Germans most likely to splash their cash on treats, whilst Brits are racked with guilt and spend the least according to new study by MasterCard. 

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London, 12th November 2013 – Brits are watching the pennies when it comes to treating themselves, according to a new European-wide study by MasterCard. The Treat Index, a barometer of consumer spending in 2013, suggests that despite economic uncertainty, shoppers across Europe continue to invest in personal purchases, spending an average of £43 at least once a month on a little something to cheer themselves up.  Yet, in the UK, shoppers spend the least, treating themselves more cautiously at £28 a time.

Research indicates that overall, consumers see treats as important to their wellbeing. However, UK shoppers also claim to feel the worst about spending money on themselves, with a quarter (25%) saying that buying themselves a treat also makes them feel guilty – making Britons the guiltiest spenders in Europe.

Key findings from the Treat Index include:

  • People in the UK are most likely to never buy themselves treats with almost one in ten stating this
  • Germans spend the most on treats, with an average of £60 a month whilst the British spend £28
  • The main reason for treating yourself if you are British is “to cheer yourself up”
  • Brits are revealed to be the most cost conscious when it comes to treating their nearest and dearest too – spending  up to £8 on treats compared with the average of £17 – £40 spent by shoppers in other countries across Europe
  • Brits are the least romantic, being the least likely to spend money on Valentine’s Day

Independent Financial Expert Alvin Hall said: “While differences abound, the common attributes about treats across the countries surveyed are fascinating. “Everyone deserves one now and then” is one of the top two choices in nearly every country. So the old adage that “Man (and woman) cannot live by bread alone” appears to be a core, cross-cultural belief and essential to people’s happiness. This is true regardless of the reason for the treat, but this happiness is sometimes accompanied by a tinge of guilt, as seen particularly amongst the younger survey respondents. This most likely comes about when a person thinks about how he or she could have used the same money to realise a goal that is a higher priority in their lives—such as accumulating a four-to six-month emergency fund or saving for a deposit on a house. Not surprisingly, the guilt related to getting on the property ladder is highest in the UK where home ownership is viewed as a cultural imperative”.

Despite region-wide economic difficulties, shoppers generally have been reluctant to give up their treats, with more than one in five claiming they still spend money on themselves despite knowing they should be watching the pennies.  Across all the eight countries surveyed it was the smaller treats such as meals out, takeaways, chocolates, sweets and cakes that are purchased more regularly, indicating that is the smaller purchases that make the most difference to our mood. Interestingly, items such as coffee and cheese were identified as a necessity as opposed to a treat, particularly in Italy and France, while bigger purchases such as jewellery and holidays were clearly classified as being a luxury purchase. Women were more likely to spend money on clothes, bags and shoes as were men who also purchase meals out, alcohol, CDs, DVDs and video games.

Jennifer Palmer from MasterCard added “Economic pressures in recent times have had a profound effect on our attitudes towards treating ourselves and our nearest and dearest. The study has produced some fascinating insights about our relationship with treats and the factors that contribute to our spending habits, from cultural differences to personal emotional benefits. Across the board one thing is clear though: high or low value treats are a fundamental part of people’s lives and bring them a small sense joy and constancy, particularly in the current economic climate”.

Psychologist Linda Papadopoulos commented on the findings; “The results show varied spending on treats across nations. This is due to both inherent cultural and economic reasons. For example, there are nations known for their “keep calm and carry on” attitude or who are more reserved, such as the UK, which spends far less than other countries such as Germany where they don’t feel as hard hit by the recession. However, it’s clear from these survey results that regardless of culture, economics or how nations define a treat, the importance of feeling that you are treating yourself whether it’s through activities, days off or actually buying something new,  especially during the current economic climate, cannot be underestimated,”.

Notes to editors:

Research conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of MasterCard, September 2013 –

12,434 major credit card holders over the age of 18 polled across Europe (UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, and Turkey).

Average spend on personal treats for ourselves per market:

  1. Germany (€72)
  2. Italy (€58)
  3. Belgium (€57)
  4. France (€50)
  5. Turkey (€49)
  6. Sweden (€46)
  7. Russia (€41)
  8. UK (€32)

Average spend on treats for others per market:

  1. Turkey (€58)
  2. Germany (€55)
  3. Belgium (€53)
  4. Italy (€45)
  5. Russia (€44)
  6. France (€42)
  7. Sweden (€41)
  8. UK (€21)

Top 5 reasons for buying treats across Europe:

  1. To cheer myself up (36%)
  2. It’s the weekend (26%)
  3. I am celebrating (24.6%)
  4. When on holiday / off work (23.4%)
  5. I’ve just been paid (18.6%)

Top 5 reasons women buy themselves treats in Europe:

  1. To cheer myself up (39%)
  2. I am celebrating (25.3%)
  3. When on holiday / off work (24.6%)
  4. It’s the weekend (24.5%)
  5. I’ve just been paid (19.1%)

Top 5 reasons men buy themselves treats in Europe:

  1. To cheer myself up (28%)
  2. It’s the weekend (27.9%)
  3. I am celebrating (23%)
  4. When on holiday / off work (24.6%)
  5. I’ve just been paid (19.1%)

About MasterCard
MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.


Kelly Allan 020 7260 2700/ 07711368880

Addie Freyne  020 7260 2700/ 07720095122