10 questions to ask yourself before you buy something

We’ve all done it, haven’t we…bought something and regretted it? Perhaps because it felt good in the moment, we thought we deserved a treat or just had to have something to cheer us up.  But then, as reality set in, we realised the cash was gone and now it’s never coming back!

Shopping is fun for many, a hobby perhaps and impulse purchasing can give an instant rush of excitement. But it’s not unusual in my line of work, as a professional declutterer, to find clothing with the tags still on, gifts that were bought and never given and items that have never been used.  Shopping without proper intention can end up causing feelings of guilt and regret, which can affect how you feel about yourself.  It can also have a negative impact on finances, which when it causes considerable debt, can be life-changing.  

Plus, lets not forget all that stuff that used to be money is now adding to the clutter in your home

If you want to curb spending and reduce what you bring into your home, then learning to make more intentional choices can change your habits for the long term. 

Below are 10 questions that you can use to stop and make you think before you part with your hard-earned cash.

1. Do I need this?

Don’t confuse need and want.  Advertising can cleverly muddle these two emotions and make you feel like something is essential or going to bring endless benefits to your life, when really it’s a plain desire.  Try to separate the two emotions and think carefully about how you came to the point of purchase.  Is it because on impulse you think it’s a good idea; it seems like a bargain; you want to impress someone or do you genuinely need it to improve the quality of your life?

2. Is it worth my time and money?

Every item you buy uses up a bit of your life in time and energy. The hours you have to work to earn enough in the first place, plus time researching, planning, buying, building, cleaning, maintaining and accounting for it, etc.  Are you really willing to trade the time for that item in your shopping basket?

3. How will I feel about it in a few years’ time?

After the initial rush of excitement, the pleasure in purchasing something can fade.  How long will this item make you happy for? If you can’t see it lasting for a considerable amount of time, don’t buy it.

4. Can I afford this?

Being in debt because you’ve bought something on a whim that you didn’t really need is not a nice place to be.  Consider if you could instead spend your money elsewhere or save for something more special.  Prioritise your spending carefully and make sure your money habits are supporting your long term goals.

5. If the item was twice the price would I still buy it?

Often you’ll be tempted to buy something because it’s in the sale.  But what if it were full price, or even twice or three times the price.  How tempting would it be then?  Thinking about it at a higher price will help you see the true value of the item and whether it’s worth your investment.

6. What are the alternatives?

Consider the alternatives to buying the item, such as borrowing from family or friends or renting one for a short amount of time.  There are now many borrowing libraries that you can use too, so research your local options.  You may even have something at home that will do the job well enough – think creatively!

7. Is this the best affordable version?

Is this item the one?  Make sure the item fulfils all the important criteria you need it to.  Quality, shape, style, colour, purpose and personal ethics should all be considered.  Items bought because they ‘will do’ often end up as unloved clutter, as they were never deemed special enough in the first place.  Be a little bit fussy, take time to try clothing on, inspect the quality of items and consider if it will last the test of time before buying.

8. Where will I put it – exactly?

Every item is going to need a place to live in your house – a drawer, cupboard or out on show.  Do you have room for it? Where will it go permanently?  Think about the exact location, because being more specific forces you to make a more considered decision. 

9. How often will I use it?

Dresses that you will only wear for one occasion, a holiday item that you’ll only use for one week of the year (and not next year) or a kitchen gadget that will only come out at Christmas – are they really worth your investment as you’ll have to care for them for all the days in between. Something that will have multiple purposes, will be in fashion for a little longer, or is a higher quality may be more worthwhile and will ultimately have a lower cost per use.

10. Can I delay my purchase?

Sometimes even when all the answers are ‘yes’, there is one more trick to encourage you to stop and think: delay your purchase.  Shops will often use tactics for you to buy something such as ‘buy before it’s gone’, ‘end of sale’, ‘limited discount’, etc. and it can send you into a panic.  But these are just clever little tricks, so see through them and stay strong!  The more expensive the item, the longer you should delay your purchase.  Perhaps add it to a wish list on your phone and forget about it for a while. If it’s important, you’ll remember it.  And even if it’s gone by then, would it be that life-changing to have missed the opportunity?

I hope these questions give you some food for thought.

Spend wisely, reduce what enters your home and you’ll be much better off in so many ways.