How Long Should You Wait To Remind Your Friends To Pay You Back?

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It can start out so innocently: a friend asks you to spot him some cash. Maybe it’s a fairly trivial amount — a $20 for his share of brunch, say. Or perhaps it’s a tad more substantial: $100 to tide him over until he gets paid. Or maybe he asks for $500, $1,000 or more. 

And he’s your friend, and he’d do it for you, right? And you have the means…

“Like they sing about in the Friends theme song, friendship is about being there for each other, and this can sometimes mean being there financially,” said Anthony Martin here, founder and CEO of Choice Mutual. “We all need a hand sometimes; you may find yourself in a position to spot your friend for a few meals or even assist with a slightly larger financial burden like overdue rent or a car payment.” 

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So you lend him the money. Key word being “lend.” But then what? Well, you may make an informal verbal agreement that he pays you back in a few weeks or months. But the days pass and pass and no money is returned. 

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How long do you wait to nudge your friend and remind him about the money that you loaned him — and that it’s time to pay you back? 

It Depends on What You Agreed Upon 

“Reminding them to pay you back really depends on your original agreement,” said Craig Miller, a psychologist and the co-founder of Academia Labs, LLC. “For instance, if your friend borrowed money from you and promised to pay you back after a month, then the first reminder for payment should come after a month. If your friend is able to pay already, then well and good. If not, then your friend should indicate a specific time he’ll be able to pay. Only then can you remind your friend again for payment.”

Consider a Timetable

Samantha Hawrylack, a personal finance expert and co-founder of How To FIRE, suggests following the below timetable for asking for/expecting your money back: 

  • Smaller Loan (less than $100): A few weeks
  • Medium Loan (couple hundred dollars): A few months
  • Large Loan (thousands of dollars): A few years, depending on how many thousands.

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Remind Them Twice a Month (Around Payday) 

Miller recommends potentially reminding them twice a month —  “on the 15th and 30th of each month, as this is the usual release of salaries of most companies.” 

Lay on More Pressure If It’s a Large Sum 

It’s one thing to lend your friend $20 to cover his movie ticket; it’s quite another to lend her $1,000 to pay her rent or get her small business off the ground. For more substantial sums of money, you should feel free to be a bit more aggressive in asking for your money back — without being rude, of course. 

“When it comes to large amounts, you really should put a time constraint on when they pay you back,” said Richard J. Brandenstein, attorney and founding partner at Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada P.C. “If they are waiting to be paid, make sure they know you are the first person they pay back. When they start spending money again without having paid you, this is always the time to remind them they owe you money.” 

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Next Time, Put It in Writing

“Anything of a significant amount should have an agreement that is clear on the repayment terms,” said Folasade Ayegbusi, an accountant. “Either via text or email, put it in writing. That way there are no gray areas or misunderstandings.”

If the repayment date that you have in writing is missed, Ayegbusi recommends sending a reminder, but not yet sending a specific request for payment. 

“Send a message first,” Ayegbusi said. “But remember even with these items in place, if your friend is unable to communicate with any issues they are having with repaying it may cause a strain or end the friendship. So make sure your relationship is sound.” 

Don’t Overthink It 

If you’re stressing over when to ask someone to pay you back or how to go about asking, stop. You’re overthinking it. 

“Just ask,” said Lyle Solomon, principal attorney at Oak View Law Group. “Be direct, be honest, and don’t feel bad. I am convinced that it has, on occasion, felt worse for me to ask for my money back than it did for the borrower to ask for it in the first place, which is just absurd!”

Or You Could Just Never Remind Them (and Probably Never Get the Money Back) 

Some financial experts staunchly don’t believe in lending friends money — instead, they think you should just straight up give it. 

“Never remind them if you want to stay friends,” said Brian Rellihan, CFP, MBA, EA and senior financial advisor at Wise Wealth Partners. “Let the money go! I don’t lend money to friends, I will only give them money. Money will ruin friendships and I’ve even seen families destroyed. If you can’t afford to outright give them the money then it’s too much.” 

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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