Cost of unplanned spending: $2.6k a year

A local individual, on average, spends $50.32 a week on non-essential "mystery spending". Those aged 45 to 54 spend the most, at $146.95 a week, while those aged 18 to 24 spend the least, at $76.68 a week.
A local individual, on average, spends $50.32 a week on non-essential "mystery spending". Those aged 45 to 54 spend the most, at $146.95 a week, while those aged 18 to 24 spend the least, at $76.68 a week.SUNDAY TIMES FILE PHOTO

That's how much people in Singapore shell out on average for items they had not intended to purchase, according to survey

Casual snacking, leisurely shopping and relaxing coffee breaks could be costing you a hefty sum in unplanned expenses each year, according to a new survey.

It found that people in Singapore spend almost $2,600 a year on average on items they had not planned to buy.

The spending most often involved snacks, leisure shopping, and coffee breaks. It is called "mystery spending" in the survey because people are often mystified as to where this money went.

The survey was conducted by market research firm YouGov for payments company Visa. A total of 11,000 respondents across 14 markets in the Asia-Pacific were polled; 1,000 were polled in Singapore between Aug 3 and 6.

Respondents were asked three questions: First, how much they spent a week on items such as groceries, transport, snacks and drinks - a category broadly known as "personal spending".

In the region, people in Thailand spent the largest proportion of expenses on unplanned purchases, with 72 per cent of weekly personal spending going this way. Mainland China followed at 66 per cent, and India at 60 per cent.

Second, what percentage of this total went into items they had not planned to buy. And, finally, what they bought when incurring these unplanned expenses.

On average, a local individual spent 45 per cent, or $50.32, of total weekly personal expenses on unplanned purchases, the survey found.

Forty-eight per cent of respondents said such unplanned expenses went into buying snacks. Coming in a close second was leisure shopping or shopping for "non-essential items", cited by 47 per cent of respondents. The next most common category was coffee breaks, at 34 per cent.

Female respondents were found to spend a slightly larger proportion of weekly expenses (46 per cent) on unplanned purchases. Male respondents spent 44 per cent of weekly expenditure on this.

Individuals aged 55 years and above spent the largest percentage of their weekly expenses on unplanned spending compared to other age groups. Such individuals spent on average 50.6 per cent of their weekly expenses on such spending. This age group also spent the most a week on unplanned expenses, at $74.28 a week on average.

In Singapore, the biggest spenders were aged 45 to 54, who shelled out $146.95 a week. They were closely followed by those above 55, who spent a whisker less at $146.71 per week on average. More frugal by far were those aged 18 to 24, who spent an average of $76.68 a week

In the region, people in Thailand spent the largest proportion of expenses on unplanned purchases, with 72 per cent of weekly personal spending going this way. Mainland China followed at 66 per cent, and India at 60 per cent.

Unplanned spending in Thailand was most often due to buying food or groceries, the survey found. In China the most common outlet for such spending was leisure shopping or shopping for "non-essential items". In India, it was buying snacks.

Consumers in Hong Kong spent the most on unplanned items per week at US$58.39 (S$82.55), followed by mainland China at US$42.58, and Australia at US$41.92.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 13, 2015, with the headline 'Cost of unplanned spending: $2.6k a year'. Print Edition | Subscribe