You don’t need to break the budget to avoid breaking hearts on Valentine’s Day

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is almost here. Some might argue it’s a fictional holiday celebrating consumerism masqueraded as love, while others see it as a day to devote to their partner. Regardless of your philosophical stance – unless your partner shares your pessimism – it’s likely February 14 will include a visit to the florist, jeweller, chocolatier or chef (or some combination thereof).

Here at Pocketbook, we wanted to see how much the average Australian spends on Valentine’s Day, so we looked at anonymised historical spending data captured over the past five years. With a sample size of more 200,000 people, here’s what we found:

Don’t worry, you’re not being cheap – average Valentine’s Day spend is less than $70.

We looked at spending on the traditional hallmark holiday items (florists, restaurants, jewellers, chocolate shops and cinemas) from February 12-14 each year, and found the average Australian Valentine’s spend was $68.35.

Bosco Tan, Pocketbook co-founder, said the best way to save money during Valentine’s Day was to give a gift that came from the heart, not the wallet.

“A gift you’ve put a lot of thought into will be more memorable than one you’ve spent a lot of money on,” he said. “If your partner has been talking about growing their own herbs, starting a small herb garden on the balcony with a few plants is not only cheaper than roses, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving and shows you’ve been paying attention.”

Breaking down the most common Valentine’s Day presents, the average amount spent for each category between February 12 and 14 is as follows:

· Florists – $74.81

· Restaurants – $81.92

· Jewellers – $125.74

· Chocolatiers – $26.48

· Cinema – $32.78

Forget me not: Are the days after Valentine’s just as big for Florists?

We mapped out florist transactions across the month of February to see how Valentine’s Day spending compared to the rest of the month. What we found was that the number of people who shopped at a florist on February 15 and 16 (42 per cent) was almost the same as those who picked up flowers on either February 13 or 14 (47 per cent).

This could mean there’s a post-Valentine’s Day rush in which those who forgot to try to claw their way back into the good books. Keep in mind, this could be potentially skewed by 2015 and 2016 when Valentine’s Day fell on a weekend and so payment processing times may have been delayed.

Either way, Bosco said the best way to stick to a budget on days like Valentine’s Day was to plan ahead, and not get caught off-guard looking for last-minute gifts.

“Not only is a picnic in the park more romantic, it also won’t cost anywhere near as much as a restaurant dinner – assuming you can still find a reservation.”

If you’re still scratching your head over what to buy for Valentine’s Day, zipMoney has put together a handy Valentine’s Gift Guide to give you some ideas.

For tips on how to hack Valentine’s Day on a budget, check out our guide here.

The 4 haggling tips that everyone should live by

Haggling History


We’re one month into the new year and the financial stress inflicted by the holiday period is starting to fade- people are ready to get out and start buying again. You might find yourself nostalgic over that awesome purchase you made during the Christmas sale – but now that it’s over, do you really have to settle for full price?


Whilst Western culture has marginalised haggling as a buying tool, haggling as a method of price negotiation is a practice that goes back hundreds of years, right back to when people were debating how many chickens a horse was worth!


The Six Principles


Whilst the psychology of haggling is a fascinating topic that would take ages to really get into, Professor Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence succinctly summarises the six main factors to keep in mind when conducting any sort of negotiation:


  1. Reciprocity: Generally speaking, if somebody feels indebted to somebody, they’ll feel obliged to treat them the same way, perhaps even throwing in a return discount or concession.
  2. Scarcity: The more limited or difficult it is to acquire something, the more desirable they become.
  3. Affability: The more you like a person, the more easily you trust and are influenced by them.
  4. Consistency: People are creatures of habit. Once you’ve purchased or engaged with something, you’re likely to do it again.
  5. Authority: As members of a lawful society, we find it easier to trust people in positions of authority. This is why the “Doctors Smoke too” ads of the 20th century was so effective.
  6. Social Proof: If all your peers trust something, odds are you will as well. There’s a feeling of “safety in numbers” and when we find ourselves in doubt about something, it’s probable we’ll use group opinion as a tiebreaker.


With these points in mind, let’s go over a few ingenious haggling tips that will help you keep a strict eye on your personal finances!


Haggling Tips


  1. Play the cash game: When buying a particular item, you can always ask for the best price for cash. Most electronic retailers, for example, are more than willing to give a discount for cash.
  2. Strength in numbers: If you want to buy a pricy item, like a google home, you can band together with your friends and get a discount for buying it in bulk. Who ever said friendship doesn’t pay?
  3. First time sign-up every time, all the time: Most e-commerce retailers will offer a discount coupon, or a certain % off when you sign up as a new user for an account. If you have the patience, you could just make a new email with every purchase to make sure you get that sweet, sweet discount every time.
  4. Match that price: If you’re partial to the old brick and mortar in-store shopping experience, you can compare the prices of that same item from a competitor store and ask if the store will price match. Usually they will also provide you with a price match discount too or throw in an extra item/accessory for free.


Hopefully we’ve helped you level up your haggling strategy for the gauntlet ahead. We know that there’s always room for development, so if you feel like you have a haggling lesson to impart on the Pocketbook team give us a holla and shoot your sly tip either here in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.


Good luck, and happy haggling!

Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies investing 101

Recently there’s been a ton of buzz and user talk focused on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Investing in Bitcoin isn’t necessarily a bad decision, but it can certainly be categorised as a risky one, so we’re going to do a quick dive into the basic 101’s of both Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies generally as well the pros and cons of investing in it so you can make an informed decision about bitcoin.

