What It Feels Like to Lend Money to a Friend
Logan Sachon: Matt Powers, hello. Hi. Mike Dang is travelling so you and I are going to have a conversation about something about money. You just treated me to Thai food because I bought you drinks last week, so maybe we’ll start with that. FRIENDS AND MONEY. To set the scene, we are sitting across from each other with our laptops at your kitchen table eating Skittles and Sour Patch Kids.
Matt Powers: We are eating these directly off my table, and my table is definitely not clean.
Logan: Can we light this mahogany and tobacco scented candle to SET THE MOOD?
Matt: That’s my roommate’s candle, from a speciality shop in Arkansas, and while he is normally mild-mannered, burning even the slightest wick of that candle would send him into an unforgiving rage.
Matt: Also hurry up I’ve almost finished the Cherry Sour Patch Kids. Last call.
Logan: You take them, kind sir, they are yours. As for the candle, my apologies. It was so indelicately placed atop an empty Pocket Thins bag and next to an open and crusted container of hummus, you can see my mistake in viewing it as FAIR GAME.
Matt: It’s part of our apartment motif: “expect the unexpected.” Everything you see before you is intentional.
Logan: So we really can’t light the candle?
Matt: I’m going to need you to stop with the candle. My roommate may be sleeping but even the slightest whiff of tobacco and mahogany would incense his more maligned sensibilities and precipitate a murderous rage.
Logan: Okay. Okay. Okay. No mahogany. No tobacco. No candle. So Matt what I actually want to know is, do you feel like our friendship is equal?
Matt: I think, like any friendship, it’s a constant give and take, and like any quality friendship, no one’s keeping score, nor does the score matter.
Logan: So that’s a yes? I’m going to read that as a yes. You’ve lent me money before. Do you remember that?
Matt: I do. You repaid it, in a very timely manner, and with very generous interest that I told you was unnecessary. But I think it was covering some sort of bar tab. I would love to loan you money again in the future.
Logan: Oh I didn’t give you cash back? That’s gross of me. I believe in paying back in the original form. So if you borrow cash, you return cash. If you owe someone a drink, you buy them a drink–you don’t give them money for a drink. So if I didn’t give you cash, that sucks.
Matt: No no you handed me a twenty and four or five ones, and we just happened to be at a bar, and then I, on my own volition, immediately used that to cover my bar tab. So it felt like a free night of drinking, because once I lend or spend money my brain immediately assumes it is gone forever, so when I get something back, my brain immediately assumes I have won some sort of prize. My brain is very dumb.
Logan: No your brain is totally right!
Matt: Hear that brain? You’re alright!
Matt’s Brain: I like eating ~snowcones~!
Logan: Have you lent money to friends before?
Matt: I have lent money to people. Friends are usually reliable to get you your money back—I can’t remember anyone outright stiffing me. But I do think the lending money relationship is one of the biggest stressors in our Western civilization. When someone asks you to lend them money, our society dictates that it is rude to say no. So you feel pressure to say yes, unless you are absolutely strapped for cash. On the other side, our society also says it’s rude to then ask that person for your money back. You seem almost greedy, or singularly-minded when you ask someone to pay you back. There is no right way to do this. Even when it goes perfectly, both sides still feel dirty.
Maybe this is just me, but I hate having to remind people to pay me back. When it starts getting into months, these people aren’t going to suddenly remember if they haven’t been checking in with you, updating you on their plan to pay you back. Which rarely if ever happens anyway. So even though Western society has made so many things so much easier, like the unique cosmopolitan thrill of enjoying rich Arkansan mahogany smells with delightful pita bread, it has yet to iron out this lending money to friends dilemma.
Logan: Well I’m glad to hear that your friends have not outright stiffed you, but you having to pressure them to pay you back doesn’t sound that great either! I’m in no great hurry to pay back most of my creditors, but the ones that are actual humans, yes. I’m very wary of the stress about money, and don’t want to mess up relationships.
Also, who are these friends you are always lending money to??
Matt: I wouldn’t say I lend a lot of money, just when I do it, this social faux pas, or the potential of it, stresses me out. It can be anything from lending straight cash or waiting for a payback on a utilities bill or squaring up concert tickets. With most friends, buying drinks and meals for them is totally easy and laid-back, because then in the future they will cover you. This is one of the beautiful tenants of friendship. But when lending gets into these more nebulous areas with more nebulous acquaintances, that’s when disharmonious things can crop up.
Logan: Wait so when I asked you to lend me $20, were you worried that you wouldn’t get it back? Or that you’d have to bug me about it? Did I make you uncomfortable by asking?
Matt: No I wasn’t worried, because this is the first time I’ve ever lent you money, and I knew you were good for it. If I had lent you some in the past and you had dragged your feet or forgotten a lot and I needed to remind you, I definitely would have been more stressed. But you paid me back super quick, so there were no issues.
Logan: I can’t remember how I asked you, exactly. I remember I was housesitting and you’d come over the house, and I didn’t even have enough money for subway fare. I asked you for $20 I think, and I remember you saying, “Did you invite me over here to ask me for money?” And it being funny. Because … OF COURSE NOT. But …. MAYBE?
Matt: I remember that house, because there was the dog that liked you way better than it liked me. I really hate that dog.
Logan: The dog is only human.
Matt: I would have never lent that dog money. Not for anything. No way, no how. I don’t care what anyone says. I wouldn’t do it.
Logan: So do you have an idea of what friends owe you drinks right now?
Matt: Oh, I have no idea. I think all that stuff equals out over time anyway. I’m sure I owe people plenty of drinks, too.
Logan: I think we’re pretty much even? But I actually have no idea and don’t even care. The only way I’d know is if I felt indebted to you. I’m aware when I owe people things, and I think about it, and I don’t like it. Which is why I’m usually quick to cover a tab, or one of the reasons. Do you have anything else for us to talk about? It doesn’t have to deal with anything.
Matt: Do you have any more scathing critiques of my interior design sense?
Logan: No. I mean I’m sure I could go on, but now I’m kind of grumpy because the the candy is gone.
Matt: There’s some Baby Ruth left. And a single red Skittle. Right there. Eat them before they become part of the decor.