Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me

This past March I loaned money to a fellow single mom friend who was in financial crisis: She and her son were about to be evicted from their apartment.

Anyone that knows me relatively well knows that I would do whatever I could for someone in need; a Good Samaritan. I learned this behavior from my father; when I was little he would help stranded roadside motorists and offer his services (he was a mechanic) for “free” or “in trade” for those who couldn’t afford it. While this type of behavior certainly didn’t make him rich financially, I truly believe he is living the life he wants to. So I have approached my life in much the same way.

Being a Good Samaritan is not always sunshine and roses as sometimes you get taken advantage of; case in point the interest free personal loan to my friend in need.

Here’s how it Went Down


Friend: crying, sobbing, sniffling “I need your help….”

Me: “What’s wrong? Are you ok? Is your son ok?”

Friend: “Yes, we are okay, but I am going to be evicted if I can’t pay my last 2 months rent.”

Me: “Wow, really what happened? How did you get so far behind?”

Friend: “It was a bunch of stuff really; I haven’t been getting my child support, my car died, and my credit card payments are out of control.”

Me: “I am so sorry to hear that all this is happening, do you want me to take a look at how you are managing your money and see if I can help you with your budget?”

Friend: “Yes that would be great, but I really need to pay the $1500 by the end of the week or we are going to be homeless! I only get paid once a month and I just got paid last week; I’ll pay you back with my next paycheck.” more crying, sobbing, sniffling….

Me: “Ok, I don’t want that to happen; I happen to have that in my emergency savings, I’ll write you a check.”

So what do you think happened? Are you thinking, sucker, she just got taken, who loans that kind of money to people? If you are, you are not alone; my parents were furious with me when I told them what I had done as was my boyfriend. They all said I was being naïve and that in all likelihood I would never see that money again.

Fast-forward to Today…


We are now rapidly approaching the end of September; it has been seven months since I loaned my friend the money. Throughout this time when my friend and I would talk she never mentioned the “loan” I had to bring it up. Her response was always I am still trying to dig myself out of the financial hole I dug myself, I promise I’ll get the money to you by next week. Next week never comes…

So in an uncharacteristic move on my part I confront her and am “not so nice”. I explain that while I understand she is going through tough times I feel that I have been taken advantage of. I remind her that she hasn’t paid back a penny of the loan, the least she could do is attempt to make payments. She responds with more crying, sobbing, sniffling… “You don’t know how hard things are for me right now; I can’t pay my car insurance bill or make my minimum payments on my credit cards, they are all going to go to collections soon. I even joined that company you work for and started a Debt Management Plan to help me with my bills.”  The phone call ended with her angrily hanging up on me.

The next day she shows up at my door with $50. No conversation, no I am so sorry I can’t pay you back right now, just $50 thrust through the door and a “Have a nice weekend” with a hint of disgust in her voice.

I was in complete disbelief! She is actually making me feel bad for asking for repayment of the loan that was supposed to be paid back three weeks after it was given; seven months later I finally express my feelings about what has transpired and this is what I get? Unbelievable!

Lesson learned


I will NEVER loan money to a friend or family member again! Let me be clear: I will never “loan” money again, that is not to say I wouldn’t help someone with a “gift” of whatever I could afford to spare from my budget; but never again will it be money I expect to get back.

I am finally letting it sink in that I will never see the money I loaned to my friend again. I have accepted this and I will never put myself through this again.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me

Have you ever had a relative or friend ask you for money? What was your experience? Did you get burned?

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About Suzanne Cramer

28 Responses to “Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me”

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  1. Carrie B says:

    It’s pretty awful that your friend is acting like that. The hostility and anger is probably masking the embarrassment, remorse, and other negative feelings she has right now. It’s easier to be angry than to admit you royally messed up. But nope, we don’t loan. We just give and if we see it back, awesome, otherwise we come to terms that the cashola we hand over will never come back… before we hand it over.

  2. Suzanne Cramer says:

    @Carrie B I am hoping you are right and that she truly is remorseful for her actions–I’d like to believe people are still inherently good. And I definitely learned my lesson…thanks for sharing!