I made a quick video to supplement your understanding.


Bitcoin itself is simply the world’s first cryptocurrency – there are thousands of other coins, each with their own unique purpose.

So, “what is a cryptocurrency?” you ask. Well, it’s essentially a currency based off a decentralised network of computers all continuously solving complex mathematics. Think of it this way.

If there were 10 individuals in a market. And person 1 sends some money to person 4 – the best way to validate that the transaction is legitimate is if the other 8 individuals (persons 2, 3, 5, 6 and so on) all confirms that this transaction. Cryptocurrencies do this through mathematics and computer encryption. This distributed “confirmation” of transactions means that you don’t need a centralised body such as a bank or government to authorise the entire system.

The big idea (or the trillion dollar idea) is that the maths can make everyday transactions, regardless of size simple and risk-free without the red-tape and cost of central control.

Watch this video if you want to learn more.

Bitcoin’s Characteristics

As mentioned, bitcoin’s decentralised network means it can’t be controlled by one central authority. This means that, in theory, one central authority can’t tinker with monetary policy and cause a meltdown. This makes Bitcoin a resilient currency that will keep flowing even if the network goes offline.

Bitcoin is also easy to set up, with users able to setup a bitcoin in address in seconds, and nominally anonymous- users can hold multiple bitcoin addresses with none of them linked to names or other personal identification information.

On the other hand though, Bitcoin maintains complete transparency by recording the details of every transaction on the network on a huge general ledger- this is called the blockchain.

Anybody can view the bitcoins stored at a public address, but they won’t know who owns the address itself. Whilst there are measures that people can take to make their activities opaquer on the network, nothing will change the core factors of personal anonymity and public transparency.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that Bitcoin transactions are both fast (the network processing the payment in minutes) and non-repudiable. Once you send those bitcoins, there’s not getting them back unless the recipient returns them. No take-backs!

Investing in Bitcoin

The big thing about the technology behind bitcoin is that it could turn out to be truly revolutionary. Or, as some others believe, it could quickly become superseded by a competing technology and made redundant. So it’s easy to argue it’s either ultimately worth a lot or worth nothing at all. The truth is likely somewhere in between.

It’s this very speculation that has created the current bubble that’s allowing people to make money and if you want to invest it’s important to keep that in mind, because this atmosphere and uncertain quality creates what we would consider being a risky investment.

Risky investments are not necessarily bad. When they are management, they can be used effectively to create wealth. However, the nerves of steel required means that some simple rules of thumb can go a long way – a classic one is to keep these investments to less than 10% of your investment portfolio.

In my personal investment journey, I’ve learnt three basic rules of thumb when it comes to investing in risky assets:

  1. Invest only what you can afford to lose. Don’t do it with money you need to live on.
  2. Do your research, understand the who and why behind the coin you’re investing in.
  3. Surround yourself with a strong support group to share research and support each other when times get tough.

Buying Bitcoin

So, once you’ve set your mind right for risky investments and is now looking seriously at Bitcoin, starting out is simple. You’ll need a wallet to store your coins safely since generally it’s safer then storing your coins on an exchange. The biggest security hacks where people have lost money in the history of bitcoin has affected exchanges. Afterwards, sign up to your exchange of choice (and there are plenty of Australian ones), buy some coins and transfer it to your wallet.

A good place to start when looking for how to get a wallet or choose an exchange is the excellent, they have a bunch of helpful information when it comes to getting into cryptocurrencies.

This all may sound a little daunting at first, but don’t worry! Although the learning curve is steep, using Youtube, Google and plenty of research will help you ensure you’re doing the right thing every step of the way.

Regardless of whether you choose to dip your toes into the tempestuous waters of Bitcoin, I/the Pocketbook team wishes you good luck and happy investing in 2018!

Save money at the supermarket

Saving money is not an easy task, and we all know that. However, saving it doesn’t necessarily always need to be complex, in fact, small changes in day-to-day savings can make a big difference in the long run.

According to a recent study, households Australian are spending around $163 at the checkout every week. And by our calculations, it’ll be around 6-8% of monthly salaries – which is massive! Nonetheless, there are few easy steps that everyone can take in order to save a fair chunk of money.

Here at Pocketbook, as a part of our #getmoneyright2018 movement, we recently shared our top tips on saving money at the supermarket. While we were able to cover a lot of ground in the video, there’s also a few others which we didn’t have time for. Here, we’ll give you a fuller list.

1. Save if you don’t drink that much milk

If you are like Bosco and buy milk only to cream tea and coffee, perhaps the best strategy is not buying the cheapest milk available. In fact, if you only use milk occasionally, chances are that you are buying a whole bottle without even using half before it expires. A quick hack around is to buy organic milk, which although costs twice as much it also lasts a whole extra month longer. So instead of buying milk once per week you would only have to buy it once per month! Pretty cool, huh?

2. Fruit & veg? the uglier the better

Do you ever have the feeling of not being in the right place when you going for some fruits and veggie shopping? Instead of buying fully priced items you might want to consider to buy ugly fruits and veggie, which although the minor blemishes they still taste as good as the fully priced item and usually are significantly cheaper.

