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Momma Says You Better Be Upset if it Breaks…

by J. Money on Monday, November 14, 2011

broken humpty egg

I just got back from a wonderful trip home visiting my parents, and once again they hit me with some financial knowledge without even meaning too ;)

(Well, my MOM did anyways – my dad just wanted to know how my new “career” was doing w/ blogging.  He knows I’ve mastered his two only rules growing up (never put anything on a credit card you can’t pay off, and ALWAYS contribute to your 401(k) at LEAST up to your company match), so now he just wants to make sure I have a salary, haha… and I don’t blame him, sometimes I wonder how long my luck with this gig will last too! ;))

We got on the subject of returning stuff, and how our whole family gets major cases of buyer’s remorse, and my mom was saying she FINALLY figured out how to curb a lot of that, as well as save a lot of money in the process.  Her trick is pretty simple: Every time she wants to buy something, or she’s a bit hesitant, she asks her self, “If this breaks, would I be really upset?”  If the answer is yes, she usually moves forward with the purchase.  If it’s a resounding no, she drops it and moves on (and hopefully it doesn’t break when she drops it! Bah dum-ching.)  She also sometimes switches it up and asks herself how she’d feel if someone STOLE IT from her instead.  Either way, the point being that if it suddenly goes away from your life, and you’re not too upset about it, you probably shouldn’t be taking it home in the first place.  Makes sense, right?

I think I personally need to start doing this myself more and more as time goes on too.  The fact that you can now return pretty much anything  these days always leaves me with the mentality of “well, I can always return this later if I change my mind” and it always gives me that “out.”  Which I usually take 75% of the time!  Ooooh, maybe I need to start asking myself a question more along the lines of this!: “If you can never return this, would you still buy it?”  Now THAT could do the trick! I guarantee it’ll cut down on at least half of my crazy purchases I always change my mind on 2 hours later!  Haha… I like that :) So pretty much I just always need to pretend I’m shopping at a yard sale!

Another thing that came up which was kinda unrelated but also not, was that that friend of a friend of a friend I blogged about last year (who filed bankruptcy TWICE, and then went on a shopping spree shortly after!!) finally made his first return ever! Haha… no joke, apparently he either never knew, or never really thought about it being possible, and when he couldn’t use something he bought recently, he actually went back to return it!!  Can you imagine? The guy and  his family had been spending and splurging all over the place, buying and foreclosing on homes all the while, and it just now occurred to him that he could have been returning things this whole time if he’d wanted to.  Crazy… hopefully he’s just exaggerating his whole “first time” thing here, but ya never know with people these days.  Sometimes they just don’t think.

What kind of tricks, or questions, do you ask YOURSELF before picking up something you may not be sure about?  Are you a pretty good judge of character, or do you slip up a lot like yours truly?  Share away in the comments so we can all hopefully learn from them :)  And if anyone wants to steal my mom’s method, go for it!  (Why do I smell a mom joke about to happen?)

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(Photo by Samuel M. Livingston)


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim B. November 14, 2011 at 6:32 am

I don’t generally buy anything unless I’m damn sure I want it. It drives anyone I shop with insane. Normally I put it back, and I might “visit” the item a few times in the store before committing. I’ve lost a few times this way, but usually by the time I really decide it’s worth it, I end up getting it on sale. A few times I’ve had to track an item down online because I missed my chance in store, but again, it usually leads to getting it cheaper anyway.

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2 Daisy November 14, 2011 at 8:21 am

Thats a great tactic! I’ve heard a lot of them, such as sleeping on each purchase for at least 24 hours to see if you still want the item, but to me that just increases the transaction costs – if I still want the item, I have to go all the way back to the store and get it (I’m lazy).

I sometimes look at the price of the item and consider – if somebody asked me to work the amount of hours it would require to make the money for this item, in exchange for the item, would I do it? For example, I make $16/hr. If they handed me a skirt at $45, I would be looking at almost 3 hours of extra work. Unless I loved it, I wouldn’t do it.

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3 Rich Uncle El November 14, 2011 at 8:33 am

I tend to have buyers remorse also for anything that I purchase over a 100 bucks. So what I do is if see something I like:

1. analyze if I really need
2. Check amazon and once daily website(maybe cheaper elsewhere)
3. Figure out how can I pay for it, without going into debt,
4. Sleep on it for a day

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4 J. Money November 14, 2011 at 10:29 am

