The UK as a whole has been doing some soul-searching recently, trying to work out what being British actually means. While it certainly doesn’t do any real harm to embrace the classic idea of Brits as polite, that impeccable comportment can come with a price tag attached. So, let’s take a look at what it’s costing the UK to minds its manners these days.


How much do we spend on being friends?

According to research from, a site specialising in tracking down discounts, we’re spending somewhere around £25 per month on being good friends and neighbours to the people around us.

Over 90% of us tend to reach for our wallets to avoid an awkward social situation or being considered a “bad sport”. That could mean anything from getting an extra round of drinks in at the end of the night to splitting a restaurant bill equally when we’ve eaten less. All told, that’s close to £300 being spent each year, simply to keep up appearances. To put it in a national perspective, we’re talking about over £7 billion annually.

Who spends the most to be polite?

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s actually the younger crowd feeling the pressure to be polite – even when it’s costing them money. 50% of people in the 18-25 range find themselves paying more than they wanted to in social situations, whereas you can pretty much half that number for the over 55 mob.

It turns out we’re not exactly happy about it, either. While many of us feel like we’re spending over the odds out of politeness, most don’t seem to think their mates are following suit. Over 60% of us feel like our politeness is being taken advantage of by those close to us. Even so, only about 4% of us are prepared to do anything about it, risking losing face and friendships by complaining. The rest simply keep their mouths shut and their wallets open.

What do we spend on when being polite if not friends?

While most of these “money manners” problems come about in social situations, there’s more to British politeness than simply being a good mate.

Over 1 in 3 of us have donated more to charity than we wanted to out of fear of being judged “stingy”.

About the same number have simply never asked for money back after we’ve lent it to someone.

The research even goes into the most and least polite places in the UK, as measured by how much gets spent on good manners there. Cardiff and Bristol top the tables, at an average of £423 and £402 being splashed a year respectively. At the other end of the scale we find Norwich, whose residents spend only £169 on their politeness and Newcastle, which spends just £147 per person per year.

No one’s saying you shouldn’t make an effort to keep your friendships ticking over. It’s definitely worth thinking about what it’s costing you, though. In addition, it’s all the more reason to make sure you’re not letting your good manners leave you out of pocket in your taxes. The main reason why HMRC ends up sitting on tens of millions in unclaimed tax refunds each year is that people simply aren’t kicking up a fuss about them. Claiming a tax refund isn’t some underhanded way of cheating the system. In fact, it’s your legal right and HMRC actively wants to balance the books, so you’re actually cheating yourself if you don’t claim it back.

Check if you're due a tax refund today - and then you can treat your mates to that extra round!

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