How Do You Say No When Someone Asks You for Money?

Saying no isn’t easy, but it’s better than making the mistake of lending money to friends or family members. These tips on how to say no when someone asks to borrow money will help you kindly, firmly, and gently decline their request.

“Give yourself permission to say no without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish,” says Stephanie Lahart, author of Overcoming Life’s Obstacles: Enlighten – Encourage – Empower. “Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say yes all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say no without having to explain yourself.”

These tips for saying no when someone asks to borrow money are inspired by a reader. Here’s her question: “I already lent my ex-boyfriend almost $700 about 6 months ago,” says Mariah on How to Deal With Money Stress After a Breakup. “He hasn’t paid me back. The money he makes is not enough to pay his bills school loan, unexpectedly high utility bills, car payments, rent, supporting his parents, etc. He is now asking to borrow $5,000 to help him pay some of his debt so he can get adjusted and financially organized. I want to help him even though we broke up, but he hasn’t paid back the other money I lent him. How do I say no when he asks to borrow money?”

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the hardest: “No, I’m sorry, I can’t lend you money.” Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t allow guilt or emotional manipulation to creep into your decision. Below, I share a few more tips on how to say no when someone asks to borrow money – but I encourage you to go with the short, simple answer: “I’m sorry, but no. I can’t lend you money.” You might even add “….because I’m tapped out right now.” And prepare to keep repeating it to both yourself and the person asking for money.

Here’s a list of reasons Mariah should say no to her ex-boyfriend’s request for money:

  • He already borrowed $700 from her, and can’t pay it back.
  • She doesn’t have a contract for the first $700 she lent him, so she’s out of luck if he denies borrowing it, refuses to pay it back, or simply doesn’t have the money.
  • Five thousand dollars is a huge amount of money! It’s not $50 to buy groceries, which most lenders can afford to lose.
  • In this case, lending him money is not a solution. It is a short-term band-aid that will not help him in the long run.
  • Her gut feeling is telling her she should say no to her ex-boyfriend, but she feels guilty. She’s letting him manipulate her.

Tips for Saying No When Someone Asks to Borrow Money

One reason I believe money should almost always be kept separate from relationships is because I watched Judge Marilyn Milian for years. She adjudicated (judged) cases every day that involved ex-partners suing each other over loans that weren’t paid back. The money wasn’t repaid for a variety of valid reasons. Most often, it was because the borrower (mostly really nice people with good intentions!) simply didn’t have the money to repay the loan.

If you decide to say yes when someone asks to borrow money from you, read How to Protect Yourself While Loaning Your Boyfriend Money.

1. Repeat yourself firmly, kindly, and gently

“I’m sorry, but no. I can’t lend you money because I just don’t have enough to spare.” Keep repeating that sentence; maybe add a twist once in awhile: “My money is spoken for.” You don’t have to lie. Keep it simple. “I can’t afford to lend money.”

Prepare yourself to repeat your words over and over. Don’t embellish, lie, or add to them. Just say it again and again. Whether it’s $50 or $5,000 or $50,000 is irrelevant. Whether or not you have the money doesn’t matter! It is your money; you get to decide the best way to use it.

Other ways to say no when someone asks to borrow money:

  • “I wish I could help you out – and I love you – but a $500 loand is not in my budget.”
  • “I know how hard it is for you to ask to borrow money, and I’m honored that you trust me with this. But I’m sorry. I can’t lend money to you.”
  • “Ask Uncle John. He has lots of money.”

When you’re saying no, try not to fall into the trap of explaining yourself. It’s not a debate, argument, or discussion. All you have to say is, “No, I can’t help you with this.”

Love does not mean you should say yes to everything that is asked of you. The key to saying no when someone asks to borrow money is to separate money issues from your emotions. Don’t allow your friend or family member to guilt or emotionally manipulate you into lending money.

2. Offer to help in ways that don’t involve borrowing or lending money

What else can you do to help someone who wants to borrow money? Instead of getting into a debate or argument about why you can’t loan friends or family members money, ask how you can help in other ways.

