More than a quarter of Britons are actively seeking free items amid cost of living pressure

A third even went so far as to say no completely to buying new non-essential items.

More than half (54%) experience anxiety when buying something new, with 37% saying this feeling has increased over the past year.

Books, children’s clothing and toys are the top free items people seek out, with clothing and tech items, such as phones and laptops, also popular.

The study was commissioned by circular economy platform Gumtree, to mark the opening of its pop-up store, Gumfree – bringing its Freebies section to life in Shoreditch, London, on July 30.

He also found that in addition to an increase in popularity, there has also been a positive change in attitudes towards the phenomenon, as 45% enjoy showing their products to others.

More than half (53%) feel proud to get something for free, while 27% believe there’s more ‘creative freedom’ to add a personal touch to their free items.

But although 45% are happy to be a bargain hunter, almost three in ten (28%) still feel a stigma of having to search for items for free.

Hannah Rouch, spokesperson for Gumtree, said: “With the cost of living crisis, we are seeing the adoption of new consumer habits, one of which is the tendency to stock up on items from all days.

“However, the fact that over a quarter of them still feel there is a stigma attached to it is something we need to work to change.

“We hope that by opening the doors to our pop-up store Gumfree Freebies and showcasing to communities how smart – as well as sustainable – it can be to search for something for nothing, we can help people dive into the world of gifts and the circular economy.

The study also found that among those who cannot shake off stigma, 13% fear being judged by others.

One in six (16%) feel embarrassed not to buy new, and 14% are even ashamed.

But more than a third (35%) believe there is less stigma when buying from strangers – rather than asking friends and family.

And two in five (39%) felt more comfortable searching for free items online rather than in real life.

Despite this, 35% are impressed with the savvy savings of their peers, leading them to ask how they did (35%) and do the same (28%).

Those aged 45-54 are the most likely to ban all new purchases of non-essential items (43%).

But the younger generation is also catching the fever, as 25-34 year olds are the most likely to show their gifts to friends or family.

The study, conducted via OnePoll, also found that 42% want to keep looking for the freebie because it’s a more sustainable way to shop – with the same percentage wanting it to become more accessible within of the society.

It also emerged that the average adult has almost £100 worth of personal effects which they would happily part with, representing an estimated £3.96 billion worth of items, as a nation, that could make free discoveries for others.

And eight in ten (79%) currently own items they would gladly part with for free, to give them a new lease of life.

TV presenter and consumer expert Angellica Bell, who works with Gumtree, said: “Many of us are feeling the pressure right now and looking for ways to tighten our belts – exploring alternatives to buying nine is a great starting point.

“Creating online community groups and researching websites can help you find great everyday items, which can help you save a lot and, of course, waste less.”

“By creating Gumfree, I hope it will show people how many fabulous things exist that may not be of use to your neighbor but perfect for you.”

Christy J. Olson