our everyday life

How to Tell Your Mom That She Owes You Money

by Freddie Silver, studioD

While it's usually wise to avoid loaning money to family or friends, if your mother asks for a loan, it's difficult to refuse. Much depends on how much money was borrowed, the reasons why your mom needed the money and her financial situation as well as yours. The issue is further complicated by the type of relationship you have with your mom. If you're close and have always been open and honest with each other, it's easier to tell her you need to be repaid. If your relationship is strained, you'll need more diplomacy and patience to raise the subject.

Recognize that money issues are highly sensitive topics to discuss. No matter how tactfully you raise the subject, you run the risk of harming your relationship with your mother. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling warns that family relationships are often destroyed over money.

Take into account the reason why your mother needed to borrow the money. If it was for a medical emergency, it's easier to approach her with compassion than if she used it for a Vegas vacation.

Rehearse what you will say to your mom. Enlist the help of a friend to role-play the conversation you'd like to have. Practicing what you want to say and how to say it increases your confidence and gives you the courage to address your mom.

Plan in advance where and when you'll speak to your mom. Choose a quiet, private place where you're unlikely to be interrupted by other family members.

Consider your mom's attitude toward you and the money she owes. For example, if she seems worried about her debt and behaves frugally, you'll probably feel less angry than if she appears unconcerned and you see her spending money frivolously.

Offer gentle reminders about the money she owes you. Perhaps she simply forgot and a subtle hint might be the reminder she needs. Using humor to broach the subject might work, but be sure to let her know that you are serious about needing your money back.

Suggest your mom pay back the money in small increments if the total sum is larger than she can afford. It's possible your mom wants to repay you but cannot manage the full amount. She might be relieved to know you'll consider a payment plan.

Avoid a hostile confrontation. Don't aggressively demand your money back. Speak openly and honestly. Let her know why you need your money now. Perhaps if she understands the financial hardship you're experiencing, she'll make more of an effort to find a way to repay you.

Don't make threats. It's unlikely that a belligerent attitude will convince your mom to repay you. Trying to make her feel guilty by bringing other family members into the situation will probably hurt your relationship and isn't likely to help you get any money back.

Decide whether the request for repayment is likely to hurt your relationship with your mom. Your mom gave you life and has probably done much for you since you were born. Consider forgiving the loan and think of it as a gift if you can afford to do so. Your sense of benevolence is bound to feel better than holding on to resentment.


  • If you decide to forgive the loan, discuss your decision with your spouse before you tell your mom. A unilateral decision could harm your relationship with your spouse.

About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images