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Never Lend to a Friend

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"Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry."
Polonius, Hamlet

It's coming up to rent day and Alice is a little short. Bob, on the other hand, has money to spare, and casually offers to lend her the cash - after all, what's a few quid between friends? No need for collateral or payment deadlines, The Power of Trust will prevail!

Now one (or more) of several things happens to severely strain their friendship:

  • Alice is slow to pay the money back. Bob starts off understanding but gets more and more annoyed the longer it goes on and the more his own financial pressures build up.
    • Bob assumes this will happen and starts pestering Alice for the money unreasonably - she's already paid it out, and can't return it yet, and her good friend has suddenly transmogrified into the All Devouring Black Hole Loan Shark!
  • Alice suddenly has money to burn, and does so. Bob is either angry that she hasn't learnt her lesson, that she seems ungrateful, or that she apparently didn't need the money as much as he thought. He may be too proud to mention needing the money, and Alice will assume he's getting along fine without it.
    • Bob assumes this will happen, and starts watching over Alice's shoulder, reading her receipts, and generally being nosey and superior - less Loan Shark and more Bank Manager.

This will rarely be the moral grey area it would usually be in Real Life: one party (most often the greedy lender) will be clearly in the wrong, and will learn An Aesop about the importance of Friendship and Trust. If the borrower really was taking advantage, the relationship can be more significantly damaged, especially if they continue to refuse to pay it back.

One of the Money Tropes. Closely related to Broken Treasure, where a borrowed possession is lost or broken, leading to similar problems. If the ill-advised borrowing is from a suspiciously helpful stranger, see Loan Shark. Compare Evil Debt Collector and The Thing That Would Not Leave. Contrast Financial Test of Friendship.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Cosigning a car lease for an old work acquaintance is what sets the events of Kaiji into action. And, of course, the guy he did it for shows up and proceeds to die, ensuring Kaiji will never get re-payed for the headache.
  • Invoked in New Game! when Aoba and Nene visit the souvenir counter at a movie theater: Aoba, who's just received her first paycheck, offers to lend Nene money for some merchandise, but Nene turns her down because it'd be bad for their friendship. Aoba has the same answer when Nene suggests that Aoba buy the goods and resell them to her later.

  • In Knights of the Dinner Table, a Running Gag is for one of the characters, usually Dave or Bob, to show up to the game with some expensive extravagance, like a $75 electronic GM screen "player advantage screen", or drop everything to spend a week at GaryCon, with long-suffering B.A. or Sara pointing out that he still owes money or that his car has urgent repair needs he's been putting off.
    • One strip deals with all five characters dealing with a tangled web of World War I alliance-proportions' worth of owed money between them. The equally complex solution ("Take the money you owe me, pay it back to him", etc.) clears up everyone's accounts except for Bob, who now owes money to everybody.
  • Lucky Luke: In Tortillas for the Daltons, the Daltons end up in Mexico, where they mug a mariachi band for their mules, clothes, and instruments. Luke runs into the mariachis and notes that one doesn't seem too cut up about it. He then says that he'd already lost his stuff to one of the other bandmembers while playing poker.
  • During the Spider-Men crossover, Peter warns Miles to never lend money to Wolverine or Mockingbird because he'll never see it again.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in A Bronx Tale. Calogero is owed twenty dollars by a casual acquaintance (keep in mind this was a lot of money in 1968), which escalates into such a tense issue that the kid ends up just running every time he sees "C" coming. C is venting about this one day to his mentor Sonny, who asks C if he even particularly liked the guy to begin with. C replies that he never really did, and Sonny points out that he's free to just forget about it if he wants — the other kid will continue avoiding C in order to avoid repaying the debt. "He's out of your life for twenty dollars."

  • Two guys are walking down the street when a mugger approaches them at gunpoint and demands their money. They both grudgingly pull out their wallets and begin taking out their cash. Just then one guy turns to the other and hands him a bill. "Here's that $20 I owe you," he says.

