20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy Something

Ever clean your home and come across things you regret buying? Finding stuff like clothes with tags on or items still in the box suggests you should be more intentional with your spending. When you think before you buy, you make wise money choices. You also end up with less clutter and more money in your pocket. Here are 20 questions to ask yourself before buying something:

1. Do I Need It?

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Is the product you are considering something you need, or is it something you want? Brands work hard to get you to believe you can’t live without their product and that you deserve it. Their only objective is to get you to buy. They don’t care whether you need it or can afford it.

The more you believe the hype, the more likely you will buy it. Acting in your own best interests leads to making more financially sound decisions. Be honest with yourself. Could you live without it? If you cannot immediately name several ways to use the item regularly, it’s probably worth passing on. 

2. Do I Already Have Something Similar?

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Some things break, wear out, or need replacing, while others just accumulate. How many T-shirts, tubes of lipstick, or coffee mugs do you need? If you’re not shopping for a replacement item, following a one-in, one-out rule can prevent clutter before it starts.

3. Why Do I Want This?

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Getting clarity on why you want something often leads to fewer impulse purchases. If you step back and ask yourself why you like something, you might find you don’t have a good reason for purchasing it. You might be making unnecessary costly purchases based on feelings and emotions like:

  • Fear of missing out
  • Trying to make yourself feel better through retail therapy
  • Jealousy
  • Peer or family pressure
  • Wanting to earn praise or attention from others

Make sure your reasons are solid. Letting emotions guide purchase habits is how many people end up with overwhelming credit card debts. If you can remove emotions from financial decisions, you’ll often make the right choice.

4. Can I Afford It?

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Do you have the money for the item right now, or are you considering taking on debt to pay for it? Will the money you spend today prevent you from buying something else you truly need? If you could picture having trouble making rent, keeping the lights on, or not having money for essential purchases, it’s not affordable.

Living below your means is one of the fundamental principles of sound money management. Impulse purchases and lousy shopping habits can lead to months or years of financial struggle. Make sure you can afford any potential purchase before making it.

5. How Many Hours Will I Need to Work to Pay for This?

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Thinking about how many hours you must work to buy a particular item is sobering. It will make you think twice, especially if you dislike your job. You’ll be able to determine whether your purchase is worth the price. It might also stop you from making an impulse decision.

6. How Often Will I Use or Wear It?

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Is your basement filled with unused products that seemed like a good idea? Do you have pieces of clothing or shoes in the back of your closet that you’ve only worn once or not at all?

Before buying that dream item or adding another black dress to your collection of outfits, ask yourself how often you see yourself using or wearing it. Be realistic. Today’s kitchen gadgets or trendy clothing might be tomorrow’s garage sale junk.

7. Am I Getting the Best Price?

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Comparison shopping is essential when making a large purchase or buying expensive items. Check online sellers and shops in your area. Research sales cycles and find the best time to buy the item you’re considering.

Getting the best purchase price is also important when buying things you use daily. For example, reading the sales flyer and planning meals around sale items could significantly lower your food budget. Not paying full price for anything at the supermarket automatically generates savings.

8. Am I Buying This Only Because It’s on Sale?

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Everyone loves a bargain. Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator, so bargain prices and limited-time offers are so enticing. If you buy something you otherwise wouldn’t or buy too much of something, you’re not getting a bargain- you’re impulse shopping.

Ask yourself if you would buy it at full price. If the answer is no, you’re probably only considering it based on the current price, or it’s something you don’t need. Here’s a better deal: save 100% of the sale price by walking away.

9. Is There a Cheaper Option?

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A higher price does not always equal higher quality or more usefulness. Whether it’s the latest tech toy or designer shoes, getting the same value from cheaper items is better for your financial health. Reaching for the priciest or most current items every time instead of looking for alternatives costs you a lot of money in the long run.

10. Can I Buy It Used or Borrow It?

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There are plenty of options for buying gently used products. You can purchase secondhand stuff on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, garage sales, and local consignment shops. You can save money on power tools, appliances, exercise equipment, and more.

Borrowing from a friend, family member, or neighbor before making an expensive purchase is also a good option. You get to try before you buy, and you may find that you don’t like or need something after the first use.

11. Can It Wait?

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Certain products and services need to be purchased immediately. If there’s no doubt you need it immediately, buy it. If it’s non-essential and you can get by without it, try the 30-day rule.

The 30-day rule will help you curb impulse purchases and eliminate the need for instant gratification. Instead of spending money on something you don’t need right now, delay the purchase for 30 days. After 30 days, make that purchase if it’s something you still want and can afford.

12. Do I Have the Space for It?

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Space could be an issue depending on what type of item or how much you’re buying. Buying in bulk or stockpiling only works if you have storage space. If you’re buying something significant like furniture, figure out if you have room for it or are willing to rearrange things.

13. How Do You Get Support if You Need It?

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Some products have a steep learning curve. Or you might just need a gentle nudge in the right direction. How will you get your questions answered?

A manual might include clear instructions, an online forum, an official YouTube channel, or phone support. If you foresee yourself needing help, it’s good to know what options are available.

14. What Is the Return Policy?

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Whether you have buyer’s remorse, come to your senses, or bought a lemon, you might want your money back at some point. Check the store’s return policy before you make a purchase.

Know how long you have to return the item and what is required. Keep your receipt and the original packaging until you’re sure you won’t want a refund. Be aware of any restocking fees or shipping costs.

15. What Does the Warranty Cover?

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Companies offer warranties on their products, but they’re usually subject to various terms and conditions. The product might only be covered for manufacturing defects, you might have to meet certain conditions, and the warranty might only be good for one year from the date of purchase. If you’re considering a major purchase, understand the warranty before you buy.

16. Who Is Behind the Product?

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Companies might have policies, engage in business practices, or support causes that don’t align with your beliefs. Make sure you know who is behind the product if you don’t want to support companies that don’t hold similar values.

17. Where Is the Item Made?

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If you would rather support local businesses or your country’s economy, the product’s place of origin might be important. If the packaging or product description doesn’t indicate where a product comes from, the website ProductFrom.com will probably be able to tell you.

18. Is the Product Produced Responsibly and Sustainably?

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Some companies are fully committed to reducing their carbon footprint, being socially responsible, and making their supply chains more sustainable. Others don’t give it any thought as they continue exploiting workers, creating tone-deaf ads, and ruining the environment. Do your homework on how a product you are considering is produced and how it arrives on your doorstep.

19. What Is the Resale Value?

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The resale value might be a consideration if you’re considering buying a luxury item or something like a collectible you think will appreciate over time. If you’re purchasing something you hope to sell or know you will sell in the future, look at the secondary market. Consider what factors could influence the future price and where those factors stand now.

20. What Will the Seller Do With Your Personal Information?

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If you’ve ever donated to a charity or filled out a form online and then been bombarded with phone calls, emails, and junk mail, you know some organizations and companies sell or share your contact info.

Every company you deal with should post its privacy policy on its website and have it available in-store at its physical locations. If you can’t find it, ask how your personal information will be used before you hand anything over.

Author: Sara Graham

Title: Freelance Writer

Expertise: Frugal living and household budgeting

Bio:

Sara Graham is a frugal living and household budgeting expert. Her writing has appeared on MSN Money, The Good Men Project, Fairygodboss, and several other online publications. She co-founded a personal finance and frugal living blog that she later sold.