Thought Catalog

What To Do When Your Friend Owes You Money

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Money is a touchy thing, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if you have a ton of it or none at all, it’s a universally awkward subject. We like to pretend it doesn’t exist, that we’re all on some equal playing field, but we’re not. This is especially true when you’re in your twenties. The people who are fortunate enough to still get help from their parents can live la vida luxury while the less fortunate ones have to consider foot fetish modeling on Craigslist just to survive.

No matter what hand you were dealt, however, certain rules should apply when you borrow money from a friend. We’ve all been there. Hell, we’ve probably been on both sides of the coin, which means that we understand how awkward things can get when they don’t pay you back. In an ideal world, we could all just have the following conversation when we agree to lend money to someone:

The Borrower: Hey, do you mind if I borrowed like 30 bucks from you? I’m sorry, I’m in a pinch, but I’ll pay you right back. I get paid tomorrow!
The Lender: I mean, I really don’t want to but you’ve already seen me withdraw money from the ATM so you know I have it. You’re notorious for never paying me back though. Will you actually pay me back this time?
The Borrower: Um, I can’t promise that. But I’ll try.
The Lender: Okay, well you know I’ll resent you if you don’t, right? Every time I see you spending money, I’ll think, “How do you have the money for new shoes but can’t pay me back thirty dollars?!”
The Lender: Yeah, I’m aware of that. So can I have the money or what?
The Borrower: No. But yes.

Sound familiar? You wish you could be this honest, right? Well, you can’t. Because society said so! What you can do, however, is change your reaction to it. Instead of letting the resentment build and being passive aggressive, you can actually try to get back your money. Here’s how!

1. JUST SAY NO.

Before we delve into your options, I feel like I should at least mention that you could always, you know, just say no to your friend who wants money. Just tell them you have barely any money yourself. Who cares if it’s true or not? It’s too awkward to challenge and the borrower will just let it go. But whatevs. I know we’re too cowardly to do this so I’ll just move on.

2. Remind the borrower only once that they owe you money.

You know what really gets my goat? When you lend money to someone and then you have to become a nag who’s constantly reminding them to pay you back. HELLO, THIS IS NOT YOUR JOB. You did a wonderful thing by helping your friend out. You shouldn’t have to become a bugaboo about something that’s not your responsibility. If I do you a favor, it becomes your job to repay me. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have the money, just say so. At least acknowledge that there is a debt. Don’t hope that the lender has forgotten it because trust me, they haven’t. Be upfront about it. Update them on when you think you’ll be able to pay them back. Chances are the person doesn’t mind getting the money late. They just want to know that you haven’t forgotten about it.

3. Do an activity with someone who owes you money and make them pay for it.

This is my favorite (and most effective and sneaky) way of getting paid back. Let’s say someone owes you thirty bucks and hasn’t paid you back. They stopped mentioning it, in hopes you would just forget about it, but that’s obviously not going to happen. The best way for you to get paid back is to go out to lunch with them, the movies, or maybe even to a concert. Then, when the subject of money is brought up, just say, “Oh, well you owe me that thirty bucks from forever ago. So why don’t you just get this one and we’ll be even?” HA HA. Sucker! You’re trapped! The person has no choice but to pony up the cash. Seeing their crestfallen expression as they say something like, “Oh my god, right. I remember. Perfect!” is gold. Their insides are fuming because they know you planned this. You weren’t going to let them forget and now their wallet is pinned against a wall. Listen, sometimes you gotta be a little manipulative so you can get paid back. It’s not your fault. They’re the ones who forced you into this position!

4. Scream and yell.

If you’re one of the few people who doesn’t care if things get awkward, then you should ignore all of my previous advice and just harass your friend daily until you get the money. Pout, scream, yell. Do whatever you have to do. This approach is so shocking that the person you lent money to will most likely pay you back ASAP. “HERE. JUST TAKE IT! I CAN’T HANDLE THIS HONEST APPROACH!” TC mark

image – ©iStockphoto/ Tomislav Forgo

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    • Kris

      Sheer genius.

