I’m not a payday lender. But I play one on TV.

Recently a friend contacted me in a panic. She needed $586 immediately or her vehicle would be repossessed.

When I called, she also noted that she needed something to get her family through until payday. Could I loan her as much as $800?

I hesitated for a moment. Then I stopped what I was doing, moved some money from one account to the other and got myself over to Western Union (which thoughtfully tacked on a $44 wire fee).

Before you call me a sucker, hear me out. Then call me a sucker.

“Monica” borrowed from me once before: a thousand bucks three years ago to prevent foreclosure, during a time when both she and her husband were coming off long spells of unemployment. It took a year and a half for them to pay me back, one $50 check at a time, but they did return it.

She’s been unemployed and underemployed off and on during the past dozen years. They’ve got three teenagers and are currently paying some of her elderly mother’s expenses.

Yet I’ve also seen evidence that they are not always careful with their money, such as a recent Facebook post saying she was having dinner at Chili’s. Or the fact that the last time I visited, they had satellite television.

Then there’s the specific reason they were cash-poor when the January car payment was due: Monica’s direct-deposited paycheck had been eaten up by Catholic school tuition payments and bounced-check fees.

She had no one else to ask. If I didn’t send the money, her vehicle would be gone.  Without it she couldn’t get to work (rural area, long commute). Without a paycheck there wouldn’t be enough for the mortgage payment and she’d be carless and homeless.

‘I don’t know why they’re harassing us’

When I called to say the cash was en route I mentioned I’d sent the link to my MSN Money column on finding a free financial coach. I also suggested she ask her credit union if it had a budgeting specialist who could teach them how to handle their funds.

But I don’t have any confidence that she’ll use either resource. During our conversation she said, among other things, “I don’t know why they’re harassing us.”

I said, “Because the car payment was due…when?”

“I guess it would have been due on the 15th. It’s only a couple of days!” (It was, in fact, six days.)

I said, “Multiply that by half a million delinquent car-loan holders. It starts to sound like real money, doesn’t it?”

When we hung up, I had a headache.

Yes, I know she is shredded by sandwich-generation responsibilities. Her mom is always calling to demand something. Sometimes Monica is too exhausted to, say, contact Medicare to see if the $80 eye drops are covered. Instead, she just pays for them.

The assisted living center where Grandma lived until recently is calling, too, to ask for money against the back bill. Those three teenagers are eating machines who grow out of clothes and shoes about every half hour. One has medical issues that require a prescription and periodic doctor visits.

She spends about three hours a day commuting (no jobs near her – trust me on this). The minivan was too big and probably financed for too long, plus it costs a fortune to gas up. But it’s a little late for a do-over.

If I had that much going wrong I’d be tempted to lie down in the road and pray for a nearsighted trucker. But part of me still thinks this: The only way to deal with cash-flow problems, especially those that result in bounced checks, is to take a hard, hard look at spending.

Am I my sister’s keeper?

Chili’s? Dish network? Even Catholic school should be reconsidered, given that there is free public education right down the street. Yes, that’s a value judgment. What gives me the right to point out such things?

My signature on the money wire, maybe – and my fear that one day they will hit an obstacle they can’t surmount. What would they have done if they couldn’t reach me until after their minivan had bounced down the street behind the repo man’s tow truck?

Before I called to say “yes” to the loan, I briefly wondered if I ought to require them to show me some kind of budget or progress toward a smarter way of spending.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be harrumphing, “I’ll lend you this $800 only if you promise not to spend it on Catholic-school tuition.” I’d be saying, “I feel very nervous about the way you use money if it takes your whole paycheck to make basic expenses and cover bounced-check fees.

“Unless you take a very, very honest look at your spending and make some hard changes, you will always be living on the edge. I feel that if I lend you money again it will allow you to put those changes on the back burner.”

My own financial security is an issue, too. As a freelancer I buy my own health insurance and fund my own retirement. Two other line items on my budget: Helping a couple of relatives and making regular donations to charitable causes.

I need to stop lending, period, in order to secure my own future. To say nothing of my present: Shouldn’t I enjoy the opportunities that come my way, rather than staying at home and sending my nest egg out on ill-considered loans? (That’s “loans,” plural. More on that later.)

I forced myself to speak this phrase aloud: It is not my responsibility to fix Monica’s life.

But could I stand by and watch her car disappear, taking with it her only chance at making a living?

Technically, yes. Personally, no. For now, anyway.

‘There’s always a rationale’

Someone close to me weighed in on the situation in this way:

“If you don’t force them to help themselves, no one will. Then again, how likely are you to really put your foot down if Monica loses her transportation? Or her house is going to foreclose? There’s always a rationale. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

“The bitch of it is (that) your very valid reasons for not wanting to keep funneling money into a black hole would sound like entitled BS to them. ‘I need to fund my retirement’ would probably have quite a bitter reaction (silently) from Monica. ‘What about our needs now? She actually has a retirement, so what’s she complaining about?’”

All true, dammit. So is this final point:

“You just can’t really afford to keep helping them out, no matter how much you want to. Okay, you can technically afford it, but not in the long run. And you shouldn’t have to. Which is what you’ll need to keep repeating.”

The reason I could make the loan without worrying about making the rent is that I’m frugal. I’m very careful with the money I earn and have only in the past year begun spending a little more than usual, mostly on travel. (Frugal travel, but travel nonetheless.)

But isn’t it OK to want such things? And what about the way I feel when money leaves my savings account? Shouldn’t I be able to look at the bottom line and feel secure?

I don’t think that’s entitled BS. I sure can see how others might think that, though.

Where I admit to even more loans

Counting what I just sent to Monica, I currently am owed $2,900 in personal loans.  Some of this money may never come back. I knew that when I loaned it.

I know now that I have to stop lending. In fact, I thought I had stopped – and then came Monica’s e-mail.

The fact that I hesitated (however briefly) to lend her the $800 shows my growth as a realist. Yet I still feel shame that I hesitated at all. My friend stood to lose everything. Could I have lived with myself if I’d refused the loan, only to head off on a trip to the U.K. a month later?

I struggle with this. After church last week I asked one of the ministers for help. She sighed and said, “You are on a very difficult journey.”

The good rev suggested gently that I weigh future decisions very carefully. God does not want me to deplete my own resources, she said, nor to wreck my peace of mind – particularly since doing so might not actually be helping my friends in the long term.

She’s right.

If I were the wife of an alcoholic, phoning his boss to say that hungover hubby had the flu would keep things on an even keel in the short term. But it wouldn’t begin to address the real problem.

Thus I cannot keep enabling Monica to make poor money choices. Nor can I keep lending money at all.  The fact is I alone am responsible for my finances, particularly retirement. My daughter has a chronic illness and I cannot be a burden on her and my son-in-law later in life.

