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You Only Live Once – but will your money last?

We all like to treat ourselves, and YOLO (or “You Only Live Once”) is a mantra that 15 million UK adults have used in 2015 to justify an impulse purchase. But if you can’t afford it, then it can be bad news for your future finances.

New research from the Money Advice Service has found YOLO spending is on the rise, with around five million unplanned purchases happening every day.

Why people make a YOLO purchase

We’re usually spending to reward ourselves (39%) or to cheer ourselves up (32%), with nearly half (45%) of those that do are taking advantage of payday to indulge.

Women are more likely to spend when they see a special offer or to treat their kids, but men tend to be fuelled by booze or keeping up with their friends.

The downsides of YOLO spending

Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to spend like this. One in five people (21%) say they pay for these treats with credit. Close to one in 10 (7%) have been pushed into debt, with an average amount of £293.

Even those who don’t get into debt have to cut back, with a third of YOLO spenders having to go without elsewhere to afford the spontaneous purchase.

This not only puts them in danger of going into their overdrafts, but at risk of having no funds to cover a big bill or any unexpected costs that come their way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

Sometimes we don’t even want our YOLO buys, with one in eight Brits wishing they hadn’t spent the money and one in eight purchases not actually needed or wanted.

The top YOLO purchases

How to treat yourself without putting your future at risk

If you know you’re likely to want to treat yourself – and why shouldn’t you – we’ve four ways you can make sure you’ve enough money to do it without pushing yourself in to debt.

  1. Decide your YOLO budget for the month and factor it into your other spending so you know you’ll have enough money.
  1. Shop around for the best price on your YOLO spending so you treat yourself for less.
  2. If you’ve bought something on impulse, take some time after to think if you really want it or need it. If you decide you can’t afford it, in most cases you’ll be able to take it back to the shop.
  1. Try to limit situations where you know you’re likely to make YOLO decisions you normally regret. For example only take cash on a night out so you can’t get carried away; or make a takeaway a proper treat by only allowing yourself one each month. 

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  • emma / 21 January 2016

    thank u so much bt what shld we do if we want to become rich in short period of time as we work

  • Sofia / 28 December 2015

    Tip no 3 - about taking things back to shops; it happened to me a few times. Usually you can do it with most retailers in the high street, they are happy to accept unused items in a saleable condition. My advice is - for clothes and shoes for instance - only cut out the price tag or thow away the pacaking/box the moment you decide to wear them. Don't cut them in advance and regret you can't take them back to shops afterwards. Tip 4 is great too, thanks.

  • Jim stevenson / 28 December 2015

    Some interesting comments/ideas. Its sometimes helpful to take a moment at the shelf holding onto the item to look at the price and work out roughly how manyhours you would have to work to pay. For the item. One or two hours worthof wages is no big deal to me now and again especially if its something good like a meal out or a good film. But if its 5, 6,,7 hours worth of wages i start to reconsider and see if i can make cheaper alternatives or do without. Also make do and mend has served me well of late.

  • tony / 28 December 2015

    No help at all

  • Nwanyoma / 28 December 2015

    I like tip no 4 the most. Thank you.

  • Amanda Derry / 28 December 2015

    I do think it's important to treat myself. But I would feel guilty doing so, if I knew I couldn't afford it (negating the point of treating myself). So Itend to buy little treats on a reasonably regular basis: a cappuccino, take out croissant, hairdressers (once every 5 weeks). My biggest weakness is buying clothes: so if I know I don't need anything I try and stay out of clothes shops. I will usually buy in the sales: once in awhile I'll buy full price but that might be the beginning of Season if I look at my wardrobe and it looks 'old' and needs a rejuvination. (Worth remembering a new accessory will often jazz up an old looking outfit or piece of clothing). If I buy new it will be one of the cheaper High St stores: I learned long ago that a lot of M&S clothes in good condition can be found in charity shops. Which is also where I go for the occasional treat. Because I do have a lot of accessories and let's face it, clothes, I think it's important to have a clear out now and then of clothes I just don't wear: either due to outgrowing the style or the size (I don't bother thinking I'll lose weight). I will give them to friends or charity: this can make me feel justified I can replace them with new things!-I know shouldn't always be the point. Make-up: whereas I can get away with cheap clothes I am tending moretowards buying good quality make up and nail polish now and then, which I know I'll use, rather than lots of cheap make-up. I very rarely do a big YOLO buy: would need to know it was what I really needed or wanted so chances are it would've been given some thought. I have a close relative who has had a lot of YOLO moments, choosing fun things or luxeries over priority spending. I know to them this is how they want to spend their money, and it's their perogative; but I wouldn't feel comfortable doing the same. I always know economical times can call for tightening the belt on treats as well, but am glad there's always food, cleanliness and shelter: the basic necessities for me; which is the most important aspects to take care of.

  • corinne mcelligott / 28 December 2015

    brilliant. Is there anybody that could mentor a young person in Devon ? She is a vulnerable adult I control her money at prez.

  • Jen / 27 December 2015

    This is so true! I have made it a habit of sleeping over attempted impulse purchases. It can be annoying sometimes because it's easy to convince oneself that you need something when perhaps you just want it because it's on discount or on sale and even if you really like it, you could do without it and spend your money on real needs.

  • Gill / 27 December 2015

    The advice on YOLO is so very true, this has been helpful to me especially during shop 'Sales' this time of year.

  • somasisi / 27 December 2015

    Could you please explain why the percentages in the graph don't add upto 100%?

  • Martin / 27 December 2015

    I'm in my 60's and the advice you've given is just what my parents gave me while I was growing up. I've stuck to what they said and thanks to them, never been in debt (except for a mortgage) and my two boys, aged 35 and 38, are also clear of debt. So please one and all, take the advice given, it does work...

  • Glen / 27 December 2015

    sound advice to heed

  • Denise / 27 December 2015

    I've been there regarding impulse buying, much of it to cheer myself up. And quite a number of years on are still paying off the debt racked up. Only for me the money was spent on jewellery and watching / getting hooked on tv jewellery channels...I now only buy an item if I can afford it and perhaps most importantly really like it and know that I will enjoy wearing it. Finally my husband and daughter keep me in check!

  • V Neale / 27 December 2015

    To prevent impulse buying I make a list and I only take enough money for what I need on my list. I leave all my cards at home except my bus pass

  • keith / 9 December 2015

    if you wait to have enough money to spend ,you would have nothing