  • In one story by Ephraim Kishon. Played with insofar as it's the friend who really becomes obnoxious, despite the narrator being polite and helpful.
  • In The King Killer Chronicle, most of Kvothe's problems are either caused or made worse by the fact that he's afraid of falling into this with his friends.
  • Volume I of Life's Little Instruction Book cautions against this:
    243. Be cautious about lending money to friends. You might lose both.
  • In George Eliot's Middlemarch, Fred Vincy casually persuades Mr. Garth to underwrite a debt, assuming that he will easily pay it back from an expected inheritance. When this doesn't work out as expected, he tries to scrape up the money owed but comes short, forcing the Garths to give up their life's savings which were earmarked to fund their children's apprenticeship. Fred is guilt-torn, but later, when Mr. Garth's fortunes improve, it's he who gives Fred the means to redeem himself and repay the money.
  • In Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace", a woman borrows a fancy necklace, loses it, can't bring herself to tell her friend, beggars herself and her husband to buy an identical necklace to give back... and then, after a lifetime of misery based on that single decision, encounters the lender again, spills her guts, and discovers that the woman had only lent her costume jewelry.
  • In one of Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno books, the Professor tries to explain the meaning of the word 'convenient' with a poem about two men, Peter and Paul, which begins with one deciding as a gesture of friendship to lend the other fifty pounds. Said poem takes this trope to its extreme, as the lender does not find it "convenient" to provide the money until well after the date in which the lendee is forced to pay it back... and after the lendee is reduced to homelessness... and while the lender still hasn't found it convenient to lend the original money at the end of the poem, he has decided in his magnaminosity to lend fifty more pounds! Which the lendee rejects, exclaiming that "it would not be convenient!"
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Ukridge stories, Ukridge is always leaning on his friends for financial assistance, and they often oblige. If they remind him too frequently about what he owes, he's hurt that an old pal should display such a narrow-minded, grasping attitude, and claims that his latest Get-Rich-Quick Scheme will allow him to repay them tenfold if they just stop being so impatient. Corky (who narrates the stories) is resigned to the fact that he'll never get any money back — while still allowing himself to be talked into dispensing a little more. Other friends still haven't learned.
    Tupper: We ought to do something practical for him. After all, a loan of twenty pounds cannot relieve the situation permanently.
    Corky: I think you're a bit optimistic if you're looking on it as a loan.