@Kim B. – HAH! I do the same thing!! Esp if they’re things I wasn’t really looking for anyways, but I really like it all of a sudden ;) I’d say 50% of the time I end up buying it, and 50% I leave it there and then wonder for the rest of the day… then maybe 25% of the time I go back and get it the next day, haha… so far I’ve only REALLY been upset w/ myself for not buying this one piece of furniture I really wanted (at Salvation Army) and by the time I went back it was gone. Though my wife said it was the ugliest thing she’d ever seen, so maybe it’s a good thing? ;)
@Daisy – Oh yeah! That’s a GREAT way to look at it too – the whole “how many hours of work is this worth?” I really like that one, good addition :) (And I agree w/ it sucking having to go back again after waiting for a while thinking about it, which is why sometimes I cave in but then sometimes have to go back and return it! which is really a waste of money and time, haha… pros and cons, right?)
@Rich Uncle El – The sleeping one is a good one for sure. With the only problem being that it may be gone when you go back the next day, but then you can always chalk it up to it not being in the cards ;) Or that you saved yourself $100! Haha…

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5 Jen @ Master the Art of Saving November 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

I always ask myself a few questions:

1. Is this something that will just end up being more clutter and I’ll eventually get rid of it?

2. Can I live without buying it (for a few weeks or forever)?

3. If our house catches on fire, would I give up 1 of the things I would normally grab to save this?

This helps me avoid SO many unnecessary purchases, especially #3.

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6 Nicole November 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Hello all.

I return stuff ALL the time. I do ALOT of online shopping (I hate going in store anymore), so I return if something doesn’t fit or whatever. Actually, online shopping is my biggest vice. It’s just so easy. My credit card number is saved and you just push a button. I need to delete that from my shopping profile so it’s not so easy anymore.

By the way, I just found out I’m pregnant! We aren’t telling work or acquaintances right away, but I figured since I am pretty anonymous on here and since I’m bursting to share my excitement, I would spill the beans!

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7 Carol in Mpls November 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Mom is spot on. It gets to the notion of how useful or valuable an item is, and makes you stop for a moment and truly evaluate the purchase.

As someone who does not enjoy retail therapy as a sport, this is less difficult for me. I’m just not drawn into buying random stuff for the sake of buying. I don’t do garage sales. I don’t stock up for future events or holidays. And I’m not a minimalist, I just don’t like to shop that much.

Because of that I’m pretty careful when getting something that actually feels like “a purchase” and I’ve usually done some critical self-evaluation first. Do I need it? Does it replace something I’ve used or enjoyed or has worn out? Do I simply need to add a few things (i.e., clothes) as my supply has diminished or doesn’t fit my lifestyle fully? Is it truly something that adds joy or beauty to my life, my home, etc. Answering those questions almost always gets me to right decision.

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8 Jen November 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I just did this Saturday :) Went looking for new curtains for the living room. My blinds are busted and I only have sheers. Perused and found some that were okay, then found THE ONES I WANTS. Unfortunately, they’re sheers, which doesn’t help my problem of finding curtains to block the light/people seeing in. So I snagged a catalog with the ONE I WANT so I’d have it for reference, looking all around the store, reviewed the cost of vertical blinds (really? $180?), found a pull-down blind I liked but wasn’t excited about…and left the store with just the catalog. I figured I’d have better luck online finding a combo blind/shade to go with the sheers I WANT that will work.

I found awesome Chinese-styled painted roll-up blinds for $70. I didn’t know they existed, and now I WANT THEM. Yet, I still haven’t bought anything. Some of it is the money. Some of it is fear that I won’t like the ensemble once it’s all installed and pretty in my living room.

Taking the catalog for reference and doing more research is the best way for me to not spend money right away on the big stuff. I impulse bought my kitchen table set and the screws all fell out of every single chair :/ I still don’t know why, except to think the entire package was cheaply made.

Small stuff, however, I suck at not buying right away. I can justify it to myself in under five seconds. I did much better when I was living paycheck to paycheck and had no buffer money to spend. Now I have a nice buffer/savings and even though I know I shouldn’t, I impulse buy. Some of what keeps me from buy the cutesy stuff is, “Do I want to (not) dust it?” I have enough knicknacks that mean something to me. I don’t need to add cutesy stuff to my collection.

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9 Sherie November 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I consider if I am willing to dust it. If the answer is no, no more consideration is given to the item.

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10 Mike - Saving Money Today November 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I think it helps if you look at your long term goals. For example, imagine you’re saving money to use for a down payment on your first home. You could look at every item you’re considering and think to yourself, “Is it worth postponing something that I’ve set as a goal for this?”

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11 Matt, Tao of Unfear November 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I REALLY don’t like your mother’s method. I wouldn’t want to own something if it’s theft or destruction would cause me that much anxiety. If I get that anxious, that usually tells me that I’m paying too much for something. But, I don’t like being a slave to my possessions (I’ve been contemplating getting rid of my book collection because I feel it impedes my mobility).