    • Livi says:

      I have been on both sides of the coin. I have borrowed and paid back. Given without expecting it back…Loaned without payment returned and been gifted. I have learned one thing from being on both sides. Although I have gifted and loaned without any complaints or giving any conflicts. I have received criticism, hostility being the gifter and the receiver and this from my family. So I learned that when it concerns money, it is better to value the relationship and not allow money to get involved. Money turns people into the ugliest creatures. If I need more money, I will make sacrifices and get another job. Thank goodness my boyfriend feels the same. When I was married to my exhusband, we would sometimes be at odds with our budget. Now I have someone that shares the same feelings I do and we try our best to settle money issues ourselves and any past gifts we return later anyway even though it was a gift so it doesn’t get returned in hostility later.

  3. Brad Chaffee says:

    Suzanne, this is a FANTASTIC ARTICLE! It’s unfortunate you had to go through this in order to share it with us but this is what we do right? 😀 The best lessons come from our own mistakes and I have certainly made this mistake before. In all honesty and transparency, in my youth, I was the guy on the other end of the loan too, minus the unappreciative and irritating response of course.

    In my case I borrowed money I shouldn’t have and while I admit to trying to avoid the lender (family member) it was out of shame and embarrassment. It was the awkwardness and shame I was trying to avoid but I still appreciated the love and kindness that allowed me to receive the loan in the first place.

    This is a tough lesson for people because just like you, people want to help. In Financial Peace University Dave Ramsey talks about this and I have to agree with him. He talks about how the relationship between two people completely changes due to a loan of this nature and clearly it has here.

    Maybe your friend probably had every intention (or desire) to pay back the loan (or maybe not), but the reality is that it doesn’t sound like she addressed any of the issues that was giving her trouble in the first place. Your loan became a way for her to stop worrying about the problem because the crisis at the time was “fixed” but the problem was never even dealt with.

    I have helped my church with people in the community try and resolve their financial woes and some of the same ones come back time and time again for financial assistance (rent, food, utilities etc) and the church has to eventually say no because they have proven that they were unwilling to use the budgeting advice and help they were given previously.

    That’s what makes this sort of thing so hard. Sometimes passing out money is the opposite of “help” because it masks the real problem and only prolongs more trouble down the road. I agree with Carrie B on this and Dave Ramsey suggests this too. If you have the money and want to help, then please do so, but as a gift instead of a loan.

    Gifts generally do not tear friends apart. 🙂 Again thanks for the SUPER post today!! I really hope your friend comes around and realizes why her response to you was so wrong. 😀

  4. Brad Chaffee says:

    Oh and I cannot wait to see you at the conference! 😀 It’s finally here! See you in Chicago! 😀

  5. Suzanne Cramer says:

    @Brad Yes, it was definitely a tough lesson learned and I should have known better; but I too hope she comes around 🙂 Thank you for the kind words about the post, it was difficult to admit my mistake in lending the money and tough to talk about it, but I feel a weight has been lifting just sharing the story with others.

    I can’t wait to see you either! I am so excited to be on my way to #FinCon 11 in less than 24 hours! 🙂

  6. Jackie Walters says:

    I too lent money to a friend who was going through a divorce in the amount of $1000.00. After periodically asking for repayment several times over the past 4 years I just received $700.00 from her ex-husband and my friend telling me she would send me the remaining $300.00 at the end of the month (July). Her divorce was finalized 2 years ago.

    My friend just went through a family tragedy and I will no longer be asking for the remaining money.

    A lesson learned. Emotions can get the best of you at times.

    See at #FINCON11.

    Jackie – FB: Personal Finance with Jackie Walters

  7. ImpulseSave says:

    There are some things that should be shared with family and friends: holidays, for example. Others should now: MONEY, for example. It is so unfortunate that you had to go through this experience (and your emergency fund) to be able to share with us, but now we can all learn from you. There are many ways to help people besides lending them money. Your first response was great: let me help you with your budget. Sadly, she was really looking for that check. Personally, whenever possible, I think it is wiser (from a survival standpoint) to help people in other ways besides loaning money. “Can I babysit for you for free while you pick up some extra shifts?” “Do you want to come over for dinner?” “School supplies are cheaper when I buy in bulk, does your son need any folders?” I think it is so important to help people, but you have to make sure you are still being responsible. I hope things work out for you 🙂

  8. @ImpulseSave Great ideas! Helping them help themselves is helping them more than loaning them the money.Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  9. Kira says:

    WOW – an ex husband paying 70% of the loan and a friend fronting $1500 for rent to avoid eviction? I see a pattern here.