How to Say No When Someone Asks You for Money
How to Say No When Someone Asks You for Money

There are other ways to support someone in financial dire straits, depending on his situation. Some people need budgeting help, others need help creating and sending out resumes.

The best way for Mariah to help her boyfriend is to help him find a financial planner, investment advisor, or some type of “money mentor” who can help him organize his income and expenditures. He needs a long-term solution to his money situation – not a short-term loan that will create more financial problems in the long run.

3. Expect disappointment and even anger

The hardest part of saying no when someone asks to borrow money is the possibility of damaging or even losing the relationship. Your friend or family member is struggling financially; it’s hard to just let them suffer. They’ll he disappointed, angry, and hurt when you say no. No matter how kind and gentle you are – how loving and nice – the fact is that hearing “no” is hard.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing. Sometimes, the fact that it’s difficult makes it right.

You want to support and love your friends and family members, but that doesn’t necessarily mean lending money when they ask. In fact, lending money could prolong their financial problems and prevent them from learning how to handle their finances wisely.

How to Say No When Someone Asks You for Money
The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey

Instead of contributing to the person’s financial mess, learn how to manage money together. Read and discuss Dave Ramsey’s financial makeover system, starting with The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. It sounds kind of nerdy, but learning how to manage your money together can be helpful for both of you.

Instead of lending money to someone who is having financial problems, learn together how to manage finances.

Saying no to friends or family members asking to borrow money is hard, and the truth is you might not be able to say no without damaging your relationship. However, loaning them money is almost guaranteed to damage the relationship. You’ll also be financially poorer, at least for some time.

If you’re a parent, read Should You Loan Money to Your Adult Children?

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts – big and little – below.


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22 thoughts on “How Do You Say No When Someone Asks You for Money?”

  1. I was recently asked for money by an old friend I had been estranged from for about five years. Trust had been lost, ergo the estrangement. We resumed speaking status about 18 months ago. When he recently asked me for money I told him that I don’t lend money because I never get it back. I left it at that, realizing it’s most likely the lost trust will never be found and the long relationship could probably never be repaired. I chose not to enable his irresponsibility concerning finances. The question that looms for me is: If you can’t manage your money, why should I think you’ll manage mine properly? Also: Why would you risk (what’s left of) our friendship by putting it in peril over money? I know I did the right thing.

  2. Thank you!!! I so needed this!!! So tired of being asked for this or that and I don’t know how to handle it. Thing is they are asking a person for money or whatever when I don’t ask anybody for a damn thing and I mean that will every ounce of my being. So yeah, when someone asks me for something, it’s a hard pill to swallow. I can be down right nasty to people, but I know it’s not their fault they are a hot steamy pile of mess with no direction what so ever (sarcasm injected here).

  3. I agree and I have just used your words £800 has gone to this guy. And I must say no. He has no qualms about taking my money Even though it makes me short. Thank you

  4. I’m 16 and got a job. I’m the only one in my friend group with a job and making money. I have one friend who’s parents are really strict about lending her money and she always asks me to borrow things, not just money. And she asks me to borrow $15 for another friends birthday gift. Every time she borrows something she says she’ll pay me back or return what she borrowed but she’s never followed through with those promises. And I can’t make excuses like I don’t have the money because she knows I have a paying job and I can’t say I’m paying my dad back for stuff he bought me (which is totally true because I owe like $1000 to him) because I want to buy things while I’m out with her and $15 isn’t really that big of a deal. I know I shouldn’t feel bad for saying no but I want to be a nice friend but I also don’t want her to keep taking advantage of me. An email with a response would be great. Thanks!

  5. my comment is an old school person that i went to high school with is in business and she is in nigera and she is wanting ,me to send her 250 dollars so she can pay her hotel bill and i do not know if i should or not send her the money what should i do

  6. My strange office mate never waits for me when we go home from work but yesterday she did. I was amazed because she never asked me to go home before. Law and behold! When we were about to part ways, she suddenly asked me to lend her some money, I then told her that I needed to buy something important but she kept on forcing me to lend her cash and told me to even told me that she’d pay me on the next day and she blurted, I’ll even give you a box of cake. Of course I said no then she blurted again, “You are so selfish and I wont give you a cake.”