Once again I have declared the bank closed. And if I get another frantic communiqué? Ask me then what I will do. I honestly don’t know.

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  1. It’s so nice not to have any money sometimes. This would be an easy choice for me. However, I have been reading your blog for some time now and know what you had to do to even have a savings account. I am really hoping that your trust in the people you have lent to is warranted. My cross-to-bear was rescuing animals. I finally had to force myself to look the other way and say that I absolutely could not stretch my resources any more! It is VERY hard to adjust to such decisions. Heartbreaking, even. So, as someone once said to me, “You will keep this up until you have a belly full, then you will quit.” Kinda harsh, but we all simply HAVE to take responsibiilty for our own lives. And, of course, I know that You know that, too. One of the best things anyone ever said to me was, “Guilt is a Useless Emotion.” So don’t feel guilty that you can’t save the world–or even a friend. Sounds like you have helped her out quite enough.

  2. Mollymouser

    Boundaries can be hard ~ but they are also invaluable. (I recommend the book “Boundaries” by Clark/Townsend from your local library ~ that will help you be prepared for next time.)

  3. Wow. This really spoke to me, I am a single woman as well who works hard and needs to ensure there is money for MY needs…..and am constantly saying NO to my inner voice that wants to help sibling on disability who is filing bankruptcy, or another getting evicted (last week). If I had dispensible liquid income to just GIVE, without worrying if it would be paid back, I could help them. But, I do not. I cannot deplete MY emergency fund to assist their poor choices….but for the Grace of God, there go I. I have bought groceries, paid a phone bill, given personal finance books, and offered to help them budget. I will not give them the money. I can’t. If I do, who’s going to take care of me?

    • Donna Freedman

      @Cheryl: I know how you feel. I’m going through my PF book stash right now trying to figure out which one, if any, would do Monica some good. And yes, I need to remember that I’m solely responsible for my own future. I can’t fix a whole bunch of other lives.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  4. The teenagers should get jobs and help with expenses. The family needs to work together as a team and live within their means. Lending money to people that are financially irresponsible only postpones the inevitable. You should not feel guilty about saying no.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Karen: You’re a mom, so I bet you know about guilt. 😉 But you’re right: I need to get past guilt and toward suggesting a PF book or two.
      Unfortunately, the teens can’t get jobs — there are none to be had. The oldest one applied everywhere and was told that out-of-work adults are taking even the grocery-bagging jobs. Neighbors are mowing their own lawns and shoveling their own snow, too. Sigh.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  5. I’m looking through my pf book shelf to see what I would give this friend. The problem with giving her a book, and I agree that she needs one, is will she read it. Is she ready to read it? Is she ready to get her financial house in order? I don’t want to come across as unsympathetic, but when my husband and I work so hard (and you too) to get our financial house in order by going without some luxuries, then I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who squander money away. And I can tell that your friend has a full plate with teens and her own parents’ needs, but it is not her friend’s responsibility to make things right. It is hers and her husband’s.

    The next time someone comes calling for money from you and you think you are about to give in, turn to your online pf friends. We’ll set you straight. $2900 is a lot of money to have out there on loan and possibly not see again.

  6. I understand. We’ve never given that much money because we’re way down the list on people who are called to donate. It’s nice being several states away. But we do give when strongly hinted to about once a year to a family that has much much nicer stuff than we have, despite bringing in only a small fraction of our income. The other reason we’re probably asked less often is that we always send another book on personal finance (that always ends up unread) along with. I think they prefer targets who don’t preach as much.

    One reason that THEY never save up a cushion or money is that when THEY have money their needier relatives pressure them to give. They don’t have a concept of not being able to give out their emergency fund. Can’t you put it in a CD or someplace else and pretend that you can’t touch it? Because you need an emergency fund! They’re getting better… they do put away tax money now after a couple of years in a row of delinquency. They only lend to family now and not friends. But they still do stupid stupid things. (A value judgment… but we’re talking about cosigning for people who have even worse credit! That sort of thing.)

    They don’t believe in loans, only gifts. They say, you help us when we need it and we’ll help out when you need it. But we work hard to never need this kind of family insurance.

    I wish there were a solution. But if there were, we’d be richer than Dave Ramsey, selling it to concerned friends and family. You just can’t change other people unless you’re married or gave birth to them, and even then…

  7. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the fact that you hesitated to lend her money. Although it does sound like her situation is very difficult, it also sounds like she’s made some poor financial choices. And it doesn’t sound like she’s doing anything to avoid making the same mistakes, so it is possible that she will ask for another loan in the future. It’s good that you helped her and her family. But you don’t have to help them every time they ask. What if they were to ask you to cosign a credit a card or a loan? Then it could be really problematic. It’s your money, and you have the right to do with it as you wish.

  8. It’s really a generous thing, to lend to a person whose predicament may (or may not) be the result of financial naivete or irresponsibility. At some point, though, you’ll probably have to draw the line.

    Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend’s daughter lives in a perennial pickle and often calls with frantic pleas for money. Before she fell through the rotted balcony on the rented house she was forced to move into, incurring a head injury that put her out of work, she did manage to pay back SDXB’s loans. Now…not so much.

    Because she’s been in a state of emergency for two decades, SDXB finally came to the conclusion that continuing to give her money was not helping her, but in fact only allowing her to avoid addressing the changes she needs to make in her financial habits and personal life. He does a lot of things for her now — babysitting and handyman work, for example — but he no longer gives her cash.

  9. lostAnnfound

    I agree with Krista…next time she asks for a loan, jump online here really quick.

    I think it’s great that you’re willing to help out a friend and equally wonderful that she paid you back the money she borrowed. But you’re on your own and YOU have to provide for you today & for tomorrow, not for everybody else’s today.

  10. Elizabeth

    Does “Monica” read your blog? Or could you somehow communicate the above to her? The time for her to know that you cannot loan additional funds in the future is *now*…when she can cut cable, etc, etc…as opposed to thinking of you (even subconsciously) as her ace in the hole, and calling again in the future.
    All that said, I have loaned and borrowed $ in times of true need…and know it’s very difficult on both ends. We are living through a historically difficult financial times; I would believe it if I weren’t living it.
    As possible advice: I was told by one family member – who had loaned people $, although not me – that she was willing to help anyone who needed it as long as they were frugal. She reiterated that so frequently, that everyone knew her criterion – and the frugal living it motivated people to adopt probably averted many potential loans.

  11. People know better than to ask me for money. It’s that simple. I will give time, I will give a resource I can spare. I do not loan money. Nor do I feel guilty about that choice. I just don’t. But if a friend needs food, then yes I will take them to a grocery store and buy them food. But bail them out on a car loan when they send kids to private school, excuse me not only no, but h%ll no!