3. Bulk is better

Buying long lasting things such as teabags, detergent, washing liquid, dishwasher tabs, pet food can be somewhat expensive especially if fully priced. The best recommendation here would be to subscribe to a bunch of supermarkets catalogue to snap a bargain when the right times comes. For instance, a good rule of thumb is NEVER, ever, buy fully priced items, but instead load up when on discount!

4. Pay attention to itemised pricing

Another good rule of thumbs is always checking the cost per kilogram, litre, sheet, ply etc whenever making a purchase decision. For instance toilet paper get priced per 100 sheets rather than rolls, just check that you are getting the best price for the desired number of plies. And always look at GENERIC BRAND (if you’re at Woolworths, it’s the Woolies branded. If you’re at Coles, it’s the Coles branded. If you’re at Aldi, it’s a little tricky), it’s typically always cheaper.

5. Cash back services and credit cards

This is one that didn’t get included. You can try to arbitrage your way through the checkout. A good way to do this is head to Cashrewards to get gift cards at major supermarket (buy it on credit card to earn points) then use the gift card to buy grocery and scan the loyalty card to get cash reward (this equals to instant 10% off of all shoppings!!). (PS. Please be responsible when using your credit card!).

6. Sign up and use your rewards cards

A lot of value-conscious shoppers enjoy loyalty programs because of their member-only discounts as well as having promotions tailored to their personal shopping history. For instance, if you religiously follow the bulk is better principle, you would always get notified of half-priced or heavily discounted products without actually having to proactively looking! So next time, take the time to sign up to Flybuys or Woolies Rewards.

7. Buy at the butcher and deli counter instead of pre-packed

Instead of buying pre-packed meat, you should consider buying at the butcher or over the counter. in fact you might find out that buying a whole chicken, which costs about $10, is actually cheaper than buying a single pre-packed breast for $3. You can always freeze for a short amount of time – meal prepping weekly instead of daily also helps!

8. Cook and freeze instead of buying pre-cooked

On the subject of meal-prep, the internet (especially Youtube) is a great place to dig up exceptional recipes to try. One of the best things to do would be to make your own pasta sauce and freeze, rather than buy pre-made. Simply cook in bulk. then store and freeze, so you always have a healthy meal ready in the freezer that just needs defrosting, this will definitely save you big money!

Bonus Tip

One thing studies have shown is that you shouldn’t shop hungry – People spend 47.6% more on food when they’re hungry. Also on that note, have a shopping list. Lists ensure you’re less likely to get distracted by the dreaded junk food aisle.

That’s a wrap – I hope these tips will help you in shrinking your groceries bills and happy 2018. Look forward to bringing you more #getmoneyright2018 tips and stories.

Pocketbook’s supercharged categorisation finds Deliveroo, UberEATS and Foodora pedalling their way into Australian hearts (and mouths)

Pocketbook food delivery

Since Deliveroo launched in Australia in November 2015, new-generation delivery apps like UberEATS and Foodora have joined the aforementioned in taking the nation by storm. The apps have been so successful, that their penetration has surged by nearly 900% in just 18 months and have changed the way we eat in unprecedented ways.

For the uninitiated, these new services are third-party apps through which users can have food delivered from establishments that otherwise wouldn’t offer delivery. Orders are placed directly through the app before they are picked up from the eatery and delivered to the consumer’s door.

Pocketbook analysed the spending habits of 200,487 customers since these apps entered the market to find out first hand how the convenience and choice they offer have proved hard to resist. The ability to enjoy favourite dishes from higher quality establishments, in the comfort of our own homes, has led to more Australians using the services more often, spending more money per transaction as a result.

The Research

Data for this analysis was gathered during work to update Pocketbook’s application. As part of the update, Pocketbook developers built a new categorisation engine which enables more accurate and granular levels of data segmentation, giving Pocketbook’s 350,000 users greater control over their personal finances.

It didn’t take long for Australians to grow comfortable using Deliveroo, UberEATS and Foodora. In just 18 months, users were spending 61.45 per cent more per month than when these services entered the market (from $49.84 to $80.47).

Over the same period, Old Delivery Services (Menulog, EatNow and Delivery Hero) witnessed an almost five per cent decline in the amount users spent per month.

Pocketbook’s full findings are below.

Pocketbook food spend monthly

The ease, convenience and choice New Delivery Services offer has led to an increase in the number of transactions per user, with customers using the new apps twice per month (1.95 times) on average – an increase of 43.17 per cent. Conversely, Old Delivery Services witnessed a 7.95 per cent decline in the number of transactions per user over the same period.

pocketbook transactions per user

Deliveroo, UberEATS and Foodora have caught on rapidly in Australia. In just 18 months, usage of these New Delivery Services has exploded – their penetration surging by 877.85 per cent – encompassing more than three per cent of Australia’s population as of June 2017.

Australian consumer behaviours seem to have changed with the entrance of these New Delivery Services to the market, with more than 10 per cent of the population opting for delivery in June 2017 – an almost 50 per cent increase from November 2015.

pocketbook population of people transacting

The impact Deliveroo, UberEATS and Foodora have had is most pronounced in Inner City Sydney and Melbourne, partly because these services launch in these regions before expanding to other areas. Pocketbook’s data reveals that since the New Delivery Services launched in November 2015, their user base has surged more than 10-fold in Inner City suburbs – now commanding more than 10 per cent of the Inner City population.

During this time, Old Delivery Services experienced a 20 per cent decline in their Inner City user base.