    The next time she asks to borrow money from me, I’d just follow what you wrote here because its more politically correct not to hurt her feelings.

  7. Hi,

    I ask you for some advice right now and you may go ahead and publish this on the blog/fb/extinct newsletter when it resurfaces.

    I find myself in a situation very very often. Which is this. I often myself in the situation where a close friend will ask to borrow money, or asks that ‘I don’t have money right now, can you book my ticket’, or I don’t have money right now, can you transfer to my brother in urgent need. It will be an emergency situation. It will be a last minute panic call. It will be a moment of decision – are you a friend or not. Do you have faith or not. Do you believe in me as a friend or not.

    Most of the times, I heed, because I can’t think of a good enough reason to say no. But it’s not that I heed because I’m happy to heed. I heed because I can’t really explain why I’m not comfortable giving. The reason why I’m not comfortable giving is because I feel it’s hard earned, and hard saved money. I saved by not spending on luxury, travelling uncomfortably, living frugally and so I have saved money. My friend, on the hand, spend his or her money the day he or she would get hands on it on good food, luxurious travelling, movies, clothes and enjoyment. And now he or she is broke. And desparate. And calling me as the last ray of hope out of a desparate situation – and ‘of course they’ll pay back’ (which never happens, my friends owe me around 1.1 million indian rupees)… It’s not that I’m rich or anything. I earn as much, or less, or maybe a little more than some of them. But I’ve saved for things that are important for me. Buying a house for my parents sometime, for instance. And anyways, material goods don’t make me very happy anyways.
    This is a cycle that has been repeating itself since the day I started earning money. And I don’t know what to do about it. I love my friends. I love spending time with them. I would love to help them, or anyone else in the world. And I feel guilty that if I have money, why do I mind lending it to them in their time of need. So I do. But I don’t feel good about it..

    This situation arose once again today morning. A friend called and said there is no money in the house at all, and they have to pay their home loan installment or else they’ll be fined. They’ll pay back by the 7th when his brother gets his salary. I feel bad, cause I know they’re somewhat poor. But I’m also tired of his constant need for money. I pretty much know that he’ll never repay. Cause the day he gets money he’ll spend it on something. But he’s a very good friend. And this is an urgent situation, as always. So I said I’ll call back in half an hour. I know I’m just buying time, ultimately I’ll do the same thing I’ve always done – transfer the money and feel bad about it.

    Any suggestions..

    1. When you find out the answer on how to say no when someone asks to borrow money, please pass it on to me. I’m in the same boat but with family. I have the money but they always have some emergency or urgent situation and I always end up paying the rent, the car payment, helping with groceries or car insurance or what ever else comes up. I’m working hard and though she (my sister) is too, she just isn’t making enough money to pay all her bills and live on her income.

    2. We all work hard for our money. If a friend or family member is irresponsible enough to live above their means, that’s not our fault or responsibility to bail them out. People need to find rent that fits their budget, and that goes for anything else in life. Everyone needs to do without until they can afford to do better or save up for what they want. Everyone needs their own emergency savings. My emergency savings is not for someone else’s emergency. Say No to irresponsible beggers. People buy what they want and beg for what they need.

      1. Thanks for this!
        I actually type of a person who have a very kind heart to everybody and easily feel bad and sad when people try to ask for help that I cant say no to them..(its my nature) but 3 people asked at the same time and i felt sad for their situations.They promised me a date when they will give it back,but then what happened 1,paid me after a month(installments) and 2,paid me after 3 months(full amount) and 3,from June 2017-today’s date still didn’t completed. I was very polite asking the money i cant even get mad even every time i asked and she says a lot of reasons and diff dates to pay, I honestly told her if she don’t like to pay just say so and take all the money.I even feel guilty like “am i selfish?bec i didnt give a help or what they will think of me?”
        Based from all experiences I had,it was difficult when your nice to people but for them being irresponsible from their obligations from returning the money. Family member asking & a friend again and by this article it helps me to say NO this time. Im just tired being taken advantage of everybody because they know Im kind and polite. But I had enough from my experiences. I know at the end if its me who ask them they wont help me at all…and i cant count on anybody but my self.Its right “People buy what they want and beg for what they need.”

