By  Updated on Wed Mar 27, 2013

MBT Talks: Someone Owes Me Money, What Should I Do?

MBT Talks: Someone Owes Me Money, What Should I Do?

David Goehring / Flickr source

Welcome to MBT Talks, a new segment where the team at MyBankTracker discuss a different issue every week, either something ripped from the headlines or a personal dilemma we’re experiencing.

Laura: I have a friend who borrowed $30 from me two months ago. She asked me to buy discounted theater tickets for her through my NYU student account, which I then forwarded to her. She had promised to pay me back, but she hasn’t brought it up, even though we’ve hung out since then. I tried to casually mention it in an email early on, but she didn’t respond.

For a student like myself, $30 can be pretty significant (three day’s worth of food!), but I’m not sure how to ameliorate the situation. What should I do?

Simon: It sounds to me like your friend simply forgot that she borrowed money from you since you didn’t actually lend her cash.

And, it seems like you’ll meet up again in the future, which will create plenty of opportunities to “ask” for repayment (I’d consider lent money to acquaintances to be a lost cause).

Amy: I’m cynical so I’m inclined to think it’s definitely not a case of “forgetting” that she borrowed. You handed her the tickets after you purchased them for her, and that’s the moment when she should have probably thought to herself, “Oh right, I asked Laura to buy me these tickets. I owe her some dinero!” But she didn’t, maybe she was cash-strapped at that moment, but I think you have every right to ask for the money back.

I would suggest that next time you see her again that if it’s over drinks or a meal, to bring it up gently by asking her to foot the bill, since you got her the tickets to the show. That sounds reasonable to me.

Anthony: The worst is when I see people who owe me money go out constantly, so I know they have the money, or at least I know they’re not prioritizing paying me back.

Laura: Another friend of mine suggested that I ask her about it in a text so she can pay me back immediately (through Chase QuickPay — not a plug!). Any thoughts on virtual vs. in-person confrontation?

Alex: With my guy friends, we always exchange birthday presents, so if one of them still owes me like $200, then I’ll just be like, “Happy birthday, there’s your present!”

Simon: I’d have no qualms about bringing up the borrowed money out of the blue: “Hey, you still owe me that thirty bucks!” But, I’m guessing that Laura doesn’t want to take that approach (as do many other people).

For a less direct approach, I might start a chat about plays, musicals, Broadway shows and whatnot to mention the show that she attended. It may be easier to pop the question then.

I think Amy’s idea of mentioning the borrowed funds in the next get-together is a great way to get your money back — or at least some of it. A few friends have used this technique to remind me that I have to pay them back. (She’ll probably be less likely to forget to pay you back the next time … if you ever decide to lend her money again without first signing a promissory note.)

Amy: Or if anything, just send your friend a short text and “pretend” like it just popped up into your head, and if you’re a master at passive-aggressive texting, it can even come off like a casual reminder instead of something you’ve been worrying about.

Alex: I’ve had to get pretty aggressive with certain friends who owed me money in college, especially if I saw them out spending money that they should’ve used to pay me back.

My general advice is, don’t lend more money than you’d be willing to part with. When people tell me they can’t pay me back for a while, then I don’t give them money; they could just get a payday loan or something.

Anthony: Prepare for awkwardness. And as Judge Judy always says, “Always write a contract when money changes hands.”

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  • moneytree

    With friends like that who needs them !

    • Terry

      Yes!!! Perhaps one way to test a friendship? I seldom loan to anyone, especially friends or family. And when I do, never more than I’m prepared to lose. There have been times when I’ve seen friends and family struggling financially, and I know if I did give them a loan, I probably will not see it paid back soon, or ever. So if I can afford it, I give them money as a gift. Usually the most I can afford to lose at that time. I find people will often really appreciate a rare, random gift of money at a critical time of need. The look of (and sometimes tears) of appreciation in their eyes is worth more to me than the money. The Golden Rule. I try to live by it.

  • lauraliMBT
  • justme

    How about a situation where you sent an artisan a substantial amount of materials with which to continue an artistic venture – six months have passed with one excuse after another. I contact this person every other month or so, stressing the importance of keeping in touch, good news or bad, and haven’t heard from the person in the past month or so. I’m an understanding person, but my patience is wearing really thin. We started out really well, with one transaction where cash was paid up front and merchandise sent; the second round (not worth as much as the first round) has not yet been paid for……I’ll go by the old standby – !%#! on me once, shame on you; !%#! on me twice, shame on me! I’ll continue to send “reminders”, requests, and the importance of keeping in touch with me, but I don’t see this situation ending well….

  • Terry

    Simple…..1) A true friend won’t take advantage. 2) Ask for the money, they will pay or let you know when they can.