    After going thru Financial Peace, I will never again loan money. Giving it on the other hand, is something I can do.
    But sometimes the best help isn’t money at all. (Congress, are you listening?)

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      It sounds like Suzanne’s friend may be good at the manipulation of others and their kindness for personal gain. I kind of feel like that was why she reacted with such vitriol when asked for the money she borrowed. I’m just speaking from personal experience and my own observations of others but people who are very manipulative seem to write-off any acts of kindness once they get what they want. I could be wrong, and I hope I haven’t offended you Suzanne for saying this, but to me it sounds like she never intended on paying you back. The $50 was simply a way to make herself feel better about stiffing you out of $1450 of your hard earned money. I do hope I’m wrong though.

      Suzanne, just don’t let this sour your kindness in the future, although I’m sure you won’t be loaning anyone anymore money. Keep being the sweet helpful person that you are and you will be rewarded. 😀

      Your comment ROCKS Kira ESPECIALLY the remark about congress listening. (And NO, they’re not listening — they never do!)

  10. That’s really unfortunate that your friend would do that! Ok, it downright sucks. You and my wife are very much alike – she would have done the same thing. We’ve loaned money to relatives before, and fortunately they’ve always paid it back (although I was very skeptical about whether they would). Once you start, the requests start coming in more frequently..eventually we closed the “bank of Pizel.”

  11. Dena says:

    Don’t beat yourself up over this.A lot of people have done this.I gave a rather large sum of money to a family member to settle a payday loan he had gotten himself into.I had to actually hunt him down every payday to get my money back.Lesson learned.Never again!Good luck with seeing your money again.

  12. Leisa says:

    Nope I don’t lend money to anyone and I usually refuse money when offered to ‘help’ me through a rough patch. Money has a lot of power attached to it by us because of what it can buy us but as you have seen Suzanne it can also destroy relationships. Usually when money is given that way it stops the person receiving it from looking at their situation and asking themselves how did they end up in this situation and how to stop it happening again. Credit cards can be used as a way to continue to be in denial and when your friend ran out of options with her credit cards she wanted to continue the denial even if it cost her your friendship. Hopefully one day she will realize her mistakes and learn proper money management especially when she realizes she will end up alone with no friends if she keeps doing it :-).

  13. Scraps says:

    True, True and True. I was one of your league also and EVERYBODY KNEW IT! I loaned someone $1,000.00, with a 3 week promise of payment. I saw $200.00 of it after about 3 months with a note promising the rest in 2 months – BIG JOKE. This is a person I have known since Childhood. Lesson Here – Never Borrow what you cannot afford to lose. Also, since Brad helped me with debt and all of you in your own ways (I found your links on Brad’s site) I feel that the best thing to do now is – if they don’t heed advice or look for advice – LET THEM FALL DOWN!!!! I ask myself now – If I give you my emergency fund, what am I going to do if I have an emergency immediately after? You obviously won’t be able to help me and I no longer can help myself. Why should I have to go borrowing and begging when I have it. Bottomline – if you must loan – think of an amount which does not matter (my limit $20.00). Also, since that can add up – if you default once – no more loans!

  14. Clair Schwan says:

    Scraps, let them fall down? That’s much too harsh a description for the course you’re proposing. I think you mean let them settle into a state of higher motivation. After all, if hitting bottom isn’t motivating, then what is? When we lend money, we might be enabling irresponsibility. We need to assess worthiness to determine whether it’s worth the risk, or if we ought to let the beggar learn their lesson well.

    I like what an M.D. friend of mine says, “It’s not life threatening.”