Overall, more than 20 per cent of Inner City residents are using some form of delivery service – an increase of more than 28 per cent from November 2015. The Inner City penchant for delivery is double that of the rest of Australia (10.07 per cent):

sydney melbourne pocketbook

Nationwide, the amount spent per delivery increased slightly, though the average delivery order (from both Old and New Services) hovers at around the $40 mark:

order value pocketbook

Key Statistics

Across Australia, the penetration of these New Delivery Services has surged by more than 800 per cent since November 2015, with over 3 per cent of Australians using the apps.

  • Old delivery services increased by 17.35 per cent over the same period.
  • In June 2017, more than 10 per cent of Australians were using either the Old or New Delivery Services – an almost 50 per cent increase from November 2015.
  • Inner City suburbs (where the apps initially launched) experienced an even more dramatic increase, with New Delivery Service penetration exploding more than ten-fold (1069.56 per cent). In June 2017, more than 10 per cent of Inner City residents were using these apps.
    • Old Delivery Services witnessed a 20 per cent decline over the same period in Inner City suburbs.
    • In June 2017, one in five Inner City residents were using either the Old or New Delivery Services – an increase of more than 28 per cent from November 2015
  • In just 18 months, users were spending 61.45 per cent more per month on New Delivery Services (from $49.84 to $80.47).
    • Over the same period, Old Delivery Services witnessed an almost five per cent decline in the amount users spent per month.

How Much Does Alcohol Really Cost Australians?

Every Friday night, from Perth to Parramatta, millions of Australians knock-off work with a thirst that only their favourite drink can quench. Whether it’s a schooner from the local, a bottle of merlot shared on the balcony or – quite a bit later in the evening – a shot of tequila before striding to the dance floor, it is no secret that the majority of Australians enjoy a drink in their free time.

At Pocketbook we were curious to see exactly how much Australians were spending on booze.

While the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption can be tragic and are known to lead to wider societal issues (according to Australian Institute of Criminology’s 2013 report The societal costs of alcohol misuse in Australia, alcohol-related problems cost society more than an estimated $14 billion), we wanted to explore how our drinking culture was hitting Australians’ hip pocket.

By analysing the spending habits of Pocketbook’s 250,000 users, our aim was to provide insights into the trends and patterns associated with alcohol consumption in Australia, which could in turn be used to predict future spending. As always, we analysed the data in aggregate and with identifiable information removed.

During our research, we split spending behaviours into three different categories: Big Box retailers (Dan Murphy’s, First Choice, BWS etc.), Small Box retailers (smaller wine and liquor shops as well as specific online retailers such as Jimmy Brings and Cellarmasters) and Bars/Pubs. With a final aggregate sample size of 128,192, we reviewed spending habits for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Our investigations began with a few common sense hypotheses like Australians spend more on alcohol over Australia Day than they would over the course of a normal weekend (save the sarcasm – we told you these were common sense hypotheses!).

We also hypothesised that Australians were spending more on alcohol year-on-year, essentially in parallel with general consumer spending trends.

While some of our hypotheses were spot on, you might be surprised at the findings that ran counter to our predictions.

We’ll leave a deeper analysis of these trends, along with the industry context, to others, but here’s some of the key findings from our data:

  1. Australian spending on alcohol has remained relatively steady over the past three years. While there has been a slight year-on-year increase, the average monthly spend per person in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 financial years was $113.03, $121.43 and $124.45 respectively.  Have we reached “Peak Alcohol” as a nation?  Or are awareness-raising efforts like febfast having an effect?
  2. Smaller retailers are struggling. Since 2014, smaller retailers have experienced a decline in market share every year while the spend at both Big Box and Bars/Pubs has been increasing.
  3. Dominant players continue dominate. During every year analysed, Dan Murphy’s had close to double the market share of its closest big box competitor. Interestingly, Liquorland experienced a resurgence, more than doubling its market share since 2014 (from 11.28% in 2014 to 23.28% in 2016).
  4. The number of tipples triples on Australia Day. During the Australia Day period, the number of people purchasing alcohol increased by at least 3x every year. Interestingly, this also causes a shift in the spending spread between Big Box, Small Box and Bars/Pubs – more on this below.
  5. On Australia Day, the average spend per person is LESS than on an average weekend. This one took us by surprise, but it makes sense when you consider the influx of occasional drinkers purchasing lower amounts for the occasion thereby bringing down the average spend across the board.
  6. The festive season is thirsty work. Australians are spending an average of 25% more on alcohol during December than the rest of the year – this rate has also been increasing steadily over the past three years.
  7. Australia Day is spent outdoors. Patronage at bars and pubs more than halves during Australia Day, while spending at bottle shops of all sizes increases. It’s hard to beat the backyard barbecue or a day at the beach on Australia Day.


Now for the numbers…

Alcohol Spending Analysis

We conducted a study into Australian spending on alcohol over the past 3 years with specific focus on  December to January festive season spending, and also for the Australia Day period over 2014, 2015 and 2016.

As part of the study, we looked at spending for the following alcohol retailers:

Big-box retailers:

  • BWS
  • Cellarbrations
  • Dan Murphy’s
  • IGA Liquor
  • Liquorland
  • Woolworths Liquor
  • Bottlemart
  • Vintage Cellars

Small-box retailers both online and offline, using keywords:

  • Other bottle shops
  • Other liquor shops
  • Other wine shops
  • Specific online retailers such as (Vinomofo, Cellarmasters, Jimmy Brings etc)

Bars and pubs including suburban hotels, pubs, bars.

