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5 Ways To Recover Money Owed By Family And Friends Without Breaking The Relationship (Or Involving Legal Procedures)

Kendra Tan

Kendra Tan

Last updated 27 January, 2022

Here’s how to make sure everyone pays back the money that they owe you sans the awkwardness. 

You love your friends and family, which is why you lend them money in the first place. However, they keep ‘forgetting’ to pay you back and now your relationship (and wallet) is feeling the strain. 

It might seem a bit late to be discussing repayment now that you've already lent them some cash (if not, why are you reading this?), but hopefully this guide will make things easier. Don’t let money tear your precious friendships apart! 

Pay back or forget it? 

It really depends on the amount. If it’s a small amount, say twenty dollars, it might not be worth risking the relationship especially if your friend/relative has been treating you well. But if it’s a couple of thousands…that’s a different story. 

How to get money back owed by family and friends

1. Don't be rude about it 

As stressful as getting your cash back can get, don’t be rude or pressure your friend, unless you don’t mind losing the friendship. But we’re sure you’re not here to burn bridges. So simply drop them a text to remind them. 

Here’s an example:

“Hey, didn’t you borrow S$x from me the other day? Do you think you’re able to PayLah/PayNow me?” 

2. Hint that you need money

If you’re meeting the person, go window shopping and say something like, “I would like to buy this, but I don’t really have the cash now.” If they are able to pick up on the hint, they’ll probably remember that they owe you money and offer to immediately return you the cash.

However, if their reply is a lacklustre “oh”, then say, “By the way, didn’t I lend you S$x last time? Do you think you can help cover the item?”   

3. Be casual about it 

Frame your request lightheartedly as part of a conversation or question. Ask them something like, “Would you like to PayLah or PayNow me? No rush, just do it whenever you can!” or “Chinese New Year is coming, you don’t want to owe anyone money, do you?”

Sometimes, it’s not that they don’t want to pay you back — they might have just genuinely forgotten about it.

4. Give them a taste of their own medicine

If you’re sure that they aren’t returning your money on purpose, it’s time to use their tricks back on them. Ask them out for a meal, get them to pay first and don’t return them your share. If they bring up the fact that you didn’t pay for your meal, remind them about the amount they owe you.

Rinse and repeat until you have recovered all the money. 

5. Suggest a payment plan if they have issues 

If they owe you, say, S$100, ask them to pay you $10 every week. 

It may be a really slow method and may take a couple of months for you to see all your cash again, but it’s better than not getting anything back at all. Be flexible about the repayment, especially if your loved one is genuinely having financial difficulties. 

What happens if my friend goes MIA and doesn’t return my money? 

If they don't answer your texts or suddenly vanish into thin air, consider that money as a ‘breakup fee’ and get rid of that toxic friendship.  

Then take that as a lesson to say no to lending money to others next time.

Avoid ending up in similar situations in the future

1. Lend only to people you trust, or don’t lend to anyone at all

Whenever someone asks to borrow money from you, make it clear that you don’t want to do it and that it isn’t personal. The initial awkwardness is better than having to chase them back for the money later, which in turn causes you stress and affects the friendship. 

Always remember that once your money leaves your wallet, there is a chance you might never get it back. Hence, only give as much as you can afford to lose (just like investing). 

No matter the situation, never ever lend a large sum of money to just anyone. 

2. Questions to ask before lending someone money

Before lending anyone money, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much can you afford to lend, if any at all? 
  • Why do they need the money?
  • Why are you lending them money?
  • Have they tried other ways to earn money?
  • Can they pay you back? 

If you’ve agreed to lending them the money, then always agree on a return date. As you hand over the money, make it very clear that you expect it back within a stipulated time frame.

Final word

It is often not a good idea to lend money to anyone at all, even to friends and family members. 

However, if you’ve already done so and find yourself in a pickle, we hope the tips above will help you get your money back without risking your relationship in the process. 

On the flip side, the person who owes you money probably doesn’t feel great about themselves either, and the least you can do is empathise with them and give them more time to repay you. Who knows, you might end up in this situation yourself one day and your friend might be the one reading this article too.

Read these next:
Money Confessions: What’s The Most Singaporean Thing You’ve Done To Manage Your Personal Finances?
Money Confessions: What having S$1 in my bank account taught me
Money Confessions: I’m a Bargain Hunter And I Never Pay Full Price For Anything 
Money Confessions: I Am A Cash Queen And I Went On A Week-Long Cash Cleanse – This Is How It Went 
Money Confessions: Why I Moved Out Of My Parent’s House At 24, And How I Afford It

Avid promo code hunter and haggler. Kendra doesn’t like paying full price for anything. She’s the best person to bring along if you’re travelling on a budget. Have an interesting story to tell? E-mail her at


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