Diplomatically Say No to Friends and Family That Want to Borrow Money – 6 Tips

One of the hardest things you will ever have to do in life is to look a friend or family member in the eye and say no.

It’s hard enough to do this when you’ve been asked to watch someone else’s kids, or attend some event.  It’s even more difficult to tell a loved one no when he or she is asking for money.

However, you might not want to lend money to family and friends since relationships can be ruined.  As awkward as it is to say no in these situations, the awkwardness can be even more intense when you have a loan (particularly an unpaid loan) between you.

If you don’t want to get involved with lending money to friends and family, here are 6 tips to help you say no:


1. Make it Your Policy

Make it your policy not to lend money to friends and family.

Once you decide that you just won’t do it, it is easier to say no.  You don’t even have to use it as an excuse to say no (and you probably shouldn’t — just in case you change your mind later).  In your mind, though, if you have already made it your policy, it’s easier to say no.

Eventually, friends and family will realize that you never lend money to any of them, and they’ll stop asking.

2. Be Direct and Brief

Don’t go into details about your finances, and don’t make long excuses justifying your decision.  You don’t need to.  Just be brief and direct.

Try the following:

  • “I’m not really in a position to lend you money.”
  • “I really don’t feel comfortable doing that.”
  • “I’m sorry, but no.”
  • “That’s really not feasible for me.”

These are direct statements that aren’t rude, but that don’t provide an opening for future requests down the line.  When asked to expand, simply repeat one of the phrases.  Remember: It’s your money.  You don’t have to justify your use of it to anyone.

3. Ask for Time to Decide

In some cases, your friend or relative might be really laying on the pressure.  If you feel trapped, ask for time to decide.  This is a big deal, so they should understand.  Tell him or her that you will have an answer within 24 hours.  Go home fortify yourself, and then get back to the person.

I don’t think, if you have been subjected to undue pressure from the person making the request, that it is unreasonable to refuse over the phone or via email.  Don’t put yourself in positions where it’s even harder to say no.

4. Offer to Help in Other Ways

As part of saying no, you can offer to help in other ways.

Offer to babysit the kids while your friend looks for a job, or goes car shopping.  Invite your family member over to dinner and send him or her home with the leftovers so that he or she doesn’t need to spend the money on food.  You can even offer to help go over finances with your friend or relative and suggest some actions that can be taken to improve the situation and get the money need on his or her own.

Be careful, though: Most of the time, people who want to borrow money from you don’t actually want your advice on succeeding.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even consider co-signing on a loan.

5. Give Money as a Gift

You can help yourself feel better by resolving to give money as a gift.

If your friend or relative has a birthday on the way, or if there is a holiday coming up, you can give a money gift.  Or you can give a gift card to a grocery store so that money is freed up in other areas.  In either case, this is a more natural transaction that doesn’t result in the awkwardness associated with loans and the expectation of being paid back.

6. Don’t Disclose Financial Details

If you want to avoid pressure and requests for loans, your best bet is to avoid sharing financial details with your friends and family.  Being vague by saying, “We’re doing alright” and “We have enough” can be enough to leave your situation ambiguous.  If you go around letting people know that you have a $30,000 emergency fund and that you make more than them, they will feel more justified asking for a loan.


It’s awkward when friends and family ask to borrow money.  But in the end it’s your money to give (or not to give).  Be stern and explain why you can’t lend out the money.  The tips above will help you keep your relationships intact.

What do you think? How do you say no to lending money to friends and family?

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Published or updated December 11, 2014.


  1. I normally do not loan money, because I hate asking for it back. I have loaned a token amount to colleagues for lunch, but it is on a very selective basis. If I had to worry about getting it back I would not do it. I have loaned money to my children when they were in school and it was always paid back. As a policy, I do not loan money!

    • Glen Craig says:

      Like Miranda states in the article, it’s easier to say no when your policy is to not lend out money ever.

      I think if you do lend out money lend it out with the thought that it’s a gift without the expectation of getting it back. This cuts out all the resentment if you don’t get it back. If you do get it then all the better.

    • You shouldn’t have to “ask” for your own money back. Somebody once told me the best “insurance” one can buy is to give somebody who you known won’t pay you back a small amount of money. With luck, you’ll never hear from them again. 😉

  2. As you already pointed out Miranda, its quite hard looking a family member in the eye and saying no, to their faces and I have to say, I haven’t been saying no as often as I would have wished. Like many people, am uncomfortable asking for money back so I might start saying no more often using some of the tips you offer, making it a policy though might be difficult!

    • Glen Craig says:

      Maybe if you do lend out money you do it with a specific payment plan in place that you and the other person understands? If you are going to do it make it happen with clear expectations.