  12. My rule of thumb is this: if I can afford to help, I will. If I’ve had a good year at work and brought in sufficient income, I will do what I can. I even bought my mother a car with cash once, when a particular year of income was especially good and my mother was broke. Those times are over now for the time being, however, thanks to economic conditions. I lost my job. Today, if someone asks me for money I have to be honest with them. I don’t have it to lend. In the back of my mind I’m thinking this:
    My spouse has worked long and hard and wants to retire early. That is his entitlement and his dream and everything I monetarily do today affects that choice tomorrow.
    If I give money to family/friends, I have to make the assumption that I will not get it back. My mother ended up never paying me back one cent for the car and, in the end to avoid weirdness, I told her it was a gift. I can’t afford to make gifts like that anymore.

    Also, I was a money squanderer myself once, in the not too distant past. I spent thousands of dollars on stuff to hoard and frequently left myself broke. That was my problem. I had to hit the bottom to change and your friend/s need to do the same! Asking other people for money to make it through the month is no way to run one’s personal finance situation and is unsustainable. It’s sad that this lady has children at home who are completely dependent but she MUST wake up and become self reliant. Eating out at Chili’s and satellite TV?? HELLO! A high car payment on a minivan? No can do. They need to cut out all luxury spending, look at their monthly rent/mortgage payment, assess their car payments, credit cards, etc etc etc and then figure out a way to get out of their own mess. That may mean moving to a cheaper apartment/foreclosure. That may mean filing bankruptcy. That may mean giving the expensive minivan back to the finance company and buying a decent used car for cash, something that will stay on the road for a couple of years while they regroup. That may even mean moving in with mom and dad or some other relative in exchange for room and board and work around the house. Whatever it takes to dig out/survive. These are unfortunately very tough times for many, many people and the future is equally uncertain.

    When the only person you have to rely on for your future retirement and stability is YOU, there is no other choice but to empathize with the situation, offer the advice and help you can of the non monetary kind but refrain from throwing your money into a black hole that is/was not of your making. There are definitely ways in which this family can help themselves but eating at Chili’s is definitely NOT one of them!

  13. I agree that you should carefully evaluate your ability to give and make sure you are not putting yourself in jeopardy. I also would be less inclined to give if it were clearly a pattern of behavior (which this seems to be). True emergencies are one thing, bad planning is another.

    However, it seems that the frugal community is quick to judge other’s behavior. A friend of mine was once accosted in the grocery store by a woman furious because this friend had expensive steaks in her grocery cart. The family had been the recipients of a local fundraiser to help pay for her husband’s cancer treatment and the accusing woman (who had donated) clearly felt that her money should be spent buying hamburger. Why was she buying steaks? To celebrate her husband’s birthday, thinking that it could possibly be the last one they would celebrate together. Happily, he has recovered well, but certainly some of the joy from that event was robbed by the judgement of others. I try to take that as a lesson to remember that I don’t know the whole story behind other’s actions, and I should concentrate on judging only myself.

    That said, I would send them a PF book ,too, or even see if there was a low-cost budgeting/financial planning person available to hook them up with.

  14. Knowing a little more about “Monica’s” situation, I have to say that I agree with most of the above. It’s great that you have helped. But it’s not a good idea in the long run. Especially when she insists on working in a quasi-dying industry — journalism/editing — and gave up a job at a mass retailer after less than a week. True, the conditions you described were scary sounding. But most out-of-work people would have made it work rather than give up a job in the hand.

    Short form: They need to see what kind of trade-in they can get the for minivan to get a gas-efficient car. They need to see about Netflix (I have to assume they have some console gaming device that would allow the instant stuff) and cancel the satellite TV, thereby saving at least $60 a month. That would cover 2 bounced check fees.

    Long form: They won’t. All these scares really haven’t changed their financial life much. (Though I do like the idea of sending a PF book every time. It will either make them want to stop getting preached at or make them feel guilty for not reading it and still asking for money.) It’s one thing to help your aunt who is not able to work anymore and living at the poverty level and her one big treat a month is a meal at the local diner. It’s another to keep helping people who won’t help themselves.

    No, Tim and I probably won’t be able to help you a huge amount. Of course, we will do the best we can as it becomes necessary, but Tim’s parents will probably need money soon (like the $200 we gave them for her scooter) since his dad won’t be able to work much longer. But we do plan to get a place that we can put a mother-in-law suite in. So, worst case scenario, Tim’s parents live in that and we have you in a room in the house. By which I mean a built-in babysitter! (Kidding… probably.)

  15. Ro in San Diego

    Hi Donna. I’ve been following your column for several years and wanted to comment on this story.

    When I married my husband I was at first alarmed, then annoyed at the frequency in which requests for assistance were coming from his brothers and sisters.

    We had been married 2 years when youngest sister needed money to refi her house. We assisted and were paid back what we were owed in a reasonable amount of time. We then purchased a house for MIL and sold it for a tidy profit. Good investment. Younger sister as a result has become my first choice of financial partners.

    His older sister was a different story. Car and husband problems plagued her. We donated two cars we were “done” with at various times. We cashed out a small retirement account to help her rescue her son who was with his dad and was being abused across the country. She was needy but she was family and she needed reliable vehicles to get back and forth to work and her son needed rescuing.

    In retrospect the money spent to save her was a terrible investment. However, her life was never to improve. At the age of 45 she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was in remission for a short period of time and died at 48. The last time I saw her was 3 weeks before she passed. She remarked that the trip my husband took with her to save her son was a high point for her since she got to see the Grand Canyon on the way.

    We will never get her back. I feel a lot better knowing that my husband and I were able to give her some comfort during her brief and difficult life.

    I know the situations are not all that similar. But you have the comfort of knowing that you were able to keep the family from a way worse fate.

    I still have a small loan outstanding from a niece who works 2 jobs to support her young family and mentally ill husband. She’s missed one payment but makes them up when she can. The loan was to gain a credential that earns her $2 more per hour at her job.

    Money isn’t everything – but – it is entirely appropriate for you to add “strings” to any future loan since the person you are lending to is never going to get better at managing her finances without intervention.

    Best wishes
    Ro in SD

    • Donna Freedman

      @Ro in SD: Thank you for your thoughtful insight. How sad that your SIL’s life was tumultuous as well as short.
      @Everyone else: I appreciate all the comments. It’s helping.

  16. Ro in San Diego

    After reading the comments I sent a message to my niece asking when we should expect the next payment ( I was gentle and said I understand we may be dealing with post-Christmas poverty).

    Her mom for whatever reason did not lend her the money; my husband and I stepped in because it seemed (and still seems) like a great investment in her future) but still expect to be repaid.

  17. I agree with the comment that now is the time to tell Monica you will not loan her any more money. Give her some good financial advice about cutting expenses. It will fall on deaf ears but at least you will have let her know ahead of time that she can’t expect you to bail her out. I paid an overdue electric bill for a friend once. She paid me back right away. I tried to give her some advice about saving for emergencies but I know it went unheard.

