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- Most shopping experiences are designed to make buying easier and keep you coming back.
- A financial planner suggests becoming more intentional about buying and resisting impulse buying.
- Ask yourself questions like if you really need it or if you want it, if you already have it and if you can afford it.
- Find a financial advisor near you with SmartAdvisor.
The average American spends $ 155 a month on impulse purchases on average, something anyone who has ever seen an Instagram ad hit “buy” without hesitation will believe.
As a financial planner, I believe impulse buying leads directly to overspending. Unfortunately, most shopping experiences are designed to make you overspend or keep coming back for more.
If you are having trouble spending too much, I recommend that you ask yourself five questions before clicking “buy” or swiping your card at the cashier. These questions have helped me almost eliminate impulse buying and keep my budget in line.
1. Do I really need it or do I want this?
Sometimes the answer to this question is obvious: if you’re on a tight budget and decide if you should buy a $ 350 vintage Monopoly game, the answer is probably, “I don’t need it.”
However, deciding whether something is a need or a desire isn’t always black and white. Some things that may seem non-essential to some people, like a gym membership, others can’t live without. It’s about weighing your current priorities against your long-term goals.
If I feel I need an item, I usually write it down. I’ll take a picture with my phone so when I’m out shopping, I can check if it’s on my list. If I haven’t felt like I needed the item before, it’s probably not on my list and it’s a desire, not a need.
2. Do I already own this?
There is a tendency to want to keep up with the Joneses, or to own the newest and best items. This is especially compounded by social media – seeing your friend’s new car or a glitzy vacation can give you the feeling of being lost, prompting you to buy things you may not need or already own.
Whenever I think about buying something, I always wonder if I already own the item. If I have it and it’s working, I’ll skip the new article. If something I own breaks down, I typically throw it away right away and there and put it on my list so I’ll remember to buy it next time I go out.
3. Do the benefits outweigh the cost?
Just because something is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s of better quality. In fact, many expensive brands simply charge more for a similar quality product thanks to the branding or packaging. Studies show that we tend to price expensive items against their cheaper counterparts, known as the “placebo marketing effect.”
This is not to say that some things are not worth the money. For example, I will always allow myself the luxury of a high quality mattress. But if you are arguing about buying something, think about some of the benefits that item will bring you. If you don’t think those perks will outweigh the cost, it’s not worth it.
4. Can I buy it used (or cheaper)?
I furnished my entire apartment with second hand furniture and saved thousands of dollars.
While it requires a little extra effort, shopping can save you a lot of money instead of buying the first thing you see. Check out marketplaces like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for used items and larger retailers like Amazon to get an idea of how much the item costs. If you want to make small purchases and still save, consider websites like Etsy that allow you to compare items from independent sellers.
Plus, the time you spend looking for a better deal can help you find out if you actually need the item or not. I’m a big fan of sleeping on a purchase decision (if you can) before buying. Most of the time, you’ll forget what you were even considering buying in the morning.
5. Can I really afford it?
There is a difference between being able to pay for something and actually being able to afford it. Credit cards and financing options like Buy Now, Pay Later allow you to buy something and pay for it later. However, if you don’t have the money to cover your debts, you may end up paying late fees and interest, which can quickly get into debt.
The last question I always ask myself is if I can really afford the item, which means I can pay for it conveniently without running into trouble with my budget or bills later on. Even if you have enough money in your account to buy something outright, that doesn’t mean you should make the purchase.
The purpose of asking yourself these questions before making a purchase is to be more intentional with your shopping. Taking the time to examine whether this purchase is the right one for you can often remove the impulsiveness – I can’t tell you how many unnecessary purchases I’ve avoided this way.