  8. i lend a friend a quite huge amount of money and it has been one year now.He has returned the money but he is expecting i should forget about it and be friends again.what should i do?

  9. Hi Sandy,

    It sounds like your husband is trying to be a good step dad, but it’s affecting your marriage in negative ways. I agree that he needs to learn how to say no when someone asks to borrow money from him…but he also has the right to do what he wishes with his money.

    It’s not an easy situation, but here are a few thoughts:

    Should I Hide My Husband’s Money? He Keeps Giving It Away

    I hope it helps, and welcome your comments.


  10. hi

    my husband is constantly lending money to his step daughter, I have tried to talk to him about it but he won’t hear a word against her he paid for her wedding – over £17000 – i let it go becouse we reasoned that she had a husband, who worked and that would be the end of it. whenever she borrows money from him – it puts him in a bad mood and i am at the sharp end of it. I’ve thought of hiding his money when she comes round – but i know i will only be able to do this once. I don’t want to upset her as we both love the grandchildren

  11. My boyfriend has recently been asking me to borrow money the financial part of it doesn’t bother me because I’m pretty well off, but still I feel like I shouldn’t lend it to him. I understand he has three kids and is barely getting settled in town, but I feel a bit used at times. Then I feel guilty for thinking of him being like that. I’ve always been uneasy about friends or family asking for money just because they know I have it. Its not that I’m cheap its just that I don’t want people to see me as a piggy bank. Thanks to this it’ll make it easier to say no, even if it does upsets them. I don’t need people to only be around me for money anyhow.

  12. Hi Alana,

    You need to tell him you changed your mind – you can’t afford to lend him $800! It’s okay to change your mind. Tell him you thought about it, and you have to say no.

    I know how guilty you feel – it’s hard to say no when someone asks to borrow money from you. But most of the time, saying no is the best answer — no matter how bad you feel.

  13. I said yes to lending $800. I am too nice of a person and he knows it. How do I now tell him no??? I just found out that he is always borrowing money and I guess this time everyone else told him no so he put on this sob story and asked me. And you are right I feel guilty for not wanting to lend him the money, but I honestly would be putting myself in great fincial risk by him not paying it back.

  14. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Dave. I’m glad that it worked for you to simply say that you can’t lend money – and not over-explain. It’s true that once someone learns that they can borrow money from you, they may never shake the habit…

    It’s also great that your coworkers gave you the “heads up” on this person who wants to borrow money all the time! That was nice of them.

  15. We have a coworker who regularly hits us up for money. It’s usually ten or twenty dollars and he does pay it back, albeit it can take a while. There are stories that someone in the company lent him thousands of dollars and was never paid back. I was lucky because as a new employee, someone in my group warned me about this guy and said if you don’t start…

    Just a few weeks ago, I guess that he felt like he knew me well enough and he came by my cubicle and asked whether he could borrow $20. The best advice that I see above – and it works for me – is to not over explain. I just said, sorry, wish that I could, but I’m on a tight budget. I tried to do it in a nice way, but I figure why enable someone so that they come back and ask for larger sums. The guy is a smoker so one thought is stop smoking and you’ll feel better and save money that you spend on tobacco.

    When I was younger, my parents were doing well and they lent their friends down the street a larger amount of money for business purposes. They never got all of the money back and it ruined the friendship. Every time, they saw that family had bought something new and expensive, it upset them that they had not paid back the debt.

  16. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for commenting, Sally. That’s great that you can say no when your sister asks to borrow money. And, it sounds like your relationship is still intact – at least she’s still talking to you!

    I wonder about the reader I wrote this article for, though. Did she lend money to her boyfriend? I hope she comes back and lets me know…

  17. I’m glad you wrote this article, because my sister constantly asks to borrow money from me! I say no all the time, but it doesn’t stop her from asking. But now I find saying no easier. I think she expects me to say no because she always has alternate plans for getting the money she needs. She just asks my mom if she can borrow money, and my mom always says yes.

    So to those of you who can’t say no, remember that the person who wants to borrow money usually has other people to ask!