  18. Hi, Donna. I don’t lend money to anyone, including family. However, given the history you have with this person of periodically having to lend her money, I would have made it a condition of loaning the money that she and her spouse sit down with you and come up with a realistic budget. Do the math of their income minus expenses so that she can see she really cannot afford satellite tv or dinner out when she is in debt to other people. Whenever I get paid, I already have checks for my bills written out an ready to mail before I go grocery shopping. House payment, utilities, and debt gets paid before anything else. Otherwise, if you don’t, she will keep coming to you asking for money. That’s all there is to it.

  19. Donna – I would have given her the money, plain and simple. Part of having friends in your life is loving them and loving them means you help them. What is difficult is the value judgment that goes with “helping” – we all want to know why they need the money and how they got in the mess they got. I question whether I’m entitled to such information. Yes, it is my money, but they have reasons for spending the way they spend. We all have a general idea of how our friends spend money. I can’t help but think that your friend is living too close to the edge always. But, knowing this, can’t I trust that they have legitimate reasons for needing the money and stop trying to justify whether they deserve the money? I have friends right now who just filed bankruptcy due to unexpected expenses and unemployment. The unexpected expenses are truly legitimate – several surgeries for their daughter. After insurance their responsibility was in the tens of thousands. They tried for years to pay it off and only got more interest charges for their efforts. So finally they filed bankruptcy. I have paid for their children’s expenses, Christmas presents, and any fundraiser that comes my way. I don’t expect any money in return – they don’t have it to give and I don’t “loan” money, I give money. Loaning doesn’t work for me, I get too critical of how they are spending. Give your friend a break, one trip to Chili’s doesn’t exactly equal irresponsibility. Sometimes, it is what is needed to keep going. I can’t imagine living her life knowing I could never have a night off. I will add them to my prayer list.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Susan: Those were just a couple of examples of poor spending choices (some of which are engineered by her husband, who is very resistant to change). I believe I am enabling her to stay stuck, to postpone change because it just seems too hard.
      If I had a friend who drank away his paycheck, I could pay his rent only to see the same thing happen again. I’m not doing him any favors.
      It’s nice that you are in a position to “give money.” Over the past four years I have sent Monica gift cards for groceries and also bought Christmas gifts for her children. But I have to draw a line. I cannot afford to let $800 slip away. I’m paying for my own retirement and health insurance — and remember, I am a freelancer without a “real” job.
      And I do know something about needing a break to keep going. Picture a 21-year-old single mom with no education, on “permanent part-time” status. I was so broke I did all our laundry by hand (including the diapers) and we lived mostly on spaghetti and Great Northern beans. I would have loved to have an occasional meal at Chili’s, or even just a night off from the scrubboard.
      Thus I understand that my friend is about ready to fly out of her skin with the stress of it all. But hers is not a sustainable way to live. That’s my concern. They have zero retirement savings. None. And they still have three kids to get through high school. There’s no way she and her husband will be able to make just on Social Security unless their house is paid off by then. They must stop spending irresponsibly.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  20. I like the fact you understood the what if scenarios even before the family brought it up.

    But I agree with the commenters who say gifting is better than loaning. Considering it a gift will keep you from contributing more than you really will be OK with.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Monroe: True. And as I just noted in my reply to Susan, I have gifted this family with Christmas presents for the kids and gift cards for groceries. But I’ve reached my limit. I can’t keep giving because I feel that it’s keeping them from making changes that are hard but necessary.
      Thanks for reading.

  21. You are an amazing person. I have never been asked to lend/give money and I have no idea what I would do. I wonder, though, if your friend could contact her church or the Catholic school. These often have committees set up to help those in need.

    Also–and perhaps I didn’t read carefully enough–the kids need to step up. could they get jobs, babysit, etc. They could help their mom with the care of their grandmother–calling medicare etc.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Frugal Scholar: Thanks for your kind words. They do get a tuition break but not a free ride. What I reminded her is that this is a choice — maybe a choice she sees as important, but she has to remember that every choice has a consequence.

  22. Everyone needs to do what they are comfortable with. Personally, I follow the saga advice of Suze Orman when it comes to cosigning or loaning money….DON’T!

    If you give, do it as a gift in your own head because when you don’t get it back(and the chances of getting loaned $ back is quite small in most cases)you don’t want to hold a grudge.
    Lending money chances relationship dynamics, whether the lendee makes good on the repayment or not.

    Your friend DOES have an emergency fund….it is called Donna.
    She has no reason to change the way she handles her finances because she always finds someone/some thing to bail her out.
    Some people can not be led gently and convinced that being smart with money is the Promised Land….they have to be smacked in the face by “Bad Decisions Reality”, often more than once and forced to change.
    First, she has her financial priorities out of whack….shelter, food, vehicle, utilites. Private school tuition is NOT a basic need, not if you can’t pay your living expenses.
    A better idea than giving her anymore money is to find her a financial coach(not you, a total stranger to her)and buy her a session with him/her. That would be a much more loving thing to do for her and her family.

    We are dealing with a family situation here with BIL and his son. He has a very meager income due to his not wanting to work..he retired at 50 willingly and lives on a small pension and a govt. check. His son has modeled his behavior on his father and sees NO reason why he should be a productive member of society(aka he should work for what he gets). This is a very bad idea for an able-bodied teenager about to graduate high school.
    Anyway, BIL had quite a bit of savings but has run through it all in the last few years because he let’s his son have $ anytime he asks for it. The kid has run their household basically until this point.
    BIL meager income drops by 1/3rd(they lose a govt. payment because the kid aged out).
    He comes to us for money….he also has credit card debt at this point.
    I sit him down and work out a budget, a very tight budget but it’s enough to erase the debt and keep him in his apt.
    The following month, he doesn’t let me see his budget…he says the money situation is fine. He doesn’t want me involved in his finances any more. I hear thru the grapevine that he is spending again, mostly on the son for starbucks, movies out, fast food, etc.
    Then he totals his car….everyone concerned is fine thankfully, but the car is toast. He was suppose to be putting $XX away for emergencies(ie-to replace or repair a car)in the budget I planned out. Well, guess who decided he didn’t need to put money away for emergencies?lol
    Now he has no transportation(ok, I AM his transportation now), credit card debt again and he’s sinking further every month that goes on.
    Some people don’t want real help….they just want to be bailed out when it gets bad. He won’t take the ‘real help’ we offered him, he just wants money.

    We had to tell him, “We will not give you money again because you spend it unwisely. You don’t want to change or learn how to handle money. We won’t be enablers anymore. We will buy you food but don’t ask for money.”
    Sometimes tough love sucks but it’s better for all concerned.
    And whoever said read the book “Boundaries”, do! I highly recommend it.
    Good luck with your situation.

