you with her thoughtlessness then you can do that but I can't really imagine it will have the desired outcome of immediate repayment plus an appropriate (to you) level of contrition from her.

This has come up in a couple of threads recently and I would like to once again state for the permanent forever record that it is okay for poor people to spend money on things that they enjoy and which make their lives more pleasant. They're allowed to enjoy a nice bottle of wine, or a tasty dessert, or have a hobby that makes them smile, whatever outstanding debts they might have. They're allowed to own "luxury" items like a decent pair of shoes, or an expensive phone that's costing them $11/mo for the next 4 years of their cellphone contract. They're allowed to buy themselves and their children nice things for christmas or birthdays. They're allowed to do all these things free from the scrutiny of others insisting that they might not be poor anymore if only they didn't have that one thing you don't approve of them having.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:02 AM on February 24, 2016 [23 favorites]

It seems to me like you're both kind of fishing around this issue. You said, "Don't worry - pay me back whenever" and she took that at face value and not as a polite thing that someone would say and not mean. She "mentions it from time to time" but you don't state what your response to her raising the issue is. Have you ever said, "Actually, I want to get this debt off the books. Can you pay me X per month?" I also think you should prepare for the end of this friendship if you want the money back.

In general, I agree with the advice that one should never lend money to a friend or a family member, but you're too late for that.
posted by muddgirl at 7:03 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's a good way and a bad way to lend money. You have a million dollars, so you should know this already. Kind of surprised you don't.

The good way is to be completely up-front and businesslike and offer to lend at interest from day 1. Only lend to people you can reasonably expect will pay you back. Set up a spreadsheet that tracks loan amounts, repayment amounts and interest, and share it on Dropbox so you and your debtor can keep track of it. Charge an interest rate that's more than what your bank would pay you for a term deposit but less than it would charge you for a home loan. Keep it informal and do it on a handshake. If you think you need a written contract, you've picked the wrong person to lend to.

Lending the good way does both of you a favour. Your loan is earning you more interest than you'd get by leaving that amount in the bank, and costing your debtor less than any bank loan they could possibly get. It's win-win, so it's fine for friends and (reasonable) family members. It stays win-win for as long as it's alive, which means it doesn't matter how long it takes to get paid off. You can start out on the "pay me back whatever, whenever" plan, or negotiate a drip feed repayment rate from the get-go - figure out with your debtor what's going to be sustainable for them and do that. If you have good reason to trust them to pay it all off eventually then you can't really lose.

If you've started out on the whatever whenever plan and your debtor hasn't made any repayments at all for a year or two, you don't have to feel like you're being screwed, and you don't need to feel like a prick for giving a gentle reminder of how the interest is racking up and negotiating some kind of regular repayment plan that's comfortably within their means. Personal bank accounts can easily be set to do regular payments automatically, which helps a lot in the reasonably common case where the underlying issue is simple personal disorganization rather than actual financial hardship.

The bad way is to lend impulsively, with no pre-agreed interest rate and no pre-agreed repayment schedule, to somebody you suspect is going to turn out, perhaps through circumstances beyond their control, never to get it together to pay you back.

The financial industry calls the closest it ever gets to the latter kind of loan a "bad debt", and writes it off, and adjusts the interest rates it charges everybody else to cover it.

People with a million dollars who have lent $1000 to a broke, sick friend and who wish to be able to sleep at night call the latter kind of loan a "gift".

So put the thing to rest. Tell Quinn: "That thousand I lent you when you were sick? I don't need it back. The financial gods have smiled on me since then, I am not missing it, and I don't want you worrying about it. Now let us never speak of it again."

I am encouraged to see you acknowledging the part that unreasonable fortune played in getting you to where you are now, because the fact that you are capable of doing that will make reframing this loan much easier for you. It's depressingly common for people with serious money to take sole credit for ending up that way and end up looking down their noses at others who have not done likewise.