The sample size for the study is 128,192 people.


Hypothesis 1: Australians are spending more year-on-year on alcohol.

Australian spending on alcohol has remained relatively steady yearly. We looked at monthly average spending per person for the past 3 years.

  • 2013-14 – $113.03
  • 2014-15 – $121.43
  • 2015-16 – $124.45

While this is the case, the makeup of the spend across types of retailers has only shifted slightly – with small-box stores declining;

  • 2013-14: 43% Big-box , 33% Small-box, 24% Pubs/bars
  • 2014 -15: 45% Big-box , 30% Small-box, 25% Pubs/bars
  • 2015 -16:  45% Big-box , 29% Small-box, 26% Pubs/bars

Some insights:

  • Big-box is almost half of the spending in dollar terms
  • Small-box has shifted 4% less over the last 3 years (Could this be because people going out more? Big retailers taking over share? – Further research is recommended).

Of the Big Box group, the following are the best The best performing liquor stores Liquor Stores:

  1. Dan Murphy with a market share of 45.17% (down from 50.13% in 2014)
  2. Liquorland with a market share of 23.28% (up from 11.28% in 2014)
  3. BWS with a market share of 22.95% (down from 27.19% in 2014)

Note: The rest of the big retailers growth was relatively stable.

One of the reasons why Big Box group might be taking over is due to the discounts they’d likely offer over smaller vendors. An early evidence of this is that for the year Dec 2014  to Nov 2015, the average transaction amount is 25% higher at small-box stores smaller retailers. Further analysis is recommended based on like-for-like product price comparisons. 

  • Big-box – $44.73 average transaction size
  • Small-box – $56.16 average transaction size
  • Bars / Pubs – $36.64 average transaction size

The average transaction size appears to line up well with the average expected prices for 1x case of beer, 1x bottle of spirits or 2-3x bottles of wine.


Hypothesis 2: Australians spend more the Australia day period versus the average weekend

During the Australia day period – there is an overwhelming amount of people purchasing alcohol compared to an average weekend. The amount of people increase in amount of people purchasing alcohol over Australia day is between 3-4 times the typical weekend.

  • 2014 – 3.06x
  • 2015 – 3.79x
  • 2016 –  4.20x

We then looked at how the spending on Australia Bay varies by retailers types. The makeup in spending also changes during the Australia Day period versus a regular weekend for 2014-15.

  • Big Box – Down 48.65% to 43.81% on Australia Day.
  • Small Box – Up 28.08% to 35.24% on Australia Day.
  • Pubs/bars – Down 23.27% to 20.94% on Australia Day.

Some insights:

  • Less people are spending at Big Box retailers and more people spending at Small Box retailers.

Despite the huge increase of people spending on alcohol, the average transaction size remains consistent to the average weekend, so the typical purchase is very much still 1x case of beer, 1x bottle of spirits or 2-3x bottles of wine:

  • 2014 – $47.87 Australia Day, $48.16 Regular Weekend
  • 2015 – $48.52 Australia Day, $45.48 Regular Weekend
  • 2016 -$43.43 Australia Day, $44.69 Regular Weekend


Hypothesis 3: Australians spend much more on alcohol over the December / January festive season.

During the December period there is huge jump in spending followed by a steep decline in January and February. This can be seen by looking at the total average monthly spend per person. This is an expected decline as December is the festive season.

Average per person spend Dec to Feb 2014 (Dec 13) 2015 (Dec 14) 2016 (Dec 15)
December $135.85 $150.37 $153.30
January $107.14 $117.47 $116.93
February $102.50 $109.11 $116.50

We can see here that the average spend per person is much higher during the month of the December period:

  • 2014 (Dec 13) – $135.85 – 22.4% above monthly average (excluding Dec)
  • 2015 (Dec 14) – $150.37 –  26.58% above monthly average (excluding Dec)
  • 2016 (Dec 15) – $153.30 –  28.96% above monthly average (excluding Dec)

Similarly, there is a reduction of monthly spend in February. People are likely putting into effect their new-year’s resolutions (ie cutting down alcohol consumption or saving money) – more research needed.

  • 2014 – $102.50 – 8.20% below monthly average (excluding Dec)
  • 2015 – $109.11 – 8.88% below monthly average (excluding Dec)
  • 2016 – $116.50 –  2.04% below monthly average (excluding Dec)


Finally, we looked at the drop-off for specific store types. We noticed that the bigger the store (ie the more planned purchase) the bigger the drop-off between December to February. This means the Big Box stores drop off the most and bars the least.

  • Big box – 29%
  • Small box – 13%
  • Pubs/bars – 10%
Average per person spend December – February: Month 2014 (Dec 13) 2015 (Dec 14) 2016 (Dec 15) 3 year average
Big Box Dec $110.11 $115.69 $119.61 $115.14
Jan $80.97 $85.58 $86.42 $84.32
Feb $77.51 $82.77 $85.90 $82.06
Small box Dec $99.10 $111.74 $105.37 $105.40
Jan $86.81 $98.71 $89.16 $91.56
Feb $87.63 $92.82 $93.74 $91.40
Pubs/bars Dec $75.28 $78.42 $77.19 $76.96
Jan $71.78 $71.27 $72.16 $71.74
Feb $68.78 $68.90 $70.61 $69.43

We can see that the the biggest drop off in per person spend is at big box retailers. The smallest drop-off is for pubs/bars.


