What Would You Do?

Posted by Mrs Money on April 5th, 2010

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Creative Commons License photo credit: greenkozi

Last week I wrote that you should never let friends or family borrow money. I tried contacting my friend numerous times by calling her, texting, and emailing.  I have received no response.  On Wednesday, I called and told her that if she didn’t call me by Saturday night that I had no choice but to settle in court, and I really didn’t want to do that.  I told her that all she had to do was respond letting me know what was going on.  I said that she probably didn’t have the money now, and maybe we could work something out without having to take it to court.

They have never contacted me back.

I feel like I have two options now.  1. Forgive and forget, or 2. Take it to court.  I honestly haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.  There are positives and negatives to both situations.  I’ve decided that I can’t be friends with them any longer because of how they have handled the situation and the stress they have put me through.  True friends do not do that.  All they had to do was be honest and tell me what was going on and we would have been understanding.  Now I’m down to making a hard decision.

If we forgive and forget, I can get closure faster, but I won’t get my money back. I can stop worrying about what is going on, and move forward.  I won’t have them in my life any more, and that hurts more than I could ever imagine, but that’s how it’s going to have to be.  One of the things that’s holding me back from forgiving and forgetting is that I feel like they are getting away with something they shouldn’t.  They borrowed the money, and they should pay it back.  They shouldn’t have booked a vacation to Florida instead of paying me back (yes, they really did that).

If we take it to court, we may get our money back or we may not. I don’t know how taking it to court works, and chances are if they don’t have the money, I don’t know how I would get it back.  Like a wise friend told me, “you can’t get blood from a stone.”  I don’t know if the court would garnish paychecks or what, so there’s the possibility that we would get it back.  Plus, the thought of taking it to court stresses me out, and I don’t really need any more stress and anxiety in my life.

So I’m now stuck trying to make this hard decision.  Do I let it go, or do I try to get it back by going to court?  What would you do?

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38 Responses to “What Would You Do?”


  1. Laura@mtp says:

    As you say this is such a difficult one; without knowing the person, it makes it even more difficult
    What I wouldn’t want to do is end up even worse off than I was already, so if it costs a lot to pursue I wouldn’t bother {not sure how this works in the US}

    This is a very stressful situation and I wouldn’t increase that; it’s bad enough that you’ve lost a ‘friend’ but it’s more their loss than yours. {{hugs}}

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  2. apieceofwood says:

    As a first time visitor, I’m not sure of the sums involved, but I’d be tempted to let it go, chalk it up to experience and move on. Court could cost you more, cause stress with no guarantee of being paid.

    I’m a big believer in what goes around comes around..

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  3. sue says:

    Having lived part of my life as a paralegal, I will tell you what I learned: going to court is a crap-shoot. :P The judge may side with you, but you may not see any benefit from the judgment, esp. if this non-paying is a lifestyle for your friend. You may have to get in line behind secured debt that is claiming against their income, tax refunds, etc.

    With that in mind, if it was me, I’d let it go. Court is stressful and if you’re able to release it, you can release the stress, resentment, anger, and the rest and *choose* peace. My goal is to “live in peace with everyone, as much as it relates to me,” but I recognize that this may not be everyone’s cuppa. ;)

    I hope you figure this out in a way that leaves you peaceful & not resentful. :)

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  4. Ouch–I have very little experience in this area so I’d probably try to find someone who could advise me as to the likelihood of winning in court. I assume you’d go to small claims court since the sum small.

    The problem I see is if the friends you lent to are in financial trouble in general, they could have outstanding debts to many creditors or even be facing bankruptcy, in which case you may have trouble getting your money back. If you think you can get the money or if you think small claims court won’t be too frustrating and time-consuming, then go for it. But I wouldn’t go through something long and drawn out if I wasn’t sure I could win–personally.

    Good luck!

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  5. If I were in your shoes… I’d forget about it & never lend her another cent.

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  6. Erin says:

    Ah, man!! I feel for you. =( =( =(

    Do you have a lawyer friend who could write a very stern letter full of legal words that you could send to your friend??? Maybe that would scare her into paying you back.