    Live Action TV 
  • On Cheers, Diane borrows $500 from Sam to buy a first-edition Hemingway. Sam says he's not going to expect her to pay it back, but then Carla eggs him on by pointing out Diane's expensive clothes, lunches, etc. Finally Diane gives Sam the book as collateral; he drops it in the bathtub while reading it. A buyer offers Diane $1200 for the book, and Sam is forced to outbid him.
    • In another episode, Norm suddenly comes into money and Sam starts harping on him about his bar tab. When Norm buys a boat with the money, Sam loses it and starts yelling at Norm. Norm reveals that the boat is for Sam for being such a good and patient friend.
  • Partly Lampshaded and partly averted in an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D.. Vinnie asks Doogie for some money, and at first Doogie refuses because of this trope. He ends up agreeing, but it doesn't cause any problems between them and it never gets mentioned again.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: Ray and Debra lend Robert money after visiting his run-down bachelor pad, but Ray gets upset when Robert goes to Las Vegas. By the end of the episode, though, Ray has admitted to Robert that he secretly envies him. As Ray puts it, a vacation for him would be going to the bathroom for 2 minutes without someone banging on the door. As Robert is still single, he can afford to just up and go to Vegas. Ray urges him to go. We never see Debra's viewpoint on this. Presumably, she'd disagree with Ray.
  • Frasier: Frasier lends Roz some money to help her through single motherhood but calls her spending into question when Daphne sees her at a spa, and Frasier sees luxury items in her shopping bag. Turns out they were all justified expenses (a coupon, a gift from her mother, a store credit for a return, etc.) apart from one (a bottle of perfume) which she got to treat herself.
  • In the second series of Fresh Meat, the housemates discover they've all independently been lending money to Vod, and she hasn't been paying anyone back, so they confront her over it at a house meeting.
    Vod: I didn't realise I was living with a bunch of bean counters!
    Kingsley: Yeah, we've counted them, and we've got no beans. You've taken all our beans!
  • Several examples in Friends:
    Joey: If you want, I could loan you some money?
    Phoebe: Oh no, no, no. I learned never to borrow money from friends. No, that's why Richard Dreyfuss and I don't speak anymore.
    • And:
      Joey: You know... lending friends money is always a mistake.
      Monica: But Chandler lent you money!
      Joey: And I think he would tell you it was a mistake.
    • While in an inversion, Chandler spends an episode desperately trying to lend Joey money, but Joey doesn't want to owe him anything - presumably because of this trope. And thus was born the Game of Cups.
  • Twisted in House, where House asks Wilson to borrow money any time he makes a big purchase. He actually has the money, he's just trying to objectively measure the strength of their friendship.
  • iCarly devotes an entire episode to Sam paying back Carly and Freddie $500. Sam ends up getting a bad job and it strains their relationship somewhat.
  • A LOT of the cases on Judge Judy involve the plaintiff suing a former friend for an unpaid loan. The defendant's usual defense will be "it was a gift, not a loan," such as in this case. Judge Judy almost always rules in favor of the plaintiff, as well as giving them the advice: "Never lend money to anybody. As soon as you lend money, you become the bad guy."
  • On Magnum, P.I. (2018) this is downplayed with Magnum who constantly owes money to his friends for expenses they incurred helping him. He wants to pay them back but he is constantly broke and whenever he gets a decent amount of money, he will spend it on something noble like helping out a bunch of orphans. His friends like to tease him about this from time to time but have no ill feelings since they know that if they are ever in any real trouble, Magnum will move heaven and hell to help them.
  • In an episode of M*A*S*H, Winchester loans money to BJ, then proceeds to treat him like a servant, expecting him to do everything he wants. For some reason, BJ complies, even though he already has the money and these conditions were never discussed when he asked for the loan.
    • Another episode has Frank and Hot Lips arguing over this, including the obligatory mention of the page quote.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Played for Laughs in "The Spy Who Came Up to the Cold", when Higgins hides Crabtree's fancy new pen because George bought it rather than repay a small loan to him. Crabtree argues that Higgins borrowed from him a year earlier to get a uniform item and hadn't repaid that loan. The two trade insults while working the case.
  • Played With in Reba. Reba's ex-husband Brock and his new wife Barbara Jean have fallen on hard times and are in danger of losing their house. Reba has recently become a real estate agent, so they ask her to buy the house to save them. She does, and promptly becomes their landlord, having them sign a formal lease agreement and establish their rent payments. Barbara Jean in particular was expecting Reba to let them live there out of the goodness of her heart and considers this arrangement to be Reba taking advantage of their misfortune, so she goes out of her way to be a terrible tenet to punish Reba. In the end, Reba explains that she set up the arrangement legally so they wouldn't worry about the confusion that usually follows this trope getting in the way of their relationship, and Barbara Jean is just so happy that Reba's actually admitting they have a relationship, all is forgiven.
  • JD on Scrubs lent the Janitor a buck for the vending machine, only for him to start acting as if every random encounter is JD hounding him for repayment. Of course, that's how he acts most of the time with no provocation whatsoever, so...
  • Sex and the City - Carrie needs to get a mortgage on her apartment, but has apparently managed to spend all her money on shoes (no, really) so she doesn't have it. Miranda and Samantha offer to loan her the cash (she refuses) but Charlotte doesn't, because of this trope. Carrie whines about it, and Charlotte eventually changes her mind and lends the money to Carrie, who promises to pay it back with interest. It's never mentioned or brought up again.
  • Very frequent on The Sopranos:
    • Tony tries to keep his childhood friend David Scatino, a notorious gambling addict, away from his illegal high-stakes poker game. When Scatino insists and runs up a ridiculous losing streak, Tony agrees to lend him the money to cover it, but at the same terms as anyone else. Scatino soon becomes swallowed by the interest, which destroys his business and marriage. Tony is unmoved by Scatino's plight, reasoning that Scatino might be an old friend, but he gave him every warning to never get in debt to the mob, and that he brought everything bad that happened to himself by failing to control his gambling problem.
    • Artie tries to borrow money for an investment deal from Ralphie, who hears him out but ultimately refuses, reasoning that if Artie couldn't pay, he'd have to beat him up, and he doesn't want to be put in that position.
    • Tony gets offended that Artie didn't come to him first and insists on loaning Artie the money. Artie's investment falls through, leaving him in a hopeless situation. Tony ultimately forgives the debt and lets Artie repay him with free meals at his restaurant. Artie is grateful, but he also accuses Tony of realizing that lending him money was a Xanatos Gambit all along. Their friendship is never quite the same.
    • Tony himself runs up some gambling debts and ends up owing money to his Jewish friend Hesh. When Hesh asks for it back, Tony gets defensive and resentful and starts making Greedy Jew jokes. Their long friendship ends. Tony does slowly repay Hesh, insisting that Hesh take the money rather than wait until Tony can pay him back the full amount.
    • Christopher's friend JT Dolan from AA runs up a large gambling debt, and Chris lends him the money to cover it. Dolan balks at the fact that Christopher charges him the same punishing vig as anyone else, but Christopher counters that he won't enable Dolan's bad decisions. Dolan has trouble paying the money back, causing Christopher to pummel him and steal his possessions, ultimately costing Dolan everything but the shirt off his back. From then on, Dolan is resentful and afraid of Chris, but Chris doesn't seem to notice.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Maddie borrows money from London, and London uses this to guilt Maddie into doing things for her. In the end, Esteban and the rest of the staff take up a collection so Maddie can pay London back. This upsets London who wanted to keep power over her.
    • In another episode Zack borrows money from another boy to play in the arcade, without any ability or intention to pay back; the boy threatens Zack into making Cody throw the spelling bee they are both in so he can win 'or else'. Since the boy is tall and built, Zack thinks the threat is violent. However, when everything comes to light, the boy reveals he wasn't going to beat him up; he was going to tell Zack's mom about the money.