Over the years I have lent a fair bit of money the bad way. Even so, it's actually been fairly cheap as financial education goes.
posted by flabdablet at 7:19 AM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]

It sounds like this money is worth WAY more to her than to you, so I would gracefully let it go. Regardless of what she's spending her money on now, it sounds like AT THE TIME this money may have saved your friend's life, or at least her health in a pretty major way. Probably $1000 that you don't really miss is completely worth your friend BEING ALIVE, so maybe it helps to frame it that way?

That said, one thing that comes out in this question is that this $1000 isn't just a one-off thing...sounds like you perhaps feel like you've been taken advantage of in other ways. And a relationship that on the whole feels unbalanced, is a whole other ballgame. What I would suggest is to sit down and make a big list of everything you appreciate and love and feel your friend has given you. This doesn't have to be monetary things -- it should also be things like "Dropped everything and listened to my when my ex broke my heart" or "Makes sure to keep my favorite chocolate on hand for when I'm over at her house" or "Tells the funniest jokes that make me laugh really hard" or "Always calls me on my bullshit" or whatever applies.

If you sit down and make that list and it's really short and you can't think of much that you feel your friend is really adding to your life, then maybe it is time to back off from the friendship and put more energy and focus into people who you feel a better energy/give-and-take with. On the other hand, maybe this list will make you feel that $1000 and buying some meals and letting your friend crash on your couch are so so so worth it for everything positive and wonderful that she brings into your life. And in that case, doing this exercise could perhaps allow you to let go of some of the resentment around this and instead be grateful for your friend's many positive qualities. Either way, I think this could be useful clarification in your own mind!
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

it bums me out a little that she doesn't seem willing to make any real adjustments in her spending or lifestyle in order to make good on a loan I made at a time when she really had no one else to turn to.
You're setting yourself up for disappointment. Her failure to pay you back is probably not about you or your friendship, especially if she grew up poor and has been in debt her whole life.
posted by yaymukund at 7:25 AM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]

I don't really know how one would broach that. It's a Larry David type of situation, in which you're narrowly correct but also broadly kind of not - there's not really a way of asking about it without coming across as kind of a bad guy. "You know that grand I loaned you? Remember, from when you had cancer? I get that it was a while ago, and I know you're mostly broke, but can you pay that back now? What is that, another vase?" (This episode may already exist...)

I'm also wondering whether she might have sort of registered it, or felt like it was (or ought to be) a gift, at the time, given the context? As though she might have had a sort of moral right to it, given her suffering and poverty, and your closeness?

It makes sense that this debt sort of concretizes the imbalance you might have felt over the course of your friendship, and I can understand it bugging, but if you care about Quinn and the friendship, I think, let it go, because not letting it go is way too complicated.

You can't, for e.g., not mention it and start say tutoring her on saving in the hopes she banks enough to pay you back (and that it will spontaneously occur to her to pay you back). Condescending; also she's nearly 50, that's kind of how it is for her now.

You can't comment on her vases or whatever without coming across as a killjoy who would deny an impoverished friend (who survived cancer) small happinesses.

Even if she agrees to pay you back, you probably won't actually get the money, because she simply doesn't have much and also has a dearth of planning skills that even a great desire to pay you back is probably not enough to overcome on its own. Or you'll get a little part of it over a long period of time, in dribs and drabs, delivered in a great big resentment envelope. For sure the friendship will suffer for it.

Maybe rehearsing these kinds of scenarios will encourage you to feel like dropping it?

Although you've been careful about these kinds of ideas, would also remind you to let go of residual judgements like "I worked hard, while she decided to do a PhD in Lit [and didn't drop it when she knew it wasn't working, etc...]"... She did the best she knew to do at the time, so did you, we each have our own path.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:26 AM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

But the fact of the matter is that it does bug me that in the last four years she's made zero effort to pay me back. She mentions it from time to time, but it's hard for me to avoid thinking that if she'd just put 50 or 100 bucks aside every month, she could have paid me back long ago.

