Paying Back Your Friends: A Conversation

by Mike Dang

This series is brought to you by TurboTax Federal Free Edition.
Mike: So, Logan, I heard that after we left the bar last night, I went home to go to bed, and you went back to your neighborhood in Brooklyn and got more drinks?

Logan: Well, that is almost true. I went back to our friend Adam’s neighborhood and got one more drink, and also some macaroni and cheese, yes. That happened.

Mike: Oh.

Logan: I’m guessing that you’re interested in this fact because you think there are other things I could have spent that $26 on! ($6 for the drink, $10 for the mac and cheese, and then a sizeable tip because I had a small crush on the bartender).

Mike: Well, yes. I mean. Oh gosh, I don’t even know how to say this! But, I feel like I should? Because I’m your friend and we’re totally open about everything in our life to one another. So I know how much is in your bank account, and I know you can’t afford to buy all these drinks. I also know that you owe me $50 right now, and, not only that, but you just paid me back $300 that I lent you so you could make your rent last month. This is REAL TALK.

Logan: I cannot argue with anything that you have said there! Except that I think I owe you more than $50, actually. Isn’t it more like $70? And I don’t know why I haven’t paid you back yet. I’m going to the ATM right now actually. Hold please.

[10 minutes of lapsed time]

Logan: Okay, so I just gave you $60, which I think might be too little, but you said it’s too much. I’m trying to remember what was included in that amount. The paint you bought for my room from the hardware store that wouldn’t take my credit card, right? And brushes and things? That was at least $50 right there, I think. And then drinks at least that night and maybe another night also.

Mike: Yes, there was that weekend where I helped you paint your new room because you felt miserable about how shabby it looked. And I wanted you to be happy, so we decided to do a little DIY and make it feel more like home. I’m not counting half of those drinks, because friends buy friends drinks sometimes. And you wanted to buy a round of drinks, but didn’t have any cash on you, so you borrowed money from me to do it. Friends do not buy friends drinks when they don’t have the money. That is the key difference between you and me.

Logan: Okay, I don’t know if that’s the KEY difference. I mean, I just paid $5 in ATM fees so I didn’t have to cross 7th Avenue, and I know for a #mikedangfact that you’ve never paid an ATM fee in your life. But you’re right. We have different opinions about spending money we don’t have.

Mike: I literally just gasped out loud. ATM fees are a thing that are so easily avoidable! OK. I need to stop. Because I’m not your dad, I’m your friend.

Logan: But, like my dad, you just want the best for me. My dad also does not pay ATM fees and only spends money he has or has borrowed against something he owns, like a house. But let’s not talk about ATM fees. That’s another discussion ENTIRELY. Except maybe it isn’t. Because the ATM fees and the spending money I don’t necessarily have thing both come from the same place: living in the moment and being happy in the now. It’s a life philosophy, dude.

Mike: It’s America’s philosophy. It’s why so many people have fallen into this giant hole of debt. People just like to have nice things, so they end up living beyond their means. But I’m trying to get inside your head. Because when I owe someone money, it haunts me. I think about it for almost every moment until I’ve repaid back that debt. Like, do you remember when we went out to dinner that one time with our business friend? And he paid for dinner when I wanted to? And how it haunted me?

Logan: Yeah, I didn’t understand that. Because he for sure paid for it with company funds, which… is not the same as him buying you dinner. I was happy to get free dinner, though if he hadn’t put it on the company card, and I hadn’t been so utterly broke, I totally would have wanted to pick up the check, because picking up the check is fun! I love paying for people. It’s just such a good feeling. I imagine it’s even better when you’re paying with actual money and not future money that you think you’ll have, at some point.

But back to borrowing money.

I’ve borrowed money from you several times, BUT I usually don’t borrow money from friends. I think I have maybe two other friends I’ve borrowed money from. And I’ve always been so embarrassed about it. (This was in a time before now.) But you know all my worst things, so maybe it just didn’t resonate with me that having borrowed $60 from you was something that had to be erased from the record post-haste. Plus — and this is projection, I know — I know how good you are with money and that you would never bounce a check over that $60 or whatever. But: I feel good that I just paid it back, and I wish I’d paid it back earlier, with a little note saying “thank you, don’t hate me,” instead of handing you cash that I interrupted our conversation to go get.

