Spending money to spite your face?

104 million Americans spend $65.4 billion to avoid embarrassment.

Updated

Fact checked
Picking a coin from the floor

Ever dropped a penny and didn’t pick it up because it might make you look cheap? You’re not alone: Nearly half (46.8%) of all American adults say they’ve lost money to avoid embarrassment or save face. And they did so in far more elaborate ways than just not picking up a penny.

We analyzed survey responses from 1,971 US adults, commissioned by Finder.com and conducted by Pureprofile, and found that about 104 million Americans left an average $65.4 billion on the table last year to preserve their dignity. That’s about $629 a person.

How are we losing our money?

The No. 1 reason Americans are in the red is because we’re too polite, awkward or embarrassed to ask for money owed to us by family and friends. Nearly 59 million people say forfeited a collective $14.3 billion — or $243 a person — for this reason over the last year.

Surprisingly, being too embarrassed to return a faulty or unwanted item is the second most common way we lose money, with an estimated 56.6 million Americans failing to collect $6.01 billion ($106 a person) owed to them.

How are we losing our money?

CategoryPercentage of Americans who lost money saving faceNumber of Americans who lost money saving faceEstimated amount lost per personTotal estimated amount Americans lost by category
Returned a faulty/unwanted item for a refund54.5%56,684,170$106$6.01 billion
Asked a friend to pay you money owed56.66%58,938,014$243$14.3 billion
Corrected an overcharge on a bill51.46%53,528,789$76$4.1 billion
Resisted group spending pressure (split bills, expensive restaurant options, group gifting)47.89%49,809,947$215$10. 7 billion
Asked for a raise you knew you deserved38.24%39,780,342$762.00$30.3 billion

Women are better than men at collecting their debts

Men are more likely than women to leave behind money owed to them across the board. And no more so than in a group situation: Men (53.57%) are 11.74% more likely than women (41.83%) to go with the flow in a group billing situation even if it means paying more than their fair share.

CategoryPercentage of men who lost money saving facePercentage of women who lost money saving face
Returned a faulty/unwanted item for a refund58.40%50.34%
Asked a friend to pay you money owed58.82%54.36%
Corrected an overcharge on a bill54.83% 47.87%
Resisted group spending pressure (split bills, expensive restaurant options, group gifting)53.57% 41.83%

Gen X crossing out their debts

Gen X is the generation that’s best at getting the money owed to them, with only 22.75% feeling awkward about calling in their debts.

At the other end of the spectrum is millennials, with 39.65% of this generation admitting to awkwardness in settling debts due. Of those millennials, a whopping 64.75% admit they failed to collect money owed to them by family and friends, totaling $504.4 million in the last year.

Money lost by generation

CategoryPercentage of millennials who lost money savings facePercentage of Gen X who lost money savings facePercentage of boomers who lost money savings face
Returned a faulty/unwanted item for a refund59.29%48.57%45.93%
Amount wasted$772 million wasted$286 million wasted$248.7 million wasted
Asked a friend to pay you money owed64.75%58.10%39.84%
Amount wasted$504.4 million wasted$163.95 million wasted$128.3 million wasted
Corrected an overcharge on a bill55.19%44.76%43.90%
Amount wasted$1.15 billion wasted$242.6 million wasted$312.7 million wasted
Resisted group spending pressure (split bills, expensive restaurant options, group gifting)58.47%43.81%28.46%
Amount wasted$601.1 million wasted$348.1 million wasted$157.6 million wasted
Asked for a raise you knew you deserved46.99%33.81%19.51%
Amount wasted$877.4 million wasted$216.2 million wasted$232.3 million wasted

More money means a tighter grip on debts

Not Surprisingly, those among the lowest income brackets are more likely to chase debts. Those earning between $150,000 and $300,000 are most on top of money owed to them, with only 5.63% saying they were too embarrassed to chase a debt in the last 12 months.

Let’s break down income

Income bracketPercentage of Americans who lost money saving face
$0 to $25,00016.68%
$25,000 to $50,00026.22%
$50,000 to $75,00022.75%
$75,000 to $100,00013.98%
$100,000 to $150,00012.68%
$150,000 to $300,0005.63%

For media inquiries:

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Allan Givens
Public Relations Manager
203-818-2928
allan.givens@finder.com
/in/nicole-gallina/

Nicole Gallina headshot

Nicole Gallina
Communications Coordinator
347-677-4931
nicole.gallina@finder.com
/in/nicole-gallina/

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