    • JinDC

      #3 is pure genious!  Love it.

    • Thalia

      when I loan friends money I either say no, or I loan it and just assume I won’t be getting it back. That way, there are no hard feelings or resentment if I don’t get it back and if I do get it back, it’s like someone has just given me money! That’s one of the most useful things my momma has ever  taught me. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

        Same here…I just hope the kind deed will be reciprocated in the future.  I don’t want to have to be sneaky in a friendship. 

    • MOLA

      Haha! Ryan this is one of your best articles ever! 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507159106 Nikki McGillicuddy

      Oh man, about 4 years ago I let a friend borrow $300. She was known for being notoriously flakey with money and paying back, but at this time she had an excellent job making $15 an hour, and I had just bought Morrisey tickets for her a few months before and she paid me back for, which was such a shock, I assumed she turned over a new leaf. 
      So a few months go by, and no money was paid back. Any text asking about money was not replied to, but a text about anything else was. I even tried the ” my insurance bill is due and I need to pay it(which is usually a good way to get it back), and nope, no care for my dire situations at all. As I started getting more adamant about getting my money back instead of just paying it back, she just deleted me off myspace(for those who do not remember that site, it was like facebook, but way more drama. If someone on your top friends deleted you, all hell broke loose). So I text her saying, “hey, I don’t care if you don’t want to be my friend, I want my money”. Then she went around saying ” I’m not your friend anymore ‘cus of what you said about me”, which was a cop out ‘cus I never said anything about her. The thing was she was actually a really good friend to me. If I needed someone to pick me up at 3a.m, she’d do it. But I guess $300 is worth more then a friendship. Oh and she was a pathological liar, and she fought and stopped being friends with everyone in her friends group at 3 times each in the 4 years I knew her.
      So lesson learned. Don’t let anyone borrow money, and if you have to, no more then $20, also pathological liars are shitty people no matter what.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carlos-Ortiz/1279921705 Carlos Ortiz

      i just let it go, or ask only once if I want/need the money.
      but I won’t forget those who don’t pay back, and if someone were to not pay me back and then ask me for money again I would bring it up and it would be awkward.

    • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

      I lent a friend $300. A week later she yelled at me for being a “spoiled rich kid”. After that I stopped letting people borrow money from me.

    • Blah

      I hate that Thought Catalog has so many stupid ads now.

    • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

      I was taught to only loan what you can live to not get back, and expect to not get it back.  But, alas, I never listen to myself…

    • AK

      I lent a crush money and I still don’t know if he’s going to pay me back. I hope he does. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a bit heartbreaking.

    • Erin

      Someone owes me $160 from June.  It’s pretty uncool.  I’ve reminded her like five times and I don’t know what else I can do to get her to pay me back.  We don’t see each other on a regular basis so I can’t pull the sneaky #3.

    • M90999

      I used #3 for the first time a few months ago. I supplied a generous portion of the evening’s alcohol. I made my friends pay for my drunk food and my part in the cab ride back home. #PERFECT

    • chris

      how about someone going to the cops about me for ‘harassment’ from me asking for my money back!! now i cant be in contact with them, if i did id be arrested cause of the lies they told the cops.

      i have a 5 yr old and they USED to be my best mates!!  

    • XxSpidermanxX

      My dad borrowed $50 from me and said he would pay me back saturday, he said he had to leave for work friday, but would be back on saturday. Its Saturday, hes not back, and won’t answer his phone. This is one of the many times hes done this.

    • http://leacocks.com/FeaturesBlog/2012/01/how-to-write-for-thought-catalog/ How To Write for Thought Catalog » Features » Leacock's

      […] about commonplace life experiences like what moving on is like, how to say no people and what to do when a friend owes you money. You’re only twenty-something, but you’ve been through so many painful character-building […]

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