  15. 101 Centavos says:

    Yep, I’ve done it, too. Loaned money to family. Never did get the whole amount back, only about 75 percent of it. I’ve thought about that if I’m ever in that kind of situation again, I’ll just give way less than the loan amount, and consider it a gift. That way, the relationship is preserved and I won’t have to worry about getting it back.

  16. Scraps says:

    I accept your correction. However, while you are assessing their worthiness pray REAL HARD for insight and more insight. This way your assessment will be one minus the tears, crying and hard luck stories. Also, think about how many more people they owe. Why is it they called you and not others? Why is their family not helping them out?

    It took me a long time to realize I was an enabler and not helping anyone grow up and become financially responsible because I was too busy helping everyone and neglecting me.

    All I am saying is this – when helping stop looking with your heart and start looking with your mind. I still help people out – as my friends say – it’s just in me. It still is not hard for me to give to otheres. What I am saying is your heart will get you in more trouble than thinking things out with your mind. It is a good thing to open your hand and give to others – for when you open your hand as you give out – something is put in – because, your hand is still open. In so doing, you will stop regretting when it does not come back to you.

    I get great joy from helping others and I always will and now I have no regrets if it doesn’t come back – why – because I thought it out and then I gave and I am happy.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      Scraps, this is weird, you took the words right out of my mouth. For years, my philosophy has been: use your head, then use your heart, and then go back and use your head again. It’s a good combination that allows us to see the human side of an issue, but allows us to make good decisions for everyone involved. ImpulseSave suggested a range of alternatives to lending money, and that kind of thinking often results from using the first and last in times when emotions can often get in the way.

      From my not-so-cheap seats, enabling irresponsibility benefits no one, no matter how good it feels. I’ll be writing a post here about that and related matters soon.

  17. Sun says:

    You can gift but don’t loan money to friends… You’ll just ruin your friendship which you likely contributed to.

    Giving money though doesn’t get at the friends problem of how they prioritize spending. If you can’t pay rent, you don’t pay the cc at all, not even the minimum. You pay for food, shelter, utilities, transportation… The cc can wait.

  18. Wow, this is certainly a hot topic for many! I know my decison to loan the money was foolish on my part–I knew better, I will certainly take my own advice as well as the advice of others in the future…belive me I learned my lesson!

  19. Clair Schwan says:

    Suzanne, four times I started to make a comment on your post. Each time I approached it from a different angle, and each time I ended up thinking it was too much for a comment, so I simply wrote my own article. Thanks for being such a great catalyst and someone with a nice “signature” as well.

  20. @Clair So glad I could be a catalyst for your post and thanks for the compliment. Your post is excellent and adds great thoughts and perceptions to build on my initial post. Great idea!

  21. Al says:

    Suzzane, I just saw your article. I too was taken advantage of by someone I was dating. He borrowed a HUGE amount of money from me . I COMPLETELY trusted he would pay me back because we had met in church and it appeared that we shared the same values. I emptied my bank account to help him avoid foreclosure. Talk about being a fool in love !! Eventually I dumped him, sued him and have yet to see a penny because the loser owns nothing. I now claim 3000 each year from my taxes as a Capital Gains loss. It will take me several years to write off the entire amount and I will never get the interest back. Ask the person who does your taxes how you can write off part of that debt. You will not get back the money in your possession but at least you will feel you recovered something !

    • @Al Sorry to hear about your situation, I can definitely relate. I had no idea I could write it off as a loss… I am definitely going to check into it. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!!

  22. mary says:

    Well, join the club I recently allowed what was suppose to be a friend to stay at our home…which by the way lasted a wonderful 10 days. He ate like he was never going to eat again, and used up my personal space along with my patience. I was ready for him to go after the first two days but my fiance asked me to be nice afterall where helping a “friend”.

    Now after all that im out the $100.00, plus what it cost just for him to show which took forever…oh I forgot did I mention he ate up everything. He had the nerve to turn off the AC like somehow he was authorized to pay on a bill.

    Now that hes gone not even a phone call. So I have said this to myself I will never allow another soul that walks the earth to stay in my home again! EVER

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