No regrets! Pandemic purchases that made us happy

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

Image source, John EmeryImage caption, John Emery using his radio equipment

Lockdown was an isolating experience for many people, but for John Emery it was an amazing opportunity to make new friends nearby and overseas.

The maintenance engineer has always had an interest in amateur radio, but pandemic restrictions actually gave him the chance to fully embrace his hobby.

He was able to save enough money to afford the equipment needed. With radio exams forced to move online, he also had the time to get fully qualified.

He says he has since joined a radio club and regularly speaks to other amateur radio enthusiasts across Europe.

"I have made new friends," the 55-year-old from Derbyshire says. "This helped with living alone and there are hundreds of people who have done the same."

Regrets? A few

However, not everyone feels so positive about their pandemic purchases. A survey by insurer Aviva, reported on BBC News, suggested that one in 10 people had suffered buyers' remorse over things they bought during lockdowns.

Gaming equipment, DIY tools, home gyms, bikes, clothing and jewellery, musical instruments, kitchen appliances such as bread makers, garden furniture, pizza ovens and hot tubs all appeared on the regret list, the insurer says.

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Typically, shoppers admitted spending nearly £1,400 on the items which have subsequently gathered dust or been sold on.

On the flip side, if one in 10 people think their purchases were a mistake, that means as many as nine in 10 could be more than happy with what they bought.

When we asked for your stories, there were plenty of people who replied to the BBC saying they were delighted with their new belongings.

'I found it very relaxing'

Among those who got in touch was Anna Tune, who picked up two contrasting hobbies at home – crocheting and body pump.

Image source, Anna TuneImage caption, Anna Tune had not tried much craft since school and now finds it helps her to relax

As a nurse for the NHS, Mrs Tune has a stressful job but says she was getting a little bored at home during lockdown.

The 50-year-old, who lives in Kent, says the light weight training equipment, which she uses during online classes, was "worth every penny" and helped keep up her exercise routine while stuck at home. Her husband, Bob, was so impressed he took it up too.

And the crocheting? A new hobby inspired by a friend – it was something Mrs Tune had never tried following failed attempts to pick it up at school.

"I thought the talent had skipped a generation, but it relieved the boredom and I find it very relaxing. I can't stop doing it now," she says.

The results have included blankets made for a birthday and for friends' newborn children.

'I really wanted to do some exercise'

Tom Oakley says his lockdown purchase was a great help for body and mind. The dad, aged in his 40s, bought a static bike and ended up making new friends near his Cambridge home.

Image source, Tom OakleyImage caption, Tom Oakley works out on his bike

He was keen to exercise during lockdown, but walking was not enough, and an old injury ruled out running. He admits that his other passion – inline-skating – has its limitations.

"You can only do it when the ground is bone dry, and there are not many other middle aged men who skate to make it social," he says.

So, he chose the bike and signed-up to an online cycling game, discovering that some other dads in the area were signed-up too.

"In the depths of winter, we started cycling on our indoor bikes and joined group rides together. I started to get to know their personalities. When lockdown was eased, I joined one of their Sunday group rides and they have welcomed me ever since," he says.

"My wife thinks it is a great, If I am cycling indoors, it is the most time-efficient exercise I can get, so I can spend more time with our children and helping around the house," he says. "Or, if I go outside for a group ride, she knows I'm being healthy – in body and mind – and making friends with other dads.

"She has been on the indoor bike a few times too!"

'I regret the bagpipes'

We asked you to tell us whether your lockdown purchases had become expensive mistakes.

Here is a selection of some of your regrets (spoiler: some are more serious than others).

  • Duncan, 48, in Godalming, says: "My family has regretted the bagpipes that I bought as a new lockdown hobby."
  • Neil, 47, from Leeds, says: "I bought a cello for my wife after caving-in to pleas that it would be perfect to relearn the instrument, after playing in her youth. Level One cello passed and now decorating the corner of the dining room."
  • Lee, 32, in Southampton, says: "Buying building materials and starting an extension and kitchen renovation, to then run out of money, not be able to finish it and have the bank reject borrowing any more. Should of just saved the money and waited."
  • Michael in London says he bought a gym for his garage as the local council facility had closed owing to Covid. He then lost his job owing to the pandemic and has been left with a "crippling" loan to repay.
  • Gary Beaven, 55, from Nottingham says: "The garden furniture is still in the box."
  • Sarah Homer, 37, from Dorset, says she wished she had done more research before buying a carpet cleaner. "It is pretty useless, and takes up a whole cupboard," she says. 
  • Glynn Hurrell, 26, from Lincoln, says: "I bought an exercise bike that I have only done four miles on. It sits there every day, in the corner of my lounge, teasing me."
  • Mike, 28, from London, says: "Unfortunately a monthly beer subscription, which definitely has not done me well in the long run!"
  • Robyn Blair, 24, from Harrow says: "I bought a 12 foot trampoline."

One serious concern is that, for some people, lockdown purchases proved to be bad for their mental and financial health, and risked causing them anxiety in the future.

Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, says: "When you're feeling isolated or distressed, and spending more time online – as so many of us were during lockdown – it is much harder to resist the urge to buy things we don't need or can't afford.

"That's made even harder by the way retailers bombard people with pushy personalised ads online, the easy access to 'buy now pay later' credit and the option to buy things with one click. Lots of people also say they get lumbered with unwanted purchases because the process of returning them felt too stressful and difficult."

She says retailers can help people stay in control of their spending by giving them more autonomy over the ads they see, and the choice to opt out of 'buy-now-pay-later' credit. "We'd also like to see retailers make it as easy to return goods as it is to buy them," she adds.

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