My friends and I decided to buy a birthday present for a person. This friend, let's call him Bob, couldn't come with us to buy the actual present, so he asked me if I could pay for him, assuring me that he would give me the money back as soon as he saw me again. Since the amount of money we had to spend individually wasn't too high I decided to accept his request (also considering that I know him well and always trusted him).

He had some personal problems so he couldn't come to the birthday dinner during which we gave our friend the present and now thinks that it is a good reason to not give me the money.

I tried to tell him that he is wrong, but he doesn't care and still refuses to give me the money. Now, I don't want to give up on this since he is clearly wrong, but I don't know how to confront or convince him well. Any idea?

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    The money is not a big problem. I think that he has betrayied my trust, that's what I want to make him realize. A simple and honest "I am sorry, I was wrong" is more important than the little amount of money he owns me.
    – Axel2D
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 13:43
  • I did it to with schoolmates, simply stop trusting everyone. But Bob is a really important friend and I would like to clarify this event.
    – Axel2D
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 14:14
  • Not my downvote, but could you elaborate on "he doesn't care and still refuses to give me the money"?, as to what conversation took place? It seems like you have a choice of money vs. friendship, but knowing about his reply might reveal something. But the next time, get the money in advance (the old saying "Never loan money to friends").
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 15:08
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    Was the gift presented from "the guys at the party", or was there some card or similar that made it appear as though it was in part from "Bob"? If the former, there's a degree of justification in not contributing.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 5:53
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    If he had said "I tell you what, buy the present using money on my behalf, and if I attend i'll pay you back, but otherwise I won't" - would you have still paid his share? Or not bothered and not mentioned his name when the gift was given (making sure to clarify he wasn't involved if someone else says "Bob paid but can't be here").
    – user3573
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 22:54

12 Answers 12


The advice to write it off is good. I'd rather frame it differently, though. I would consider "forgiving the loan".

In writing it off, you sustain a net loss. We might be mincing words, but in forgiving the loan, it's a net gain, because you have displayed a degree of generosity in the process, and generosity is a much better feeling than resentment. If you do choose that route, you can remain friends with the person; you don't need an apology, and things will not be awkward between the two of you. Just tell him something to the effect of,

Hey, that loan? Forget about it. It's in the past, and we don't need to bring it up or argue about who's right and who's wrong.

I learned quite some time ago never to lend money. It just leads to awkwardness at best, to ruined friendships at worst. If someone asks me for a loan, I tell them I'll think about it. If it's for a good cause (I don't discuss that with them), I'll write them a check, and explain that it's a gift, not a loan, and they should consider paying it forward when they are in a position to do so. It's like sending goodwill off into the cosmos, come what may. It spreads gratitude and kindness to others, instead of awkwardness and disappointment between you and the borrower.

If money is tight, or you don't want to "lend" someone money, just say no. It's your money, and you're under no obligation to part with it.

Dealing with an inveterate mooch is a different question.

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    Do you think it makes any sense to "forgive" someone who isn't wanting forgiveness in the first place though? You can forget about it, but forgiving doesn't make any sense to me. It's almost like me telling you, "hey, you don't need to buy me a $1 million house, okay? I forgive you" and you thinking "wait, was that even something I ever agreed to? who are you even?"
    – user541686
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 1:55
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    @Mehrdad - Forgetting is much harder than forgiving. Forgiving is making a conscious decision to let go of the resentment. There are things one can forgive but never forget. Your example is a "straw man", an unrelated argument easy to knock down. In this case, the primary actors know who they are, and I would be willing to bet that the defensive friend who insists he owes nothing would be grateful to hear the words, "You don't owe me anything; let's drop it and go get a beer. (Oh, and you're buying. J/k!") Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 2:21
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    @anongoodnurse - I agree with Mehrdad, actually, forgiveness is not synonymous with letting resentment go, it is a clean slate. One can let go of resentment without forgiving (something like lack of future trust or not expecting better of them). One can hold on to that resentment while forgiving, especially when it is, as here, forgiving a debt. And while this person would certainly be glad to be let off the hook for the money, they would also likely behave this way again with OP or others, taking forgiveness to mean what they did wasn't a problem when it was.
    – Megha
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 2:41
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    @anongoodnurse Uh, what? I don't think you know what "strawman" means? The example I gave you wasn't even a supporting argument for my position, it was just an example to illustrate and make clear what my position even is. As for the actual argument, it seems it might be a language barrier... it seems you're using "forgive" to mean "move on", which is not the common meaning. "Forgive" generally means "pardon" or "excuse", which is about the other person, not about you. You pardon someone who feels sorry, not someone who thinks they're doing the right thing. It just doesn't make any sense.
    – user541686
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 2:42
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    @anongoodnurse: The bank forgives your loan, though. The bank doesn't say it forgives you. And they're using a correspondingly different meaning of the word, since it wouldn't make sense to "pardon" the loan in that case.
    – user541686
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 2:48

You need to write this off and move on.

This "good friend" has shown he cannot be trusted. Since it was a "small amount", chalk this up as the cost of a lesson, never lend money to this person again, and (probably) move him down a few steps on your friendship ladder - if you don't decide to write off the friendship as well.

