4 questions to ask before you buy that next “thing”

by J. Money -

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Morning!

Found this draft in my inbox this morning and realized I never finished it!!

Not sure if that was done on purpose because it was lame, or if I was just being way too lazy/forgetful, but either way we’re about to find out! ;)

It was inspired by an article on Vice’s new personal finance site, FREE, that covered the 6 questions everyone should ask themselves before spending money.

Here were the 6 questions, which I agree are all pretty great:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. How do I feel?
  3. Do I need this?
  4. What if I wait?
  5. How will I pay for it?
  6. Where will I put it?

That first one was KEY for me when starting my own journey. So many times I’d find myself at the mall or at Best Buy or any other big box stores simply because I was bored!! I never really showed up to buy anything specific, however time after time again I’d always leave with at least an item or two (or ten)…

It wasn’t until my first “No Spend” challenge when I caught myself doing this, and for the past 10 years since I’m proud to say that I’ve been Bored-Shopping-free :) And saving nearly $200/mo because of it!

How do I feel? Another excellent question… Because most people shop when they’re either extremely sad or extremely happy (or bored!), so catching yourself before you pull out that credit card can also do wonders. (Or better yet – hide your money somewhere the second you start feeling those emotions bubbling up!! Haha…)

Do I need this? and Where do I put it? are also very smart ones, but even better – and one I’ve never heard of put in such a simple way – is the What if I wait?

Love it! What would happen if you waited??? Other than your wallet being fuller?? :) Personally I tend to forget about things within moments of walking away from them, but on the off times I can’t stop thinking about an item it only helps reassure me that it’s something I probably do really need or want inside. And in which case I go back and buy it! (Sometimes even on sale by then!)

Of course, the trick with ALL of these questions is actually *forcing yourselves to ask them* before you scoop up the stuff, which isn’t always the most natural/exciting, haha…

So I’ve actually come up with my *own* set of questions over the years to pepper myself with, and 9 out of 10 times they’ll do the trick:

#1) Would I actually wear or use this item right out of the store?? This is my go-to question whenever I can’t tell if I really want to buy an article of clothing/book/food or basically anything else in life… If I wouldn’t consume or make use of the item *right there on the spot* (like wearing out a new shirt or opening a book as soon as I buy it), then chances are I’ll hesitate doing it later too! Because when you first pick up an item you’re always at your peak excitement! So if you don’t want to use it right then and there, then what are the odds you’re going to want to later??

#2) Would I rather have this item right now or cash money instead? One of the most simplest – and painfully obvious! – questions you can ask, but BOY does it punch a whopper! Haha… Because often times you ALWAYS prefer the money BECAUSE IT’S MONEY!! Yet how many of us are quick to turn it over for something new and shiny before giving its actual value some good attention?! Which leads us to the next great question to ask…

#3) Would I pay *double* for this?? This is when you REALLY know whether you want or need something, haha… Not that you’d necessarily put it down if the answer was “no”, but it helps you gauge the perceived value of an item MUCH quicker right there in the moment. Which of course you’d want to be higher than the asking price – real or otherwise – if you’re going to be ponying up for it.

And then lastly, which is mainly for *getting rid of stuff* than bringing home new things: #4) Would I go out and buy this thing all over again? If your immediate reaction is “NOPE!” then you have your answer right there, and it’s time to get it out the door once and for all ;) Which I also hear is a helpful question in examining relationships too! Haha… (“If I could go back in time, would I start dating this guy/girl/friend all over again??”)

Those are the 4 questions that have worked wonders for me, anyways :) Maybe you have your own that helps keep your spending in check?

We’re not always in as much control as we’d like to think! That brain of ours can be a tricky thing!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bryan April 15, 2019 at 7:41 am

Timely post. I’ve been eyeballing an electric powered lawn de-thatcher for $105.00. Not very expensive as far as de-thatchers go, but it still makes me anxious parting with the cash. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet.
You could probably file this response in your home buying file under maintenance. I do enjoy a lush lawn and vibrant landscape (my hobby I guess) but fertilizers and equipment should be factored into your cost if you care about that sort of thing. Never hire someone unless you can’t physically do the work yourself. They charge way too much and they all suck. Personally, I love the hard work and literally the fruits of my labor. :-)

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2 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:14 pm

I think you should buy it then due to all those savings you’ve had doing it yourself ;)

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3 Financially Fit Mom April 15, 2019 at 8:16 am

These are great questions to ask! I would add “Could I get this cheaper elsewhere?” My husband is a shoe fanatic and he is a pro at finding fancy department store shoes, trying them on to obtain his size, and then going online and often getting the exact same shoe at half the cost or less.

I have found that I simply don’t carry any financial instrument with me if I’m not going somewhere with the intent of spending (grocery shopping, planned dinner out, etc). If I happen across something I would buy, this forces me to go home, get money, and go back and buy it. That has happened a few times, but in most cases, the item in question isn’t that important to me. This also aid in my nutritional goals. When I want to stop for a bottle of wine or 6 pack, I have to tell myself that I’ll go home, get my bike and ride up (literally, uphill) to our neighborhood grocery store to get it. Another thing that usually doesn’t happen. :)

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4 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:15 pm

AHHH Love that idea!!! Haha….

