Talk yourself out of that purchase

My family loves a good deal. I was raised to find more joy in the efficient use of a coupon than in the purchase itself. So while shopping was a hobby and bonding activity for many of my youth years, so was purchasing items at a “can’t pass that up” price.

The 75 cent shoes that gave me blisters. The $1.50 skirt that was too small. Both of which got maybe 1-2 wears. But, in the moment, I was excited to share the triumphs of my shopping adventures!

As I grew up and had more disposable income, the idea of a good deal changed somewhat. It became easier to buy something when it was on sale for 20% off because “it never goes on sale!” rather than evaluate the actual value of that item in my life.

Regardless of your financial goals or take on capitalism, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions when thinking about purchases big or small. And while I stewed over ridiculous purchases that I didn’t really need… but I really wanted… here are a few of the questions I asked myself. These questions allowed me to evaluate the purchase in a safe way that kept me on track for my financial goals and (extremely) low-key trend toward minimalism, but which didn’t make me feel deprived?

  • Do you have something similar?
    • And if so, how does this item differ? Does that difference merit the cost of purchasing? What will you do with the initial item?
  • Can you wait to purchase the item?
    • Is this an immediate need? Is it on sale? If so, how often will that sale occur? Can you wait for the next sale item? Is there concern this item will sell out forever? If so, will it be something you will miss forever? Or will similar items pop up?
  • Can you afford to buy it twice?
    • If you had to immediately put the cost of this item into a savings account, would you be able to purchase the item AND put its exact value into savings without incurring debt?
  • How many hours of your time would it take to buy that item?
    • For entertainment costs, especially, this is my go-to question. How many hours of working would it take to buy those concert tickets or opera tickets or musical tickets? Will your enjoyment be commensurate?
  • How far back will it set you from your goals to buy that item?
    • Are you paying off student loans? Saving for a house? Saving for a vacation? Trying to build an emergency fund? All of the above? If so, how far back will it set you to spend? How much of a detraction from your long-term goals is the expense you will incur? And, is it worth it? Sometimes the answer is yes, but often it’s not. This is tied to the idea of putting your future self first.
  • What is your anticipated cost per use?
    • With my love of data and stats, I use this mostly for clothing and makeup. It’s a lot easier to buy something and know that the ultimate cost per wear will be 10 cents than to know it will end up being $10. While this takes a little more active brain power, it’s still an effective question to ask to evaluate whether you truly see the value in a tempting purchase.

What questions do you ask yourself when trying to limit your spending?


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