5 practical ways to make the most of pandemic purchase regret


a young man slumps in his chair surrounded by shopping bags

There’s no shame in admitting that, for a myriad of reasons, the last 18 months have not been easy. To relieve some of the stress of the pandemic, many Brits have turned to online shopping to lighten their mood.

However, as we hopefully start returning to some sense of normality, many Brits have come to regret their time in retail therapy. Insurance company Aviva believe that more than £6.6 billion has been spent on pandemic purchases that are no longer used.

But if you’ve fallen victim to pandemic purchase regret, what can you do to make use of the items you no longer need? Read on to find out more.

9 out of 10 Brits spent money on treat purchases during the pandemic

Online shopping has been steadily gaining popularity over recent years, with new figures from Statista showing that UK households spent just shy of £100 billion online in 2020.

Throughout the pandemic, 88% of Brits spent money on what they considered a “treat” purchase. 54% of buyers admitted to getting some new clothes, 24% bought a new kitchen appliance, and 5% said they had even bought a hot tub.

But many have been left with a sense of buyer’s remorse after splashing out. The average spend on “treat” purchases during the pandemic was £1,205 a person, but the average spend for those who later regretted their purchase totalled £1,376.

Nationally, that results in £6.6 billion that Brits wish they’d never spent. If you’ve contributed to this total, here are five practical ways you can make use of your unwanted items.

1. Give them as a gift

Most things that you buy and no longer need can be given to someone you know, especially if you share similar hobbies or interests. From clothes that don’t quite match the image online to the guitar you never got round to playing, someone you know will probably be interested in snapping it up.

There’s no need for you to wait until a special occasion like a birthday or Christmas either. Consider asking around your friends and family to see if anyone would like the item you’ve bought, and some may even offer to pay you for it.

2. Donate them to charity

If you don’t think anyone you know would like your unwanted items, consider donating them to a local charity shop instead. Charity shopping is a great way to raise money for good causes while also looking for things you like at a discounted price.

Charity shops often reach a much wider audience than just your friends and family. This helps you to relax knowing that your donation is going towards a good cause and will be bought by someone who wants it.

Many charity shops will offer you the chance to sign up for Gift Aid when you donate through them too, which allows the charity to reclaim any tax paid on the donation if you are a UK taxpayer. In this case, the tax will be reclaimed on the proceeds of the item you have donated when it is sold.

3. Sell them online or locally

Sometimes you buy expensive items and regret it down the line, but you don’t want to simply get rid of it because of the cost. Games consoles, musical instruments, and hobby sets like Lego or Warhammer can all feel a bit to pricey to simply give away.

In these cases, provided the item is in good condition, it may be worth trying to resell it at a discounted price either online or locally. Websites like eBay, local car boot sales, or trade-in shops could be good places to start to help you gauge a price range and find someone looking to buy.

4. Find alternative uses

Every item, no matter its original purpose, usually has alternative uses. In order to find new ways of using old items you may have to get a little creative, but a little help from Google can also go a long way.

For example, a new games console can instead become a media player, saving you the hassle of setting up an Amazon fire stick when buying a new smart TV. Most modern consoles have all the common streaming sites available to download as apps and can read and play Blu-ray discs for movie nights.

You can also repurpose any clothes you bought with a pair of scissors and some sewing, and your new laptop can be used for language learning, a bedside video player, or as a digital photo frame.

5. Make peace with your purchase

Lastly, if what you’ve bought is too big or is physically installed in your home (like a hot tub), you may have to simply make peace with the fact that you own it.

Accepting that what’s done is done might help you to make use of a purchase you would otherwise ignore. Depending on what it is, you may be able to use it for special occasions like parties or get-togethers to impress your guests.