For many years, my closet was stuffed to over flowing with cute vintage dresses, novelty ballet flats, and slightly stretched out, faded pieces of regret.Where does one purchase regret? you ask. Well, it's for sale pretty much everywhere. Click To Tweet
It’s particularly easy to find on sales racks and in thrift stores where things are allllllmost what you’re looking for if you’re just willing to hem it, belt it, or wear a blazer over it.
(Do you ever actually hem anything? I don’t.)
If you go shopping when you’re feeling sad, tired, hungry, or celebratory it’s even easier to find. Why, I’ve purchased bags upon bags of regret when I’m in right mood!
Heavy-handed metaphors aside, we’ve all experienced buyer’s remorse. We’ve all bought things that seemed cuter in the store. We’ve all shopped in hopes that it would cure what ails us ($17 sundresses from Target rarely cure deep-seated emotional issues)
We’ve all purchased things that seemed ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY in the moment but two weeks later are gathering dust, tags still on.
While my life isn’t 100% buyer’s remorse-proof, I’ve dramatically cut down on my returns and guilt-filled Goodwill donations by asking myself these questions before I make a big purchase (or a little one I’m not sure of!)
9 questions that will help you avoid buyer’s remorse
Will this work with other things I own? Does it have multiple uses?
Can you wear that sweater with several other things in your closet? Can you use that kitchen gadget to make soup and hummus and coleslaw? Can you use that bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s concentrate to clean everything, ever?
Or is this going to be a one-trick pony? The shirt that doesn’t match anything or the gadget that you only need for one, specific recipe? If you loooooove something, buy it. But if you’re just buying the one-trick-pony because it’s on sale, maybe you should leave it on the shelf.
Is this so awesome that I’m going to wear it/display it/activate it as soon as I get home?
You’ll find shopping a lot easier (and you’ll spend less money) if you honor the “immediate yes.” You know what this looks and feels like. When you try on that coat, you know it has to be yours – before you even look at the price tag. You see that purse from the across the store and make a beeline while moaning “YASSSSSSS.” And then you buy it and ask them to cut the tags off so you can wear it out of the store.
If something doesn’t make you feel this way, why are you buying it? Now, I realize that some purchases simply aren’t “YASSSSS”-worthy. Like, how exciting can placemats really be? But I firmly believe that it’s possible to feel better than “I guess this will work” about everything you buy.
If I hadn’t seen the price tag, how much would I be willing to pay?
This is a particularly good trick for clothes. When I’m shopping, I look at the inner tags on clothing to find my size, but I don’t look at prices. Once I’ve tried something on and decided that I might want to buy it, I mentally set a price that I’d be willing to pay.
Amazing, butt-improving jeans? I will pay top dollar. Gorgeous winter coat that I’m going to wear for six months out of the year? I’m happy to drop some serious bank. Set the price in your mind, flip that price tag over, and then purchase accordingly.
If you’re willing to pay $20 and that sundress is $35, you’ve got your answer. And if you’d have happily paid $200 for that Calvin Klein coat and it was $60, then I guess it’s your lucky day!
Do I already own something that serves a similar purpose?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: You see The Perfect Black Sweater and immediately purchase it. Once you get home and joyfully tuck it into your closet, you realize that you already own four just like it. And then you feel like a loser who wastes money and clearly doesn’t have a handle on her closet situation. (Or at least that’s how I felt when I inadvertently purchased my third pair of boyfriend-cut, army-green khakis.)
You can avoid double purchases by knowing what you already have and making a shopping list. It seems obvious, but how often have you been lured by the siren song of the sales rack and oddly familiar sweaters? When you know what you already own, you won’t buy it again.
Is this well-made? Is it going to last?
If it’s a piece of clothing that costs less than $30 new, the answer to this question is probably “no.” You can, however, make cheaply-made clothes last longer by washing them less, washing them in cold water, inside out, and then line-drying them.
If you’re buying appliances or electronics, read reviews before you buy it – even if you’re reading them on your phone while you stand in the aisle at Target! If you’re shopping on Amazon, sort your search results by ‘average customer review’ and then read what people have to say.
Will I use this regularly and repeatedly? Could I just borrow or rent it instead?
Do you really need to buy a bike rack for your car if you only use it twice a year? Or a tent when you camp once a year? Or a suuuuuper tall ladder for a one-time paint job?
Supposedly, the average power drill is used for somewhere between six and 20 minutes in its entire lifetime. I imagine that statistic holds true for many tools and well-intentioned hobby purchases. If you’re just starting a new hobby, make sure it’s something you really, truly love before you buy all the gear. If you’re making one-time home repairs or taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I bet you could borrow or rent many of the things you need!
Will this make my life signiﬁcantly easier or more awesome?
In case you were wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, a Roomba will change your life forever and it is 100% worth that hefty price tag.
There are many other purchases that will vastly improve your life: an Amazon Prime membership, a gym membership, a snow blower, the right chef’s knife. A $25 sweater that I feel lukewarm about probably doesn’t fall under this heading. If a purchase isn’t going to improve your life in any way, why are you buying it? Click To Tweet
Can I afford to pay for this in full right now?
Credit card debt sucks. Overdraft fees suck. Owing money to your friends or family sucks. Of course, there are exceptions to the pay-in-full rule – like medical emergencies or vacations that are six months away. Again, $25 sweaters do not fall under this heading.
If I had to wait in line for 30 minutes to buy this, would I just abandon it and walk out of the store?
How many times have you looked at a long, slow-moving line and thought “You know what? I totally don’t want these novelty socks enough to wait in line for 30 minutes.”? Whenever this happens, I’m always surprised to realize how little I’ll tolerate in order to make my purchases. Which begs the question: how much did I really want this stuff to begin with?
I want to hear from you! Leave a comment and tell us how you avoid buyer’s remorse – your idea could really help someone!
P.P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!