You’ve figured yourself out well ;)

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5 Nate April 15, 2019 at 8:32 am

A questions I like to ask myself is “Can I see myself being happy that I made this purchase a year from now?”

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6 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:16 pm

Great one!! Also if it’s something you can still *use* a year from now too, otherwise maybe there’s a way to just borrow or rent it for the only times you need it coming up?

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7 Joe April 15, 2019 at 9:54 am

These are great questions. I’ve been thinking about getting a power washer because I need to refinish the deck. It’s not too expensive, but I won’t use it that often. Renting isn’t going to be much cheaper. It’s tough when it comes to this kind of home improvement stuff.
I’m not sure about your #1, though. Lots of time I would wear or use that thing right after I buy it, but don’t use it much afterward. I see your point. If I hesitate at the beginning, I probably will use it even less.

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8 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:20 pm

You just killed my idea above, haha…

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9 Phyllis April 15, 2019 at 9:57 am

Another question: How many hours would I need to work to pay for this?

And another: If I were to move, would I pay to take this with me?

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10 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:19 pm

YES to both of these!!

I remember The Minimalists writing a post once on a “packing party” where you pretend you’re moving just to see what needs to stay and what needs to go, haha… Let me see if I can find it..

Here it is! –> https://www.theminimalists.com/packing/

Pretty good idea!

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11 Chris @ Mindful Explorer April 15, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Something that I must practice everyday. I have forced myself to live smaller, earn less and own less as I reached FI and must choose between not working and working. By having to work I can not do all the volunteer work that i do in my community, thus I tell myself others will not be doing as well if I act selfishly with my time. My time should be for doing good, not for making money to spend on myself.

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12 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:21 pm

Dangggg that is good!! Never thought of it that way!!

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13 Moneybee April 15, 2019 at 1:26 pm

My version of “Do I need this?” is a little more concrete: “What would I do without this?”

I just bought a new dress for a wedding. What would I have done without it? Wear something I had. So I looked at what I had, and everything was too casual, too dressy, or white, so I knew I needed to buy something new.

On the other hand, what would I do without buying [insert book]? I’d get it from the library or read one of the books I already own and haven’t read. Therefore I don’t need to buy the new book.

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14 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Another awesome idea :)

And most times we’re already doing “without it” and seem to manage just fine, haha…

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15 Tawcan April 15, 2019 at 1:39 pm

These are great questions, I definitely ask myself question 3 &4 quite often before purchasing something. I also like to ask “how many hours do I have to work to pay for this.” And use the after tax hourly rate. It gives you a good perspective.

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16 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:23 pm

People like to forget about that “after tax” part too ;) Everything we buy cost so much more than we realize – it’s crazy when you really think about it!

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17 DNN April 15, 2019 at 2:22 pm

I’m cutting down on spending soon because I just discovered or one of my credit accounts, I allegedly have over $1100 in interest and fees I’m paying in addition to the statement balance. I am done with this creditor once I pay off this bill which is close to $5000.

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18 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:24 pm

OUCH!!!

It’s time to kill it once and for all – you can do it man!! We got your back!!! :)

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19 Nita April 15, 2019 at 3:19 pm

#3 and #4 of the 6 original questions are already long-time habits but I really like them all. #1 and #2, especially, are very good to see whether I’m fit to make any financial decision.
#6 is now subconscious (my place is tiny, so if I don’t know I don’t buy), and #5, I have a non-grocery discretion spending fund, and pretty much always know how much is in it, so it’s an easy can/can’t decision.

About yours… I might apply #1 and #3 on just some categories of spending (more #1 on impulse, cheap buying and more #3 on expensive collectibles for instance). #2 and #4, however, are universal filters (especially #2).

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20 J. Money April 15, 2019 at 4:25 pm

It looks like you’re already good at this game :)

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21 Kate April 16, 2019 at 8:47 am

I like all these questions and think their order of priority moves around for me at different stages of my life. Currently “WHERE WILL I PUT IT?” comes up as number one. I foolishly thought that moving from living alone in a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom apartment (with husband and dog!)would double my space. Huh?! So unless something is getting REPLACED then I’m not buying it! Winter boots (in the end of winter sale!) can replace leaky boots, a new lipstick can replace a nearly fully used one and until I sell my mid-century style sideboard then country cottage style sideboard is staying in the Amazon wishlist!

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22 J. Money April 16, 2019 at 3:58 pm

Haha I like the way you think ;)

A popular practice of minimalists too!

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23 Dave April 21, 2019 at 9:23 pm

#3 is such an awesome idea. I think we all get caught up in looking for a good deal, instead of buying what we really need. #3 really solves that urge and gets us to think about the real value of an item to us. Thanks for sharing!

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24 J. Money April 22, 2019 at 6:41 am

Glad you liked, sir!

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