Your true friends will be there through thick and thin, good and bad—unless you need money. Oh, yes, your friends will be there when you want to talk about your colorectal surgery or Big Bang Theory fan fiction, but the moment you need a loan, you'll find them staring at their shoes and kicking the dirt. Nothing kills a good friendship like loaning or borrowing cash, but, sometimes you have no other choice. Here are some tips on asking for a handout in Chinese without killing your friendships.
The first thing that one should keep in mind is that you should probably not use the word "money." People prefer to describe their difficulty in a more euphemistic manner; for that there is 手头紧 (shǒutóu jǐn), which roughly means "tight fists." If you don't want to give a specific description about what happened to you, you can go with this all-purpose term:
It's hard to explain, but recently my fists are a little tight. So, I have to come to you for help.
Zhēn bù hǎoyìsi kāikǒu, dànshì wǒ zuìjìn shǒutóu yǒudiǎn er jǐn, zhǐhǎo zhǎo nǐ bāngmáng.
There you go. Now no one needs to know that you gambled all your money away or that you spent it on that nice Nigerian prince you met online. It's hard to explain, so cough up. They may ask:
Well, how much do you need?
Nǐ xūyào duōshǎo qián?
Say the number and add "你方便吗 (Nǐ fāngbiàn ma)?" This "Are you convenient?" has at least two meanings: "Do you have enough money at hand?" and "Are you willing to lend it to me?" Regardless, it looks like a yes-or-no question.
A: I need 5,000 RMB. Is that convenient?
Wǒ xūyào wǔqiān kuài qián. Nǐ fāngbiàn ma?
B: I just have 3,000 at hand.
Wǒ xiànzài shǒutóu zhǐyǒu sānqiān.
A: That will also help. Could you lend it to me now?
Nà yě xíng. Néng xiān jiè gěi wǒ ma?
Nobody likes lending money, so if they hesitate, it's human nature; some people would more happily part with a limb than their beloved, precious money. You need to win their trust. For example, you could make a promise about the return date and explain how the interest will be paid. Heck, write them a receipt if it makes them feel better.
A: I will return your money in three months with interest. I am writing a receipt.