How To Get Friends To Pay Money They Owe You

How many times have you lent a friend some cash for lunch or a movie only to never see it again? One of you — if not both — forgot and now it feels a little awkward to broach the subject. Here's how to get paid back easily and how you can prevent this problem in the future.

Money between friends is often awkward, especially if you aren't close. Close friends have the option of just paying a little extra around the edges and assuming it'll work out in the end. That said, not every friend is close. Chances are you don't see all of your friends every week so if you don't get paid back right away, your next chance could be several weeks away. When you've lent someone $5 for a sandwich it seems silly to bring it up again so long after the event, but those five dollar sums can add up to a lot if you're always letting it slide. So how can you solve this problem?

Let Them Get the Next One

Keeping an exact account of who paid for what is ridiculous, but remembering who paid last makes for a better, more manageable system. That way if you paid for the last film, lunch or whatever, you can just invite them out for the same thing and say the following:

I got the last one, so do you want to grab this one?

If the other person doesn't remember, you might have an awkward moment ahead of you in which you have to explain the circumstances, but if you start a trend of trading payments it will become the norm after a few outings.

What You Said

I posed this dilemma on a few social media sites and the majority of you agreed that the "get the next one" method is the simplest course of action. Anamari suggested a slight alternative, as putting them on the spot to pay extra could be problematic:

I wouldn't put someone on the spot by saying "you're paying, right?" or "you've got this one" without fair warning. After all, they might be short on cash in that moment, too, and simply hadn't remembered the last time. If it's really important to get evened up, I'd say something at the time of setting up the date, either very directly or along the lines of "I'm tight for cash this week, can you get me this time? Last time it was me."

I'd argue that in most cases you're not really putting them on the spot when you're dealing with insignificant amounts like $S5-10. If they can afford that amount for themselves, coming up with double shouldn't be an issue. Nonetheless, if you want to take a more sensitive approach you can always ask them before you go out so nobody finds themselves in an awkward position when it comes time to pay.

This post was illustrated by Dana Zemack. Check out more of her stick figure comics and follow her on Twitter.


    I usually just email them that family guy clip. Works well for me and I get my money fairly quickly after that.

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