Over 70% of Australians are more conscious of their spending now than in pre COVID-19 times, with over 50% putting off essential spending due to the pandemic, new research commissioned by Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) service, Openpay has shown.

The survey of 1,000 people living in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane found that around two-thirds of people are more conscious of their spending than they were six months ago with 61% of Melbournians and Sydneysiders limiting themselves to ‘essential spending’ only, compared to only half of those living in Brisbane.

Of those with BNPL services, 60% stated that they believe healthcare falls under ‘essential spend’ – be it for themselves, their children, or pets. 31% of people are using BNPL to service their cars, with one in 10 using a BNPL service to pay for education and groceries.

This follows an increase in the usage of BNPL services since the start of the pandemic, with the report revealing that nearly a quarter of people who held BNPL accounts in Melbourne and Sydney only started using them since the COVID-19 outbreak. 31% of respondents reported having at least one BNPL account, and of these, around a third held more than one account.

One in three of those surveyed believe they will be back to pre-COVID spending habits within the next six months, another third think it will take up to 12 months, and one fifth believe it will take one to two years.

“With the recent impact on personal finances due to COVID-19, frivolous spending is a thing of the past. Despite this, essential items still need to be paid for and as such, we’re pleased to be able to offer Australians a ‘Buy now. Pay smarter’ option which is a more sensible, and interest-free way to pay for essentials, including healthcare and dental, as well as home and car repairs during these trying times,” Openpay global chief marketing officer, Georgina Whalley said.

“Using Openpay for purchases allows people to manage their money more responsibly by spreading out payments. With a range of plans, essential purchases don’t have to be put off and nor does any interest have to be paid. Given that Australians are even worried about spending when it comes to their teeth, with 22% of those surveyed saying they have put off spending on essential dental work due to economic difficulty or fear, BNPL is a means of ensuring our health isn’t left to suffer.”

Overall, it’s those in Melbourne that are financially the hardest hit, which could be due to the current lockdown restrictions, with 38% of them stating they had used their BNPL service within the past week, compared to those in Sydney (32%) and Brisbane (24%). Nearly half of Melbournians (45%) shared that they use it weekly or more often, versus over a third in Sydney (34%) and Brisbane (22%).