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Published: 25/08/2017
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We've all been there. We say we're only popping to the supermarket for a pint of milk, but come back with a dine-in meal deal, a case of wine, a pair of shoes, some half-price eclairs and a multipack of crisps. And we've forgotten the milk. Impulse buying affects all of us, but did you know that it can cost a collective £3.1bn every single month?

Straying from the shopping list

That's according to research from delivery management company Whistl, which highlights how much our lack of willpower can add to our monthly shop. The vast majority of respondents (91%) admitted to making impulse buys every month, with the average person spending £47.84 in the process – that adds up to £3.1bn each month, or £37bn over the course of a year, all because we've strayed from the shopping list.

The most common impulse purchases include clothes (56%) and food and drink (49%), closely followed by home accessories (34%), shoes (27%) and jewellery (22%). Supermarkets are the most common dens of temptation, with 59% of respondents saying that this is where they add the most to their baskets, yet online retailers – particularly Amazon and eBay – weren't far behind.

For the latter in particular, late nights and the odd tipple appear to have a definite part to play, with 39% admitting that late night browsing leads them to make impulse buys, and 24% saying that having a drink encouraged them to press that all-too-tempting buy now button. Others said that a special offer makes them more likely to splurge on impulse, with the thought of getting a bargain too good to resist.

"Today, more and more Brits are used to being able to get hold of anything they want or need at the touch of a button," said Melanie Darvall, director of Marketing & Communications at Whistl. "From adding an extra bottle of wine to your basket at the supermarket to splashing out on a new pair of heels that are 30% off 'just because'. These types of purchases can soon add up, but it's great to see so many shoppers being savvy when it comes to getting the best prices."

Get more from your impulse buys

Impulse buys can seriously add up, and while it's all well and good to say that you'll get some willpower, sometimes it can be easier said than done. So why not see if you can make those impulse buys work harder for you?

Putting them on a cashback credit card, for example, means you'll be able to get something back from those unexpected expenses, so you needn't feel too guilty about splashing out. Just make sure you can repay the balance in full when the statement arrives – and that your credit score is up to scratch before you apply – otherwise the interest will make those impulse buys even more costly.

Or what about having a savings account that's specifically designed for these kinds of purchases? While you won't want to use all your savings for such matters, keeping a bit aside for them can mean your budget won't be so compromised, and if you make sure you find the best savings rates before you get started, you could benefit even more.


Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time. Links to third parties on this page are paid for by the third party. You can find out more about the individual products by visiting their site. will receive a small payment if you use their services after you click through to their site. All information is subject to change without notice. Please check all terms before making any decisions. This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

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