finance

"She sent me an email saying I was selfish." Three women on how money ended a friendship.

Please note: Names have been changed in this article for privacy reasons, however their identities are known to Mamamia.

It doesn’t matter if it’s money owed for a group dinner, rent, or organising a trip, the topic of finances and friendship can be a tricky one.

According to the latest research from PayPal, Australians on average owe their mates $189 in group payments. That amount goes up to $226 for men, and sits at $155 for women, with people from NSW being the worst offenders, owing $238 on average. Yikes.

But whether that debt goes from being ‘a problem that’s quickly solved’ with a difficult conversation, to having said issue become an unavoidable elephant in the room… well, that depends on how you handle it.

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There are several ways to prevent the matter. PayPal have a service called Money Pools that lets you create an ‘online kitty’ among friends, and the app Splitwise helps to track who owes who what. But what happens when there’s a complete communication breakdown between both parties, and the relationship begins to crumble?

From ‘financial ghosting’, to broken promises, we asked three women to share their stories of how money played a part in ending their friendships.

‘She ghosted me to avoid paying me back.’ Carmen, 27

Since graduating, a group of us from high school continued playing together in a local basketball competition. One of the girls, Lisa, could be a bit flaky turning up to games, but then everyone had times when they couldn’t make a game.

In January 2016, I asked Lisa whether she was still interested in playing and she replied that she was definitely keen. Fast forward to the last day of registration, and I followed up with Lisa since she hadn’t registered yet. Lisa told me that she was super broke at the moment and couldn’t pay the $190 registration fee but that she still wanted to play. Since we were high school friends and had been playing together for years, I thought nothing of offering to cover the fee first. Lisa said that she would be able to pay me back in two weeks, which was fine. I forget about it until about a month later when I realise she hasn’t paid me back and send her a quick reminder.

Another month passes with nothing, so I send another reminder. At this stage, the season has started and Lisa hasn’t come to any of the games. I reach out again thinking that she’s avoiding the team since she hasn’t paid me back and I let her know it’s fine if she wants to play but needs more time to pay me back. I finally get a response, although a very vague one, saying that she’s been going through a number of issues which were money related.

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Since I didn’t need the money urgently, I tell her it’s fine to pay me back once she sorts out her issues. Three months later, I check in with Lisa and she tells me she can pay me back next week when she gets paid from her new job. However, another month passes and nothing has happened so I check in again. This time the excuse is that it just kept slipping her mind and unfortunately she had just lost her job so had to sort out rent before she could pay me back.

It’s August by now, so at this point I’m running out of patience. I send another three messages, in September, October and November, but Lisa doesn’t respond even though I know she’s seen my messages. I even send her boyfriend a message on Facebook, asking him to pass on a message to Lisa, but again no response.

By now I’m resigned and I know I’m not getting my money back, so I just give up and write it off as a bad experience. It just never occurred to me that someone who was a friend would just completely ghost me and cut off all ties to avoid paying me back. Needless to say, we are no longer friends in real-life, or on Facebook.

‘I shouldn’t have ignored my gut feeling.’ Olivia, 26

They say travelling really tests a friendship, and money can further complicate that mix.

Earlier this year, me and three other friends – let’s call them Stacey, Liz and Emma – planned a three week trip to South America. However, we experienced problems with Stacey from the get-go. Her and Emma had met through volunteering, and on-paper she sounded like a great person, we also got along really well in-person.

Looking back, there were early warning signs. She was really detached from making decisions about our flights, tours and accommodation, and she was pretty insistent about us paying her back ASAP after she booked our flights – which we did so anyway, out of courtesy.

By the time it came to us paying for things like our tours, in-country flights, and accommodation, she already owed me $400, and had spent the past month insisting that she would pay me back come pay day. At this point I had a gut-feeling that she was going to bail on the trip, but she still insisted that she was super keen, and I decided to shake off the feeling.

In the end, Stacey never paid any of us back. She owed me $400 for our tours, Emma over a grand for our domestic flights, and Liz another $200 for accommodation. After months of us chasing this up, lots of broken promises, and a call from a lawyer (she heard the words ‘South America’ and just hung up), we gave up. We could have taken legal action, but decided it wasn’t worth it.

We tried to get her portion of the holiday refunded, but the crazy thing is that six weeks out from the trip, Emma randomly bumped into her, and Stacey was still insistent that she was coming. She even promised us that she would pay us back ASAP.

The thing about this whole debacle is that it could have so easily been avoided. Had Stacey initially communicated to us that she wasn’t keen on the trip before we booked our in-country flights and accommodation, she would have owed us $400, instead of $1600+. Even once the situation got out of control, had we known that she was experiencing financial difficulties, we could have organised a payment plan.

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Instead, we were essentially ghosted.

‘I had paid a full month’s rent to tide them over.’ Alana, 28

My friend and I had a bust up over money. Though to be honest I think it was something a bit deeper.

My best friend, let’s call her Clare, and I had known each other since primary school, but became the absolute best of friends when we both moved from our country hometown to the big city. We moved in together after a few years when she and her boyfriend needed a place to live and I had a room in the apartment I rented.

We all moved into a terrace house a year later; me, Clare, Clare’s boyfriend, and my other mate from childhood. It was around this time that my boyfriend and I decided to move in together. We didn’t want to rush things, thought we’d just go to a few inspections and see what happened. Before I had told Clare I was thinking of moving out, we were approved for pretty much the first apartment we inspected – something that surprised both of us. Because of this I had to move out of the sharehouse just as quickly. I knew that telling Clare I was moving out at the same time as telling her that I was even entertaining the idea at all, was going to be hard. It was.

Because I was moving out a few days after telling my best friend that I was thinking of doing it – I paid a full month of rent to give them four weeks to find someone to fill my room. I also offered to help find someone else to take my room. When that full month ran out, Clare messaged me asking for me to keep paying rent as they hadn’t found anyone to take the room. Plus in this time my best friend had her boyfriend break up with her, so she had moved into my bedroom.

When they contacted me to keep paying rent, they were asking for the amount of money that was my best friend and her now ex-boyfriend’s bedroom. I said that was a bit excessive and that while I did move out with not much notice, I had paid a full month’s rent to tide over the weird transition period of finding someone. It’s worth noting I also offered to help find someone to replace me but they told me not to bother. My best friend sent me an email saying I was selfish, that I couldn’t afford to move in with my boyfriend but I did it anyway knowing that it would impact my friends financially.

I told her that I was quite hurt by this, and she just told me we should maybe not talk for a while.

I messaged her on Facebook six months later saying my aunt had died and I didn’t know what to do. And she left me on ‘read’.

If you are struggling financially, you can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. The service is completely free, and open from 9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday. ASIC’s MoneySmart also offer tips and links for crisis relief.

Please note: The photos used in this story are stock images.

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