We’ve all been there: grabbing coffee with a friend only to discover there’s a $10.00 credit card minimum and you’re out of cash, or tagging along on a road trip and promising to hit your friend back for gas. But how annoying is it when you’re on the other end, waiting for your friend to open her wallet and hook you up for what she owes you? Asking a friend or family member to pay you back can feel super awkward, but if you want to avoid further discomfort (and an empty wallet) down the road, follow these tips to breach the topic—and get yo’ money!
1. Talk in person. Don’t text, email, or call; it’s all too easy for faceless communication to be taken the wrong way. Instead, bring it up in a casual, non-threatening setting, like the next time you go out for drinks or coffee. When the check comes, say “Oh, you know what? I just remembered that you never paid me back for last time. Cool if this time is on you?” In lieu of an outing, simply remind your friend by mentioning that you were organizing your monthly expenses (we know you do that, right??) and realized she owed you some money. Laugh it off with, “Gotta keep my fiscal house in order!” and then ask her to pay what she owes you.
2. Be specific. Chances are, she doesn’t even remember that she owes you money, or the specific amount. Regardless, don’t leave room for doubt by asking: “When do you think you’ll be able to pay back the $100 that I lent you?” You’ve named the specific amount, so you’re on the same page with what she owes, and you’ve asked for a timeline. By phrasing it “that I lent you,” instead of “that you owe me,” you’re also subtly calling attention to the fact that you did something nice for her (after all, that’s what friends do!) without accusing her of taking advantage of the situation.
3. Set a deadline. Some people need multiple reminders. That’s life. If she doesn’t pay you back right away, set a firm deadline for paying you back. Soften the ultimatum by referring to an upcoming event, such as, “You know, with spring break coming up I could really use that money. Could you please pay me back by Friday?” This will remind her that her failure to pay you back isn’t just inconvenient; it’s getting in the way of your own ability to spend.
4. Offer flexibility. If your friend is having a hard time paying you back, or if the amount she owes you is more substantial, offer to break the repayment back into smaller chunks. Let her know you’re trying to work with her by saying, “Would it make it easier if you pay me back $100 per month, instead of $500 right now?” She’ll appreciate the flexibility on your part, and may even be prompted to make a faster payback because of it.
5. Pick your battles. Sometimes you have to decide what’s more important: getting your money back or remaining on good terms with your friend. If it’s a small amount, say $10 for cab fare, and you’re in the financial position to do so, let it go. It’s annoying, but pestering her over and over again could cause a rift in the relationship. Just remember: if it becomes a chronic problem, then it’s time to have a frank chat with your friend—and cut her off. A good friend won’t drive you into the poor house, no matter how badly she wants that coffee!