I am you in this sort of situation. I have a weird and not-normal relationship to money which can spill over into my other relationships if I am not careful about it. So I think what may be helpful for you is to recognize your own role in this and maybe try to reconceptualize it somewhat. So, a few things

1. It seems to be important for you to be seen as generous but you also want to dictate sort of how the loan would be appreciated and then handled. Put another way: you want Quinn to pay you back without you having to tell her "OK it's time for a payment plan now, how about $20/month for the next four years?" but you're not doing that and that has as much to do with you as with her. Put another way: in relationship AskMes we tell people to not hope that our partners will be mind readers. Don't make your friend into one.

2. You seem, despite knowing this is poor form, to be judgey about how other people use their money. This is fine and normal for inside-our-heads thinking but you should also know it's poor form if you want to live in the world. So you have to basically get better at accepting that this is actually how Quinn is, not Quinn having a minor setback. She's like this with money and you can sort of take/leave that. But think about how that fits into how much you think she is an amazing person because what I am hearing is "She's an amazing person except for this one thing that is within her power to change" and, well, that's not cool.

3. I can't tell you whether to forgive the debt or not, but you may want to find a way to frame it within the larger world of your own money. If you have a million dollars and it's in a bank account earning .1% (let's say) then it's "earned" the amount of money you've lent Quinn in a year. That's actually money you did nothing for, you just get it because you had money to start with. I sometimes get really bent because I don't want to spend $50 on a thing (that I need) because I am a cranky yankee about it and I've really had to "do the math" to realize that, at the level of money I have, it's actually really weird and creepy for me to be thinking like this. I don't know if you are weird and creepy but you sound like me about this, not rational and making money into an emotional thing and not just-math like it healthily should be.

So think about those things and maybe see if that helps you decide what to do about it. I can be really mercenary about this sort of thing, so I might do something assholish and be like "Look you know that $1000 you owe me, why don't you take me out for a nice meal and we'll just call it even" so I feel like there is some sort of awareness of "I did you a favor, why don't you do me a favor" but like I said, I am a weird creep about money sometimes, so maybe you can find a way to make your own peace with it in a way that works for you. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 7:27 AM on February 24, 2016 [19 favorites]

I agree with the general consensus, and I wouldn't bring it up—just write it off mentally, and if and when your friend brings it up again just smile and say "Let's just call that a gift, and I'm glad I was able to help!" But you have to mean it; if you're gritting your teeth and thinking "... but really you should have set aside money and paid me back," she'll know. Consider this a chance life has given you to change the way you think about money and friendship.
posted by languagehat at 8:09 AM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tell Quinn: "That thousand I lent you when you were sick? I don't need it back. The financial gods have smiled on me since then, I am not missing it, and I don't want you worrying about it. Now let us never speak of it again."

This is essentially what I told a friend who had borrowed $2500. Over the few years that followed it was clear that no matter how much he would have liked to, he was never, ever going to be able to pay it back. I didn't use the part about the financial gods having smiled on me because they really hadn't, but I was still way better off than he would probably ever be. I told him I loved him and just to forget the money.

Our friendship was strong and intact when he died last year, and I can't tell you how important that was to me then and still is.
posted by Dolley at 9:19 AM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

My own financial situation is not much different than yours, and I've been in your position. I was PISSED. It popped into my mind too often, and I'd think about ways she was spending money on fun stuff for herself. At the same time of course I knew the flip side that some answerers above have explained, but none of that helped.

Eventually, a good friend got a little bossy with me and said that my feelings surrounding the loan were bad for me and would continue indefinitely if I didn't change something. That loan was never going to get paid and he said I was choosing to live with that bad energy, possibly forever. I didn't believe in bad energy but I got the message.

Write off the loan for your own good, not as a favor to Quinn. I think it works better if you tell her you tell her you don't want to be repaid; that way you won't harbor a secret hope that she'll make good on the loan.
posted by wryly at 9:24 AM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you didn't agree to a plan up front, it won't happen. *shrug*
posted by wenestvedt at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2016

If you're able to clear this in your mind as a gift without resentment, great, but it sounds like it will keep bugging you.

Why not promise yourself that the next time she brings it up, you'll be sincere in that moment?

SHE: "Ugh, I know I still owe you $1000..."
YOU: "Yeah, and you don't have to pay it back all at once, but let's make a plan so it doesn't feel awkward."

