Mr. FAF and I have lent money to our friends a couple of times.
I know it’s not a good idea and can ruin a friendship.
But when someone who has helped us so much is in difficulty, we just can’t say no to them, especially when we know they can pay us back.
All of the friends who borrowed money from us gave it back except for one person.
I’m writing this post not to criticize her or invite judgement, but to share my perspective on how money can change the way we think of someone we thought we knew well.
When I was pregnant with Baby FAF, we had a hard time finding housing because of our then low income.
We were both graduate students at the time and didn’t earn much.
But we had enough savings that could prove that we could sign a lease for a two bedroom apartment in DC for at least a year.
At the same time, I was stuck with the lease for my room in a 3-bedroom townhouse.
The leasing office wouldn’t release me from the lease unless I could find someone who can qualify for the income and have the other two roommates and that person go through the application process at the same time, which sounded like a big hassle to them.
One of the roommates had already moved to another city for a new job and secretly subletting her room to someone else. She didn’t want the leasing office to find out and refused to go through the application process again.
I was stuck.
I was 7 months pregnant at the time. My mother-in-law was coming in 1.5 months. Mr. FAF would spend a month in DC and do his research remotely. The four of us needed a place to stay, and we needed it fast.
At the time, my friend was living in an apartment complex where the leasing office didn’t care so much about checking with the previous landlords and was ok with our savings as proof that we could afford the rent.
She told us about the place and tried to talk the leasing office into renting us a two bedroom. During the time we stayed there, my friend would come by to visit the baby and let us do laundry at her place a couple of times when our washer broke and we would have to wait for two weeks for the new machine to arrive.
I also met her boyfriend and her parents. In fact, when she moved to another city, we got a lot of hand-me-down furniture from her which we still use to this day.
She helped us find housing when no one else would. It was one of the most difficult times in our marriage, and we’re still deeply grateful to her.
Late last year, the friend reached out to me for help. She was in the process of buying a fixer-upper but needed the cash to speed up the process and appear more attractive than the other buyers.
She said she needed a couple thousands of dollars and promised to pay us back two weeks after the closing. Mr. FAF and I had some money saved up for emergency, but we were also trying to save more to prepare for Baby FAF’s return from China.
I discussed it with Mr. FAF, and we agreed to lend her $2,000. We trusted that she would return us the money after two weeks as promised and didn’t even ask her to write an agreement or anything like that.
A week after the closing, she told me in despair that her dad was in critical condition, and that she would return the money after two months or so.
Two months later, she messaged me, saying that she would send me the check. We never got the check. And she never mentioned the money again. I also found out that she had also borrowed money from a mutual friend of ours in the thousands.
Over the past year, I have to admit that I was just too shy to ask her about the loan for three reasons.
First, I know she just gave birth and might need the money for the baby. Her husband had a part-time job at the time that didn’t pay particularly well. She was in school as well and didn’t have a full-time job either.
Second, her dad was sick, so I didn’t want to be the insensitive nagging friend that only cared about money.
Lastly, when Mr. FAF and I lent her the money, we both knew that we might never get it back and didn’t want to ruin the friendship over $2,000.
Related: When Money Matters In A Relationship
Is money more important than a friendship?
Asking for the money back
However, as I was scrolling my Facebook Homepage the other day, I saw that they had made an expensive purchase for travel. Part of me was not happy. They have the money to travel but not to return to us what they borrowed?
From being surprised, I got upset. I wasn’t policing their lives. But it seemed to me that they had the money and intentionally forgot to return our money back to us.
I decided to contact our mutual friend to see if my friend had returned her the loan. The answer was no, but she did promise to return the mutual friend money on a certain date.
Here I was feeling neglected and betrayed. The mutual friend told me not to feel bad, and that I should separate money and emotions and ask her about the loan. I contacted the friend. Below were the excuses she presented for not having returned us the money:
— “Last time I asked you for your address, but you didn’t send it to me, so I also forgot about the money.” This is totally not true since I have the chat history to show that I did send her my address. Plus, would it hurt to ask a second time? No.
— “I actually went to the bank to wire you the money, but they would charge me $50 or so, so I decided not to do it.” This infuriated me. There are so many other ways to return the loan without incurring such a fee. I transferred the money straight to her bank account without having to pay a dime. Plus, deciding not to return someone their $2,000 over a $50 sounded preposterous to me.
— “I always meant to return it to you. But there’s so much going on that I totally forgot about it. I actually have the money sitting in my bank account.” This excuse upset me the most. She had the money but didn’t “remember” to return $2,000? It bothers me even when I owe someone $10, and I rarely ever borrow money from anyone.
After I contacted her, she said that she would send me a check right away just like the last time she promised me. Part of me was relieved, but part of me was still cynical.
I wouldn’t believe her until I could see the check in our mail. I patiently waited and still carried a normal conversation with her during that time.
We would remain friends with her and her husband if she returned us the money as promised. But we would never lend them money again. And worst yet, I will never look at her the same way again. She will still be my friend, but not the one I used to trust.
Would we lend her the money if we had known it would drag on for more than a year? I don’t think so. Even if we did, I would lend her much less than $2,000.
What I found the most frustrating about this incident is that our friend, the one we trusted so much, didn’t keep her promise. Her action made me wonder if she was hoping we would also forget about the money or if we didn’t matter enough for her to remember.
In the end, we got the money back after a week after I sent her an urgent message telling her that I needed the money right away.
We wired her the money one day after she asked us but had to wait for more than a year to get it back. It just seemed so unreal to me. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction for sure.