These days, you’re never more than a couple of blocks away from a Prét-a-Manger or a Tesco Express. And though you might think there’s little harm in popping in to grab a coffee or a sandwich, this kind of ‘invisible spending’ could be costing you nearly £1000 a year.

blt-1323122-1280x960Invisible spending refers to the small, almost unnoticed purchases we make when we’re at work or out and about. It’s shop-bought lunches and snacks, canteen coffee, post-work drinks, magazines and takeaways. These items cost us £18.23 per week on average, and even more if you’re young and carefree, according to research by Aviva. The group says this kind of frivolous spending costs the typical UK adult a whopping £948 a year. Here’s a quick breakdown of invisible spending by age bracket:

Average week’s worth of ‘invisible spending’ by age group 

Aged 18-24: £21.17
Aged 25-34: £20.94
Aged 35-44: £19.36
Aged 45-54: £18.92
Aged 55-64: £15.54

Source: Aviva

Invisible spending is invisible for a reason: too often, we don’t budget for it. It’s why we stare at our bank balance the week before pay day wondering where it’s all gone. Aviva’s research says 7 in 10 people want to stop frittering this money away and save it instead. For most of us, our first instinct would be to put it in a regular savings account. Few, however, appreciate how this money could contribute to a comfortable retirement.

If a 20-year-old were to stop spending on sweets and cigs and invest that £21 a week in a self-invested personal pension (SIPP), they could have a pension pot worth £136,000 come retirement.

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Rodney Prezeau, consumer platform managing director for Aviva, says: “When we buy a coffee or a snack, we often don’t give it a second thought, but it’s incredible how small change can really stack up over time. Our study found that 26% of people don’t really keep track of their spending at all, and a further 22% only keep an eye on larger purchases, so many of us may be surprised if we actually look at where our money is going.

“It’s interesting that most people say they’d be willing to cut back in order to save, but most people are focused on the short term. We’d encourage them to also think about how small savings can be utilised in the long term, for example, in a pension or in an investment ISA. As our calculations show, even small amounts can make a big difference.”

Feeling inspired to save? Check out Aviva’s calculator to see how much a few cutbacks could save you in the long run.

Overall though, the message is clear: step away from the cappuccino and put down the chocolate bar, for the sake of your wealth.

Need some more money saving advice? Further reading:

You definitely need a budget

Start investing! 10 useful, jargon-free tips to help beginner investors

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