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Lifestyle essentials survive the downturn as Brits spend ?143 billion over the past year

Press release: 22/10/2010

  • Lifestyle spending has hit a new high in 2010[1], taking a growing share of our income, according to the LV= Lifestyle Inflation Index[2]

  • One in three (35%) people have tightened their belts elsewhere to hang on to little luxuries

Despite the scale of the economic downturn, British households remain firmly wedded to the little luxuries they became used to through the boom years, from TV subscriptions and gym memberships to weekends away and evenings out. According to research published today by insurance, retirement and investment group LV=, spending on the nation’s top ten 'lifestyle essentials' (see list below) reached £143 billion over the past year, the equivalent of £5,629 per household on average, and the highest sum over the ten year period of the research[2].

The LV= Lifestyle Inflation Index[1] has found that the cost of 'lifestyle essentials' rose 4% in the year to August 2010, ahead of the official headline rate inflation of 3.1% (Consumer Price Index) and more than twice the rate of increase of the nation’s pay packets (1.7%). After enjoying five years of earnings outstripping changes in the cost of these lifestyle essentials (between 2002 and 2006), household incomes have fallen behind, but this has not yet dented Britain’s attachment to a variety of little luxuries.

When a luxury becomes an essential
Table one below highlights what Brits define as their top lifestyle essentials, the 'little luxury' events, goods or services that are most important to them. Of these, households spent the greatest sum on weekend breaks and holidays over the last year, at nearly £79 billion. Meals out accounted for nearly £19 billion of household spending and home deliveries and takeaways exceeded £11.5 billion. 35% of households admit to reducing their spending in other areas to continue to fund these ongoing aspects of their lifestyle.

Table 1: Britain's most loved lifestyle essentials and what they're costing us

Ranking

Lifestyle essentials

Percentage of people who consider it a lifestyle essential

Total amount spent by households in a year to August 2010 (£bn)

1

Holidays/weekend breaks

50%

£78.8

2

Meals out in restaurants

40%

£18.6

3

Nights out in pubs/bars

24%

£11.1

4

Takeaway/delivery meals

23%

£11.5

5

TV subscriptions

23%

£7.4

6

Cultural events (theatre, arts, etc)

22%

£2.6

7

Haircuts/styling by professionals

22%

£4.2

8

Trips to the cinema

20%

£0.8

9

Premium foods at home

20%

£6.7

10

Daily coffee or tea from a shop

18%

£1.9

One lifestyle essential both sexes can agree on
While men and women both place weekend breaks and holidays at the top of their lifestyle lists (men 48% and women 53%), one in three (36%) women placed professional hair styling high on their list of priorities, compared to just 8% of men. On the flipside, nights out in the pub (29%), TV subscriptions (26%) and sports club membership (15%) featured highly among male lifestyle essentials.

Cost of lifestyle essentials on the rise, but consumers unwilling to curb spending
Despite spending an average £5,629 per household on these essentials in the last year, many would be unwilling to reduce this spending even if their income is cut.

Psychologist Corinne Sweet commented: "In tough financial times people still need to 'treat' themselves to compensate for stress and hard work, so it's not surprising that spending on holidays and weekend breaks have stayed buoyant. People definitely need the psychological boost that good haircuts, a decent choice of TV channel and a night out with friends can bring, despite being aware of needing to watch their pennies. Finding a balance is important, so people will happily use the car less in order to have a night out to stretch their money further. Thus, "lifestyle essentials" are basically stress releasers, and people value them highly, particularly in difficult times."

Table two: Lifestyle essentials Brits are unwilling to cut back if income was cut or squeezed

Ranking

Lifestyle essentials

Percentage of those not willing to cut back on spending

Inflation rate (August 2009)

1

Holidays/weekend breaks

22%

4.7%

2

Haircuts/styling by professionals

15%

2.9%

3

TV subscriptions

14%

3.3%

4

Meals out in restaurants

13%

3.1%

5

Nights out in pubs/bars

10%

1.8%

6

Daily cup of tea/coffee from coffee shop

8%

3.1%

7

Premium foods at home

8%

3.9%

8

Culture and the arts

8%

3.7%

9

Gym membership

8%

2.6%

10

Trips to the cinema

7%

2.6%

Overall, two-thirds (69%) of people have taken measures to tighten their purse strings recently. 35% say they have cut back in some areas to maintain their spending on 'lifestyle essentials', of which:

  • A quarter (24%) are switching utility providers to reduce bills

  • Nearly half (45%) are buying cheaper / no brand foods

  • A third (34%) are selling items they don’t need on eBay or at car boot sales

  • One in three (32%) are taking their own lunch to work

  • 30% are using their car less to save petrol

Mark Jones, LV= head of protection, said: "The years of plenty have changed people’s expectations of what’s essential in their daily lives, and it's clear that millions are determined not to let the credit crunch cramp their lifestyle. Of course this won’t always be possible, and I would urge people to consider now how they would continue to pay for the real essentials and at least some of these little luxuries should their circumstances change.

"We insure our cars, phones, and even our Sky box in case they stop working, but often not ourselves. With over 2.2m people in the UK unable to work due to long-term sickness[3] people are just as prone to 'breaking' and the financial consequences can be much more severe. Most people couldn’t survive financially on an income of around £5,000 a year[4], which is what the state provides for long-term sickness, so income or lifestyle protection is the one insurance that everyone should have."


Notes to editors

[1] The LV= Lifestyle Inflation Index was constructed by research carried out online from 14-17 September 2010 by Opinium Research on behalf of LV= (total sample size was 2,012 adults over the age of 18 years), which identified the top ten lifestyle essentials (see table one). Cebr used ONS data sources to calculate how much households spent on the top ten lifestyle essentials, which totalled £11,971,183,071 up to and including August 2010.

[2] The LV= Lifestyle Inflation Index was constructed by research carried out online from 14-17 September 2010 by Opinium Research on behalf of LV=. (total sample size was 2,012 adults over the age of 18 years), which identified the top ten lifestyle essentials (see table one), what consumers would be unwilling to cut back on among these goods and services and how they are trying to save money.

Cebr used ONS data to calculate the annual inflation rate on the top ten 'lifestyle essentials' year on year (for the month of August between 2000 and 2010) and compared this to CPI data for the same period and compared to average weekly earnings (latter for the month of August between 2000 and 2010).

[3] Labour Market stats, September 2010

[4] DWP 2010

About LV=

LV= is a registered trademark of Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society Limited (LVFS) and a trading style of the Liverpool Victoria group of companies.

LV= employs around 4,000 people, serves over 3.8m customers and members, and manages around £9.5bn on their behalf. We are also the UK's largest friendly society and a leading mutual financial services provider.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF. www.LV.com