9 Surprisingly Easy Ways To Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

Do you ever have buyer's remorse? We all do! One of the best budgeting tips is "buy fewer things you don't need" Read on to find out how! #budgeting #moneysavingtips #shoppingtips #FIRE #personalfinance

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. Share on X

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? Share on X

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.S. Money doesn’t matter if everything else sucks + 23 ways to treat yo’self without buying or eating anything

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!

Photo by STIL on Unsplash // cc

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  1. Sara

    Fantastic set of questions, Sarah! I’ve TOTALLY been that person that bought that super-cute-great-fit-with-the-perfect-amount-of-lace black dress three times because the one I had only was worn once and I forgot about it. #facepalm

    Since doing two huge donations to Goodwill per year for the last three years, I’ve gotten a lot better about clothes and kitchen gadgets, but the two places I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to practice self control? Workout clothes + books. 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Well, I think there’s some wisdom in the saying “The right tools make working a joy.” I am OBSESSED with my public library but if I read a book and looooove it and know I want to own it, I get a huge amount of happiness from tracking down a really beautiful hard cover edition. <3

  2. Kate

    This such a good set of questions, and I feel like I should print them off and stick them in my purse for future shopping trips.

    All of my buyer’s remorse happens when I buy something for a very specific purpose or event. And it’s usually an event that I feel anxious about or that I feel unprepared to attend so I cope by going on these ridiculous quests for clothing I don’t need. I just cleaned out my closet, and I found all of these items of clothes that 1) I didn’t really like 2) didn’t really fit 3) were not my style at all. And I could trace them back to events: 1) 10 year college reunion Homecoming game (blue and orange striped shirt on sale at Target) 2) music festival (two gauzy see through tops) 3) cowl neck dress (wedding in which I didn’t have a date and I would see my ex) 4) bridal shower I had to throw as MOH (floral dress that felt appropriately “girly” when I don’t like florals. Now at least I’m aware of it, but I am constantly fighting against the urge.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Kate, I actually created a little credit-card sized reminder for you to do that! You can get it here 🙂

      • Kate

        How handy! 😉 Thanks Sarah!

  3. kim domingue

    Oh! Books! Love, love, love books. There are books that I’ve enjoyed very much but know I won’t want to read it again. Some books are a “one read only” book. There are books that I’ve read that, as soon as I turn the last page, I know that it will be a book that I’ll enjoy reading over and over again. Those books I must own. That I can get it from the library is irrelevant. That I can get it cheaper and read it on a Kindle device is irrelevant. That other people think that a hard bound book is a waste of money…..their opinion is irrelevant. Holding a book in my hands…..the heft and weight of it a pleasure to my senses, the rustle of the pages as I turn them, flipping back and forth to reread a favorite passage, the smell of the paper, ink, glue used in the binding…..delightful. Seeing rows of books on my shelves, patiently waiting to be chosen, waiting to take me on a journey to another place, another time, another life…..what richness! I always have a list of books that I’m waiting to purchase. This would be one of the questions that I ask myself when making a decision to purchase something…..do I want it badly enough to postpone the purchase of the next book that’s on my “waiting to be bought” list?

  4. Marie Therese

    I love this. I feel like I have buyer’s remorse for clothing/accessories more than anything else. They’re just too easy of a trap: cheap and conveniently close. But! After I moved to Italy, I found it A LOT harder to blow money on clothes, because A) there are no Targets anywhere 🙂 and B) luckily, the shopping areas are a bit of a drive. Thankfully,I kind of hate online shopping, so, this new set up here in Italy has really forced me to deal with the deeper issues instead of caving in at my old American go-to’s.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      It’s amazing how much less we buy when it’s inconvenient, isn’t it?!

  5. Danielle

    LOVE THIS AND NEED THIS IMMENSELY. Those Target sweaters just really get me, man. You know what else is worth it? A car starter. When it’s 17 degrees outside and I have to be at work at 5am, this is exactly what is going to make my life better.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      YES! I drive a stick shift so I can’t really get an automatic start installed but I fantasize about it ALL THE TIME.

  6. Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

    I’m not going to lie, having had to move abroad twice with only one or two luggages in which to hold all my worldly possessions has made me a lot more aware of every bit of stuff that I own and also what I really need. If it wouldn’t come with me in the luggage then I don’t need it. It’s my main thought when I purchase. Though, I can rarely deny myself the purchase of cheap books on sale! I know at some point this is going to change, as I settle down, etc. but for now I feel I strengthening myself to not doing crazy purchases! When I think about it, I often find myself buying expensive things when the previous expensive thing I owned broke, so then I don’t feel guilty about buying a new pair of good jeans or good snow boots.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! When people ask me if I’m ‘naturally’ a minimalist I say “it’s amazing what living out of a backpack for 10 months will do you your wardrobe” 😉

  7. Taylor

    I love your blog and read it religiously. The question I would add to this list is, “Do I know exactly where I’m going to put it when I get home?” A big negative side effect of buying things is having no place to put them, in which case even the most beloved thing can become a daily hindrance because it is clutter 90% of the time and only beloved 10% of the time.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ohhh, that’s a great good one to add!

  8. Eloise

    The waiting in line tip is a life-changer. I can’t even count how many times I’ve just left something because I didn’t want it badly enough to wait. Asking myself if I would be willing to wait even if there’s no line would definitely help!


  9. Shelly

    The “how much is this worth to me” test works most of the time for me. Especially at places like Homegoods. I like the “would I be willing to wait 30 minutes in line” option too. I hadn’t thought of that, and with 2 monsters 2 and under in tow with me 90% of the time, I bet that wild cut the rest of the crap I buy down.

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