  • "Listen Up" by The Gossip:
    Everybody knows someone like that
    Who borrows money and won't pay you back
    They'll talk about you at the drop of a hat
    Lie about it to your face when they're caught
  • Tim Wilson: Inverted in "100 Things Every Man Ought To Know":
    Let people borrow money and they'll leave you alone

  • The page quote from Hamlet was in the middle of a bunch of other, nonsensical, advice Polonius gave his son Laertes, implying that it was also not great advice.

    Video Game 
  • Discussed in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where one of the sidequests deals with Dandelion's attempts at opening a Cabaret. If Geralt offers to lend him money, he refuses on the grounds that accepting loans from people you consider friends is a good way to end a friendship.

    Western Animation 
  • The Boondocks: A Pimp Named Slickback makes it clear that he keeps to this policy when it comes to his prostitution business.
    A Pimp Named Slickback: I don't think "homies over hoes" is a sentiment that A Pimp Named Slickback can cosign, Riley. I mean, don't get me wrong, A Pimp Named Slickback will put a lot of things over a hoe. Money over a hoe? Always. Brand new gators over a hoe? Absolutely. A turkey sandwich with just tomato? Guaranteed. But homies? Oh, no!
  • Family Guy: One episode ("Patriot Games", Season 4, Episode 20) has Brian losing a $50 bet to Stewie and the latter continuing to pester him for the money throughout the episode, culminating in a now-infamous three-minute-long sequence in which he beats the living hell out of Brian relentlessly, culminating in setting him on fire a flamethrower and blowing his kneecaps off with a pistol, all the time asking "where's my money?!"
  • On The Simpsons, Homer loses the mortgage payment on a bad investment (he bought stock in pumpkins...but didn't sell his interest in it before Halloween). The bank turns him away for either an extension or refinance, and his friends are unable to help (or in the case of Moe, very unwilling). He doesn't want to tell Marge what happened, so he turns to her sisters Patty and Selma. They write him the check but hold it over his head, using it as an excuse to humiliate him (in exchange for keeping it a secret from Marge). In order to pay it off, Homer has to take a second job, which requires a commercial driver's license (which he has to get from Patty and Selma.) He ends up saving their jobs, by taking the fall for their smoking on the job, and gets the debt canceled.