  23. I would let things ride while they repay you. They will not ask for more money while they still owe you. Do send them a book even if they don’t read it. This book will set the tone for future NOT-borrowing for you. I would not get into their budget unless you want to strain and lose the friendship.

    The Catholic School may still be able to help if it means losing three students. Have them ask about additional help.

    When they have repaid you, then is the time for you to tell them that as long as the private school is in the picture, you cannot help them, that you feel like you are giving to them beyond their necessities. The reason I said to bide your time is that they need to repay you. They might not if they think your bank has closed. At that point (no repayment) you will lose a friend and money.

    I imagine that private school is not the only thing draining their money. What services (internet, etc) do they have on cell plans? Do kids have cells? Maybe they could cut back on their satellite service instead of cutting it off entirely.

    You don’t have to mention your insurance or retirement. It is your money, and you don’t have to explain your needs to them. You have enough money for your life.

    Your friend has a lot on her plate right now. It is not your job to push her when she is doing the best she can (as she sees it). Subtle hints and not so subtle hints to my daughter helped her face the inevetibality of vacating her storage unit. Finally, her father would not give her $500 unless she got rid of the storage unit. She did it immediately. All along, she had wailed about no room in the house for all in the storage unit. She was right, but I told her each child could give up part of his and her closets. I gave other examples of how she could cope. When it was time to give up the unit, I had given her enough ideas that she did manage to do something with all her stuff. She has no yard or storage area because she rents the upper part of the house with landlord downstairs. Every single item in the unit was stuff she needed–ac, bikes, Christmas tree and ornaments.

    When she wanted to keep her tips (nails), I asked her whether she wanted her nails to look nice or have a nice home for her kids. I asked lots of those questions. She gave up the hairstyling in a shop for just a cut in the hairdresser’s home. She is learning hard lessons.

    In her defense, she had plenty of money when she was married. She was also frugal and did not have the tips!

    Any conversations now might work if you asked her the hard questions about which she needs more–this-or-that questions. These questions might give her something to think about rather than a nosy session where you try to ferret out the truth for her. No, I don’t think you would be nosy, but she might, even if she tells you everything anyway.

    How often do they go to Chili’s. Once a month seems about right for their circumstances. Once a week, NO.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Practical Parsimony: Just FYI, only one of the kids is still in Catholic school. The other two are in the public high school. And I’ve already packaged up the book; I’ll mail it when I mail the prize to this week’s giveaway winner.
      No, I can’t fix their lives. I wrote to her yesterday explaining how I felt and urging her to be realistic and ruthless with their finances. We’ll see what happens next.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  24. I would have the uncomfortable conversation with Monica saying, “No, I cannot lend you the money. Let’s look at your budget and see if we can’t find that money somewhere else.” I think if a friend asks such a serious, personal question, they have opened the door for a response other than “sure!”.
    From what you’ve shared about Monica, it seems as though she is struggling to make good choices with the money that is provided to her family. I think it would be more beneficial to Monica and her family if someone had that honest conversation with her, instead of bailing her out again. She is going to continue to find herself in this place time and time again unless she changes her spending habits.

  25. Personally, I’ve loaned out over $10,000 in the past 10 years to family, friends, (now ex) boyfriends… and I’ve only seen a few hundred dollars of that money come back. I made a decision about a year ago that if anyone asked me for money, I’d have to turn them away. Each and every person that has borrowed money from me in the past needed it because of their poor money management. I did what I could to help them, tried to get them to budget, pointed out that no, they don’t need a manicure every 2 weeks and what did each of them do after I bailed them out? Stuck with their overspending habits.

    Some people just don’t want to help themselves. And they have no motivation to do so if there is someone there to bail them out every time they need a few hundred dollars.

    It makes me sick to think what an extra $10k could be doing for me right now…

  26. Donna,

    I don’t lend money. I don’t talk about it other than on our boards. Once a family member asked for a loan. Without hesitation I simply said I didn’t think that could ever happen. End of conversation.

    DH and I worked our fingers to the bone and went without everything to pay huge medical bills and raise our 4 children.

    I worked at the Catholic school in exchange for tuition. I didn’t get my hair cut in a salon and DH wore jeans to work that I patched. (He was so handsome no one paid much attention to his jeans anyway!)

    You have worked in the same manner. Since we are ALL called to be stewarts of our resources, Monica is called to have the same responsibility you do. Keep in mind the parable of the 7 lamps. We don’t make the rules of physics, we only follow them.

  27. Here’s the alternate view:

    If you don’t want to loan her the money, then don’t. If your personal circumtances are such that giving to her will cause you to sacrifice, then don’t.

    But if you do, please get off your high horse. You are her friend, NOT her accountant. You do NOT have the right to judge her, criticize her or see her personal financial info. You should accept that you do not live her life, and you do not know the whys when it comes to how she spends her money.

    That van, for example. She has two teen age kids. They travel in packs, Donna. And they take their stuff with them! Just two teens and their backpacks make a van a necessity, not a luxury.

    Dinner at Chili’s? You don’t know who was paying. You don’t know if they were celebrating. You don’t know if they were using coupons or their Entertainment book (both of which are available for Chili’s right now) or if they had a giftcard.

    It disturbs me to think that if I ask my friends for money (which I haven’t in years), they have some sort of right to all of my financial info. (I only share THAT with my blogger community!) For several years while I was in my forties, my best friend routinely got me through periodic cash-flow crises–I always paid her back, and she never asked why I needed the money. She just said yes or (occasionally, no) and I went from there. She’s still my best friend.

    Sorry for the rant, but you definitely struck a nerve for me.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Grace: Actually, she has three teenage kids.
      But surely you don’t mean to say that all families of teens have minivans? That simply isn’t true. Plenty of folks get by with sedans or even economy-sized vehicles.
      Certainly I understand the pressures she faces; I noted this in the essay. And I don’t want to be her accountant. However, when she e-mailed me in a panic — “My car’s gonna be repossessed now unless I can make this payment” — she brought me into the financial picture whether I wanted to be there or not.
      (I was put in an impossible position, actually: Help me right now or I will lose everything.)
      If you read the piece all the way through, you will have noted that three years ago I provided the money that let them keep their house. Foreclosure was imminent. Since then they have continued to make poor choices. A fair amount was left out of the piece; Chili’s was just one recent example of ways they are not thinking ahead.
      We are not talking about “periodic cash-flow crises” here. This family was about to lose one-half its income because of the choice to spend money on private school, satellite TV and cell phones rather than putting some aside for an essential recurring expense, i.e., their monthly vehicle payment.
      I worry deeply about their future. Theirs is not a sustainable way to live. What kind of a friend would I be, really, if I simply said, “Sure, I’ll bail you out again! What elephant? What living room?”
      And heaven knows that I shouldn’t be anyone’s ace in the hole. My freelance opps could change tomorrow. I don’t have a full-time job. They have two full-time jobs.
      Suppose I hadn’t been around when she contacted me? Suppose the car had been repossessed and the company wanted more than just the monthly payment to give it back? Suppose my situation had changed and I had to say “no”? She would have lost her job. They would have lost their home. And all so they could have Dish network and cell phones?
      Monica made this my business when she brought me into it. I am not the bad guy here. I wired the money within the hour. Although I believe they will pay me back, I have no guarantees. After all, another crisis could erupt. I knew that risk going in. But if my own circumstances were to change, I might regret having made that choice. That’s why I have to close down the bank: It’s the equivalent of putting on my own oxygen mask first.
      Thanks for reading.