    If that doesn’t work, say “oh and let it go.” Actually taking someone to court is a PITA.

    Erin

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  7. Hey Mrs. Money,

    I was wondering how this story was going to pan out.

    Based on your own assessment of Pros / Cons, I would say let it go. Who needs more stress?! What if you took your friend to court (more stress) and still did not get your money back?

    More important is to learn from this life experience. If the situation happened again, what would you do? No loan at all? Loan a smaller amount? Insist on a written contract?

    Your friend probably feels the same stress level of stress you are feeling, of course that doesn’t make it right….but if you let it go you’ll have peace. They may be “getting away with it” financially, but not really because they’ll be burdened by this debt until they reconcile with you. They can avoid, but they won’t be able to forget

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  8. I like Erin’s idea of the legal letter. As the others mentioned, court would be stressful.

    However, I think it’s a fairly simple process to file in small claims court. Also, I wonder if you have to have a judgment before you can write off the bad loan on taxes?

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  9. Little House says:

    I would probably chose the forgive and forget option. I do like Erin’s idea of a legal letter as an alternative option to going to court. Maybe this would frighten them a bit. It’s too bad this turned sour. I feel for you right now!

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  10. Evan says:

    Am I that wise friend? Or did someone else tell you that gem!

    Great re-model btw

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  11. I would choose forgive and forget. I’m not sure how easy that is going to go now that the threatening letter has been left though. I would call and tell her that you realize that your friendship means more than money. Of course, don’t lend her money again. In the future, if you want the money back, I wouldn’t lend it. This is something that haunts me with my family a lot. They NEED me to “lend” them money but if I can’t part with it and not expect it back at that point in time, I don’t give it to them.

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  12. H Lee D says:

    Legal letter might yield results. Do you have any mutual friends?

    The question really is:

    Is it worth many months’ more of dealing with it on a regular basis to maybe get money or maybe not?

    If you deal with it every day for the next four months and at the end of it, you get $1500, was the time and stress worth it?

    If you deal with it every day for the next four months and at the end of it, you get nothing (except following through on your threat), was the time and stress worth it?

    Unless the answer to BOTH of these is yes, let it go.

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  13. Becky R says:

    I ran an in home daycare for years. I had a client who ended up owing me $250, but she dropped off face of earth so each day a late fee was added. I was devasted as I loved her kids.

    I ended up taking her to court and winning, but never saw a a penny of it.

    She called me years later to apoligize and offer money, but I realize I sued her out of being upset, so I told her no, but I was so glad she called.

    I realize you may need that money, but I have a feeling even if you go to court you will not get it, so it’s probably not worth it. But was does your husband want to do? And maybe you could talk to an elder in the church as well.

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  14. Kacie says:

    I think you’ve been given good suggestions so far. Draft up a legal-type letter and mail it to her via certified mail (or something that you can verify she received it).

    If you have reason to go to her city, show up at her door. But it’s probably not worth a trip for that.

    Others have mentioned that since she’s having money troubles, you probably aren’t the first creditor in line.

    If, after writing the letter, you’ve felt that’s all that you can do, you’ve gotta just let it go (if that’s what works for you).

    Small claims court may or may not even get your money back.

    It’s just sad that she trashed your friendship over this!

    So yeah, take it to the next step if you and your husband think that’s the best move, but if not, let it go and call it an expensive life lesson.

    Oh, and I don’t know if there’s any way you can write this loss on your taxes? Might be worth checking into.

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  15. Jenny says:

    A trip to Florida? WTH? They ought to be ashamed for treating you this way. This is probably something that could easily happen to me, as I couldn’t sit by and watch a friend become homeless either, so thanks for writing about it. I am personally intimidated by the idea of court–could it end up costing you even more if you don’t win? It’s just such a shame you even have to think about something like that. Sorry you’re having such a hard time!

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  16. brite says:

    I’m a Christian, so that would dictate my response of of forgiving and then be wise and don’t ever lend her money (and it sounds like you’ve learned a bigger lesson here). It may be that forgiving her means somewhere down the road she realizes what a crummy friend she is and because of your example you will be able to have more of an impact when it comes to advising her about future financial habits. Then again, she may keep ripping people off and never be your friend again; sad, but life isn’t perfect. (We have to be realistic!) I would write her a letter telling her that you are forgiving her debt for whatever reasons you decide (just so she knows you are not ignoring it- she has done something wrong) and if she ever needs financial advice you will be there. And then you can move on. Just my two cents! So sorry you are having to deal with this, but I’m sure many people are in your shoes or will be, so it’s good to see how you work it all out.

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  17. Laura says:

    Personally, I would try to avoid the stress and bother of legal action, and would just let it go. My husband and I have had several instances in our life where it would have been reasonable to take people to court over various matters; but we let it go, moved on, and I’m glad we did.

    I do feel really bad for you though–what a slap in the face that your “friend” booked a trip to Florida through all this. Really, really unclassy. :(

    [Reply]

  18. AJ says:

    We went through the exact same situation about two years ago. A friend of mine borrowed $700 + additional costs for repairs of my home that her and her kid damaged. Took her over a year to finally pay me back that $700 and still has not paid for the damages. I admit I have since cut most contact with her, because obviously she can’t be trusted. Friends don’t do that. And to the people who said you don’t loan friends money and to never expect it back, I disagree. It should always be paid back unless you give it as a gift. We even had a written contract with my friend and she failed to meet it. We were also ignored for awhile and when I would get in touch with her, she’d make ME out to be the bad guy for asking for an update on the money situation. Lesson learned for me, never loan out money to friends. Period.

    We considered going to court. I wanted to go that route actually, so that she couldn’t continue to do this to other people. (Found out later she has a history of borrowing and never returning, guess we were lucky.) But the smalls claims court would tack on court costs and if she wasn’t paying us now, I, like you, wondered HOW the court would enforce repayment?!

    In the end, I let it go. And it magically appeared one day – about two weeks after my husband let her know we were taking her to court – it was a last resort threat. Maybe your friends conscience will catch up with her. This entry makes me want to blog about another “friend” of ours that stole our car….ack….and got away with it! Great friends are hard to come by! Best of luck getting this resolved!

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  19. Deirdre says:

    I would absolutely not take her to court – that seems to be really taking the low road, especially for such a small amount of money.

    As to the vacation to Florida, you don’t actually know the details – maybe they charged it, or someone else paid for it, or whatever – it’s not necessarily coming from money that they could have given you. But that’s not even the point. I think it’s kind of sad that you would go to such lengths to hound this person about the money – either she’s a basically well-meaning person who just can’t figure out how to pay you back and feels bad about it and embarrassed, or she’s a total con artist who was just using you, but either way all you have control over is your own mindset and your own actions, and this seems to be consuming you way more than is merited for the amount of money.

    In my opinion, $1,500 is a reasonable price to pay for the lesson of not lending money that you can’t afford to lose.

    [Reply]

    Mrs. Micah Reply:

    I don’t think $1,500 is a small amount of money, nor is Mrs. Money “hounding” her to get it back. Yes, she’s made an effort…she’d be an idiot NOT to make some effort to get it back. Unreasonable hounding would be showing up at this person’s workplace, or ringing her doorbell often (one in-person visit to try to talk things over…assuming it’s the well-meaning route).

    If you take $1,500 from someone and don’t pay it back, you at least owe them an explanation of why you can’t pay it back. You don’t deserve to be left in peace after a couple attempts. Sure, Mrs. Money shouldn’t be calling them up for the rest of her life, but she’s been nothing but reasonable so far.

    Maybe $1,500 isn’t a lot to you, but to some that’s a month’s paycheck.

    [Reply]

    Deirdre Reply:

    I apologize if I came across as insulting – that was not my intention. But I do believe that legal action tends to just bring people down to the level of the perpetrator, and that the time and aggravation cost of suing would probably not be worth $1,500 even if she were to get it back, which it sounds like us unlikely.

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  20. ctreit says:

    I would let it go and take one important lesson from it: never lend money to friends or family again. If you do lend money again, consider it a gift right away. Then you won’t be disappointed if you never get it back. Also, think about being in her shoes. How do you think she feels about taking your money? I doubt that she feels very proud about it. In the meantime you can still hold your head up high.