Usually my large purchases fall into the category of “ultimately saving me time and/or money.” For instance, I spent a good chunk of change on a very high quality kitchen knife. It cuts prep time in half, if not more, and makes working in the kitchen more enjoyable, so I’m more likely to stay in and cook meals from scratch rather than eating out or buying expensive frozen meals, etc. That, and because I save time in the kitchen, I actually have more time to spend on other things I enjoy.

Because I work at a computer most of the time, I also try to prioritize purchases with encourage physical activity (cycling equipment, good shoes, etc.)

So, the real question I ask myself is “Does this increase my quality of life by saving me a significant amount of time or money, or by increasing my overall health?” Usually if I can get a combination of two of those, I’ll buy (if it doesn’t completely screw up my budget).

Of course, I don’t really eat out, go to movies, drive, spend much time at bars, or other things which would be a big drain on my finances, so I can save that money for things which improve how I want to live my life (though others likely wouldn’t spend their money as I do).

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12 AverageJoe November 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm

The older I get the less of a problem this becomes. Either I need it or I don’t. If I’m on the fence, I’ve already analyzed it and can afford it. Then I always wait a day. If it’s gone before I get back to it, I most always find I’m not upset four or five days later.

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13 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager November 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I ask how much it would take away from a vacation somewhere fun. Experiences always trump things in my brain.

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14 Maria Nedeva November 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Good evening, J. Your mum is a genious and I am stealing it. How wonderful and really makes you think.

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15 Kathy November 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

A long time ago a friend was shopping with me when she asked me if I ‘wanted’ or ‘needed’ whatever I was going to buy. Ever since then, I practice want or need when buying.

However, I really like the idea of expounding on that to ask additionally if it broke, how upset would I be?

Great idea.

Kathy

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16 Melissa November 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I also do the “how many hours of work will this cost me” tactic, and it works great! I like your mom’s method, too, but I feel like for me, it would only really work on the smaller items. Like, it’d be great to hold up a shirt and think, “If this disappeared from my closet after a week, would I be really upset?” But when you consider larger purchases, I mean, the answer will almost always be “heck yes I’m upset!” because then you’re out all that money. I find it hard imagining myself getting “upset” about the prospect of losing an item that I haven’t yet developed any sort of attachment to.

Another thing I do that’s really helpful is to try to imagine the other things I could do with the money I’m considering spending, and then deciding whether or not I want that item more. So, when I bought an iPad earlier this year, I hemmed and hawed for a long time before I actually bought it, and I considered, “Well, what else can I do with this $600? Is an iPad worth losing $600 that could potentially go to this?” I decided that I *did* want the iPad that badly, but I find this method is really effective for a lot of things. Oftentimes I DO want to put the money into savings more than I want the thing!

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17 myloverswife November 15, 2011 at 6:03 am

My approach is very much like your mother’s concept. I ask myself if I really love the item and if the answer is no, I pass on the purchase. I used to think that I could buy it and return I later, but 9 times out of 10 I would find a way to convince myself to keep the purchase. My new love it or leave approach saves time and money.

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18 Bergie Powers November 15, 2011 at 6:56 am

Awesome idea. I will have to try this one. I like how you can find someone’s tactic and make it your own, like how rearranging the question to be about returns worked for you.
Daisy, I love your comment above about how many hours of work it takes to pay for a desired item (two weeks for a new sofa?! I’ll just get a slip cover).

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19 Nell November 15, 2011 at 10:11 am

Haha! I thought I was the only one that had serious buyer’s remorse. As I’ve gotten older (I’m 25 now), I’ve realized that material things aren’t as satisfying as they used to be, but sometimes I get a sudden urge to buy things. I do have a weird pattern when I shop though–I’ll pick up all the things that I like as I’m browsing around the store and as I get towards the end of this, I go into a little corner (lol) and go through what I’ve picked out. Usually from this, I can think about what I already have at home, the price tag, etc. After doing all of this, I’ve dwindled my purchases down to 1-2, but oftentimes I leave with nothing. This is a bit time consuming, but I feel that it helps when I get those sudden urges to buy things. Other times, I will sort of “stalk” a item–keep my eye on it for a couple of weeks to see if the price decreases. At this point, usually the item is marked down, or I just end up forgetting about (which means I don’t spend any money!).

