Comfort spending in the land down under – what we buy and why

A year ago, takeaway food was number one on Australia’s comfort-spending list. If habitual purchases like this are still taking their toll, here are some tips for 2022.

Over a 12-month period, Australians forked out a whopping $37 billion (and then some) on comfort spending1. You know, the things you might buy to pass the time or make yourself feel better.

If you’re nodding your head, conscience you’ve dabbled in this space, particularly with many people experiencing lockdown fatigue, you’re not alone. Nearly 90% of the population said they did the same thing2.

Meanwhile, if you’re keen to kick these comfort-spending habits and start the new year afresh, let’s look back at what made the top 5 list for comfort purchases and why.

Australia’s favourite comfort purchases

In recent times, the most common things Aussies spent money on when they needed a pick-me-up, included3:

  1. Takeaway food – 43%

  2. Chocolate – 39%

  3. Clothes – 38%

  4. Junk food – 28%

  5. Alcohol – 25%.

Things that people called out to a lesser extent included electronics, movies, video games, music, shoes, cosmetics, hobby equipment and gambling4.

What’s the motivation behind comfort spending?

We’re emotional beings and when you add COVID-19 restrictions to the mix, it’s not surprising people turned to comfort spending, with comfort food notably taking out four of the top five comfort-spending categories.

On that note, did anyone not indulge in a little Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a Magnum or Peter’s Chocolate Drumstick during lockdown?

The nation admits comfort buying can be fuelled by feelings, but research shows buying because there’s nothing else to do can also be a major driver5.

Here are the top motivations behind people’s comfort spending6:

  • Boredom – 38%

  • Stress and anxiety – 37%

  • Unhappiness – 29%

  • Loneliness – 21%

  • Bad day at work – 16%

  • Fighting with the partner – 8%

How to get your 2022 spending in check

If habitual-comfort spending is having a negative impact on your bank balance, there are some things that may help.

Put a figure on it

If you haven’t already, it might be worth a quick scroll back through your banking app or credit card history and noting down what you’ve spent on different comfort purchases over the last few months.

This way you can gauge where the biggest outflows are happening – burgers, servo choccies, barista-made coffees – and get an understanding of just how much you’re spending (and, what you could be saving!).

Note your emotional spending cues

We know that comfort spending is often driven by feelings of unease or boredom7. And, if you know what your triggers are (a family member who loves drama may have just sprung to mind), it may help to distract yourself with something else, like phoning a mate and having a laugh before you think drive-through wicked wings.

Being mindful about these purchases and when moments of weakness might arise, may go a long way. In the meantime, you mightn’t be able to wipe your life of drama completely but maybe you can limit your exposure.

Commit to small changes before radical ones

Saying you won’t go to McDonald’s or ever buy those delicious Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups again might work for a day or two (maybe longer, if you’re really dedicated) but baby steps might be the way to go.

Here are some ideas:

  • Takeaway food – If you’re doing it several times a week, maybe make it a one-night-a-week event

  • Chocolate – If it’s just for you, perhaps buy a standard rather than king or family-size block

  • Clothes – Stick to what’s on sale (they come around more often than you think)

  • Junk food – If it’s cheaper at the grocery store, steer clear of the servo when you just went for petrol

  • Alcohol – If you’re drinking most days, maybe make it a weekend thing.

Think about how you might benefit yourself

If your fast-food bill (or whatever you’re spending money on) is say $100 a week and you can limit that to maybe $20 a week over a few months, you could save around $1,000. If you’re paying off debts, this could go a long way to getting yourself out of the red.

Meanwhile, if you’re not in debt and you just want your money going somewhere more memorable, maybe use the extra grand for a nice weekend away, something for the house or an upcoming milestone event you really want to celebrate.

Reach out if you need a hand

If your financial situation needs more attention than just looking at your comfort-spending patterns, check out the financially vulnerable section of our website for a range of tools, resources and who you can contact. Free financial counselling is also available from the National Debt Helpline (1800 007 007).

Meanwhile, if you’re struggling with anything – mentally, physically or financially – and would like to talk to someone, you can access free support through Beyond Blue (1800 512 348) and Lifeline (13 11 14) as well. 

If you’ve overspent during lockdown and would like 2022 to be a better year financially, call us on 08 6465 5400

1-7 Mozo’s Comfort Spending Report 2021

Source: AMP December 2021

This information is provided by AMP Life Limited. It is general information only and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances and the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Terms and Conditions, available by calling 08 6465 5400, before deciding what’s right for you.

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