  3. Co-signing for a loan for a friend can result in making a relationship go from good to bad and bad to worse. If they can’t get a loan without a co-signer that means the bank deemed them unlikely to repay. You will most likely end up paying the loan for them. Give them the money if you can buy never co-sign for a friend unless you are willing and able to pay the full amount if and when they don’t.

    • Glen Craig says:

      There’s just too much negative in co-signing for a friend for me to go near that. I agree that when someone can’t get a loan that it’s already a signal.

  4. The “policy” option seems like the best and a one that will last. The problem is that how do you explain it to the first person before it gets easy to repeat the whole routine?

    • Christine says:

      Use Shakespeare’s “Neither a borrower nor a lender be…..” quote, if they’re intelligent they will understand it, if they’re not so intelligent they will get hopelessly confused and go away!, problem solved.

  5. I was in the same situation with my cousin, and the first time I just couldn’t say no, and then the second time, I saw that it becomes a habit, so I offered my help in coming with him to the bank and alternative loan agencies, and at the end he got a car title loan from these guys: http://titleloansantaclara.com in Santa Clara CA, which is not too far from where I live. This was such a relief for me and he totally understood my side. Apparently there are plenty of moneylenders, all legal, that accept bad credit applicants! As long as you’re showing you care and you offer some kind of a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, it will be fine!!

  6. It is really very hard to say NO to friends and relatives when they ask for money but sometimes we should have the right to say no. Thank you so much for your advice admin. Will keep it in mind.

  7. I lend a substantial amount of money about 70k to my sister in 2012, due to her financial in deep shit and creditors went after their family. Until now she has not paid even a penny. End last year , I asked her to pay me half at least by end Oct 2014 as I need the money , turned out she was angry and pissed off with my request. Our relationship become worse due to this.

    Lesson learned : never lend to anyone if you expect a repayment or lend the sum you willing to lose. It is easy to lend but hard or almost impossible to ask it back. Also, never lend too much money if you want a good relationship.

  8. I’ve loaned money to family twice, once a sister, once an adult child. Both lived (and still live) above their means. Both made tiny initial payments (a few hundred) and then nothing. They both owe me close to $10,000 which I will never see again. So – lesson learned – I will either give a nominal gift of a hundred dollars or so but wll never loan again.

    Unfortunately, people in financial distress will keep coming back to the well. They build up a belief system in their head that “she has plenty” and don’t appreciate that I’ve denied myself many goodies in order to have some assets. My adult daughter told me “parents are supposed to sacrifice for their children”.

    Also, I have never co-signed a loan and never will.

  9. I actually don’t agree. I have needed to borrow and been asked to loan money several times over the course of my life.. It’s never…not once…gotten in the way of relationships. What has gotten in the way is not being honest when we are in a financial jam and suffering silently. I’d MUCH rather see my friend know they aren’t alone than be stingy with financial resources. None of us have a lot, but we do love each other more than money. I don’t understand why we get so completely hung up on this.

    • Glen Craig says:

      I’m not sure what it is you don’t agree with Susan? The point of this article is how to say no if you aren’t comfortable lending money to family and friends. From your comment, it sounds as though you are comfortable lending money, which is fine. Not everyone feels the same way and for lots of people lending money turns ugly.

  10. I have difficulty lending money because I don’t trust that it will go to the reason they are asking for it. I gave money to a friend once because he needed tags for his car, just started his job and hadn’t gotten paid yet, within a few hours of giving him money he posts on social media he was hanging out at a bar with friends relaxing…all I could think was “maybe the tags didn’t cost as much as he thought” come to find out he didn’t even get the tags, he waited until he got paid to get them. At that moment I felt discouraged because I could of used that money for something else.

  11. I’m in a bit of a pickle on how to say no.
    A co-worker hand borrowed a substantial amount of money from the boss (R10000), its now Christmas bonus time and the boss took most of her pay and bonus so that by the end of January she’ll have paid it all back.
    Now the other day she brought in something that she ordered to see if I will buy it as she couldn’t anymore (R600). I ended buying it and gave it to her as a Christmas present as I felt sorry for her.
    Now she has approached me and asked me to borrow her R3000 until the end of February.
    I have already told her that that is too much and I’ll have to look at my budget and think about it. I feel for her but I don’t want to lend out money. How do I let her down easy.

  12. I have a firm policy of not loaning money to anyone. In a dire emergency, a gift card for food purchases may be entertained. Depending on the family member/friend. Saying “No” is not as difficult with age and wisdom.

  13. These are some great tips. I had couple of bad experiences where I have loaned money to my friends and never heard from them again. So I have learned my lesson and stopped loaning money to my friends or family. I also feel it puts unnecessary strain on the relationship.

  14. as a policy, i do not loan money to others. I have one brother and one or 2 close friends that i have loaned money to before and they have always agreed on a set day when they will have it to give back and i have never had an issue. outside of those two or three exceptions my husband and i just say no. People get angry when we do this because they think we are selfish but they get over it

What Do You Think?