Borrow from friends and family

Borrowing money from friends and family can seem like a great option when you're doing it tough - it's quick, easy and they know you're good for it, right?

Well, it's true that it's quick and easy, but there are some important questions you need to ask yourself before you go into debt with people you know.

Borrowing from friends and family

When you borrow from someone you're close to, typically no one will sign a contract. You probably won't really discuss the repayment terms other than having a vague 'repay me when you're back on your feet' type of agreement, but that doesn't mean that this debt has no risks. Here are some you may not have thought of:


Different expectations of repayment

If you don't agree up front exactly how the money will be repaid and when, it's easy for you to feel like there's no urgency to repay it. But the person you borrowed the money from may have a different level of urgency for repayment than you do, and not communicating this from the outset could lead to heated disagreement.

Make sure both of you agree exactly how and when the money will be repaid. And if your friend or family member says, 'Repay me when you have the money', make sure you double-check they really mean that. It might be a long time before you're able to pay them back and you don't want to argue with them about it later.


Changing goal posts

When you sign a contract with a commercial creditor, it's all but set in stone. You know what's going to be expected of you and how you're expected to do it. Unfortunately, when you enter an informal agreement with a friend or family member, things change.

Maybe your friend's wife just became pregnant and he needs you to pay the money back straight away. Or maybe you had a fight with your mum and she wants the money back now. There are plenty of ways to manage this type of unfair demand against a commercial lender, but if you take the same tactic of asserting your rights with a friend or family member, you're likely to put strain on your relationship with them.

Make sure you agree up front that this shouldn't happen.


Change in relationship dynamics

When you borrow money from someone you know, they become the creditor and you become the debtor. You owe them - literally. This can change the dynamic of your relationship with them.

Furthermore, if you can't make a repayment on time - while there's a straight-forward process commercial lenders must go through to help you - friends and family are under no such obligation. Not making a repayment on time may make them resent you and wish they hadn't lent you the money.

Consider carefully how you'll manage a relationship where there's a constant awareness that you're in debt to that person. Many relationships have ended over money.


Legal standing

It's easy to assume that just because there's no written contract, borrowing money from a friend or family member is safer than borrowing money from a creditor. In actual fact, borrowing money is considered a type of verbal agreement and has the same legal standing as many other types of debts. Your friend or family member can still take you to court to enforce the debt if you don't pay it. Read what to do if you're being sued.

Tips when you borrow from friends and family

  • If you come to an agreement, stick to that agreement
  • Don't make promises to repay amounts that you can’t afford
  • Set up a schedule of repayments so that you both know when repayments will be made
  • If you find yourself struggling to make repayments, be upfront and ask if you can pay smaller amounts or temporarily stop paying until you're in a better financial situation