OLBG Discretionary Spend Index

UK Consumer Spend on Discretionary Goods & Services

How much are UK consumers spending on discretionary goods and services? 

The data below shows spend per year per UK adult and compares 2019/20 spend from sources such as the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and official government data to 2020/21 spend with from similar sources where available or from leading company reports or recent surveys.

The OLBG index then allows us to compare the most recent ONS data set & other official statistics with what other sources are telling us about spending more recently. 

Category 2019/2020 2021/22
Takeaways £153 £644
Eating Out (Resturants, Cafes, Snacks & Drinks £698 £924
Hairdressing £120 £148
Holidays £1,587 £1,596
Streaming/ TV Subscriptions £38 £49
Transport £2,047 £3,258
Mobile Phone Services £211 £240
Pets & Petfood £186 £242
Home Improvements £709 £3,304
Alcohol £482 £504
Tobacco £99 £114
Gambling £263 £267

This table shows just some of the discretionary spend of the UK population on a per adult basis for UK financial years, ending 5th April. 

2019/20 data is mostly take from the ONS Family Spending Workbook which is a comprehensive survey of over 5000 UK households. For gambling data we have taken the UK Gambling Commission data.

2020/21 data sources are 


A survey of 2,000 adults in March 2022 run for Vodafone gave the average spend of £53.70 per person per month. 

Eating Out 

A voucher codes survey of 2,000 adults showed that in 2022 consumers are spending an average of £77 a month on eating out or £924 a year 


The Office for National Statistics recorded that in the fourth quarter of 2021, consumer spending on hairdressing amounted to 1.99 billion British pounds which equates to £148 per person per year. Source


2019/20 data include UK & abroad package holidays, hotel and accommodation costs, spending overseas and international flights. 

2021/22 per a 2000 person survey by Medicspot, as reported by the Mirror, UK adults save an average of £133 per month for holidays. 

Streaming/TV Subscriptions

According to Statista Netflix subscriptions have grown by over 29% between Q1 2019 and Q4 2021. We have applied the same increase to our cost index. 


According to statistapublic transport spend grew by 63.33% between 2019 and 2021. During 2019 Kwik Fit analysissuggested that the cost of running a car was £1944 per year and a similar report has that cost today at £3556, a 55% increase so we have applied the average of these increases to our index.  

Mobile Phone Services

Average monthly household spend sourced here converted to spend per adult. 

Pets & Petfood

Pet ownership rocketed during the pandemic with the number of households owning pets growing from 45% to 59% according to this data, a 31% increase in pet ownership and we have applied the same rate to our cost index. Prices of pet food and costs also surged. 

Home Improvements

According to an independent study by RISA reported here, the UK is set to continue the surge in spend on home improvements we saw during the pandemic. The survey suggests an average spend per household of £6727 per year which we have adjusted to a per UK adult spend for our index, 


ONS figures includes spend in restaurants & bars and spend at home.21/22 figures taken from this source


14% of UK adults smoke (7.5m) on average 10 cigarettes a day. Using this data and the increase in cost per packet we calculated a 16% increase in spend on tobacco. 


For gambling data we have taken the UK Gambling Commission data which is released annually. This includes land based betting at racecourses, casinos and bookmakers as well as online spend at UK licensed betting sites and online casinos

What is the OLBG Discretionary Spend Index?

The OLBG discretionary spend index tracks non essential spend per UK adult. The unique index will be updated regularly to allow us to look at the latest trends in consumer spending in areas such as leisure, takeaways and holidays.

What Is Discretionary Spend? 

According to the Office of National Statistics, discretionary spend is spend on 

Goods or services which could be considered "optional" purchases, such as takeaway meals, alcohol and holidays. Spending on these goods and services may be more responsive to changes in household wealth or relative prices

Why is OLBG tracking discretionary spend?

The choices that people make around their discretionary spend is of interest to many of us. As budgets are tightened with the cost of living increases, we are interested in understanding where UK consumers make cut backs and where they decide to carry on spending. How much can the average UK adult afford to spend on discretionary expenses, are they spending more than they can afford? Will we see a reduction in spend on holidays, leisure, takeaway food or elsewhere?

How much of disposable income is discretionary spend?

For those fortunate, any money left after essential living costs could be considered discretionary spend. However, some financial advice suggests a % of income should be spent on savings or reducing any debt. The 50/30/20 rule suggests: spending 50% of income on essentials including housing and food, 30% on 'discretionary spending' and 20% in savings.

Or putting it another way, 50% on needs, 30% on wants and 20% on savings or debt. 

It is the "wants" that the OLBG index is focused on

Some spend could be essential or discretionary?

Yes spend on areas such as travel and clothes can be essential or discretionary. If a car is essential for work or other essential travel then costs should well be considered under essential spending. But running a car or multiple cars for a household may not be essential, it may be a choice. Many people may be able to travel to work & make essential journeys using public transport, car sharing, cycling or walking thus reducing costs in this area. With flexible working arrangements for many now, some travel has become more discretionary and could help people reduce the huge costs of commuting.. There are many ways in which the UK could reduce travel spend. For these reasons, the OLBG index has included all travel within discretionary spend whilst recognising that a proportion of it will be essential. How much travel is essential? We don't have the data to tell you that but will be sure to update our index if and when we have reliable data in this area. 

Food & clothes are also both essential items and sometimes discretionary. We haven't included either in our discretionary index, outside of food purchases as takeaways or in restaurants or whilst out. There is an assumption here that it  isn't essential for people to buy food whilst out. If people work or travel for essential reasons, the assumption is they could take food from home with them. So eating out of any kind is counted within discretionary spend.

What is the UK’s average salary?

The median average full time earnings in April 2021 was £611/week or £31,772 per annum according to the Office of National Statistics 

What is the Adult Population in The UK?

According to World Population Review there are 53.930 people in the UK aged over 18. These are the figures we have used for our calculations for spend per adult.

How Many Households are there in the UK?

There are 27.8 million households in the UK according to ONS. We have used these figures when converting household spending to spend per adult. 

OLBG Discretionary Spend Index

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