  28. Emma Sutton

    I really feel for you on this Donna. It’s such a tough situation to be in when you are the one everyone calls to rescue them. I’ve been in very similar situations before too. One was a longtime friend who got pregnant and was alone. Saying that she’s never been GOOD at managing money is more than an understatement….she’s more like a financial train wreck. She has loans she defaulted on, she walked out on debt totalling more than $10,000 related to 4 different credit cards she racked up at age 19, and various and numerous bills from other companies (namely cellular companies) that she just stopped paying. She’s been to collection more times than she can count. She’s never even THOUGHT about paying anyone back for anything she owes. As far as I know she still hasn’t claimed bankruptcy, but it isn’t far away. She was constantly overspending her meagre monthly earnings and calling me for help: “I have no money and the baby needs milk”, “I have no money and my car insurance is due”, ” I have no money and we have no groceries in the house”. There was always a dire emergency coming up, with another following right behind. While I never handed her cash (I would go with her to the bank and pay bills at the counter, or take her to the grocery store and buy her the staples), I was constantly bailing her out of her self-induced life of crises. Mostly it was for her son. I loved that child to pieces, and could not say no to anything that would result in a lesser life for him. It all ended though when I became close with her sister, and found out that not only was she holding me hostage emotionally for money, she was doing it to her parents, her siblings, and her entire family. I found out that her father was paying for her car payments, her mother had been paying her rent every other month, her sister had been giving her cash, and she even made her grandparents pay for a lavish birthday party for him. She was emotionally blackmailing everyone, using her child as leverage. “I have no money and if you don’t pay my rent your grandchild will be homeless!”.
    So I stopped the lending and the handouts. DONE! I slowly started cutting her out of my life, but had a hard time with the final string, even after I moved 2500km away (mostly due to the child). Until I heard that her mother went to check her online savings account one day and saw that her account was short $23,000 and some hefty change. This girl had been sending herself money transfers from her mom’s account for the last 6 months. Shocking and disgusting as that was…..her mom did not press charges because of the baby, and still supports her to this day – and another baby later, and one on the way. I no longer have anything to do with her. It hurts, but it’s better for me in the end.
    My point is….you get to a certain point where you are really just an enabler of a lifestyle someone other than the liver will always be financing. If the enablers never change their ways, the person you are enabling never NEEDS to.
    I wouldn’t say cut the strings with this woman, but I WOULD say cut the lifelines. If you have to lend someone money more than once, it’s too much.

  29. Emma Sutton

    And sorry for the GIANT comment!

  30. Donna–my guess is that your friend WILL figure a way out of her crisis if you aren’t the one to loan her money. You are blameless in that regard. And no one has the right demand money from you, whether through actual demand, or guilt.

    I was only responding to the judgmental aspects, and the sense from you (and many of your responders) that we are somehow entitled to review the financial records of someone to whom we loan money. At least between friends (as opposed to our children, whom I quiz extensively and judge freely prior to loaning them money!).

    I think you say “No” and get on with your life. It is interesting to me that when I’ve had to say No, the person who asked usually gets the money elsewhere or does a lot of fast talking to their creditor or does without whatever it was they needed the money for. I find that I wasted a lot of time worrying about them.

    But when I give or loan money, I just do it–no questions from me about all the stupid financial decisions that go them to this point. Then, if it was a loan, I either get paid back or I don’t. If I don’t, I don’t loan to them again.

    So, if I get into trouble and my sister or my friends aren’t available, can I tap you?

    • Donna Freedman

      @Grace: That’s quite an assumption. Monica lives in an economically distressed area and her friends are barely making their own bills. She has no extended family other than her elderly mom, whose pension and Social Security do not cover expenses. (Which is why Monica and her husband are paying part of them.)
      Three years ago, I did “just do it” — sent Monica $1,000 during a time when I made less money than I do now. I sent the cash knowing that I might never see it again; although she would not intentionally stiff me, I knew that other crises might occur. As noted in the piece, it was repaid within a year and a half.
      The fact that they continued to mis-use available funds, allowing such a potentially life-changing situation to build — that’s scary. So scary, in fact, that I can’t be part of it any longer.
      I wrote to her saying that I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I neglected to point out the obvious (i.e., you must get hold of your spending) and that I could no longer support an insupportable way of living. That this would be my last loan.
      She responded in a civil way, and we are still friends.
      I don’t see much difference between your free and extensive judgment of your kids when they want to borrow money and my need to remind my friend that, um, her way of life may literally leave them homeless. That I worry that by “helping,” I am enabling her and her husband to postpone making these vital changes in their finances.
      Not judgment — just a statement from where I stand. She, in turn, has the right to tell me to take a flying leap at the moon. I’m glad she didn’t.

  31. I feel that when I’m asked for money it IS my business. Just the fact that they’re asking me for money means that I DO have a right to judge how they’re spending money. When they ask (and I help), they make it my problem. If they don’t want me to judge, then they shouldn’t be asking for my help. Period. And that’s, no doubt, one of the reasons we are pretty far down on the asking list, which I am happy with.

  32. Alright, I have thought about this for a day and I think I have an answer for you. Well, it’s not my answer but what my dad said, “You have to sleep at night.”
    Everything in life boils down to that. You are a kind soul and this is going to continue to come up in so many areas of your life. You will sacrifice yourself for the good of others. You can look at it as a good personality trait or a flaw. I don’t think that you are going to change your heart.
    Maybe you could say next time, “I will help you only if you read a certain book on finances.” This might be a better way for you to set boundaries. And then you could call her back and discuss it with her.
    It could be a lesson for you and her.
    You truly are a gift and you need to ask yourself if you are following the same advise that you would give out.
    It sounds so cliche but I’m glad you are my friend. Chin up and pocketbook closed!

