How much would you pay to keep a friend?

Turns out the age old advice is true, money can muck up friendships. It’s happened to me. In Uni I had a friend ring me in a panic. She was broke and the house she was living in had burst its pipes and she needed to borrow £50 to pay for a plumber. She explained she couldn’t got to her folks because they would be livid about her spending all her money and so she asked if I could loan it to her. She had been a friend for years, pre-Uni and so I didn’t hesitate. I’m still waiting for her to pay me back. The few times we met up after I gave her the loan she always had an excuse as to why she couldn’t pay me back. Slowly I gave up, the friendship faltered as a little bit of me resented her not paying me back. The money didn’t matter. Ok the money shouldn’t have mattered.

She got in contact about 6 months ago, out of the blue, via Facebook. She said it was a shame that we had lost contact and thought it would be fun to meet up again, could I do coffee? I told her I would love to meet again, but as the conversation progressed I found I couldn’t not raise the fact she owed me money. She was gushing about wondering why it all went wrong and I wanted to start with a clean slate so I mentioned the fact she owed me the £50. Turns out she can’t remember me even lending her the money. I mentioned the pipes, told her the thing that annoyed me was the time she was on route to meet me, called me from the cash machine and still couldn’t find it in her to withdraw even a tenner for me as a ‘I’m starting the pay you back’ gesture. She apologised, was mortified that it had been something so small that had ruined a fab friendship. So I asked when she wanted to do that coffee. I’m still waiting on her response.

So £50 to find out a friend wasn’t really a friend, in the scheme of things it doesn’t seem like a too bad rate. Technically I’ve saved on birthday cards, gifts so I’m probably financially better off.

My concern is I think it may be about to happen again.

I have music lessons once a week with a guy who I met through a mutual friend. But over the years my ‘music teacher’ became a close friend. He turned up on my door step (with chocolates) to take me out to lunch and cheer me up when the soldier I was dating was re-located to another country. He’s supported me at various events and I thought we had a solid friendship. Then, slowly I started seeing him less. I’d ask him to do something and he would be ‘busy’ but then turn up when another friend made the same invite. It became a standing joke that he only saw me when I was paying him. The problem is, to me, it wasn’t a joke. I genuinely started to feel like I didn’t matter. I introduced him to various family members who also wanted music lessons and now I feel he is more their friend then mine. I find out his news from them, he seems to be constantly on the phone to them and I feel forgotten about. He has had a bad 12 months and I know he has a lot going on, but still I feel left out.

I have raised this with him and we had a massive clear the air argument – I admitted I thought I was losing him. He told me I couldn’t lose him but also told me he hated the ex, can’t understand why I’m not over him and has asked me not to mention him (the ex) again in his presence. This completely threw me as the multiple times they met they always got on so well together and to be banned from talking about something I am struggling with sucks. So now when I see him I am ‘fine’; there’s no point telling him otherwise.

So the friendship is on the rocks and I genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen. But just for added complexness I pay him monthly for music lessons and I am worried about whether or not I am getting value for money.

Now to clarify, he is an amazing teacher. I have improved so much since I started having lessons; my complaint is not with his skill. It’s more with us having a very lax approach to payment. Basically he tells me when I owe him money and I pay. The problem is this approach means I don’t know exactly how many lessons I have in between each payment. I used to pay for X lessons but recently for his own financial reasons he has switched to monthly; but I’m unsure as to where the month starts and ends. For example he is getting just under £50 tonight but because I cancelled one and he is on holiday for another I am only having 2 lessons in the next 4 weeks. If this is £50 for 2 lessons then with my own financial worries I don’t know if I can afford this. Plus as we have a catch up chat at the start of a lesson, although I pay for half an hour there are occasions where I have walked out having gone through one song.

I don’t think he is ripping me off. When I lost my job, he cut his rates and was so brilliant about helping me continue lessons while I got back on my feet. I don’t want to bail on him now when I can afford his lessons as my ‘weekly treat’. But with money tight, I want to make sure I am getting value for money.
I know I should raise this with him, but with the friendship already on a shoe string I’m scared.

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5 thoughts on “How much would you pay to keep a friend?

  1. I don’t see why your teacher should be offended if you say that you need to know the cost per lesson exactly, so that you can budget and work out how many you can afford. It should be obvious that you have new financial commitments and need to adjust some things.

  2. Money can ruin friendships for sure. I would be annoyed with both situations too. Whenever you lend out money or pay for a service, you should always be clear about how much and exactly when it is due or to be paid back. I have a good friend in the UK and we do business together regularly. One thing that keeps our friendship strong is that we are always upfront and honest about money. If we can’t pay one another when it is due, we say so but set a time when it will be expected. This always works out for us. If you have a friend you’re lending money to and they respond they don’t know when they will pay you back, then tell them you are giving them the money and leave it at that. Giving is easier than lending and doesn’t leave that bad taste in your mouth if they don’t pay you back.

  3. By the way, I think your friend knew very well that she hadn’t paid you back. She might have legitimately forgotten for a time, but should have remembered when you discussed it with her. Good for you for bringing it up when she contacted you again.

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