Avoid The Awkward Tax - Aussies Uncomfortable Asking For Money They’re Owed


  • Aussies estimate they’re owed $1,350 by their mates on average
  • 50% feel awkward asking for money that people owe them
  • 44% don’t chase repayment because it’s embarrassing
  • 46% shout their friends knowing they won’t be paid back

As the season of splitting bills, shouting rounds, and group gifting ramps up, new research from PayPal reveals that Aussies stand to be significantly short-changed by social sensitivity around asking to be paid back.  

Left holding the bag short-handed

Half (50%) of Australians say they feel awkward or uncomfortable asking to be paid back, and two-in-five (44%) say they decide not to chase money they’re owed for that reason. About half (46%) are prepared to wear the extra expense, paying for things like meals, coffee runs, or group activities, knowing they won’t be paid back in full by everyone.

All of this little loan forgiveness adds up, as Aussies estimate they are about $1,350 out of pocket on average from friends failing to settle up. 

As a result, one-in-five (22%) say they decline activities with certain people because they know they won’t be reimbursed, and one-in-six (16%) avoid picking up the bill to prevent people from owing them money.

The worst offenders and liabilities

Considering the people in their lives who are least likely to balance the books, half (50%) of Aussies say their friends are the worst at paying them back, followed by co-workers (22%) and adult children (17%).

When asked which situations are most likely to leave a hole in the budget, two-in-five (42%) say picking up the bill for a group meal, a third (32%) say picking up takeaway food for the crew, and about the same proportion (32%) named organising and buying a group gift. The next activities most likely to leave us in the red are going for a coffee run (30%) and buying a round of drinks (29%).   

Tech to the rescue

To help overcome their redemption reluctance, many Aussies are turning to tech to help limit embarrassing conversations. A quarter (24%) say they are more comfortable sending an electronic payment request for money they are owed rather than asking in person. This rises to more than a third (35%) for Aussies under 35-years-old.

Three-in-ten (29%) say they prefer to split bills using an app, like PayPal, rather than chasing individuals directly to pay their share. This jumps to almost half (45%) of Aussies under 35.

Not All Aussies   

The research showed that many Aussies take their payback obligations very seriously, with three-in-five (63%) always ensuring they pay up before the need to be reminded, and two-in-5 (38%) feeling embarrassed if someone needs to remind them. Two-in-five (41%) say they prefer to have money owed to them, rather than owing someone else money and this sentiment is strongest among Boomers (50%) compared to under 25-year-olds (31%). 

Only 10% admit they sometimes forget to pay people back before they need to be reminded, but this jumps to a quarter (26%) of those under 25 and drops to just 2% of Boomers. One-in-10 (9%) say they sometimes lose track of whose shout it is for a round of drinks and miss their turn.

Alison O’Brien, Consumer Insights Expert at PayPal Australia said,Everyone is watching their spending more closely with the current cost-of-living pressures, especially approaching what can be an expensive time of year, so it’s really important to make sure money doesn’t create tension in relationships,” Alison said. “While we should all strive to be more fearless to ensure fairness, it’s great to see that Australians are finding value in features like PayPal’s payment requests and bill splitting to take some of the sting out of sensitive situations.”

About the Research

PayPal 2023 Consumer Research. The research was produced by PayPal Australia Pty Limited based on an online study conducted by PureProfile with n = 1,001 consumers. The sample consisted of n = 1,001 Australians aged 18-75. The sample was weighted by age, gender and location to ensure data was nationally representative. The research was in the field from 25th September to 28th September 2023.

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