Okay, there are actually 10 questions you should ask yourself before buying anything. This here’s a two parter. To the novice frugalite, it may seem like a lot. But once you hone the art of not spending money (or parting with as little as possible), these questions automatically answer themselves.
1. Do I need it?
Big spending on wants masquerading as necessities is a fast and easy way to end up broke. The cornerstone of any good spending plan involves properly distinguishing between the two. Simply put, don’t buy what you don’t need.
However, we still get into trouble when we overspend on needs that arise out of wants. For example, in order to progress in your career, you may need to acquire additional education or advanced certification. You don’t need to take classes at Pretentious Private University in order to achieve your objectives. There are generally state schools, even community colleges, that offer the education required that’ll get you to the next level in your field.
We can also strain our finances by buying the things we need but already own. Food immediately comes to mind. Just recently I needed nutmeg to make a sweet potato pie. As soon as I got home, I discovered I had some already. Although I’m getting better, this is an area I’ve struggled in since assuming the responsibility of buying groceries for myself over a decade ago.
2. Do I want it?
There are many things we really do want. But only for a teeny tiny moment in time. Refrain from purchasing within that window, and I gar-on-tee you’ll save a heap of money. Sometimes all it takes is waiting for the retail rush to wear off.
If you’re reading this from home, a short visual survey of whatever room you’re in will likely turn up several items that make you ask yourself a most unparliamentary question: “WTF was I thinking when I bought dis ish?!”
I’ve heard you should wait at least 24 hours before deciding whether you want something or not. Some people suggest 3 days. I think it depends on your financial situation. The more expensive an item is with respect to your income and net worth, the longer you should take before buying it.
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3. Will I use it?
There may be a product you’ve wanted for months, years even. You’ve researched it. You’re obsessed with it. You know you want it. None of that is worth a hill of beans if you never use it! I had a coffee maker I owned for years that was never used to brew even a single cup of coffee.
You may be thinking you don’t know whether you’ll use a particular item until you buy it. Just look at how/if you’re using similar products. So, that new bread maker you’ve been drooling over will likely meet the same fate as the ice cream maker that’s spent the last 7 years dry rotting in your basement.
4. Can it wait?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting stuff. It’s just that you may not be able to have everything you want all at once. A little patience goes a long way. Sites such as Shop It To Me alert you when apparel from your favorite brands go on sale. Savvy Circle sends you an e-mail notification when specific items you’ve chosen are marked down. You can setup deal alerts on Slickdeals.net using keywords for merchandise you’re looking to buy.
Who knows? You might wait so long for an item to go on sale, you discover you don’t want it after all. (Refer back to question 2.)
5. Can I get it for free?
Don’t forget family and friends. Other people’s inability to control their spending habits can be your gain. I learned a colleague replaced his flat panel monitor with a higher end version, and politely asked for the item he no longer wanted. I now have it and don’t use it, but at least I didn’t spend any money on it. Win/Win.
Don’t be offended when hoarders refuse to come off the goods. They can’t help it. I find these types can’t stand the idea of giving you something they might use in the decades to come. Let’s love them just the same.
What money mistakes have you made because you didn’t ask yourself these questions?
This article was featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance: Parts-of-speech abuse edition! Check out the other articles at Mighty Bargain Hunter.