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25 February 2013

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Impulse-buy Brits spend £6.2 billion* on things they don't use

Despite today’s tough economic times, 85 per cent of Brits admit to spending money in the last five years on goods they’ve never or rarely used.

Kitchen gadgets, unused clothes and shoes, fitness equipment and subscriptions or memberships have all swallowed up our hard earned cash for little or no return.

In total a whopping £6.2 billion has been spent across the UK over the last five years on impulse-buys, just over £1.2 billion a year and an average of £129 each. More than a fifth of those who admitted to spending money on unnecessary purchases spent over £200 and 5 per cent wasted more than £500.

But some people are finding thrifty ways to make the most out of a bad decision, by selling their unused goods on. Half of people who admitted to buying things they’ve never used have tried to sell them on and a quarter of these managed to make their money back. While most people have managed to claw back around £25, one in ten have made more than £100 by selling things they no longer use.

And looking back on their wasted money, people tend to think they’ll be more careful in future. More than two thirds (68%) of respondents who spent money on things they never used said they’d be unlikely to make similar impulse purchases nowadays.

The research, carried out by Populus, was commissioned by the new national pension provider NEST to highlight how small changes to spending habits now could mean big savings for the future.

Commenting on the findings, NEST’s director of communications and engagement Graham Vidler said,

‘We’ve all bought things that just end up gathering dust at the back of the cupboard. It’s easy to feel guilty about wasting money when you don’t end up using what you’ve paid for, but your unused goods could turn out to be hidden treasure if you sell them on to someone who needs them.

‘By putting the cash into your pension, you could potentially triple your money over the long term**. Then rather than feeling guilty, you’ll be de-cluttering your cupboards and investing in your future peace of mind at the same time.’

Of the people (57%) who admit to wasting money on clothing or fashion accessories, a fifth of these (21%) have never used the things they’ve bought and over a quarter have only used them once (27%), with the biggest culprit being unused shoes (22%).

Nearly half of people have also bought expensive kitchen appliances only to let them gather dust. Just under a fifth (17%) have spent money on unused blenders, which have an average retail price of £129.99, a tenth have bought (11%) bread makers, costing on average £124.99, and 6% own unused ice cream makers, retailing at an average of £136.99.

When it comes to those who spend money on unused subscriptions or memberships, a quarter of these subscribe to a magazine that they rarely read and just over a tenth (11%) spend money on subscriptions to online film rental or streaming sites that they don’t get the most out of. More than a third of them (36%) have a gym membership they don’t use, at an average cost of £442 per year.

Other unused items that have been bought on impulse include doughnut makers, foot spas, telescopes, electric carving knives and chocolate fountains.


Notes to editor
We have a case study available of a woman who has made enough money from selling her unused goods online to supplement her income. Please get in touch for more details.

Populus was commissioned by NEST to interview a random sample of 2055 GB adults aged 18+ from its online panel from 8th-10th February 2013. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at   

*“Brits spend £6.2 billion on things they don’t use” – This figure is based on the research that asked individuals how much they had spent on items they rarely or never used over the last five year. The results of the survey indicate that on average people have spent £129.02 each.

The £129.02 figure has been multiplied by the 48.3 million, which is the total population of adults 18 or over in Great Britain.

**“you could potentially triple your money over the long term” - This statement is based on a member making a contribution when they become eligible for automatic enrolment at 22 and the money remaining invested until they reach their state pension age of 68. The growth is based on NEST’s investment strategy which could return between 2-3% on average per year after all charges and above inflation.

Average retail price of kitchen appliances has been calculated from all similar products available at Lakeland.

Key facts about NEST:

• The government is currently introducing reforms that mean employers will have to automatically enrol most of their workers into a workplace pension scheme that meets or exceeds certain standards. They’ll also need to make a minimum contribution for many of these workers.   

• NEST, which was established by government as part of these reforms, is a national defined contribution workplace pension scheme available to all employers to use to meet their new duties. It is designed around the needs of people who are largely new to pension saving, with clear communications, low charges and easy online tools and services. It is run as a trust-based scheme, on a not-for-profit basis, and the trustee has a legal duty to act in its members’ interests.

• NEST has a public service obligation to accept any employer (whatever their size) who wants to use the scheme to meet their duties, as a sole scheme or alongside other provision.

More information about NEST can be found on our social media sites: