Borrowing from close friends can be a good way to cover small expenses temporarily if short of cash while out and about. But lending to friends can damage the friendship if money isn’t repaid or misunderstandings occur.
It can also feel rather embarrassing to ask a friend for money, and there can be a sense that you’re inconveniencing them.
It’s therefore not surprising that people typically don’t like to ask. However, our ING research suggests many may be open to financially piggy-backing (or piggy-banking, as we call it) on their pals when they don’t have cash available at the time.
Myself and another behavioural scientist at ING, Laura Straeter, put 290 people in a hypothetical shopping situation. People were asked to imagine they had arrived at a shopping centre with a close friend, and were looking forward to a day of walking around the different stores.
Half the participants were then told they had left their wallet at home and must decide whether to ask their friend for money to pay for any purchases. The other half were told that their friend had asked to borrow money from them and they had to decide whether to lend it.
Everyone was asked to indicate their willingness to either borrow from or lend money to their friend, on a scale of 1 (“I definitely wouldn’t”) to 9 (“I definitely would”). The amount lent or borrowed would depend on how much they shopped: it could be a little or a lot.
Chance of a favour
We found that the people in the study were more willing to lend than to borrow from a close friend. And even though people might feel embarrassed about asking friends for money, this act might not be perceived so negatively by the lender.
"It can feel rather embarrassing to ask a friend for money, and there can be a sense that you’re inconveniencing them."
What we can see from our results is that people may be willing to lend their money, but friends are less willing to ask for it. Interestingly, we also found lenders become even happier to lend to their friend when asked multiple times. But when a borrower asks multiple times, they become less happy about asking for this money.
The results – in your life
Being asked to lend a small amount can be an opportunity to show a friend you care and are ready to offer support. Simply doing something positive for others can feel good in itself – despite the financial outlay.
So next time you’re out with a friend, take a minute to consider both sides of the situation if money changes hands. While borrowers may feel uncomfortable asking, lenders may well be happy to lend some money for a short period of time. And this type of lending can be the most efficient way of splitting the bill.
Check out the full research report on page 96 of the Behavioural Economics Guide 2018.