We're all spending less than we were in the days when we got a new credit card through the post every week. However, while we're busy clipping coupons and cutting corners, new research has revealed that we're also blowing £5 billion a year on things we buy and never use.
So what are the worst culprits, and how can we avoid buying things we come to regret later?
The research, by fickletattoos.com found that despite all the talk of austerity, 65% of people admit that they regularly spend frivolously on things they don't really need. The average person spends £212 a year on these impulse buys - which means that as a nation we're buying £5 billion of things we don't need and we never use.
The biggest culprit was clothes, with two thirds of people admitting they have bought something that they have never worn. So what are the biggest fashion mistakes?
Top ten clothes bought and never worn1. Platform flip-flops - 31%
2. Crop tops - 27%
3. Creepers - 25%
4. Disco trousers - 23%
5. Leather trousers - 22%
6. Drop hem dress/skirt - 19%
7. Printed leggings - 15%
8. Dip-dye clothing - 14%
9. Dungarees - 12%
10. Tassel clothing - 8%
Better decisionsThe researchers asked people why they'd spent the money, and by far the most popular answer was that it 'seemed like a good idea at the time': an ever-hopeful 11% still plan to use the item in the future.
However, the chances are that we didn't buy these things because they seemed a good idea at the time, we bought them because we were sidetracked by all sorts of things that had nothing to do with whether we wanted something, or needed it, or would ever wear it.
So before we buy anything it's worth asking yourself five questions to check you're buying it for the right reason.
1. Are you in a bad mood?
There's a reason why they call it retail therapy. We like the buzz of spending money and acquiring things, so when we're in a bad mood we are far more likely to buy something in order to get the quick hit. It's likely that this driver will push us past the niggling feeling that a purchase isn't quite right.
2. Are you bored?
Shopping has become a way to pass the time. This is particularly the case when we're stuck somewhere waiting for something - which is why airports have so many shops. If you're killing time in the shops, make a mental note not to spend anything. It may be less boring than browsing, but it's much more expensive too.
3. Do they have the thing you came out for?
Often when we go looking for something specific, when it's not available, we tend to come back with something anyway. This is because we were anticipating the rush of buying what we wanted, and when we couldn't buy that product we still wanted the rush.
If you're freezing to death and you don't have a coat, it's OK to buy the best possible coat from the ones on offer rather than your ideal coat. However, if you go looking for a coat and come back with a pair of shoes, something has gone awry.
4. Do you think it'll make you feel better?
Often people shop because they're low on self-esteem and they want to buy some: it's not a designer handbag, it's a status symbol you can show off. However, the feeling of self-worth you get from having something desirable passes very quickly, and soon you're back at the shops on the hunt for more.
5. Will you still need it in ten minutes?
The oldest tricks are often the best. Walk away and spend ten minutes looking at something else, considering whether you have the money to spare, when you will wear it, why you're buying it, and whether you'd rather spend the money on something else. Most of the time this will persuade you that maybe you don't need those platform flip flops after-all.
Slipped through the netHowever, there will always be those things that slip through the net. The researchers also asked for more unusual items that have been bought and not used. Their top ten was:
1. Laxatives in bulk - bought as part of a diet plan to lose weight
2. A temperature controlled butter dish
3. Twirling spaghetti fork
4. A full set of flameless candles
5. An 'open fire' DVD to simulate a log fire
6. Toilet tee time - golf on the toilet seat
7. A giant nose soap dispenser - soap is dispensed from the nostril
8. A self stirring mug
9. A hand held portable toaster
10. A banana slicer shaped like a banana for quick slicing