    • Donna Freedman

      @SonyaAnn: I appreciate your kind words. And you’re right: I couldn’t have slept at night had the vehicle been repossessed and the job (and probably home) lost.
      But my note told her in no uncertain terms why I am afraid for her and her family, and why I can no longer be part of this.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  33. Wow, what a heated discussion! I’ve been the recipient of occasional help, way in the past when I was living in difficult circumstances. I am now living a very frugal lifestyle but earning a very low wage to go with it. I have some savings and am able to help family or friends with small loans when needed. In other words, I can imagine both sides of the fence. Sure she may not do everything just right, but it was kind of you to help. Since she paid you back the first time you are probably 90% sure of getting this repaid. Think of the lost interest as charity. We donate money to organizations and only 10% or 15% makes it to the ones who are receiving the charity. It was a kind act, and it is already done, so there’s no use fretting over it.

    I recently lent money to a friend who needed gas and groceries. This was a friend who helped me in the past when I was going through horrible times. Someone who gave me a place to stay when I would have been homeless, gave me food when I would have none, and made sure I had transportation to continue my education. I said, “Yes, of course!” no questions asked. I considered this a gift as they had helped me in the past. They said they wanted to pay me back the following week. When their payday came they called to tell me they didn’t have the money and what they really wanted it for. My money was used to purchase drugs! I cried and cried and begged them to get help. I haven’t been paid back and this person does not want to talk about it because it is too depressing. It could always be worse.

  34. Great piece. However, I’m a bit… confused.

    But I don’t have any confidence that she’ll use either resource. During our conversation she said, among other things, “I don’t know why they’re harassing us.”

    I said, “Because the car payment was due…when?”

    “I guess it would have been due on the 15th. It’s only a couple of days!” (It was, in fact, six days.)

    Do they really repo cars when a payment is six days late? My ex has been late many times and no repo.

    Could she be lying? Or using you? or both?

    I say you say you’ll loan her the money IF she gives you total control over her finances until she pays you back =P

    Personally, I rely on my parents to help me with loans especially when child support is either non-existent or extremely short. Honestly? I’d be embarassed to spend recklessly as long as I owed money. But that’s definitely not the case with everyone. I knew a couple I loaned money to. Not even six months later, they still hadn’t repaid us, and they bought a new computer. Man I was pissed! But I swallowed it, accepted the money would never come back, and never offered a loan again. I only loan money to one person and they pay me back faithfully, usually in less than 30 days.

    • Donna Freedman

      @MutantSuperModel: Their backstory includes late payments on the mortgage (in fact, I discovered the other day that they’re behind on that again, too). So either the car payment has been late often enough that the company is fed up, or it’s actually two months behind and they had to make good.
      I don’t know. But I believe that the situation was dire.
      Between them they have one surviving parent, who as noted is quite elderly and cannot help. In fact, they’re helping her.
      It’s a little late to assign qualifications to the loan. The only point I have made is that this is the end of my lending.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  35. I really sympathize with you here, Donna. My brother often turns to me for help. The first time, it was for rent, and I was just grateful that I was finally in a place that enabled me to help someone else, and sent the money happily. Since then, he comes to me for gas money, beer money, help with the electric bill, you name it – and always with some dire prediction of what will happen if he doesn’t get it. Each time he asks, I struggle with feelings of guilt and anger. Guilt because I have the money and I could send it, but anger because I don’t feel that it’s fair for him to put me in this position. And, oh yes, Bitterness! for having to wire the money and all the dang charges I have to pay for the priveledge!
    So anyway, I know it’s not a fun position to be in and all you can do is try to make the right choice for you.

    Good luck!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Anna: Maybe you, too, need to close down the bank and focus on (a) saving for retirement and (b) having a little fun with your own money vs. sending it out to others.
      Beer money? Really? Come on, bro!
      You’re not doing him any favors if it keeps him from learning to live within his means. Maybe you should do what others have suggested, and what I am about to do: Send a PF book instead.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  36. One year I had to ask my sister to help me make my house payment. My sister has “plenty”; an excellent job, husband with an excellent job, never has to worry about running out. I am a single mother, and there never seems to be “enough”. Asking her for that loan was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and it literally felt like she had saved my life with the $750 she sent me. (I asked for $600 and she said no, I’m sending more, that’s only enough to pay the house payment and I know you will need gas, etc.) So, the only reason I am writing this comment is that her giving me that money was my epiphany moment. I didn’t ever want to feel that down again. I didn’t ever want to feel beholden to my sister again. She told me I never had to pay her back. I haven’t paid her back, but I will someday, somehow. Since then I sold my house which I finally admitted I couldn’t afford, and I rent a nice small apartment which is enough, and allows me to have much better control over my living expenses. I am finally contributing to my 401K, making grocery lists and sticking to them, and living on less than I make for the first time in my life. It feels great, and I know I am finally teaching my son the right messages about money when I say no, we can’t have pizza, it isn’t in the budget. 🙂
    You are a good person for helping your friend. But you do have the right to call her and say, no more. If this isn’t the wake-up call she needs, something else will be, and you will just be postponing the pain. Encourage her to say the same thing to the people who are sucking her dry; no more, I am taking care of me.

  37. Donna, you are totally right! I haven’t loaned him money in some time, but he still asks, I still get mad/guilty/bitter. For him, he forgets that tomorrow will follow today and bills will be due.
    Thanks for the great article. I think we can all relate.

  38. Donna, I appreciate you sharing this story because it shows that life isn’t black and white. It’s easy for strangers to say you need to let your friend stand up on her own two feet but I know it’s a lot harder when you add the heart into the mix.

    I hope you get your money back and that gets her act together. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen soon if she doesn’t understand why the lender was calling.

    P.S. Do they really repossess that fast? I would think you’d have to be 30-60 days late.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Kay Lynn: I don’t know the full backstory there, but I’m willing to bet they’ve been late before. They’ve been late on their mortgage, too, and in fact are behind once again. Sigh. But the bank is closed. I swear. Oh God. I hope.
      Thanks for reading.

  39. You are doing the right thing. We have had to do this to my oldest son, who can’t keep a job and just bought a smartphone. He won’t listen to advice and has more growing up to do. We don’t help him anymore except the barest minimum to keep him insured and fed. Your friend is not your grownup child. Good luck.

  40. djmj3284


    I sympathize with the shame it makes you feel not to just fix your friends problems. I spent years digging my sister out of problems, until she finally hit one that was too big for the bank of sis. After the bankruptcy – she still makes choices I never would but at least she didn’t rebuild her credit card debt – so she is better able to handle her $500/month car payment. And having closed the bank of sis – I still feel guilty everytime her kids go without a school trip or dance because I won’t kick in. But at least they don’t go without lunch for a day or two before anyone calls to ask for money, now that their mom has improved her money skills.

