How to Collect Money Owed To You

By | September 10, 2009

A good friend of mine recently complained that it was difficult for her to get her money back from friends. She had paid for a summer trip in the Hampton and she had to remind her friends many times for the money, and yet they haven’t paid her back. Let’s call my friend, Yvonne.

Yvonne wanted to ask for her money back, but she didn’t know how to do so. She did not want to be rude nor want they to think that she was mean. She decided to write an email reminding them of the amounts they owed her.

She drafted an email and wrote:

Hi all,

Hope all is well,  this is just a friendly reminder of the $ you owed from
hamptons or another prior event …I can meet up when you have the $
available, alternatively you can also send a check to my address at

Please do not take this email in any wrong way, it is cuz I am in debt
myself and needed funds…thx..


I thought that the email was very direct and gave her some suggestions. I suggested that she write in a softer tone and focused more on herself. I revised the email before she sent it out and wrote the following:

Hi all,

I am cleaning up my finances on the Hampton bill. I know that we’re all busy, so this is just a friendly reminder if you haven’t had the chance to pay me back. Please let me know if there are any problems.


I thought that the revised email would be less direct about the debt, and instead, it focused more on the lender and less on the debtors, which were her friends. People with common sense who are receiving that email would understand that they owe someone money and that they should pay the lender back soon. The last sentence in the email is to address those people who are tight on money and allow them to explain why they cannot pay back on time.  If they have money issues, they should reply back indicating the reason and then Yvonne can respond back with her comments and decisions.

Asking money back from friends is a very sticky topic, and if not handled properly, it can trigger an argument that puts the friendship in jeopardy. Below are some tips to help with the task of retrieving your money from friends. Good luck!

Tip #1: Let them know politely that they owed you money.

There is no need to be rude in the beginning. The trick is to let them know that you have helped them with the money and that they are in debt to you. The truth is, you did them a favor and they should be grateful that you are reminding them. People with dignity would usually be embarrassed and try to pay you back asap.

One way is to send a polite email to remind them of the amount they owed and allow them to let you know if they have any problems coming up with the money. If they are sincere of paying you back, then you can work with them if they are short on money.

An email is usually a good way to remind someone, because it does not put you face-to-face in front of the person, which sometimes the debtor may take it the wrong way and make sincere lenders feel guilty. The email can also be used as a record/proof.

Tip #2: Try to set the time and meeting Place

Make an effort to meet the debtor, the earlier the better. Friends often say, “I’ll pay you back next time,” but usually they forget about it as soon as they finish the sentence. If that friend is notorious for skipping out on his/her debts, then you need to be a little more aggressive. Let your friend know that you are available before the next time they see you. Offer to meet him/her half-way.

Tip #3: Follow up with the money collection

If it has been a while after you have notified your friend about the money he/she owes you, then you would need to take the next step. The period of time depends on your tolerance level. It could be a week, two weeks, a month, etc.

Now you would need to follow up with your friend. Ask your friend if he/she has read your initial email. Sometimes debtors put aside and forget about the email you sent them asking for money back.

If you decide to send another email, it’s best to send it to the person’s office email address. It is almost certain that the person (debtor) would receive your email.  Calling them would be another good option and politely letting them know that you have sent an email to them earlier regarding the amount that they owed you. You should expect an answer as to when they he/she will pay you back, and if necessary, make pay arrangements over the phone.

Tip #4: Show them the receipt or evidence of payment

Let your friend know that you had already for the bill and you have to pay your credit cards. Scan the receipts and/or credit card bill. This shows that you are serious. Money is an issue for you and you had to foot the bill. A good friend will not put financial burden on his/her friend indefinitely.

Tip #5: Make accommodations/arrangements

If the amount your friend owes you is a large amount, then perhaps the amount can be paid back in several installments. Of course, it’s best to receive all your money back at once, but having installments is better than having nothing.

Tip #6: Let them know that know that they are hurting your trust in them

If you friend still doesn’t pay you back after some time or they give lots of excuses, then you could let them know that you no longer trust them and will no longer lend them money again. If the person doesn’t care, then he/she may not be a good friend. Make note to self.  Also, let other people be aware of this person.

Tip #7: Document everything

It’s difficult and sometimes very messy to keep track of everything verbally. Take notes and make a list of people who have paid and who haven’t. It’s generally a good idea to check off the person once they have paid you in full, so you don’t go after the same person for money again. This also allows you to keep a record of who pays you on time.

Thoughts: Many people have difficulties collecting money back from their friends. Money is a very sensitive topic and can come break friendships. Be polite and sincere, but firm, to your friend and your friend should pay you back. If he/she deliberately does not pay you back, he/she is not worth to be your friend and you should cut your losses short.

