Six million of us regret buying things we can't afford

The Momentum UK Team 30 July 2013

40 million of us (82%) experience “buyer’s remorse”, with 6 million (15%) regretting purchases because we couldn’t afford them, according to new research by the Debt Advisory Centre.

So-called buyer’s remorse is familiar to most of us, but this new research highlights just which of our purchases we regret the most. Topping the list of purchases people said they regret because of the cost were pets, holidays, gifts, cars and motorbikes. This is perhaps unsurprising, as pets and vehicles are substantial long-term commitments; many people don’t realise how much the upkeep of their adorable new puppy is going to cost. Gifts and holidays can be one-off impulse buys that play havoc with people’s finances if not properly budgeted for.

The most regretted items overall were clothes (62%), shoes (36%), items bought on holiday (27%), and kitchen gadgets (23%). The reasons given for experiencing buyer’s remorse varied, with the most common reason being that we “don’t really need it”, cited by 32% of people. The next most common reasons were that we “didn’t like it/it didn’t fit/we didn’t wear it” (22%) rarely or never use it (19%) and can't afford it (15%).

Ian Williams of the Debt Advisory Centre said:

“Most of us know the feeling of buying something and then regretting it. Lofts, sheds and wardrobes all over the country are full of things we don't actually want or need. But buying things we can't really afford can be more serious.”

"For some people this is just a minor blip in their budgets, but for others the situation can escalate and lead to more serious problems. For example, overspending is one of the main causes of debt - along with job loss, divorce and other changes in financial situation."

But despite the serious debt problems that unnecessary purchases can create, the research found that most people who experience buyer’s remorse do not act entirely rationally. Over half of the time (57%) we just keep the unwanted item even though we regret buying it. Other people favour giving it away (18%) or selling them (16%). Shockingly, only 8% of regretted purchases are actually returned to the retailer for a refund.

Keeping track of what you are spending and budgeting carefully and remembering to return unwanted items can help to keep you out of serious debt.