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  21. akborn says:

    Well I can really feel for you as I been in similar situations myself- I personally would say that moving on instead of taking to court would be less stressful. I would take the advise of the above person who mention a certified letter,something from a lawyer, something with a kind of payment option(maybe), your good with numbers, figures and budgeting maybe something that might be really reasonable that they might not of thought of(even if its $10 a month, its an attempt) I can only guess that this is not so much about the money but more the fact that they were friends, and you had trusted them, and its frustrating when you take someone for their word, and instead of being respectful, and responsible they blow you off/etc. I am not sure to what extent the money loan was(was there a contract/documentation)- but another thing to keep in mind is they have kind of called you on your “bluff” so if you personally feel its worth it, and have the paperwork showing and proving you loaned that maybe its worth taking to court:-) I hope for the best for you. and out of curiousity if you dont mind could you let us know what you end up doing, again best of luck:-)

    [Reply]

  22. I can’t help but put myself in your friend’s shoes. Since I have such a hard, hard time imagining a friend do this to another friend I cannot believe she is doing it just to be mean and rip you off. If I were your friend, I would probably be mortified that I had borrowed money and now can’t pay it back. If they are caught in a debt spiral, it is hard to pay back money. Maybe they were foolish to think they could pay you back. Also, like another person said, I hope the “vacation” to Florida wasn’t funded with money they should have paid to you. I realize a lot of damage has been done to your friendship. I just wish this had never happened. But it is a lesson to learn. No matter how badly you may want to help a friend one day down the road, you’ll have this experience to guide you. Maybe you’ll do it again, but I think you will probably give the money freely instead of loaning it. I personally wouldn’t do the court route, just because I have a personal dislike of suing. Hope you figure out what to do soon for your own peace of mind.

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  23. I have nothing to add to the above except… Going to Florida?? I just. Well. I. Wow.
    I don’t know what to say.

    [Reply]

  24. Jenny says:

    I know I already commented, but I was thinking about it and as a couple of other people have asked, are you sure they are paying their own way on the Florida trip? One year ago today my family was coming home from Disney World–but it definitely wasn’t on our dime. My parents took us, as we were saving for a homebirth and there is no way we could’ve afforded it. We hardly spent any money on that trip. It seems like an important possibility to consider. Maybe they aren’t as horrible as they seem.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Jenny- They told me they paid for it themselves before this all went down. :(

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  25. Carrie says:

    i have a friend who is a third year law student and going through this same issue with her exboyfriend. apparently if you take someone to court like this and you do win and they garnish his/her paychecks to repay debt you’d be the lowest priority, so if they have a car payment, mortgage, credit card bills, medical debt, etc those would all get repaid out of those garnished wages before you ever saw any money. so unless it’s a lot of money you might be better off just forgiving and forgetting.

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  26. Just wanted to chime in and let you know that I went through the exact same thing 2 years ago. I had been friends with this person for 18 years, so I didn’t give it a second thought when she asked for a help making her mortgage payment. She was also in danger of being homeless; lives 2 states away from me, otherwise I would have just offered her a place to live.

    Anyway, she said she would pay me back in “a few weeks,” but after 5 months of one-sided contact (I called, emailed, texted, etc.), I told her that I would need to make some kind of payment arrangement or take her to court. I felt terrible saying it, but I really needed the money.

    I wound up asking a lawyer friend of mine to help me draft something up that looked official, then I mailed it to her home certified. After a few days, I wound up getting a call, and she and I settled on 3/4 of the money owed at $50 month. Not the best possible outcome, but better than nothing. The hardest part was letting go of such a long friendship – like a death in the family on top of being taken advantage of financially.

    Sorry you have to go through this, though – it definitely sucks.

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  27. Karen604 says:

    I have always found it better to never lend what you cannot afford to simply give away. Even after time has passed you need to look at it that way.

    Someone told me that there is a passage in the Bible that says ‘A borrower is slave to the lender.’