It sounds like you've been hand-wavy about it even though she does bring it up (apologies if I'm reading that incorrectly). Don't give her reassurances that are false. Don't say it's okay when it's not. She's likely taking you at your word, so make sure your words are sincere but kind.

Don't bother mentioning how much it's been bugging you up to that point, especially since by bringing it up in the past, she's given you the opportunity to speak your truth, and you've passed.

Denying that efforts toward repayment matter to you (on any level) strikes me as passive-aggressive. Judging her spending choices and begrudging her those purchases seems unreasonable if your words assure her that everything's fine regarding the loan.

Obviously, unless you explicitly tell her otherwise, she does owe you this money. I understand that you don't want to confront her (and shouldn't have to), but maybe you'll feel better just knowing you have a plan in place for the next time she mentions it.

If between now and the next time she brings it up, you realize you really only wanted her to show she cares, then accept her mention of it as a sign that she does care, and genuinely forgive the debt because you choose to, not because you feel cornered.
posted by whoiam at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can dig through a lot of bitter on this, but you'll never reach anything sweet.

You feel that her actions are not demonstrating gratitude and consideration. That's about friendship, not finances. It hurts.

Here's how I frame it: I see financial... stuff... as something people have more or less talent for navigating. Some people are just better at managing money than others. Your friend is demonstrating that she does not, and likely will not, master that acuity. Ever. Ever-ever.

You DO have that skill, you're doing alright and you're a lot more likely to have comfortable buffers between yourself and deprivation.

If she had the temperament or skills or habits to pay you back, she'd probably be in circumstances where she didn't need to borrow off you in the first place.

Put that way, can you appreciate your position, and can you accept her neglect of the payback as a side effect of a forgivable but unfortunate personality quirk on her part? I don't think she's going to have an epiphany on this, but you might have spent $1k learning what kinds of things are dealbreakers or not. Call it tuition, maybe in that context you might feel you got your money's worth and can let it rest.
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:13 AM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dear Anonymous, I could have written this. I've been in this same situation, except I never specified that the amount (just short of $3000, provided in smaller amounts, over a period of 8 months) was a loan and not a gift, although my friend called it a loan. It sounds like you and I grew up in similar circumstances.

I agree with you when you wrote that your views on money (extrapolating: being financially responsible, being frugal, having savings) seem to have settled in long before your financial circumstances improved. The amount that I was providing my friend meant that there were things I was doing without, even though I easily could paid for them from my savings. It was a lot of money to me. My friend's situation seemed dire; it was as if they didn't understand how bills, savings, and credit cards worked, and I wanted to help.

For reasons unrelated to what I gave my friend (and that are too complicated to go into here), the friendship cooled, and I was deeply hurt by what had happened. (I too take friendship seriously.) As others have written above, I've gotten some peace by figuring that I had the resources to help someone, and I did. I did the right thing as I understood the situation at the time.

One other thing that helped me was to take the same amount that was now gone and would never be repaid either through money or the reciprocity of friendship, and start considering all the things that I'd chosen to do without in order to help my friend. I made the decision to spend that same amount on myself--not thoughtlessly (I doubt that anyone with our ingrained caution about spending money can ever do that), but after some planning, and with an eye to self-care and taking care of myself instead of others.
posted by apartment dweller at 11:22 AM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh my gosh, everything frumiousb said. I've been on both sides of this as well. Reading your question and the various responses helped me better understand why I'm personally upset over a relatively small amount of money that a friend borrowed from me, never paid back and never addressed. It's not even about the money per se -- it's about the disrespect, irresponsibility, emotional immaturity and entitlement that's involved in borrowing money, promising to pay it back, but never paying it back and not explaining the lapse in keeping that commitment. I've been at an impasse in terms of trying to figure out what to do about the situation -- I mentally decided to downgrade my expectations for this person and to severely dial back the friendship.. but the non-payment still bothered me and I wasn't sure why until I read this thread and frumiousb's perspective in particular.

