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Brits are sitting on £30 billion worth of useless purchases - many of which they never use

11 April 2017 by Stacey Stothard

Our new research of 2,000 people shows how the nation is frittering cash on purchases they don't need.

Brits are housing a staggering £30 billion worth of useless purchases – many of which are unused, according to new research.

A study of 2,000 people shows the average house contains £1,120.53 worth of items such as sandwich toasters, shoes which only match one outfit and ice cream makers.

Other purchases include water filters, crockery bought for ‘best’ and exercise bikes.

Almost half of adults admit their extravagant spending means they often buy things they don’t need when shopping, just because the items are close to the till.

In addition to the larger items, three quarters of Brits are frittering cash on purchases they don’t need on a daily basis, from takeaway coffees to nail varnishes.

These unnecessary spends cost around £32.66 a month, leaving people almost £400 out of pocket every year, money which they could be saving instead of wasting.

Kris Brewster, Head of Products for Skipton Building Society, who commissioned the research, said:

“It’s surprising to see how much all of these little, everyday expenses can add up to, and how avoidable they can be. And if we’re honest, those ‘one-off’ bigger purchases are probably much more regular than we think as we sleepwalk into spending our money.

“It’s important that people stop and make the time to pause and think about their finances, considering how their spending habits big and small could have an impact on their personal savings. Without taking this time, we can all be led into to wasting money, just because bargains look too good to refuse!”

The study also revealed snacks we don’t want but can’t resist, special offers on food and sale items we can’t refuse are the top three impulse spends.

A quarter of those polled admit to regularly wasting our money on scratch cards, clothes we only wear once and impulse sweets when queuing at checkouts.

People are also guilty of buying shoes which don’t fit properly and clothes which then sit in the wardrobe unworn – with no intention of returning the items.

Make-up, flowers for the house, pre-chopped vegetables and magazines all appear in the top 20 list of unnecessary purchases.

Being a sucker for a bargain, being easily swayed and food shopping when we’re hungry are the top triggers for these pointless purchases.

One in five respondents admit to blowing their money just because they have spare income, while one in 10 forget what they already own.

And despite 80 per cent of people regretting these wasted spends, only five per cent will always take them back for a refund.

One in five couples have fallen out over wild purchases, while a third of people admit their partner has criticised them for their spending habits.

When it comes to spending money wisely, four out of 10 people would prefer to put their wasted spends into a savings account, while a quarter would prefer to invest the cash in home improvements.

And nearly half of those polled said that if they had the choice, they’d rather save that money for a holiday.

Kris Brewster added:

“It’s clear from the research that people would much rather be putting money away into savings than spending, whether it’s saving for their life ahead, putting funds away for rainy days, dream holidays or home improvements, even small amounts put away regularly can have a big impact on your savings.

“We recognise that it's not easy to ditch the daily takeaway coffee habit even if it could save a surprising amount over the course of a year. What could be easier though is to be more mindful when making bigger purchases, taking a bit more time to consider if it's really something you need and will use on a regular basis."

Top 20 daily frivolous purchases

  1. Snacks you don't really want but can't resist the temptation
  2. Special offers on food
  3. Sale items you just can't refuse
  4. Impulse checkout sweets when queuing
  5. Buying clothes you only wear once
  6. Scratch cards
  7. Buying clothes which then sit in the wardrobe, without being worn once
  8. Lottery tickets
  9. Lunch out instead of taking a packed lunch to work
  10. Takeaway tea and coffee
  11. Flowers for the house
  12. Buying pre-chopped vegetables because you're too lazy to cut your own
  13. Nail varnishes when you have 20+ pots at home
  14. Makeup
  15. Useless kitchen gadgets
  16. Magazines you don't end up reading
  17. Brand new notebooks even though you have several unused at home
  18. Vitamin pills which you only remember to take for a couple of days
  19. Shoes which don't fit properly and you can't be bothered to take back
  20. Paying for subscription TV and then only watching a couple of channels

Top 20 'box fresh' purchases

  1. Sandwich toaster
  2. Shoes to match an outfit you'll only wear once
  3. Bread maker
  4. Smoothie maker
  5. Slow cooker
  6. Exercise bike
  7. Crockery / cutlery for 'best' which you don't end up using
  8. Ice cream maker
  9. An expensive face cream in response to an article online
  10. Mobile phone upgrade
  11. A water filter you haven't had time to re-fill
  12. Designer handbag
  13. New watch
  14. Games console
  15. Bicycle
  16. De humidifier
  17. Treadmill
  18. New television
  19. Remote control car
  20. Surround sound

Skipton Building Society tips to save money

  1. Give up the daily coffee

    Ditching the daily takeaway coffee habit could save a surprising amount over the course of a year. Giving up a £3-a-day coffee could save around £700 a year. Invest in a half-decent coffee machine and make coffee at home for pennies instead
  2. Skip the odd takeaway or meal out

    Save a few pounds (cash and weight) and break out the cook books rather than takeaway menus. Cutting back on one £25 takeaway or meal out a month will save £300 over the year, as well as being good for your waistline. Plus, it's a well-known fact that homemade food tastes better than anything you buy.
  3. Downgrade your phone contract

    With contracts for the latest flagship phones easily costing £50 or more a month in many cases, trading down to a much cheaper SIM-only deal can save a small fortune. By shopping around, you may be able to shave off £35 or more from your monthly bill. Over the course of a year, that could add up to £420.
  4. Slash that massive pay TV package

    Are you paying for satellite or cable TV channels or a package that you hardly use, like sports or movies? A top-of-the-range pay TV subscription can cost as much as £70 a month. Opting for a more basic package could save around £50 a month - or you could consider Freeview, which is free-to-air - and watch any big matches in the pub, saving as much as £600 a year.
  5. Axe your gym membership

    How many people signed up to the gym in a bloated, post-Christmas pang of guilt, only to trail off by late January? Get your running shoes on instead, hit the local pool or join the crazy for body weight workouts (that's doing press-ups and sit-ups for the rest of us). You could save £300 to £600 a year.
  6. Skip the night on the town

    With a night out weighing in at as much as £60, giving your wallet and liver a break once in a while can be a good idea. Stay home one extra night a month and save up to £720 a year.
  7. Have some patience with gadgets and games

    Are you the kind of person who just has to have the latest gadget or game as soon as it comes out? Maybe you time your phone upgrades around the Apple release cycle? The price of phones, consoles and other gadgets all tend to fall quite rapidly after their initial release - so having a little patience and waiting a few months can often be a shrewd move. Depending on how many you buy a year, you could save a few hundred pounds.

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