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    That is what I think I will do. Simply mark him as a person who cannot be trusted
    – Axel2D
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 15:23
  • @Axel2D “mark him as a person who cannot be trusted” I think it would help to also inform Bob that he is now considered untrustworthy. Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 0:08
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    @AndreaLazzarotto Who would this help to and in which way? I see more potential for another unpleasant discussion than for improvement by telling someone that he can't be trusted. Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 6:53
  • @JoseAntonioDuraOlmos obviously the OP. If Bob cares at least a bit about his reputation, knowing that his unreliability is now known and widespread might lead him to provide remedy for the damage. Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 11:06

I see two points here :

  • Trust: by not paying back the money he betrayed your trust, that's what you need to tell him.
  • Selfishness or the excuse of "I wasn't here", you don't buy a gift for a birthday people to get free access to drink and a party, you buy it because you want to give him something nice for his birthday, even if you cannot attend.

This is quite a selfish behaviour. Note that this is different than not paying for the gift at all ("I will be there I won't buy you one, don't buy me one either at my birthday I am not into it").

I would definitely face your friends on the first point.

On the second point, I would reconsider what I remember of my friend to see if I can really see him as a selfish people that only do something with interest, especially when there is money involved.

If you deduced that he's quite selfish, you may need to shake your friendship to get your money back, and don't involve any more money with him if you still trust him.


One way to frame the topic, is to point out he doesn't owe birthday-person, he owes you - so his non-appearance at the party doesn't do anything for you, it doesn't balance the debt owed.

He's not owing money because of the birthday person or the party or even the present, he owes it because he opened his mouth and said he would pay you back - very specifically, he had the option to say no, and did not. He had the option of letting you know his willingness to chip in for the gift was dependent on his attendance at the party (why?!), which might have let you know to pick a different gift, or have people chip in the rest, or pay the rest without the deception, whatever you would choose if you knew you were going to be short by that amount.

Even letting you know he decided he didn't want to pay you back, when he decided to skip the party (and not afterwards) would have been more honorable, since it would involve him standing by his decision and willing to endure awkward conversation for his greed. Though, yanno, not much more honorable, since he was still stiffing someone who had nothing to do with his decisions.

If he had bought the present himself, he would have a very hard time arguing with the store or credit card that he should get the money back (and keep the item, since it was already gifted) just because he "didn't go to the party". He chose to owe a debt instead of paying upfront or opting out, the debt doesn't vanish just because circumstances (actually unrelated to that debt) changed.

The actual debt, well, it may be just the cost of the lesson that he is not trustworthy - and it might be easier to write it off. Especially if you are willing to write him off, which I would be. There's usually little benefit to dealing with someone who won't hold by their own word, won't deal with their own decisions - and I would not suggest you maintain ties without making your point clear, or it will likely lead to further shenanigans.

This framework may still be useful, though, if you wanted to confront him, if you wanted to keep friendly(ish) connection with him for some reason.


No-one so far has mentioned the other friends. They are part of the affair, since they must have put their names, along with yours and Bob's on the present, one would assume. One would also assume they are/were Bob's friends too.

If they are not aware of the situation, they should be. This then could be an answer to helping him be convinced. By the time he's heard from the rest of the group how unsatisfactory his behaviour is, he may come to realise which friends he may be losing, if not just giving a bad impression to.

Maybe something along the lines of ' Did you realise we've all had to chip in more for that present with your name on too, because it's not fair on Axel2D to cover both your share and his/hers.'

A desperate final idea may be to explain to the recipient of the gift that a mistake was made when Bob's name was put on the gift. Desperate as I say!

  • This is a good point but since the question mentioned "friend" (and not "ex-friend turned asshole") I think that bringing the others in will simply finish the friendship.
    – WoJ
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 17:13
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    @WoJ - there is always the possibility that the friendship was actually ended by Bob, maybe inadvertently...
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 17:16
  • yes, this is why I mentioned this is a good point (and +1-ed) but the outcome can be grim for the friendship, if it is still there of course.
    – WoJ
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 17:18
  • @WoJ - yes, the difficulty for me would be: do I need a 'friend' who is capable of that, without very good reason, which is not forthcoming, or am I better off without. Certainly better off financially!
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 17:21

Being "right" seldom gets you anywhere in an argument, where often both parties are inclined to believing they are right, or else there would be no disagreement. While I agree with you, as you have laid out details, that the money is obviously owed to you, clearly that doesn't matter. I didn't borrow it, so your issue is that the person who did, thinks he is right and isn't likely to pay up no matter how you lay it out.

If the loss of money causes you no harm, I would let it go and move on. You now know to never agree to front money for this person for any reason or make any loan of anything.

I had a small situation like this with a friend. I later made the mistake of allowing that same friend to borrow my bike. The person failed to lock it up and it was stolen. They refused to take any responsibility for failing to protect the bike and basically said that I was being ridiculous expecting them to be held accountable for a thief despite them acknowledging that they failed to take the lock along. As such, that was a huge loss and one I couldn't actually afford as I relied on it at the time as transportation.