Pocketbook Personal Spending Takeaways.

The above findings should give you a leg up when it comes to how you spend your money on alcohol.  And here are three additional key takeaways:

  1. Consider doing FebFast.  Chances are, you’re spending less on alcohol in Feb. Why not do it for a great cause. Get sponsored for your behaviour change and raise money to help disadvantaged youths in Australia.
  2. Visit a “Big Box” retailer.  The numbers suggest that many more people are now flocking to Big Box stores, most likely to take advantage of the discounts they are able to provide.  But if you are aiming to reduce spending, plan ahead and you could save more. The bottleshop next to the pub may be convenient by being open at 8pm on your way to a house party, but chances are it’ll cost you more than an afternoon trip to Dan Murphy’s.
  3. Remember to budget more dollars for drinks during the festive season.  Spending on alcohol (and many other things) goes way up during this time, so take a lesson from the numbers above and set a budget based with them in mind.

Wishing you a happy Feb(fast)!

Valentine’s Day Spending Data Surprises

Valentine’s Day remains a source of controversy and tension for many people.  Some complain it’s a “Hallmark” holiday that tries to commercialise love by forcing people to shop.  In recent years, resistance has grown, so much so, that media outlets have speculated that Valentine’s Day might be dying.

At Pocketbook, we let the numbers be our guide and if there was some way we could help people become more conscious about how they spend on Valentine’s Day, we wanted to find out.

So we dug down into our data to conduct one of the largest studies into Australian spending on Valentine’s Day.  We looked at spending over the past 4 years (2013-2016) with a specific focus on the 14th (Valentine’s Day) as well as the two-week period leading up toward the day – 1st to the 14th.

Analysis for Valentine’s day spending was split across three times periods and different types of merchants – commonly used for experiences and gifts to celebrate the day.

1st – 14th (period leading to Valentine’s day) Merchants analysed were items that typically require advanced purchases:

  • Jewellery stores
  • Ticketing retailers (such as Ticketek, Ticketmaster etc.)
  • Activities (such as Redballoon, rock climbing and ice skating etc.)

14th (Valentine’s day) merchants that are analysed were:

  • Florists
  • Restaurants & take away
  • Transport (limited to taxi’s, Uber, Ingogo, GoGet and others)
  • Movies

Total sample for the study was: 135,449


Hypothesis 1: Men spend more than women on Valentine’s Day

Based on analysis of the past 4 years, men on average, spend $123.10 compared to the $90.54 women spend during the Valentine’s Day period (1st – 14th Feb). The median is $65.40 for men and $54.83 for women – meaning most people spend less that $100.

Across the merchant types, men tend to spend more (per person) than women on restaurants, florists, travel, Jewellery and activities. But here’s a surprising twist: When it comes to movies, women spend almost double on Valentine’s Day.

  • Florists – men spend 10% more than women; $68.26 Male, $56.49 Female
  • Restaurants – men spend 6% more than women; $75.49 Male, $67.19 Female
  • Travel expenses – men spend 15% more than women; $34.61 Male, $25.83 Female
  • Movies – men spend 30% less than women; $29.02 Male, $54.42 Female
  • Jewellery – men spend 27% more than women; $179.28 Male, $103.57 Female
  • Activities – men spend 4% more than women; $78.99 Male, $73.01 Female
  • Tickets – men spend 1% less than women; $180.50 Male, $184.25 Female

Now that we’ve established that the average man spends more the average woman, we also looked at the number of men spending vs women.  Overall more men spend than women across these categories too especially on flowers. Almost 2.5 men per woman. But, again, when it comes to movies, women spend more.

  • Florists – 136% more men than women
  • Restaurants – 31% more men than women
  • Travel expenses – 33% more men than women
  • Movies – 11% less men than women
  • Jewellery – 2% less men than women
  • Activities – 2% more men than women
  • Tickets – 4% more men than women


Hypothesis 2: Valentine’s spending is decreasing year over year

This table captures the average amount spent per person across the years during the Valentine’s Day period (1st – 14th Feb).

Valentine’s Day is not dying (at least not if spending is any indication). Spending has stayed steady.  In total, we find is that spending has generally increased slightly over the past 3 years, around 4% increase year on year. 

Average Per Person Spend 2013 2014 2015 2016
Total spend $112.29 $104.61 $109.53 $114.62


Through further research, we attained data highlighting the average spend per person on Valentine’s Day over the years. To be able to identify which categories people are spending more/less on.

From the data, there appears to be some differences in spending habits when comparing weekday Valentine’s Day (2013 and 2014) and weekend Valentine’s Day (2015 and 2016). Would be worth someone investigating this further.


Hypothesis 3: Spending on Valentine’s Day is different on weekends or weekdays

We thought people might spend differently based on whether Valentine’s Day fell on the weekend or weekday. So we compared weekday (2013 and 2014) and weekend (2015 and 2016).

And, indeed, when we look at spending across merchant categories, we see that spend at florists is much higher on weekdays (possibly due to delivery costs? – more research required).

per person spend weekdays weekends
Florists $73.38 $64.44
Restaurants $88.21 $85.81
Travel $32.53 $29.52
Movies $33.24 $32.35


Otherwise, regardless of whether Valentine’s Day is on a weekday or a weekend, people spend roughly the same amount on movies, travel and restaurants. While average spending is consistent, what interested us was the number of people spending on each type of merchant.

