The Best (And Least Awkward ) Ways to Ask for Loans

Discover the best (and least awkward) ways to ask for loanersBy Marisa Cohen

You hate to ask...but you also hate to spend money on things you'll only use once-like that wedding-bell-shaped pan to bake a cake for your sister's shower. It's a big pain in the wallet to pay for certain items, especially if your neighbor already has the pan sitting in her basement. Still, no one wants to look cheap or put a friend in an awkward position if she has to say no.Photo by David Bowman; Hair and makeup by Rene Rattler for Moore Creative Talent

But neighborly swaps are a great way to save money and create less waste, says Alex Michael, who blogs with his wife about saving money at TheThriftyCouple.com. "If you do it the right way, borrowing also creates an opportunity to become even closer with your community," he says. To figure out the most graceful ways to ask for a loaner, we sent Molly Leifeld out in the field for a week. Here's what she learned-and how much she saved.

The tester's take: "I feel most comfortable borrowing from someone who will ask to borrow things from me too," says Molly. "Otherwise, it feels more like charity than a favor."

Borrowing Challenge #1: Clothes

An injury kept Molly from her running regimen for a few months, and her old clothes were getting snug. She didn't want to shell out for new ones, she says, because she hoped to drop the weight again. "I knew a friend of mine, who'd recently had a baby, would have my current-temporary-size," says Molly.

Her pal was happy to lend a few pairs of pants and skirts for the next couple of months, but Molly found one snag in the plan: "As soon as I took the clothes home, I realized there was a stain on one of the skirts that I couldn't get out." But two nice pairs of jeans and one (clean) skirt made the cut.

MONEY SAVED
$150 to $200

LESSON LEARNED
Next time, Molly says she'll try on the outfits at her friend's house before taking them home. Her friend knew about the stain and thought it would come out in the wash, but it would have been awkward if there had been any question regarding who was responsible.

Related: Discover 75 timeless beauty tips.

Borrowing Challenge #2: Tools

WD asked Molly to try borrowing from neighbors she only knows well enough to wave hello to. "My lawn needed to be aerated, so I asked the folks down the street for something that could poke holes in the ground," Molly explains. They came through with the loan of a giant pitchfork. "It worked perfectly."

But Molly forgot to return it, and came home from work about a week after she'd borrowed it to find the pitchfork gone. "I was so embarrassed! I assumed the neighbors came and took it back. It turned out my husband had just moved it, but I immediately delivered it in person and profusely thanked them."

MONEY SAVED A pitchfork would have cost around $30

LESSON LEARNED As soon as you're finished with the item, clean it off and take it back with a big smile and a thank you. You'll get acknowledgment of the return and build up good borrowing karma, since your neighbors won't have to come by asking for their stuff back.

Borrowing Challenge #3: Books

After borrowing something as personal as jeans and as large and pointy as a pitchfork, a paperback should have been a piece of cake for Molly, right? "I texted a friend asking if she had any good books I could borrow-that way she could answer at her leisure and not feel any pressure to say yes," says Molly.

But Molly never got a response, and she couldn't be sure if the friend simply forgot to text her back or was put off by the request. Either way, Molly went bookless for the week.

Related: Learn 10 things you didn't know you could rent.

MONEY SAVED
$0

LESSON LEARNED "If you really want something from a friend, you need to ask in person," Molly says.

Borrowing Challenge #4: Electronics


The same foot injury that kept Molly from running has also kept her from playing her favorite Wii game, Let's Dance, with her kids. "I was complaining to a friend, and she said, 'Why don't you borrow my Wii Karaoke Revolution game? You can play it sitting down,'" Molly says. "We've borrowed things from each other before, so it seemed really natural. I'm sure she has some of my things in her house right now!"

MONEY SAVED
$40

LESSON LEARNED
Your kindergarten teacher said so: If you have a reciprocal relationship with your friends, they'll be more than happy to share their toys. In fact, you may not even have to ask!

What You'll Save If You Borrow

Cookware
: From $10 for a cake pan to up to $150 for a slow cooker

DVDs
: Up to $20 each

Tall ladder
(for putting up Christmas lights or cleaning out rain gutters on the roof): Up to $300

Maternity clothes
: From $17 for shorts to $200 for a dressy dress

Carpet cleaner
: Up to $300

Gardening tools
: $5 to $50

Camping equipment
: From $30 for a sleeping bag to $200 for a tent

Related: Check out 9 buys that are cheaper online.

BORROWER'S ETIQUETTE


Give a specific time frame.
Ask, "Could I borrow your slow cooker? You'll have it back by Monday." Then put a reminder on your calendar or phone so you don't forget to return it.

Return it in perfect condition.
"When you borrow something, make sure you are 100% willing to replace it if you break or lose it," says Crystal Paine, founder of the blog MoneySavingMom.com. Send a dress back dry-cleaned, a bike oiled and ready to ride.

The better the friend, the higher the value of the item you might borrow.
Ask an old friend for a camera or a vehicle, a casual friend for a rake or a DVD, says blogger Alex Michael. "You need to establish trust before borrowing something valuable," he says.

Don't forget to say thanks.
A handwritten note is always lovely. Step it up by bringing vegetables you grew with the help of their tools, or a container of chili you made with the slow cooker.

The bottom line
In one week, Molly saved between $220 and $270. "There's really no stigma to borrowing, and the amount of money you keep in your pocket definitely makes it worth the effort!" she says.

You Might Also Like:
9 Bad Habits That Are Good for You
15 Clever Uses for Household Items
8 Secrets of Sexually Satisfied Couples