11 thoughts on “How to Collect Money Owed To You

  1. Greg McFarlane

    Yvonne sounds like a sweet girl but a pushover. She shouldn’t have to qualify her reminders as “friendly”. She’s essentially saying, “Gee, I hope I didn’t inconvenience you by impoverishing myself for you. I hope you don’t think I’m imposing by expecting you to pay me back.”

    Any conscientious borrower should feel a relentless pang of obligation on his shoulders until he pays back his friend.

    Do you really want to maintain a friendship with someone who owes you money (and ignores your requests to be paid back)? First of all, how are you going to socialize with this friend? If you go to a bar or restaurant, who pays? If Yvonne has to get to Tip #7 to get her money back, she might need to put her foot down a little earlier.

    1. Jane

      or she can just setup a auto campaign at and get it back

    2. Aliilish

      I know that why I’m like even if a little bit of money I feel like it’s stone on my chest how can other be so uncaring. I cared about you enough to put myself out of the way, but you can just feel like whatever….I’m just never letting people borrow money.

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  3. Robert

    This is a tough topic. Loaning money to friends is never a good idea, especially if they are in debt themselves and don’t have a chance to pay it back. Money and friendships really don’t mix, but I think the second “softer” email was much more appropriate for the situation.

  4. a bryant

    Recently friend borrowed $500 for move to a new address. New address is unknown. Was given old camera as a thank you for the loan and was promised a payback with a third pay check. I didn’t want the camera. Can hardly buy film for it anymore. I said I just want to be paid back. This old friend insisted so I took the camera. As an old friend I did not insult them by putting things in writing.

    Three weeks before loan was due person called and said don’t know how to pay back. Not clear on terms. I reminded person but said nothing else and just listened. I expected a call with a payback plan but that never happened.

    A few days after the loan was due I called and asked about pay back plans. Two more months needed.

    With a family, bills, and a mortgage, and recent car trouble I suggested selling expensive toys and maybe not borrowing money in the first place. Person then said I was abusing them, was going to consider the camera as sold to me, that I was never to call again, that our friendship was over. The phone hung-up and I called back only to find an immediate block on my phone number. There was nothing I could do. Three days later person called to tell me to shut-up and listen and be reasonable. Every time I tried to speak, person just told me to shut-up and listen.
    “I’ll pay you back when the recession is over.”
    When I said the recession was over person screamed they would pay me back when they had the money. Then hung up.
    As the boss of this person and I are on good terms and considers my old friend a very good friend I sent him an email of what happened. I asked him to respect the privacy of the friend but to pass on an email letter as a favor. I was firm and offered to accept payments. Boss passed on message.

    I heard nothing from old friend. A few weeks later I sent another email and heard nothing. After searching the internet and finding email I sent some emails requesting to be paid back. Now ex-friend is threatening to sue me and file criminal charges of harassment against me. All this because I want to be paid back so I can give my family Christmas presents.

  5. Sean Post author

    Bryant, asking for money back from a friend is a very sensitive topic and it is not uncommon for friendships to be broken. If you lend money to a friend, especially a good one, it really puts you in a difficult spot, however, you do have every right to ask for your money back. Since you said that you were polite and sincere about it, your friend really should not be acting repulsive, he should be thankful and try to pay you back as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it seems like he has abused your friendship and your hospitality.

    If I were you and have done everything I could to ask for my money back and yet he runs away and/or ignores me, I would just take it as a lesson learned and be thankful that I wouldn’t have to deal with him ever again. $500 is a cheap price to pay if I could get rid of some trouble in my life.

  6. jack

    I have a similar situation. I lent my brother and sister in law $5000 about 4 years ago to help them avoid foreclosure. They wrote a letter saying it would be paid back in a year. When I asked for them to start making payments this year, my sister in law said the had to discuss it . Needless to say they haven’t paid back a cent. What makes it worse its that they continue to take trips to the Bahamas every year and still do.
    What now?
    I feel the relationship is damaged –possibly beyond repair.

  7. florita

    My sister-in-law owed money from my sister for about $5000.00 the original was $12,000/
    She promised she will pay her whithin 6 months. It already 7 years pass. My sister went from being nice and a lot ways of communication( phone, e-mail, text) no reply, lately my sister become aggressive until level of tolerance that she called her work office. She still is not paying. My sister barrowed this from her credit card that mount interest under her name.
    What else my sister can do. Please help?

  8. JP

    Anything over a hundo, will result in hospital bills for more than amount borrowed for the lendee. Would I punch a friend in the face? No. To me, being essentially stollen from is more of an offense.


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