Welcome to the SprocketInk Shrink, Your home for slightly less than professional advice. Your host for today is the Jester Queen.
Dear SIS: I have a neighbor who asks occasionally for money. It’s super awkward as I want to have good neighbors but don’t want to lend him money that I know will never be returned. What is the best way to deal with this situation?
Shoot him? Move? Either of those would be ‘best’, but I suspect that what you really meant was “most practical”. There are a couple of possibilities here. First of all, let’s look at what’s going on behind your neighbor’s eyes. You describe this person as a neighbor, rather than a friend, which suggests a casual acquaintance to me. This means that the person is either a manipulative SOB or so desperate that he has no room for pride. The word “occasional” makes me think it’s the former.
But we’ll explore the latter for a minute. Possibly, we’re looking at a situation where the neighbor lives paycheck to paycheck and sometimes needs twenty bucks to tide him over until the next one comes in. If this is the case, the easiest way to get rid of him is actually to give him the money. Once. You can say, “Finances are pretty tight here, I can pull this off one time, but it’s not something I can ever do again.” A respectful person will get the hint. Then, when the money isn’t returned and the guy STILL has the gall to keep asking, you can say, “Look, I know you’re really living on a tight budget, but so am I. You weren’t able to pay me back last time, and it created some hardships for me. I want to keep our friendship intact and remain good neighbors, so I’m not comfortable going in that direction.”
Far more likely, since he’s asking for money from the neighbor damn it, is that this is a real lowlife who has been scraping the bottom of his other friends’ barrels for awhile now and just needs new blood. In this case, the WORST thing you can do is give him money. On the other hand, you don’t want to create a feud either. After all, we’ve already established that moving is impractical, and flaming lawn ornaments tend to lead to police involvement. You can avoid him, but that won’t last forever. You’ve got to develop a line that is neither too flip nor too serious here, but which is still firm enough to give him the message that he needs to get the hands back out of your pockets. Perhaps something like this: “I don’t lend money outside of my immediate family anymore. I’ve had too many bad experiences.” If you aren’t too interested in avoiding the war, you could make a less subtle choice, though.
“Honey, I wouldn’t lend you twenty bucks if you were my own mother. Now get the hell off my front porch.”
“Yeah, and you’ll pay it back just like you did the last time, right? Fool me once, twice, whatever, shame off, asswipe.”
“I need my walk snowplowed every Friday. Great, I’ll just pay you when the work’s done.”
“Try Marian up the street. She’s pretty new. I don’t think you’ve cozened her out of anything valuable yet.”
“Sure. Be sure to use it to go see Les Mis. You’d get along well with the Thendardiers.” (Or just break into a loud rendition of “Master of the House”.)
Any of these would offend the neighbor enough that he would either go simmer quietly or try to smear your name to the rest of the street. The bottom line is that you aren’t Ebeneezer Scrooge to hold onto your own hard won cash, and this guy is not any kind of a saint if he’s trying to mooch off the neighbors. Standing your ground won’t hurt you, and you don’t have to be “nice” by letting him manipulate you.