I tell you that story as a cautionary tale on someone who has shown themselves to not care about putting you out. This person already has shown disregard for knowing you pitched in money on their behalf by their own request. This is troubling behavior, even for a small amount of money. You are right, that it's the point and not the amount. The good news is the amount is small now, so you can take the lesson and not forget this while moving forward. Do not put yourself ever in any position again with this person where they could harm you financially. It felt like no significant risk to loan my bike to them for an errand. I had considered an accident as the only possible risk when they asked. If there were an accident, I would be more worried about my friend than the bike and you can't always avoid potential accidents, so I thought it unlikely anyway. I didn't even stop to think that perhaps they would show little regard for protecting my property, and based on the prior issue, I realize now that I should have considered that. They even tried to say initially that they did lock it, until I found my lock at my apartment, left behind.


I think that there is a key piece of information that you have not provided explicitly:

Was the gift given on his behalf, too?

If the answer is NO then, in my opinion, your friend is right, however, he should ask the other participating friends to give you some amount back to make your shares equal.

Otherwise, you can either end your friendship or just learn the lesson and move on in which case your friendship wouldn't be the same as before because you cannot trust him with money anymore.

Regarding more confrontation to get the money back, I would see if it is worth the possible consequences. For example, if you want to keep your friendship you might want to think about it again.

Another solution could be to tell the person who received the gift that your friend does not want the gift to be on his behalf too. In this case, I would let the owing friend know beforehand that I would do so if he doesn't give me back the money.


You were blindsided in your first confrontation. Don't worry about the money lost. Think about how much you have saved by not ever making a 2nd loan. What would be the point of a 2nd confrontation? Just like you, your friend doesn't think he is right--he knows it. If both of you could understand the other's reasoning, minds could change. Impossible for you. The friend won't make the effort. Demote friend to an acquaintance.


Two good friends of mine found themselves in a similar position once. They shared a cell phone plan and one lost his job. The other paid the bill since it was in his name but months went by and the debt accrued as the other continued not looking for a job. When he finally found one, he quit on the first day.

Ultimately the friend who was owed now a great sum of money realized that he was never going to get it, and decided he would rather be friends with that person than not. So he started thinking of it as just having been him doing a nice thing for a friend, by paying his bills.

In your case, the same choice is there. If you don't want to be his friend, confront him upfront and know that you probably won't change his mind or get your money back. If you do want to be his friend, then you need to forgive (but don't forget) his choice. I wouldn't trust your friend with money ever again, but that doesn't mean you can't still be friends.


Well, I would suggest that you try to speak to him privately about it and if he insists on not paying then you can either go on to a confrontational mode which might adversely affect your friendship with him. The confrontational mode will most likely result in a strained friendship if there is any left. If the amount owed is not that significant and you are in no dire need, I would suggest you forgo the amount and think of it as fees for finding out early that maybe your friend was not actually a good friend rather than having him shortchanging you over a bigger issue.


Ask to take possession of something from him of equal or higher value as collateral.

Give him a year from now to pay you back with no interest and tell him he'll get the object back, but after that year is up, you get to keep the object permanently, or sell it, or give it to another friend, or whatever.

That's what you should have asked initially, but it isn't too late to ask for that now, he might still say 'yes' to something like that, especially if he's having money troubles right now, but thinks his financial situation will improve in the long term. The key is to take possession of the object he's willing to part from the very beginning. If that object is not at your place during the duration of the loan, it doesn't count, because emotionally, it's too difficult to repossess the object of a friend/relative after that friend/relative has already defaulted.

If he wants to work off his debt, that's possible too, but only after you've already accepted his collateral. This way, if his work is not up to par, it's easier to say 'no' if you already have his collateral. And by the way, there is no sense in taking something that is of no value to you. This isn't about punishing him. Nor is this about accepting junk you don't want either. This is just about restoring the balance.


I don't see where you are heading with this small problem of yours but based on what you described "couldn't come with us to buy the actual present, so he asked me if I could pay for him," and you also stated that he "He had some personal problems so he couldn't come to the birthday dinner during which we gave our friend the present"... so

  1. He wasn't there when you bought the present
  2. He wasn't there when you gave the present

I think his actions should be excused because it was not his intention to not show up for the gift-giving, like you said something came up.

I think next time you need to learn to clearly say no when lending money and also learn to let go of people or family who don't pay up. What can be worse than to have anger inside you? I've lost so many money due to lending my family and friends and I consider it like a charity, but I try to neglect whenever someone asks for a loan. Something sadly is that these money transactions can lead to someone getting hurt. Recently, about two weeks ago my friend was shot because he was fighting over a small money that his other friend owed him. Approx 1,000 dollars is the amount that created anger and led him to have a fist fight. Sadly this friend got shot in the upper torso and died. So never fight or argue over money, friendships matter the most.

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    "I think his actions should be excused because it was not his intention to not show up for the gift-giving, like you said something came up." As much as I rack my brain, I can not understand this logic. Sure, forgive him, or excuse the behavior, if that's what you want, but there are probably other better reasons to do so. Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 12:18

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