Mike: Honestly, I didn’t start this conversation so that you’d pay me back that money, but thank you. My whole line of thinking with bringing up the extra $26 you spent after I went home last night was that I could point out that you’re getting into this cycle of running out of money before your next paycheck and needing to borrow money again. And I want to break this cycle. Also, I would be okay if you never paid me back that $60.


Mike: Well, what was it that Shakespeare taught us in high school? “Neither a borrower nor a lender be / for loan oft loses both itself and a friend.” I am not going to be that friend who ruins a relationship over money. I know the amount I can lend out and never see again, and still be cool about it. I’m not going to hold a grudge over $60.

Logan: But it would keep me up at night, thinking about it. I mean, you know about my friends who got married seven years ago, and I never got them a wedding present, and I think about it every day!? Once I remembered that I owed you $60, I would think about it every day until I paid it back.

Also, until you said it, it hadn’t occurred to me that I was going to run out of money again. Because, you know, the last time I promised myself it would be the last time. But that promise has been made and broken many a time before.

Mike: But I think if it haunts you, the thing you should do is to, I don’t know — pay back your friend? I mean, that’s the easiest and best solution!

Logan: Right, but I never think of it when it’s an appropriate time. Like, it’s always 3 a.m. and I’m reading some blogz and I’m like AGH I OWE MIKE DANG MONEY. Mike, have you ever had to borrow money from a friend? You know I would lend you whatever you needed. If I had it. Or I’d get it. Somehow.

Mike: Well, I’m usually the person lending money, but I have totally borrowed money from friends. I’m trying to think of a time. I’m guessing it was when I went to a restaurant that was cash only and didn’t have enough cash on me. But I always run to the ATM immediately after leaving the premises so that I can make sure my friend/lender gets paid. And if not, I have this curse where I remember everything. So I always pay back my friends within 24 hours.

Logan: What happens after 24 hours?

Mike: I die? Ha, no, but I’m not joking when I say that the debt haunts me. I don’t ever want to owe any money to anyone.

Logan: That sounds like a hard thing, Mike Dang. A real hard thing. So where has this all left us? I paid you back. I’ve realized I’m probably going to spend all my money before I get more money, again. And I’ve stricken you from my list of people to borrow money from. Et tu?

Mike: Well, I want you to know that I will always be here for you if you need money. It’s not that you should strike me from your list, it’s that these experiences will hopefully get you to a place where you never have to consult that list ever again.

Logan: Do you think I’ve gotten better with money or worse with money since we started being friends?

Mike: Better! I don’t think you’ve thought about it as much as you do now. It’s something — it’s a step. Acknowledging that this is a thing in your life, I mean.

Logan: I kind of think I’ve gotten worse, actually. Because I at least used to be stressed about being bad with money all the time. And now I’ve just decided that this is how I am, and so it doesn’t really stress me out as much anymore, except for those few days when I run out and have to borrow or whatever.

I don’t know, Mike. Does anyone else owe you anything right now? Do I owe you anything else?

Mike: Well, since I have this curse of a memory, I can definitely give you a rundown of people who owe me money. In sum, it’s not a lot of money. It’s money I can live without. And if I can offer any advice to anyone out there it’s: Don’t lend money out to anyone if you know you’ll be really upset if you never see that money again. If you’re lending out a large amount of money, you need to have the borrower sign some sort of contract with a date that they are obligated to pay you back in full — something you can take to small claims court if need be.

Also, don’t lend money to people you know are just absolutely terrible with money. That shouty blonde financial lady Suze Orman says that sometimes “helping is hurting,” which means some people will never learn from their mistakes if they get bailed out of trouble all the time. And if you’re the person who owes money to your friend, be a good friend and pay them back in a timely manner! We live in a world where you can do that using a phone app (Venmo, methinks is one of these apps). You really have no excuse anymore.

Logan: Wait, I could have paid you back using a phone app?

Mike: Um. I think you were the one who told me about that app.

Logan: Oh. I forgot.

Mike: Don’t worry, I’ll remember for the both of us. Just remember that an anagram for “Mike Dang” is “Mega Kind.” I’ll always be your mega kind friend.

Logan: That is the best anagram ever. Wow. The best I have is “Nacho Slogan,” which, well, it’s no “Mega Kind.”

Mike: Well, I do like nachos!

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor; advertisers do not produce the content.

Mike Dang and Logan Sachon always pay back their friends — you can find them both over at their shiny new website, The Billfold. Photo by emdot.