It is Easter. For most people, that will mean four days off work. Maybe it would be a good idea to spend some of the time reviewing what you spend on memberships and subscriptions: research reveals that British people are wasting a staggering amount of money…

By Mark Richards

British people waste a phenomenal amount of money – and one of the main ways we do it is by failing to cancel subscriptions. As we wrote on Monday, retailers and online sites are increasingly taking advantage of our inertia: our eagerness to sign up for an introductory offer – and then forgetting to cancel when the offer ends and the monthly cost leaps up.

But we are not just wasting money online. We are doing it a lot closer to home as well – specifically, at the gym, we joined just after Christmas…

The high cost of not getting fit

It is estimated that we spend £2.8bn every January as we say, “Right, that’s it and this time I definitely mean it” and lash out on gym memberships, and the clothing we obviously need to look our best at the gym. Alternatively, we could decide to do our exercise at home, with the average person spending £76.50 on gym equipment.

Sadly, the vast majority of the gym memberships lie abandoned by February – but the bill for those unused subs continues to mount up…

Research suggests that British people are wasting a staggering £558m on gym memberships, with 11% of people saying that have not set foot inside a gym for a year – despite paying an average £47/month (£564/year) on membership.

The couch potatoes are wasting money as well

It is not just gym memberships that are seeing us fritter our cash away. We are also wasting money on subscriptions like Sky and Netflix, with the amount spent on unwanted subscriptions rising to an average £18.62 per month, meaning that consumers collectively waste £448m every month. On a personal note, I am too embarrassed to tell you what we were paying Sky through simple inertia. My wife phoned them at the weekend: we are now paying half what we previously paid for even more channels.

Not that we really need that many channels: according to Moneywise, 98% of the most popular programmes on TV are free.

“I’m going to sort my finances out”

Sorting our finances out is another resolution all of us make at one time or another. “Don’t worry,” we say to our partner. “I’m off over Easter. I’ll sort it out then.” For many of us, this means taking out a subscription to a credit report service as we try and understand why we were turned down for that loan. But all too often this just adds yet another subscription to the list of things we are paying for but not using.

Credit reports are not the most stimulating documents to read, especially if they contain bad news. Small wonder that people take out a subscription with the best will in the world – and then do not want to look at what they are paying for.

With most subscriptions (apart from the fortune we were paying Sky) being relatively small it is all too easy to think, ‘Oh well, this one only costs £5 a month. That can’t hurt.’ But sooner or later you look at your bank statement and realise that all those fivers have added up to a significant amount of money.

It is probably a good idea to keep a spreadsheet detailing all the subscriptions you pay, review them on a regular basis and ask yourself some basic questions. ‘Do we really need to pay for Netflix through the summer?’ ‘Am I buying enough from Amazon to justify the cost of Prime?’ It may not make for a fun evening, but if you are £50/month better off at the end of it then it is time very well spent.

Wasting money on a smaller scale

OK, time for me to ’fess up. I gave up gym membership – or even thinking about gym membership – a long time ago, but I still manage to waste money every day. I suspect I am not alone with these three…

I buy fresh bread – I have an obsession with fresh bread. The number of half-loaves of bread I throw away is ridiculous. I thought it was just me, but this story from the Guardian suggests that British people throw away 24m slices of bread every day.

I have teenage children – one lightbulb left on does not cost very much. But all the lights in the house? All day? Then there is the fact that the washing machine/tumble dryer is on 24/7/365 – and do not forget that you will be sprinting to the corner shop every thirty minutes to re-stock your fridge. Teenage children really should come with a wealth warning…

I put it on a card – as my Granny used to say, “If you can get credit it’s free but if you pay cash it’s £$%&*! expensive.” Times have moved on since Gran’s day and for most of us putting it on a card is simply the most convenient way to pay. But this all too often leads to lengthy interest payments, with a report this week saying that debt on credit cards is growing at the fastest rate since before the 2008 financial crisis.

Apparently, the more regular use of cards for smaller, contactless purchases is behind the rise, with the annual growth rate in outstanding credit card debt reported in February – 8.3% – the highest recorded for 12 years.

New rules aimed at protecting consumers from persistent debt are due to come into effect in September and those figures suggest the measures are well overdue.

On a happier note, have a great break over Easter and hopefully, you find somewhere with some sunshine. Good luck if you will be one of the 26m motorists on Britain’s roads over the weekend – and take care if you are going out into the garden. Easter is the number one time of year for garden injuries. I will stay in and check we are getting value for money from Sky…