    Real Life 
  • Real Life: some religions ban money-lending with interest entirely, as it can be seen as capitalising on another's misfortune ("Usury"). This is the case with Islam, and was also true in Medieval Christianity, with the interesting side effect that people simply borrowed from the comparatively Unfettered Jews, giving rise to the "greedy Jewish moneylender" stereotype that unfortunately survives today.
    • The webcomic Suicide for Hire had a field day with this one, when beating up a bunch of Strawman Christians.
    • Judaism includes the same ban, but the Jews were able to charge interest because of a bit of canny Loophole Abuse: they weren't allowed to charge interest to fellow Jews, but Christians were on their own. Also, the ban was held not to apply to corporations, even if all of the corporation's owners were Jews; this has led to further shenanigans.
    • Islam also allows (under some interpretations—nobody said that Jews have a monopoly on legalistic religious arguments!) some Loophole Abuse in that certain transactions that closely mimic loans for interest may be permitted. The major forms are the ijarah loan (in which the "lender" purportedly buys some property the "borrower" owns and leases it back to them, with the loan payments conveniently equalling a good interest rate, and then sells the "borrower" the property back at the end of the loan) and the musharakah (in which the "lender" and "borrower" enter a partnership agreement to own a particular piece of property; the "lender" initially owns a majority of the partnership, but the "borrower" buys him out in installments - this is similar to a financial lease), with a few other arrangements having been tried. The interesting thing about all of these is that inevitably, (1) they center on a piece of actual property the "lender" can take control of if the "borrower" defaults, but (2) if the "borrower" does default paying, the "lender" cannot sue him for the balance of the "debt"; thus the arrangements are economically equivalent to non-recourse secured loans (i.e. secured loans in which the creditor cannot pursue the debtor for a deficiency if the value of the collateral is less than the amount owed); some modernist scholars have held that this is an indication that what God was really saying is that if you're going to lend with interest, the loan must be secured and non-recourse. This has itself raised some controversy, which we will not enter here.
    • On the other hand, those that have are encouraged to lend upon request, even if the loan probably won't be repaid before the time when all debts are to be considered clear. (On the other other hand, someone who abuses the fact that waiting long enough means the debt is cleared anyway, well, David calls that "wicked".)
    • In medieval times Christians also found a loophole, in that while taking interest was illegal, nothing was forbidding the banks from charging a late payment fee, which was used to take interest without it being officially interest. Thus, it was expected that anyone loaning would return the money late. While nothing technically forbade anyone from paying the loan back in time thus avoiding the late payment fee, doing so would lead to blacklisting from all banks. Exceptions were of course made in case of kings and other ruling nobles, since having an army confiscate all the money forcibly would have been bad for business.
  • It's worth noting how many broken friendships are caused by this. In fact, there's a reason why a gigantic chunk of cases on most "judge" TV shows have to do with loaning money.
    • For the majority of these cases, the agreement was only verbal and it gets hard to prove that the friend owed the other friend money when one can easily "forget" or not remember the details of the loan correctly.
    • Sometimes it's a case of a vengeful ex. When the two were together, one of them lost a job or faced some other financial hardship, and their significant other stepped up and gave them the money, saying it didn't need to be paid back. Everything was great. Sometime later, the couple broke up, and the money receiver gets a summons to appear in small claims court, stating that the ex loaned them the money.
    • The British financial discussion forum MoneySavingExpert has a long thread on this subject. The message given to people who are considering lending money to a friend or family member: don't. It's likely that you will a) never see the money again and/or b) never see the friend again.note  If you are going to give money to a loved one, it's better to treat that money as a gift that you're never going to see again, although it would be nice if they paid you back.
  • There are many horror stories online from people who had that one friend who "borrowed" something from them such as a video game, and then moved away the next day, never to be seen again. Apparently this "friend" realized that if they kept their move a secret, they could easily make off with a bunch of free stuff. This was more common in the days before social networks, for obvious reasons. Also common are stories of friends who borrowed stuff and then turned around and sold it (usually to buy beer, cigarettes, or weed). Or lent it to someone else (who probably sold it).
  • If you have a friend, partner, or relative who is an addict of some kind, or consistently makes other types of poor life choices, you shouldn't loan them any money, no matter what. Besides the fact that you'll probably never see that money again (even if they promise to pay you back) you end up becoming an enabler, at the expense of your own well-being and possibly your family's, and they'll never learn their lesson or get the help they need in order to get their life in order, because you're always swooping in to rescue them from the consequences of their bad choices.