The following chart shows the % of the sample (number of people) that purchased at the merchant types on the day of the 14th across the spending categories. We can see that there is 2-times more people purchasing flowers if Valentine’s day falls on the weekday rather than the weekend. Travel and Movies spending is also more popular on the weekends.

% of total people weekdays weekends
Florists 26.35% 14.86%
Restaurants 53.20% 53.61%
Travel 9.52% 16.86%
Movies 9.73% 15.72%


We then looked at this picture for spending from the 1st to the 14th (ie prior to Valentine’s day). Here we took a closer look at Jewellery, Activities and Ticketing services. We can see that where Valentine’s day falls on a weekend, the average jewellery purchase is 34% more. While others stayed steady. So does this mean Jewellers will do better if Valentine’s Day falls on the weekend?

per person spend weekdays weekends
Jewellery $176.94 $237.19
Activities $109.71 $107.32
Tickets $188.64 $179.03


In fact, when we look at the % of sample of people who purchase before the 14th across the Jewellery, Activities and Tickets categories. We see that when a Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday, more people will purchase jewellery in the weeks leading up.

% of total people weekdays weekends
Jewellery 46.11% 40.22%
Activities 10.45% 11.88%
Tickets 46.23% 47.43%



Pocketbook Personal Spending Takeaways.

The above findings should give you a leg up when it comes to how you spend your money on your Valentine.  And here are three additional key takeaways:

  1. You’ll be twice as likely to buy flowers this year.  The last two years saw a marked decline in flower purchases (a more than 50% drop) on Valentine’s Day.  Our data suggests that this was not because flowers are going out of fashion for Valentine’s Day, but because Valentine’s Day fell on two consecutive weekends.  This likely means that with Valentine’s Day on a Tuesday this year, flower sales will experience a big rebound.  It is worth considering whether the flower industry is aware of this and if so whether there will be more than the usual price markups for flowers to pinch consumers?
  2. You might spend less on Jewellery this year.  Our data clearly showed that while the amount spent on other Valentine’s Day gifts and activities has stayed roughly the same, spending on jewellery has continued to grow.  In fact, it looks like the per capita spend on jewellery has grown by 30% in just four years (from about $180 to $240).  One possibility for this  —though it leaves us scratching our heads— is that people spend more on jewellery when Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend (the reverse of florists) and that this year will see a drop in jewellery spend.  Overall, though, it means that consumers probably need to watch their jewellery spend and what jewellery retailers might be doing price-wise.
  3. Don’t feel bad if you don’t spend thousands on your loved one. Our data shows that most people spend between $60 to $100 – price of a cheap dinner plus some well-priced flowers. Love may not cost as much as you think!

Happy Valentine’s to you and your loved one.

Plan To Join A Gym In 2017? Read This First.

How often do you hear people say they’re finally going to get in shape in the New Year?  It’s a great goal, but you can be excused for doubting whether the person is actually going to see this resolution through.

We’ve all been there, and we’re skeptical, too.  So this year, we decided to see whether the spending of Pocketbook’s 250,000 users could provide some insights into behaviour patterns around this type of resolution. As always, we analysed the data in aggregate and with identifiable information removed.

We focussed our research on gyms.  Gyms are an obvious destination for people with fitness goals, and they can cost a lot of money.  Our data uniquely enables us to discover gym spending patterns over time.

We started our investigations with a few common sense hypotheses. Like, do people sign up for gyms mostly in January — we thought they probably would?

And do people who sign up in the New Year stay running on the treadmill? Or do they fall off (hopefully not literally)? Again, we figured they probably would. You get the picture.

Because past history is usually the best indicator of future behaviour, we looked at the post new year spending trends in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Armed with our questions, we dug down into a big sample set of nearly 35,000 people after we had filtered the data to look at the top 35 gyms.

Turns out we’d guessed right on a few things, but were surprised on others.

We’ll leave a deeper analysis of these trends, along with the industry context, to others, but here’s what we found in our data:

  1. Fitness resolutions usually don’t last – This wasn’t a surprise, but the speed of exit was.  The majority of people who join gyms in the New Year are gone within months (half are gone by 5 and a half months);
  2. People Delay Their Fitness Resolutions –  Most people’s gym resolutions don’t start right away, they start after Australia Day (this was a little surprise for us: February looks to be a bigger month for signups than January);
  3. We’re making more fitness resolutions – People have been signing up to gyms in the New Year at an increasing rate for the past three years;
  4. Some of us are born optimists – 10% of people keep trying every New Year, joining a new gym only to drop out; and
  5. The $8.5b fitness war might be heating up – Australia’s top six gym brands were analysed: Fitness First; Jetts; Anytime Fitness; Virgin Active; Fernwood; Snap Fitness.  Fitness First has been at the top of the list in terms of total spend for the past three years, but Jetts has just passed Anytime Fitness for 2nd place (fitness is an estimated $8.5 billion industry in Australia).


The Detail.

Want to know more? Here’s the data in a bit more detail:

Hypothesis 1: People that sign up early in the year as part of their New Year’s resolution will mostly drop off during the year

On retention, we looked at the signups in Jan and Feb for the top gym brands we’ve identified (Fitness First, Jetts, Anytime Fitness, Fernwood, Virgin Active and Snap Fitness). We found:

  • Around 57% of people don’t stick around for the whole year. This is pretty consistent across the three years:
    • 2014 – 55.16%
    • 2015 – 58.32%
    • 2016 – 56.68%
  • Further still, of the 56%, the majority (34%) dropped off before we hit EOFY.

