Lockdown was an isolating experience for many people, but for John Emery it was an amazing opportunity to make new friends nearby and overseas.
The maintenance engineer had always been interested in amateur radio, but pandemic restrictions allowed him to fully embrace his hobby.
He was able to save enough money to purchase the necessary equipment. With radio exams being forced online, he also had the opportunity to become fully qualified.
He claims to have since joined a radio club and to have spoken with other amateur radio enthusiasts from across Europe on a regular basis.
“I’ve made new friends,” the 55-year-old Derbyshire resident says. “This helped with living alone, and hundreds of other people have done the same.”
Regrets? A few
However, not everyone feels so positive about their pandemic purchases. A survey by insurer Aviva, reported on BBC News, suggested that one in 10 people had suffered buyers’ remorse over things they bought during lockdowns.
Gaming equipment, DIY tools, home gyms, bikes, clothing and jewellery, musical instruments, kitchen appliances such as bread makers, garden furniture, pizza ovens and hot tubs all appeared on the regret list, the insurer says.
Typically, shoppers admitted spending nearly £1,400 on items that have since accumulated dust or been sold.
On the other hand, if one out of every ten people believes their purchases were a mistake, that means up to nine out of ten are completely satisfied with their purchases.
When we asked for your stories, many people told the BBC that they were overjoyed with their new possessions.
‘I found it very relaxing’
Anna Tune, who picked up two opposing hobbies at home – crocheting and body pump – was one of those who got in touch.
Mrs Tune’s job as a nurse for the NHS is stressful, but she admits she was bored at home during the lockdown.
The 50-year-old from Kent says the light weight training equipment she uses during online classes was “worth every penny” and helped her maintain her exercise routine while she was confined to her home. Her husband, Bob, was so impressed that he joined her.
And what about the crocheting? Mrs Tune had never tried a new hobby inspired by a friend, despite several failed attempts to learn it at school.
“I thought the talent had passed down through generations, but it relieved my boredom and is very relaxing. I can’t stop myself now, “she claims.
Blankets made for a birthday and for friends’ newborn children were among the results.
‘I really wanted to do some exercise’
Tom Oakley claims that his lockdown purchase has been beneficial to both his body and mind. The father, in his forties, purchased a stationary bike and ended up making new friends near his Cambridge home.
He wanted to exercise during lockdown, but walking wasn’t enough, and running was out due to an old injury. He admits that his other hobby, inline skating, has limitations.
“You can only do it when the ground is bone dry, and there aren’t a lot of other middle-aged men skating to make it social,” he says.
So he chose the bike and signed up for an online cycling game, only to discover that some other dads in the area had also signed up.
“In the dead of winter, we began cycling on our indoor bikes and joined group rides.” I began to learn about their personalities. “When the lockdown was lifted, I joined one of their Sunday group rides, and they have always welcomed me,” he says.
“My wife thinks it’s great,” he says. “If I’m cycling indoors, it’s the most time-efficient exercise I can get, so I can spend more time with our children and help around the house.” “Or, if I go outside for a group ride, she knows I’m staying healthy – both physically and mentally – and making friends with other fathers.”
“She has been on the indoor bike a few times too!”
‘I regret the bagpipes’
We asked you to tell us whether your lockdown purchases had become expensive mistakes.
Here is a selection of some of your regrets (spoiler: some are more serious than others).
- Duncan, 48, in Godalming, says: “My family has regretted the bagpipes that I bought as a new lockdown hobby.”
- Neil, 47, from Leeds, says: “I bought a cello for my wife after caving-in to pleas that it would be perfect to relearn the instrument, after playing in her youth. Level One cello passed and now decorating the corner of the dining room.”
- Lee, 32, in Southampton, says: “Buying building materials and starting an extension and kitchen renovation, to then run out of money, not be able to finish it and have the bank reject borrowing any more. Should of just saved the money and waited.”
- Michael in London says he bought a gym for his garage as the local council facility had closed owing to Covid. He then lost his job owing to the pandemic and has been left with a “crippling” loan to repay.
- Gary Beaven, 55, from Nottingham says: “The garden furniture is still in the box.”
- Sarah Homer, 37, from Dorset, says she wished she had done more research before buying a carpet cleaner. “It is pretty useless, and takes up a whole cupboard,” she says.
- Glynn Hurrell, 26, from Lincoln, says: “I bought an exercise bike that I have only done four miles on. It sits there every day, in the corner of my lounge, teasing me.”
- Mike, 28, from London, says: “Unfortunately a monthly beer subscription, which definitely has not done me well in the long run!”
- Robyn Blair, 24, from Harrow says: “I bought a 12 foot trampoline.”
One serious concern is that lockdown purchases have proven to be detrimental to some people’s mental and financial health, and may cause them anxiety in the future.
“When you’re feeling isolated or distressed, and spending more time online – as so many of us were during lockdown,” says Helen Undy, CEO of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, “it’s much harder to resist the urge to buy things we don’t need or can’t afford.”
This is made more difficult by the way retailers bombard people with pushy personalised ads online, as well as the ease of access to ‘buy now pay later’ credit and the option to buy things with one click. Many people also complain that they are burdened with unwanted purchases because the process of returning them is too stressful and difficult.”
She believes that retailers can help people keep control of their spending by giving them more control over the advertisements they see and the option to opt out of ‘buy-now-pay-later’ credit. “We’d also like to see retailers make returning goods as simple as buying them,” she adds.