When a friend or family member comes and asks me for some money, I’m more than happy to help them. I generally don’t think about the process. After all, they’re a friend in need. Is it really necessary for them to sign a contract with me saying they’ll pay it back?
I hate to say it, but sometimes I feel like I should have had my lawyer present to have my friend sign a binding agreement with specific details on when the person in question should pay me back. I guess I’ve always just given my friends the benefit of the doubt that they’d do the right thing and put paying me back at the top of their priority list, rather than spending their money on junk. I’ve waited years, at times, for friends or family members to pay me back, and I’m pretty sure I still have a few outstanding loans that I won’t collect on.
I try to tell myself it’s just money. I can’t take it with me. If I’m not using it, why not give it to a person in need. No matter what karma-generating idea I come up with to justify handing out my money to needy friends, I get angry after months go by and they still haven’t paid me back. At this point, if I see the person I want to snap and yell, “Hey! I’m not your personal bank you know!”
My Dad always said that loaning money to your friends is a good way to lose them, and I did lose a few over unpaid debts.
If you’re in a situation where a friend or family member owes you money and you’re patience wears thin, make sure to talk with the debtor. Maybe there’s a legitimate reason they haven’t paid you back, or maybe you find out that they can. Regardless, don’t let the debt issue suffocate your relationship.
Once I caught on that talking to someone might help the situation, I worked from there to find out what was going on. Discuss why they haven’t paid you back. While you might be like me and want to rant about how you need the money, restrain yourself. First, find out the other person’s situation. Maybe money is still tight and they just didn’t want to talk about. Maybe they have the money and forgot. The important thing is to not assume anything. Just listen.
Then explain to them why it’s important that you start getting the money back and that you want to work together to resolve the issue. My go-to solution is to create a payment plan. If they can get me $10 or $20 a week, it sometimes takes the pain away from paying back hundreds of dollars at one time. Maybe your friend or family member can exchange part of their debt by doing work for you, like mowing your lawn or making you dinner. Be creative with the solutions you provide.
To avoid this situation all together, make sure you set parameters prior to putting the cash in their hand when your friend or family member asks to borrow money. Tell them when you need the money back and stress this is something to help them get through a tough time. Whether it comes down to actually signing a piece of paper is up to you.
Just as you’re open with your friends and family about non-money related problems, make sure you’re open with them about how you feel when you loan them money. Be diplomatic and understanding but also be firm about your stance.