Press release: The rise of YOLO* (that's 'you only live once') living

Thursday 3 December

  • More than five million YOLO purchases made every day
  • £167 million spent daily on impulsive ‘You Only Live Once’ items
  • One in four (28%) YOLO purchases are bought on credit[i]

More and more Brits are now using ‘YOLO’ as a reason to spend money without thinking about the future, according to Money Advice Service.

Around five million[i] unplanned purchases now take place on an average day, justified with the phrase ‘You Only Live Once’, amounting to more than £167 million[ii] spent daily on impulsive buys. It is estimated that 15 million Brits have made a YOLO purchase in 2015 – a figure that has increased by 158% since 2012[iii].

These YOLO moments are mostly likely to take place on or just after payday (45%), and are usually a way to reward (39%) or cheer ourselves up (32%) with an unplanned purchase. They are likely to include buying clothes (40%), impulsively deciding to eat out (35%), ordering a takeaway (30%), buying the latest gadgets (20%) or booking a holiday (17%).

The problem is that YOLO spending could lead to a rise in credit card debt – with one in four (21%) saying they mostly pay for these using credit. Close to one in 10 (7%) or 2.1 million[iv] Brits say their YOLO spending has led them into debt by an average of £293.

And while YOLO spending can be a lot of fun – the fun soon wears off for 4 million[v] Brits. One in eight (13%) felt regret and around one in five (17%) later promised themselves never to do it again. Among all YOLO purchases one in six (15%) were not needed or wanted. As a result, one in three (32%) YOLO spenders have had to cut back on other spending after their spur of the moment purchase.

Women are more likely than men to splash out to make themselves feel happy or treat the children[vi]. Women also tend[vii] to make a YOLO purchase when they see a special offer, sale or deal. These purchases are usually[viii] paid for by debit card but are likely[ix] to push them into their overdrafts as a result.

Men, on the other hand, are three times more likely to make a YOLO purchase after drinking alcohol and almost twice as likely as women to ‘YOLO buy’ after a good day at work. They are also two times more prone to making YOLO purchases to keep up with friends and have the latest trendy item but prefer to pay for this[x] on a credit card.

Although men and women make equal amounts of YOLO purchases, the way they feel about them afterwards is quite different. Men are more likely[xi] to forget about it and are less likely to feel regret[xii]. Yet women are more likely[xiii] to buy something they don’t need and realise[xiv] they couldn’t afford it afterwards (10% versus 8%).

Worryingly close to four in 10 Brits agree with the statement “there’s no point worrying about the future because you only live once” and a further 70% say they will spend money whenever they feel like it.

Responding to the findings, Andy Webb, Money Expert at the Money Advice Service, says: “YOLO stands for you only live once, but careless spending today can cause problems tomorrow. While we all like to reward ourselves every now and then with a YOLO purchase, the best thing to do is to acknowledge that you’re likely to buy yourself treats and budget for it.

“If you’re finding yourself regretting impulse spending then there are small steps you can take to curb this. YOLO spending thrives on opportunity – so one trick is to leave your cards at home and only take the money with you that you can afford. If you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

“You can also find a rule that will work for you. For example, you could make a point of waiting until you’ve compared prices before buying bargains in a sale. In the extra time it takes to shop around, you might realise you don’t really need it after all. If you do still want to go for it, stop to work out if you can afford the product and then you’ll hopefully have found it cheaper too.

“It is easy to get into financial difficulties if you have a ‘spend today, worry about it tomorrow’ attitude because it isn’t sustainable. Any credit you take out now will need to be paid back with interest, so you are losing out in the long run. If you are struggling with debt worries or would like help on working on a monthly budget Money Advice Service can help you.”

For more information and advice visit



  • Definition of a YOLO purchase: Spending with the attitude of ‘you only live once’ or ‘why not’ — e.g. buying an item without thinking it through or considering the financial cost.

Research conducted by Opinium for the Money Advice Service in October 2015 amongst 2,003 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+.

For media enquiries contact:

  • Sinead Meckin, Dan Thompson or Georgia McDonald at Third City on 0203 657 9773 or

About the Money Advice Service The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation. It gives free, unbiased money advice online at, over the phone on 0300 500 5000, and face-to-face right across the UK. The Service was set up by Government and is paid for by a statutory levy on the financial services industry, raised through the Financial Conduct Authority. Its statutory objectives are to enhance the understanding and knowledge of members of the public about financial matters (including the UK financial system); and to enhance the ability of members of the public to manage their own financial affairs.

[i] Source: According to the research, credit includes credit card, overdraft, pay day loan and borrowing money from friends and family

[i] Source: According to ONS, there are 50,909,000 million adults over the age of 18. 61% of these have made a YOLO purchase in the last five years (31,054,490). Of these people who have made a YOLO purchase, they make an average of five per month in the average month. This is 155,272,450 per month (31,054,490*5) or 5,175,748 per day. Note this average is taken from those making YOLO purchases over this period, not just those who have made a YOLO purchase in 2015.

[ii] Source: According to the research, the average Brit will spend £162 per month in YOLO purchases or £32.40 per single YOLO item. £32.40 x by 5,175,748 purchases = £167,694,246.

[iii] Source: According to the research, 15 million Brits made a YOLO purchase in 2015 (49% of adult population), while approximately 5.8 million did so in 2012 (19%)

[iv] Source: According to the research, 7% of 31,054,490 = 2,173,814

[v] Source: According to the research, 13% regretted their decision. 13% of 31,054,490 = 437084 Brits

[vi] 5% more likely

[vii] 8% more likely

[viii] 51% versus 39%

[ix] 7% versus 5%

[x] 3% more likely