What Should You Do When A Friend Won’t Pay You Back?

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It’s never a good idea to loan money to family or friends. But if you’ve already lent them money, what should you do if they won’t pay you back?

A couple of years ago, an old friend from uni messaged me from out of nowhere. To my dismay, he wasn’t reaching out to reconnect, but to ask if he could borrow some money. Normally, I wouldn’t have given him any attention, but he sounded so desperate. I agreed to lend him $50, but knew that I couldn’t count on him paying me back.

True enough, he still hasn’t paid me back to this day, but it’s not something that has affected me or my trust issues. I don’t often lend money. Generally, it’s just not a good idea. But when I do, I keep one thing in mind: never lend more than you can afford to lose.

This is something one should always keep in mind when relationships are on the line. If you’re counting on getting every single cent back, just don’t lend your money. But what if you’ve already loaned out some money? What if it’s a lot bigger than $50? What if it’s a significant amount that you actually need?

My friend won’t pay back money

Here are some tips to keep in mind when handling friends or family who just won’t pay you back.

1. Don’t let it stew

how to ask for money back from a friend

Even though you might want to avoid the topic entirely just so you won’t ruffle any feathers, but if this is a big amount of money that you’re actually bothered about, you might just be letting feelings of resentment stew. Instead of letting it fester and ruin your relationship, confront the issue head-on.

2. Gently remind them

how to ask for money back from a friend

You can remind them every now and then about their debt in passing just so they know that you’re still expecting them to pay you back. And remember to keep things light so they know that you don’t harbour any ill feelings towards them for not paying you back right away.

3. Go straight to the point

how to ask for money back from a friend

Instead of tiptoeing around the issue, just ask them when they would be able to pay you back. The key here is to remain calm and stay nice. Getting angry may get them to pay you back, but that’s also a quick way to damage your relationship. That friend won’t pay back money whole heartedly.

4. Give them a deadline

how to ask for money back from a friend

When you lent them money, did you give them a specific date? Instead of saying “pay me as soon as possible”, give them a sense of urgency by setting a concrete deadline.

5. Let them pay you back in instalments

how to ask for money back from a friend

Maybe they just aren’t able to pay you back in one go. To make it easier on them, you can allow them to pay you back in smaller increments. Maybe you can go even ask them to walk you through their finances so you can understand their situation and see how much they can really afford to pay you per month.

6. Watch your attitude

how to ask for money back from a friend

You might not be aware of this, but you could be approaching your friend with a condescending attitude. It’s not easy to ask for money, so your friend must have had to really humble himself to approach you. Be compassionate, but don’t be a doormat.

7. Think: what’s more important—the money, or the relationship?

how to ask for money back from a friend

How much exactly is your relationship worth? Can you even put a price tag on it? Instead of letting your judgment get clouded by focusing on the money they owe, try to keep things in perspective. And if they don’t ever pay you back, learn from it and just remember to never lend money to them again. Or better yet, just never lend money to friends or family. Your friend won’t pay back money, even the next time, maybe.


What do you do when your friend won’t pay back money? Let us know in the comments!

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