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20 J. Money November 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

@Jen @ Master the Art of Saving – Oh wow, yeah that #3 is hardcore! Haha… that would eliminate almost every single thing! :)
@Nicole – AWWW CONGRATS!!!! That is SO. COOOOOOL. And we’re one of the first to know – yayyy!!! Hopefully I’ll be able to say my wife’s pregnant too one of these days :) CONGRATS!!
@Carol in Mpls – Oh man, not enjoying shopping is GREAT for your wallet! Haha… that is awesome :) (though I’d def. miss it myself — I don’t know why it’s so fun, but it is to me!)
@Jen – What the heck is wrong w/ that kitchen table? Haha.. I have NEVER heard of that one before, wow… maybe someone was trying to play a prank on someone and forgot to screw them all back in tightly? ;) Either way, hopefully no on ever got hurt! I hear ya on the “not buying” struggles too, that’s stressful. It took me like 3 weeks to finally buy my new backpack (had option overload!) and then when I did, I found a different one I liked much better and was then stuck with 2. (one was final sale only). Oh well, it happens every now and then ;)
@Sherie – I like that one a lot :) Though wouldn’t work for me cuz I arely dust, haha… (bad, I know.)
@Mike – Saving Money Today – That’s true. But it’s too “big” for me that it wouldn’t work, personally. I know it does for others though.
@Matt, Tao of Unfear – I like it! Improving your quality of life is HUGE for sure, that is an excellent way of looking at things, thanks for sharing it :)
@AverageJoe – Huh. That’s weird cuz for me, it’s getting HARDER for me to decide as time goes on… maybe cuz I know “too many” variables? Back in the day I either wanted something or I didn’t – it was super easy for me to decide, whether I had the money or not. Now that I have the money, it’s like it’s geting harder or something… hopefully it’s just a phase though.
@Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – I can dig that :)
@Maria Nedeva – Awww, thanks! I think so too :) You’d like her a lot if you ever met her in real life.
@Kathy – Yeah, that doesn’t help me when I already have everything I need though ;) Sometimes I like to go shopping with “wants” on the mind instead, haha…
@Melissa – Oooh I like that idea! Cuz if there’s nothing else you’d WANT w/ that money, then yeah – it seems like it would be a good choice! Good one :) How do you like your iPad so far? (I’m thinking of getting the Mrs. one in the future – she’s always studying in bed and this would make that soooo much easier for her!)
@myloverswife – Haha, yeah. It’s funny the things we do to convince ourselves of things ;)
@Bergie Powers – HAH! We’re actually in the market for a new sofa ;) We sold our old one on craigstlist and now we are couch-less down here in our basement! Haha… I thought it would be a lot easier to find one that we wanted – oh well… at least 1/2 of the mission is gone ;)
@Nell – Haha yup! We are very similar, my friend :) Sometimes I feel like people are staring at me weird when I do that stuff, but in the end it’s always the best way about it. Sometimes carrying things around for a bit helps you get rid of that “excited” phase enough to put it back down. And if not, then at least I know I like the thing! Guess we all have our methods :)

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21 Melissa November 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I’m loving the iPad! It hasn’t really *replaced* my phone or my laptop or books or magazines, but it’s a really great supplement to them. I’d say I mostly use it for reading stuff, like blogs. I used to wake up every morning and spend 15 or 20 minutes laying in bed reading news and blogs on my phone, and this makes SUCH a difference. Especially something like the Flipboard app. I’m also getting really into magazines on the iPad. It’s the perfect format for them, and you usually get a lot of cool extras. (The Wired for iPad version is pretty awesome.)

I also find it handy for treating as like, a little mini boombox, if I want to listen to music away from my stereo. Or to watch movies/Netflix on when I’m travelling without a laptop.

Hope that helps!

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22 Heather M. November 16, 2011 at 10:49 am

I need to do this more often. My problem is, if I buy something off the internet (which I rarely do), if the clothes don’t quite fit, for me it’s more of a hassle to find time after work to return the item and potentially pay for shipping, then to just live with something that doesn’t quite fit or if the shoes are little too big.

But when I’m in a store, I really need to start doing this practice. “Will I be really upset if the shirt rips, shrinks in the washer, if it gets lost, etc?”

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23 Kris November 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I have a list of the things I need (and a few things I want) with me all of the time. If it’s not on the list, I don’t buy it. If I feel like I need it and I can also afford it, I’ll put it on the list when I get home. I only go out once a week to buy things like groceries and run errands, so any new items usually sit on the list at least a week before any purchase. Most of the time I realize that I can do without whatever it was anyway and delete it.

Another thing that helps is to keep my stuff organized. If I know what I already have, I’m less likely to think I need more of something when I really don’t.

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24 J. Money November 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm

@Melissa – SOLD!!! Haha… that’s exactly what I, or my wife, would use it for too ;) I think it’s going on our list!
@Heather M. – Yeah I can’t buy clothes online for that reason too. Even though I always get tricked by Woot’s “shirt of the day” and then remember when I go to put it on that their shirts never fit well :( Harumph.
@Kris – Oooh that’s a good idea. Once a week shopping! I’d go nutso if I REALLY wanted something though, haha… glad you found something that works for you :)

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