Looking back at my own irresponsible choices in the past, I also better understand why I didn't promptly make efforts to pay back a loan from a friend: my life was in chaos and I lacked the maturity and wisdom to deal with the situation in a respectful manner. Ever since having that insight, I have been straight forward and transparent about my ability to repay loans -- and I've also taken action that meets the commitments I make. In your case, I would suggest practicing some compassion -- understand that your friend would be more responsible and respectful if they were in a better place in their life, but for whatever reason, they are not there yet. Don't take it personally. It has nothing to do with you.. and you are definitely within your rights to feel upset about their behavior and make adjustments to your relationship accordingly. If her non-payment bothers you (and it does), I think you have to take the risk of being honest with her and then set some boundaries about how you will relate to her in the future.

Also: Give some thought to what amount & frequency of payment might make you feel better. She's still struggling, underemployed and having financial difficulties. Paying 50-100 a month might sound easy to you, but that's probably going to be a stretch for someone in financial disarray. Perhaps you could ask her if she would be willing to set up a payment plan that she could be comfortable with. What about $5 a month? $10? Could you live with that? Could she? If she refuses to set up a payment plan or take action toward repayment, do you still want to be friends with her? I personally would not, because I think it's unreasonable and disrespectful to borrow money and never even try to pay it back.
posted by Gray Skies at 11:23 AM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Frankly if your friend was good with money, she wouldn't be a 50-year old underemployed Ph.D. with tons of student debt, she would have done something financially practical with her life. She would be a wholly different person. But she's the friend you think is super awesome, this is just the one side of her you don't like. You have to accept the whole package if you want to stay friends.
posted by lizbunny at 12:52 PM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]

I agree with those above saying to forgive it. My first business partner taught me a valuable lesson. Whenever a friend or family member asks to borrow money give them half and tell them it is a gift not a loan. You will lose half as much and keep a friend for life.

But, if you don't want to do that, next time you are both out, tell friend you left your wallet at home and would he pick up the cost of the movie tickets or the snacks or whatever. Tell them you will consider it the first payment on the $1000 bucks.
posted by AugustWest at 9:33 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

After all, I love Quinn. She's an amazing person and a real, good friend, and as I'm the type to choose my friends very carefully, I only have a handful at any given time. Having a conflict about this money is not an option I'd like to consider.

Friends like this are priceless. If the loan makes you uncomfortable, don't do it again.
posted by bendy at 11:35 PM on February 25, 2016

(To clarify my previous answer, I didn't mean to suggest that she's poor because she can't manage her money but just that money management can be a deeply personal thing that has nothing to do with your friendship.)
posted by yaymukund at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2016

Despite the fact that you are anonymous in this particular question, you aren't anonymous in real life, and that you were so willing to tell us all about your "net worth around a million bucks" suggests to me that you are probably pretty open about your financial good fortune in your real life interactions as well.

This means that you gave Quinn $1000 (a very generous thing to do, of course, and I'm not trying to take away from that) with Quinn knowing full well about your financial circumstances. The fact that you had to give Quinn the thousand bucks furthermore suggests to me that she doesn't have a "net worth around a million bucks".

However that doesn't mean she should be taking advantage of your generosity, or simply assuming that the money was a free gift, especially when you did stipulate at the outset that it was a loan and contingent on eventual payback.

But raising this issue will just create drama and so I suggest that the next time you have a social interaction with Quinn, you let her know in advance that it is her shout, and that every second outing will be her shout as well.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:59 PM on February 28, 2016

> But, if you don't want to do that, next time you are both out, tell friend you left your wallet at home and would he pick up the cost of the movie tickets or the snacks or whatever. Tell them you will consider it the first payment on the $1000 bucks.

> I suggest that the next time you have a social interaction with Quinn, you let her know in advance that it is her shout, and that every second outing will be her shout as well.

What both of you are saying is actually "Stop being friends with Quinn," you're just dressing it up in passive-aggressive packaging. If anonymous wanted to stop being friends, that would have been an obvious solution, but such is apparently not the case, so suggestions like this are not helpful.
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

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