This article is part of Payday, our look at wealth, money and class. Check out all our Payday coverage here.
“Money often costs too much,” said savvy poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sometimes, sadly, that cost is friendship. Blame different value systems, or different life experiences, or simply the fact some people have no shame… whatever the cause, it happens. A lot. We asked people to tell us about a time cash came between them and a (former) buddy, turning the friendship sour. Names have been changed to protect the swindled innocent.
I had a falling out with a mate who was a police officer over $50 that he asked to borrow. I figured that because he was a cop, he was good for it. But months passed and I would politely ask, "Hey, can I get my money back?" And he'd say, “What money?” I was really angry at how dismissive he was. And he was meant to be a cop, holding up laws and ethics! So while he was at work I went around to his house and killed his chicken. I also broke the windows on his car. He came back to me and said, “Someone broke the windows on my car." I’m an auto glass repairer, so I charged him extra to get my money back. I think he realised, because he never spoke to me again. It was an old chicken that wasn’t laying, he didn’t like it much anyway. Mason, 22
I was really struggling with uni and family stuff, and my friend was on a really good income. There was a mutual friend’s birthday dinner coming up and I said I couldn’t afford to go, so she loaned me $100. On the night, she handed me the money and made a pretty big deal in front of everyone at the table that she was “helping me out." The next day, she started texting me from 9AM asking when I could pay the money back. She’d sent four text messages by the afternoon saying things like, “I just need confirmation that you will pay me back.” It felt like a really gross game that I had fallen into; some sort of power play that I wanted no part of. So I blocked her on everything and I haven’t spoken to her since—or returned her cash.
There was a girl I was friends with from the internet. We'd been chatting online for over a year in Facebook girl-group and seeing as we'd actually met in real life, I considered her a friend. One day she put up a request for money with a huge story about how she was desperate [as] she was looking after her younger siblings and her abusive dad was constantly in and out of their house. I thought she was really in trouble so I transferred her $150, and she was really grateful.
I felt I'd done a good deed donating the last of my money to help her out. It wasn’t even a loan as much as a donation to help out, so I didn't expect it back. But I also didn't expect what happened next: two days later, she posts a photo of herself holding a new giant bright pink vibrator (cost: $250) saying that she'd gone shopping that day and spoiled herself. I was so upset, because that was the last of my money, and here she was buying sex toys. Needless to say I blocked and deleted her.
I went to Amsterdam for a holiday with an old school friend. One night we went out for dinner, and as they had a "no bill-splitting" policy she said she could put the meal on her credit card. I had got cash out beforehand, and gave her money for my meal straight after we ordered. I even remember being pleased that I had the exact right change.
Anyway, a couple of hours after the meal she asked me to pay her back for my part of the meal. I was like, "Oh, I paid you in the restaurant, remember?" But she'd clearly forgotten, and suddenly got very cold and weird. Then she basically marched me to the nearest ATM, where I got the cash out and paid her again. The incident tainted the rest of our trip. Honestly, it wasn't even the money, it was how rude she was about it. If I were her, and couldn't remember being given the cash earlier, I probably would have just thought "Fuck it" rather than risk the awkwardness that ensued.
Years ago my close friend Bree* moved from Sydney to Melbourne, where I live, telling me she was looking for a fresh start and was excited that we'd be in the same city. I was about to move out of my share house so I set Bree up with my old room. We didn't bother changing my name to hers on the lease or exchanging bond or anything, because we were such good friends.
Three months later my old landlord called me to ask why I hadn't paid rent on the room for three months. When I asked Bree about it she said she had paid, that it must be an error, and that she'd sort it out. I believed her. But the landlord kept calling me and insisting it hadn't been paid. By this time, Bree had started screening my calls and ignoring my messages. Since it was my name on the lease I paid the rent, because I didn't want to get a bad credit rating. And I thought eventually Bree would pay me back. But that never happened, and for months I couldn't get hold of her. Eventually I stopped trying. A while later I found out that Bree had moved out of my old share-house and found someone else to take over the room. When the new person moved in she got them to pay her the bond (and kept it), even though that money should have been mine. At this point she owed me about $3,000 including the rent.
Five years later I went to a wedding and Bree was there too. It was the first time we'd seen each other since. We ended up seated next to each other for the whole night. I asked her where my money was and she looked me dead in the eye and said, "I already paid you that money." She flat out lied to my face, but kept insisting. She then left the wedding early without saying goodbye to anyone.
Not long after, I found out from some mutual friends that the reason Bree had left Sydney was because she faked having cancer. After the lie came out, her Sydney friends disowned her and that's why she'd moved to Melbourne.
I have an old friend who has been downgraded to acquaintance. He is very careful with money. His parents were rich and he doesn't even have to work, but he does stuff like take leftover soft drink to a café to have with his meal instead of buying a drink. As we got older, his attitude to money became a defining trait. I'll always remember when he picked up the two cheapest bottles of wine in the bottle store and compared alcohol content in both to come to a decision about the best-value option. I can’t be tight with someone so tight.
My friend from work, Sarah, and I became besties. We would have huge weekends where we'd spend big: stay at a hotel down the coast, eat at the best restaurants, have hung-over brunches. Then I met my partner and found myself with a mortgage and all that grown-up bullshit. I wanted to save to do boring stuff like repave my driveway. Sarah and I started drifting because I couldn’t keep up with the champagne lifestyle she was still living. I was jealous as hell, don’t get me wrong. I missed all that fun stuff. But then Sarah started giving me a really hard time about how I had changed as a person and wasn’t fun anymore.
The last straw was when I invited her to a party at my house and she made a huge deal in front of all my friends and family about me being a "tight arse" now, and how I never went anywhere with her. I realised she wasn’t really friends with me; she was just addicted to the lifestyle we'd had five years earlier. I was the interchangeable factor in the friendship; the money was not.
My friend Sam house-sat for me periodically. I was away for work a lot and he would feed my cat, take out the rubbish, and make sure my things were safe. I didn’t realise though that some of my things weren’t actually safe at all—namely, my small change. He stole hundreds of dollars worth of coins from a money box I kept in my room. I let it slide because it was small coins, but I hate that guy and we aren’t friends anymore.
My bestie I had decided to go on a trip to Bali. I paid for the tickets and accommodation up front with the premise that she would pay me back. While we were on the trip there were dinners and shopping trips, and every now and then she would offer to pay for us both and say, “No I got it, not a big deal." And I would do the same I guess. It just wasn’t a big deal. But then when we got home and I ask her if she's able to start paying me back for the trip, she sends me a spreadsheet with every single item she bought or paid for on the trip. Like, “Denpasar International Airport arrival: bottle of water.” It was so petty because I didn’t even realise we had been keeping tabs. If I'd known I would have just insisted we each pay for our own stuff from the start. I think the part that annoyed me most was the spreadsheet… who does that?! It ended up becoming a huge thing: I complained to friends and she complained to friends, and it became a big bitch-fest. Needless to say, we don’t talk anymore. I let her just pay me back the money she thought she owed me, and cut my losses. Nadine is on Twitter