UK adults are set to spend £163.44 on ‘little treats’ for friends and family this year – to show they’re thinking of them from afar, according to a study.

Thoughtful consumers are on track to buy as many as 53 small gifts for others by the end of 2020.

Two thirds said giving little treats has been especially meaningful during the past 12 months because they’ve not been able to see loved ones as much.

The M&S Bank [] poll of 2,000 adults found the most popular pick-me-ups to purchase for others are chocolates (44 per cent), flowers (34 per cent) and a bottle of wine (27 per cent).

While a cup of coffee, tea or hot drink from a café (19 per cent), scented candles (13 per cent) and cakes fresh from the bakery (17 per cent) have also been favoured this year.

A desire to brighten up the day of loved ones (46 per cent) – during what’s been an unusual 12 months – is a major factor behind this ‘mini treat effect’ trend.

This is followed by wanting to show someone they’re thinking of them (44 per cent) or because they have missed seeing them in person (38 per cent).

Almost three in 10 (28 per cent) said buying treats for others makes them feel happy and 23 per cent said it makes them feel loving or caring.

Shoppers aren’t just sharing gifts to cheer up their loved ones as almost a quarter have let friends and family know they are thinking of them by sending cards.

While a third have sent pictures and videos over email or social media, 15 per cent have sent a handwritten letter and a fifth (20 per cent) have surprised them with a video call.

Emma Kenny, psychologist, said: “Psychological research has long shown the importance of acts of kindness, whether that be sharing a loving note or sending a bunch of flowers to a friend.

“Taking the time out of your busy day to show someone you care can not only positively impact the recipient, but also help to improve your mood too.

“That’s why, in these uncertain times, the need to practice caring – and self-care – has never been greater; this mini ‘treat effect’ that we’re seeing is so important for yourself and for your loved ones.

“For example, having plans to look forward to can help to reduce stress and lift your mood, which is why something as simple as a coffee date with a friend – albeit virtually –  can make a big difference to your day.”

The research into the mini treat effect revealed that adults are also on track to spend an average of £180.48 on little treats for themselves this year, buying as many as 56 small treats.

The most popular items to purchase for themselves are chocolates (45 per cent), takeaways (33 per cent) and a cup of coffee, tea or hot drink from a café (29 per cent).

More than one in 10 surveyed have also felt more inclined to treat themselves this year because they’ve felt they needed cheering up more than usual.

The most common reason people gave for treating themselves is being in a good mood, however 16 per cent will treat themselves if they’re having a bad day, with happiness (42 per cent) the most common outcome.

In fact, 86 per cent said treating themselves improves how they are feeling, but despite this, half of adults (50 per cent) don’t think they treat themselves often enough.

Interestingly, 79 per cent of people said they consider ‘me-time’ to be a treat, with reading a book (40 per cent), a long bath (35 per cent), and watching movies (35 per cent) the most popular pick-me-ups of this type.

Emma Kenny added: “As well as treating others, we mustn’t forget the importance of looking after ourselves – research shows that people who practice a high level of self-care feel more optimistic, energetic and able to meet the needs of those closest to them.

“The research suggests that ‘me-time’ is an important and popular way of treating yourself.

“Planning ahead to have some undisturbed time for something you enjoy is a way of recharging and research shows that it helps your mood and ability to look after those around you.

“So you can relax knowing that it’s positive for you and your loved ones.”

The M&S Bank study also found many of those polled have adopted savvy ways of purchasing treats – whether that’s for themselves or others – with three in 10 having used loyalty points or vouchers.

Further to this, 54 per cent think earning loyalty points and vouchers have enabled them to earn more little treats than they would have otherwise.

Gill Roberts, head of M&S Bank Premium Club, said: “It’s really important to stay connected to our friends and loved ones right now, and sending little treats or notes is a lovely way to do this.

“Our research also shows that treating yourself – or taking just a little time for yourself – is also really important.

“In addition, as we head towards the festive period, it’s a timely reminder to check for any unused reward points or vouchers, which many of us have earned on our spending throughout the year, and could be utilised for those little treats we may be planning over the Christmas and new year period.”


1. Taking some time out to treat someone you care about – it can be as simple as a virtual coffee date – if and when you’re able to – can be one of the best treats of all for both of you.

Research shows that time with your nearest and dearest boosts immunity, reduces stress and reminds you of your meaning within the world.

So the next time you find yourself enjoying a cuppa with your best friend, or other half, know that you are improving your overall health and wellbeing too.

2. Helping someone else get some ‘me-time’ can ensure that they instantly feel a sense of validation which is excellent for improving self-esteem, and also reminds them that they matter to you, which increases a sense of belonging.

Research shows that random acts of kindness improves the mood of the individual carrying it out, as well as positively affecting the person on the receiving end, so it is win, win.

3. Busy modern life means we often need to plan ahead so spontaneity and surprise can mean so much to someone, particularly if you time it for when they really need it.

We often underestimate the impact a small gesture, such as a phone call, has on the person receiving it.

Research tells us that when we feel that others care about our welfare, we feel a sense of connectedness, along with the added bonus of feeling more secure about the world around us.

4. Why not send a handwritten note or card?

While the digital age is upon us and technology means that we can message our friends and family in an instant, the reality is that nothing says ‘I care for you’ quite like a handwritten note, letter, or card.

The tactile and personal experience of receiving written words of kindness feels intimate and special.

5. Planning ahead for self-treats might feel indulgent, however looking after ourselves means we’re better equipped to look after others.

Doing something as simple as collecting rewards or vouchers – so you know you can enjoy a special treat now and then – helps to remind you that your needs matter.

Practicing a ‘self-full’, as opposed to selfish mindset means that you allow yourself to relax and unwind by taking time out for a well-deserved treat.

Research shows that people who practice a high level of self-care feel more optimistic, energetic and able to meet the needs of those closest to them.

6. People who make plans tend to feel happier than people who don’t, this is down to having treats to look forward to, along with feeling a sense of accomplishment once these have been achieved.

A planned coffee – or virtual catch-up – once a week with a friend can give you something positive to look forward to.

1. Chocolates
2. Flowers
3. Bottle of wine
4. Sweets or other confectionary
5. Takeaways
6. Cup of coffee, tea or hot drink from a café
7. Cakes from a bakery
8. Beer
9. Scented candles
10. Books
11. Other alcohol
12. Ice cream
13. Savoury snacks
14. Perfume/ aftershave
15. Luxury ready meals
16. Movie rentals
17. Other clothing
18. Body/ hair products
19. Hobby items (including car accessories)
20. Music


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