Again, anyone out there with the time and inclination could take a close look at the different gym cancellation processes to see if this is a factor in the numbers above (i.e. Are people no longer going to the gym, but still paying because cancelling is too difficult or psychologically they want to stick with it?)

Hypothesis 2 and 3: People sign up to gyms mostly in January as part of their New Year’s resolutions (and are signups around this time increasing)

We looked at which month people first signed up to gyms across 2014, 2015 and 2016. We found that January was not the biggest signup month in either of the three years. February is. We’re speculating this delay could be due to:

  • Gyms offering free trial periods, so it’s possible in some cases membership payments start in early February (worth someone looking into).
  • Summer fun until Australia Day. People naturally delayed acting on their New Year’s resolution while in holiday mode.

With this last point in mind, we looked at Jan and Feb combined and found that the proportion of people signing up has increased in the past three years. Look at the figures:

  • 2014 – Jan and Feb – 18.05% (just over the expected 1/6 of the year)
  • 2015 – Jan and Feb – 21.92%
  • 2016 – Jan and Feb – 25.50% (more than 1/4 of people)

Hypothesis 4: Some people that sign up to gyms as part of their New Year’s resolution, then drop off, might repeat this behaviour year on year

We looked at pairings of 2014-2015, and 2015-2016 and found that:

  • The % of people that repeat the process was low (10% of people across both years)
  • Of the repeaters, there is a slightly higher skew towards women (about 2% more likely)
  • Also when looking at the repeaters about 10% of those (12.88% of the 2014 repeating population, and 8.91% of the 2015 repeating population) repeated at the same gyms – so if things didn’t work out, people are more likely going to try a different location.

Hypothesis 5: Gym membership costs vary greatly and the rankings of the top six gyms in Australia has changed (ranking based on our data)

On a per user / per year spend, we see that gyms vary greatly. Primary factors affecting these results are most likely pricing (and discounting strategies) and retention.

Gym Brand 2014 2015 2016
OVERALL $485.01 $550.15 $674.03
Fitness First $681.80 $774.14 $818.16
Jetts $428.03 $453.32 $513.63
Anytime Fitness $223.96 $137.00 $268.76
Virgin Active $1,082.74 $1,145.69 $1,299.29
Fernwood $813.72 $847.79 $976.46
Snap Fitness $394.68 $377.52 $473.61

As part of this exercise, we were also able to identify the 6 most popular gym brands over the past 3 calendar years (more members). These are:

2014 2015 2016
1 Fitness First Fitness First Fitness First
2 Anytime Fitness Anytime Fitness Jetts
3 Jetts Jetts Anytime Fitness
4 Snap Fitness Virgin Active Virgin Active
5 Fernwood Snap Fitness Fernwood
6 Virgin Active Fernwood Snap Fitness


Why These Questions Matter.

Pocketbook’s purpose is to help people spend and save better. Gyms obviously work for a lot of people.  Even people who drop out may benefit from a boost in fitness or a lifestyle change, but given that almost $8.5 billion dollars are spent annually on gyms and fitness in Australia, it’s important to know that the majority who join up to a gym as part of a New Year’s resolution don’t stick it out.

Consumer watchdog, Choice, has taken a close look at gym contracts here; and SunCorp’s the Cost of Being Fit underscored how a lot of spending around fitness goes unrecognised by Australian consumers (read more here).

NPR in the US has done a great piece on the psychology around the gym business model (that’s here), but it’s worth summing up. Basically, gyms count on more people signing up than will actually use the gym. In some ways, this is fine. It makes the costs cheaper for everyone and a better experience for the people who actually end up using the gym. Our data doesn’t say don’t sign up to the gym, but maybe think twice or three times about whether you are one of the people who won’t use the gym enough to make it worth your while. The good news seems to be —and this could be something a researcher might look into— that the kind of unfair contracts of the past seem to be gone and competition remains very strong.

How We Approached the Data.

We take our user privacy very seriously, and strictly and anonymously analyse data to determine the kind of information about trends and habits that can further this purpose and benefit everyone. We also take the integrity of the data we analyse seriously, so here are some of the things we did to clean the data so it would be most accurate and effective:

  • We took out transactions which were outliers or otherwise questionable
  • We built a sample based on the most prominent 35 gym brands and an “other” to mostly catch ongoing fortnightly/weekly or monthly subscription gyms. This filters out equipment purchases and other anomalies. We then used the ‘cleaned data’ to look at specific questions
  • Our final sample was 34,816 people


Pocketbook Personal Spending Takeaways.

The above findings should give you a leg up if you’re going to find the best gym deal.  And here are three additional key takeaways:

  1. You probably don’t want to sign up to anything longer than a 6 months contract. There’s a really good chance you’ll drop off before July.
  2. If you want to join a gym this year, you’ll likely need to increase your fitness budget. Average yearly gym spending was up 48% year-on-year last year and has been up yearly over the past 3 years. Chances are prices this year will be higher again.
  3. Exercise without the gym fees. Regular exercise has many benefits, economic and other, but do you really have to pay for it? Here are 50 free exercise hacks from Huffington Post.

Wishing you a healthy and fit 2017!