This post is inspired by the “Deliberation Station” by Downsize Upgrade. For a handy workbook and guide to these questions, check out their website!
“Should I buy this?”
Making spending decisions can be really nerve-wracking, especially if you haven’t learned to completely trust yourself with money yet. So how do you know whether or not you should buy something? Here are 15 questions before you make your next purchase:
- Have I thought about this for at least two weeks?
I’ve found that two weeks is about the time I need to let my “shiny object syndrome” fade away. By then, I’ve forgotten why I really needed that desk treadmill.
- Does it solve a problem that I’ve genuinely noticed?
If you’ve ever been on social media or around a group of friends, you know what it’s like to be subtly influenced to buy something that you’ve never felt the need for before. I’m sure the item solves a problem in your life, but have you even noticed the problem?
- Do I already own something similar?
It’s very common to want something nice or slightly different than something you already own, so being honest here can remind you if your prospective purchase is a want or a need. I’ve had a cone-shaped chinois strainer on my wish list for about 5 years, but it doesn’t help my case that I literally own 5 other strainers that do the exact same thing.
- Is buying it worth giving up progress towards my next financial goal?
The fact of the matter is, choosing one thing means giving up on something else. Every purchase you make takes away from that bigger goal you have down the line. Is this purchase worth it for you?
- Where will it be in five years?
Will it be in a landfill, or in a dusty corner of your closet? Or will it still be in use or used up?
- Where will I put it if I buy it?
Future me will appreciate if I just don’t keep buying things while having no idea where to put them (the bread maker found a corner in the living room though, and it seems pretty happy there). Considering this question will help you avoid future clutter.
- How long will I have to work to pay for it?
Do you know your hourly rate? Calculating how much this new item will cost you in time can help put things in perspective. Can you pay for this item with an hour or two of work, or will it take a significant amount of time?
- Can I be productive or happy without it?
This question hits home for me about whether this item really feeds my soul or if it’s just a passing whim.
- What is the cost per use?
Sometimes I can really convince myself that I need the highest quality option of something, but I only plan to use that something once a year. This question helps me balance whether quality is worth it, considering how often I plan to use something. Is the cost per use worth it to you?
- Does buying this support my priorities/values?
Knowing your values and priorities can guide almost any decision, especially when it comes to spending.
- Can I borrow it from someone instead?
Think about your friends, your neighbors, family, or your local Buy Nothing or other community groups.
- Is it a high quality item with a reasonable price tag?
Low quality items are more likely to end up as trash, and considering the expense can help you balance whether or not this purchase is worth it.
- What is my current mental/emotional state?
Are you feeling calm & neutral, or are you being altered by an internal or external force? Hint: if you’re currently inside Target, you’re probably in an altered state.
- What is the real reason I’m considering buying this?
Dig a little deeper, my friend. Are you considering buying that Dyson Airwrap because you want to feel beautiful? (Just me? Okay.) Do you want that new treadmill so you can feel fit and active? The point isn’t necessarily to judge your reason, it’s to be aware of it and decide whether or not that reason is 1. Rooted in reality and 2. Worth the investment for you.
- Have I budgeted for this item?
My philosophy is that you can have anything you really want as long as you find the money first. Have you budgeted for this item? To me, this means you have purposely set aside money specifically for this purchase, and have fully considered the rest of your needs and wants, like food, shelter, etc. If you aren’t sure how this purchase may impact the rest of your expenses and goals, this is a sign that you could use a budget!
I hope these questions help you make your next spending decision! What do you think of these questions? Did we miss any that you would include on the list?
Want some more help to spend mindfully? Mindful Budgets can help you build a budget that aligns with your values and goals, so you’re only spending on the things that are truly important to you. Learn more about our financial coaching services!