    I would rather skip the aggravation of worrying about the lending and let it be on their shoulders that they owe you money.

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  28. mary m says:

    do you think you will really be able to forgive her though? or forget it? yet retain the lesson?

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  29. As a recovering attorney who advised creditors, I’d say – forget about it. It’s one thing for a creditor making a *business* decision to decide to take a business customer to court. It’s another thing for a friend to decide to take another friend to court. Consider the time – prepping, waiting, appearing in court and the cost – paying an attorney and court fees AND consider how the whole process will affect your feelings about yourself and your relationship.

    If you sue and get the BEST case outcome (win a judgment) AND are able to garnish wages and recover all your money (less your court costs and attorneys fees), how will you feel – about yourself and about your relationship? And what if you get something less (say a judgment – but cannot recover 100% or
    you get a judgment and they declare bankruptcy)? How will you feel?

    If you just forget the debt and move on with your life – what’s the worst case scenario – and how would you feel – and how would you feel about a better outcome?

    My opinion is that, while they might work ok for business conflicts, courts are a terrible place to resolve *personal* conflicts.

    [Reply]

  30. Qui says:

    I have a easy rules for lending money to friends-

    1. Is this person likely to pay me back?

    2. Do I have the money to lend and can I afford to lend the money?

    3. If I lend the money and the person doesn’t pay me back will I be able to let it go, or will it ruin our relationship?

    4. When I lend someone money- I always assume that the person will NOT be able to repay the money. (This kind of goes with number 3)

    My advice is let it go. You learned a valueable lesson about lending friends money. Almost everyone has to learn this lesson- I know did :)

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  31. eemusings says:

    I’m new to the blog, too, but I see the amount is $1500? Can you afford to let that go? If so, I’d save myself the heartbreak and try to move on. As for the end of the friendship…well, that might be harder to deal with.

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  32. We allowed our feelings to get the best of us in 2007 (hubby and I were 24 years old) and put about $15,000 into a business ran by one of our friends. She did not disclose a variety of problems, refused to follow financial advice, and ran the game store into the ground in 6 months.

    We saw a grand total of about $2000 again from the business (mostly inventory) and took the rest as tax deductions for business loss over the past 3 years (was able to deduct 1/4 the loss). That’s it, we just threw away more than $10,000 because we felt for a friend and didn’t ask enough questions.

    Luckily, it was money we could afford to lose (even though I still kick myself for it). We bought our house anyway (barely having enough for 20% down and a small emergency fund) and are still on track on all of our goals. It just made us feel really stupid and we weren’t able to change anything major in our house for a couple of years. We make about $80,000 a year jointly and live on about half of that, so the hit hurt, but it wasn’t a permanent scar.

    I’m sorry your friend is a user and a liar. It’s a personal decision to take it to court, but it sounds like you don’t want to…I’m sorry for the loss of a friend and your money.

    I’d personally want to take it to court, but I’m a little vindictive (not my best quality). Plus, you could blog about how the system worked out for you. :-)

    Either way, you will feel a little better every few months. In a few years, you might just roll your eyes. It sucks, I’m sorry, and I hope you do whatever is right for you and your husband. Good luck.

    [Reply]

  33. Sherry says:

    Someone told me this-only lend to friends and famly what you can afford to lose, because you will likely never see the money again.
    I will pray and maybe give a gift of what I can afford, that way I am not stressed about losing the money. What I give may or may not be the amount they requested, but I still offer and it’s given free and clear if accepted.
    Sometimes I offer tough love and say no. If do not have it to give I say no.
    I do not lend.

    [Reply]

  34. Nicole says:

    1) I would draft a legal letter and then send it certified mail (you can check at your library for books outlining your state’s statutes on this matter);

    2) I would also look into Small Claims court, as it may be very nominal;

    3) I would notify other friends about what occurred. Some of your friends may have contact with these people, and do you really want them in the same boat? With this said, just give people the facts without attempting to “defame” these “friends.” and

    4) If nothing comes to fruition, I agree with the majority sentiment – you’ll need to let go and move forward. And yes, Karma IS NOT KIND to those that have harmed others.

    [Reply]


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