    • Donna Freedman

      @djmj3284: What a kind sister you are. Perhaps the most caring (and most difficult) thing you did was to shut down the bank. I’m sorry about her kids’ situation but understand why you don’t want to keep propping up your sister. (Note how her money skills have improved?)
      I wonder if you could take the money you might have given them and put it into accounts for the children, to be handed to them if they enroll in college or trade school after graduation? It might not be much but hey, even the cost of a couple of textbooks can be a huge help.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  41. Hi Donna…your post hit a nerve as we are also the family national bank. I don’t want to take an interest in how people spend their money, but I do, a keen interest if you owe me money. We once had a relative live in one of our rental properties, rent free until she started getting child support. Every time I saw her with her nails professionally done (at $40 a pop) I wanted to claw out her eyes with her own nails. She never offered us even $10 to put toward the electric. And she kept it a secret when she started getting child support. Of course that ended badly, and we were the bad guys.

    We don’t have parents who need money, but the kids and stepkids are bleeding us dry. And now grandkids who are following the same path.

  42. These days I have a policy that I don’t loan money to friends.
    I will give it, if asked, and I can afford it.
    But I find that a loan comes with all sorts of emotional stress for me.
    A gift is easier.
    It makes me realise that it isn’t my place to question or mandate how it is spent.
    It’s just a gift, to use as they will.
    Surprisingly (to me) I often get repaid anyway.
    People are more reluctant to take money on those terms, though.

  43. Sigh. If she asks for help dealing with debt offer advice and ideas. If she asks for money say NO. That’s N-O-period.

    People only learn what they HAVE to. Are you learning? If you choose to say no (and you have a very real right to make that choice) will you no longer be considered her friend? What other friends might she be “borrowing” money from? You just might learn that you are a better friend to her than she is to you if you say no to the next request for money … and there WILL be a next request, your gut is already telling you that. Your stress is honestly coming from the unwelcome realization that she is willing to keep asking for unsecured loans until she can no longer get them. And also from the realization that when her house of cards crashes down you will become just one more unpaid creditor.

    When (not if) she asks you again, cowboy up and tell her she still owes money from the last loan. Have her sit down and talk about it in detail, not just beg for money and then stop the conversation when you say no. Or are you okay with buying her friendship?

    Over several years my brother borrowed various amounts from me, mostly around $500 or less. I never had the cash, always got it for him via my credit card. He always eventually paid the money back, and I always ate the credit card fees and interest. Then he had a big emergency and I loaned him $6,000. Again I did not have cash and it took six months to pay off the credit card debt (but this time part of it was from my savings). I figured that the money was gone forever because I had sat down with him and his wife a month previous, and their monthly bills were $300 more than their income BEFORE they considered food and old medical bills that were hanging fire. Basically they lived a lot like your friend, they had good cash flow and a nice life but they paid no attention to budgeting their incomes. Because of this their bills were always late, they had terrible credit, and they paid a lot of late fees and overdraft charges.

    Out of the blue he showed up a year later and repaid it all. Wow! When I told him I had thought he would not pay it back I instantly knew that was a mistake. Big mistake. A year later he was back asking for $6,000 again and I thought, uh-oh. He was only able to repay the last loan because he cashed out his 401-K, using it to pay off several different loans he had — and believe me, I am glad that I was on the list to be paid!

    I told him no this time. I did not have cash and did not want to liquidate investments nor take a credit card cash advance. Either choice would have cost me more than $6,000. I wanted to explain my reasons why, but before I could do so he stomped out in anger. And yelled that he thought “family was supposed to take care of each other”. Certainly more hurtful than whatever you expect your friend to say to you if you deny her loan request. He has not spoken to me since. It has been over ten years now. Once I called him to let him know our mother was ill. And once he sent me a short note with a check for his share of her funeral expenses. I don’t have either his phone number or his address any more, and am not even sure what state he lives in.

    But this much I do know: he did not value my presence in his life. He showed me by those actions that if I were not willing to GIVE him money (unsecured interest-free loans) whenever he felt like asking for it, then he could care less about me. And I think knowing that is better than living with the illusion that he liked me.

    At first I was angry to find out that he only wanted me as a money dispenser, but now I figure he did me a favor. I’m just lucky it didn’t cost me $6,000 to learn that lesson. I really mean that. Because if he had listened to me and agreed to some general terms of repayment that took into account the cost to me, I would actually have given him that loan. Unsecured. Sigh.

    It would have been a large mistake, for both of us.

    So do yourself a favor. Next time tell her no. Just as an experiment. You already know how she acts when you say yes. Now is the time to find out how she acts when you say no. It may surprise you, good or bad. But it is better to know if she is still going to be your friend if you don’t bail her out of financial troubles every time. She will survive it. People always do.

    You have learned the lessons of how to live a frugal life. Looks like the next lesson is in not letting people take undue advantage of you. Clearly you did not want to loan this friend the $800 (plus $44 that I have little doubt she will neglect to repay you), so maybe you need to start paying attention to your gut instinct that is warning you this is a bad transaction.

    If I sound a bit harsh remember, life is hard. Can you really afford “friends” like this?

  44. I agree with Barb, That is near exactly what happened with me and my brother. Sad but true.

  45. factchecker

    Catholic school tuition is negotiable, I understand that public schools are not always up to par, but even if one sends a child, they don’t need to be there all the time, maybe even 1 year or two years in middle school, the goal is to prep your child, but many bright hard working children of immigrants too try in public school, there are also free services especially in the cities, although rural is harder, can she relocate, one should not be careless to tell your life story about eating at chili’s, now I don’t judge folks all the time , an concessional dinner out, or tv which is not really needed these days due to free internet video, but one problem I see is that parents and folks who preach frugality, are often lazy themselves, not you of course, but folks who don’t take the necessary time to figure out simple ways to save money, it could be switching to paper statements on certain utility bills, or heating a room instead of the house, bottle deposits, just making the effort to learn, research , and not be arrogant, to natalie, if your son can’t have pizza, why not make a cheap, easy, to cook home meal that is something “exotic”, but cheap, or desserts you can make homemade with your herbal garden plants. You can also get free entertainment online with hulu/youtube, the real problem of course is the fact that the individual has to rely on payday loans, is she unbanked?, if so how is she paying her bills, is she using check cashing services, bad credit? car pooling ?

    In this case its easier to make a choice, consider an individual who needs medication and has to make tougher choices.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Factchecker: She’d already gotten some concessions on the school fees and couldn’t get it any lower. And yeah, her youngest is now in regular school.
      It’s been more than a year since I lent her the money and the last time she mentioned payback was August, at which point she assured me she had a plan to pay it all off “by the end of the year.” Not a word since then. I can’t tell if she’s embarrassed or just overwhelmed, but yeah, I’d like to see even a token repayment.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  46. factchecker

    Donna, was there an alternative to paying the wire fee, paypal, checks,etc? I just realized this is a late collum, but if you ask for help don’t ask too late in her case.


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