This time of year, many of us are cutting back on spending and trying to be smarter with a budget. I’m right there with you.
You’ve probably heard the old question to ask before you buy anything: “Do I really need this?” And it really is a valid question.
But sometimes, we need more motivation beyond that. For those times when we know we don’t really need something, but we want it!
Here are seven simple little questions that have single-handedly helped me curb spending and make wiser choices with money.
They’re especially useful to consider when you find yourself staring at a great sale! And if something passes every single one of these questions, maybe you should buy it without the guilt!
7 Things to Consider Before You Buy:
1) Does this item have a purpose?
How often do you buy something because it’s a good deal and you might use it later?
Just because you might use something later doesn’t mean you should buy it. Instead, challenge yourself to make sure everything you buy has a specific purpose.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought “just a few more” organizing bins at Target because I *might* want them later. While I often did use the bins later, I also spent quite a lot of money that wasn’t in our budget, creating more stress and hassle for my whole family. The simple truth is that it wasn’t worth it for a pretty container.
The same goes for mid-year toy clearance deals. It won’t do you any good if you stock up on presents your kids don’t really want, even if it was a steal of a deal.
Unless you have a specific purpose for an item, don’t buy it.
2) How long will this item last?
Have you ever thought about those little toys and do-dads from the Target dollar bins or the dollar store? Often times, those items are so cheap, they break the very next day. Even if something was just a dollar, it’s still a dollar less you now have. While that might not seem like much, it does add up over time if it’s something you regularly do.
That’s not to say that you should never buy cheap toys. Sometimes a $1 package of water balloons can provide hours of fun on a hot summer day. While the balloons will be popped and (hopefully) thrown away by the next day, that might truly be money well spent.
Really think about the long-term use of something before you buy it.
3) How much will we really use this?
This question is true for many items we buy, but toys and clothes are the top things I think about with this question.
I don’t buy fancy dresses or suits for Easter or special occasions for my family. Our church is casual anyways, so my kids would literally only wear the fancy clothes for one day. And even if I found a good deal at a thrift store, I would still have to find something for all four of my kids and that adds up quickly.
I also ask this for anything I buy myself. I love scarves, but I rarely wear them – probably because I’m always afraid I’ll get them dirty between my kids and animals. Since I have 5 or 6 pretty scarves already, I don’t need any more.
The same goes for toys. Does my daughter really need one more stuffed toy? Does Luke need one more toy car? If it’s something they’ll truly cherish and play with often, it may be worth it, but again this is another important question to consider.
4) Will this cause clutter and chaos later?
Whether your home is perfectly organized or completely chaotic and driving you nuts, you will want to consider how buying whatever you’re considering will fit into your home.
Will it truly be used or will it soon become just another toy for you to trip over or knick knack collecting dust?
Last summer, I organized and decluttered our whole house, thanks to following the Marie Kondo “tidying” method. It was a huge project, but well worth it to get sanity back into our home. And because I worked so hard and got rid of so much stuff, I’ve been mindful ever since about what I bring into the house.
I love little stuffed toys and knick knacks and have always purchased them from various places we’ve visited, etc., but I realized last year that I don’t love them sitting around my house.
With that in mind, I was able to say “no” to buying an adorable 6″ stuffed Chewbacca from Kohl’s. This little “Chewy” would roar when you pressed his tummy and it was adorable. Even my husband asked if I wanted this as a Christmas present, but I told him “no” because I knew it would end up as a dust collector on my desk.
A stuffed Chewy might not be your temptation, but consider what does trip you up when you’re shopping. Is it craft supplies? Books or educational toys for your kids? Maybe it’s kitchen gadgets or DVDs.
This is one of my favorite questions for curbing spending!
5) Do I want this because a friend has it or is telling me to buy it?
We’ve all been faced with a little friendly peer pressure from friends to buy something. It doesn’t have to be “keeping up with the Jones.” Often times, it might just be your best friend recommending a new workout DVD or a friend asking you to host a jewelry party.
Those “direct sales” companies are some of the biggest culprits here and the companies know it too; how do you think they get so big?! Sure some of the products might truly be great, but how many sales are made because people feel guilty and want to please a friend who is starting a business?
I allowed myself to be guilted into a Facebook party one time and ended up purchasing $25 worth of jewelry. I certainly didn’t need it and when I received it, 3 of the 5 pieces looked nothing like the picture and I hated them. I only wear one set of earrings from that party, meaning I wasted a solid $20 just to please a friend.
There are better ways to be a friend.
6) Do I HAVE to buy this today?
This is another valuable age-old question to ask before you buy. Instead of buying something today, go home and think about it. If you still really want it tomorrow or next week, then it might be something to consider fitting into your budget or saving for.
This is something I always tell my kids, who often want to buy something “now” and it’s important to model this for them.
Usually when you wait to buy something, one of three things will happen:
1) You’ll forget about it, meaning it wasn’t that important to begin with.
2) You’ll find a better deal elsewhere
or 3) You’ll miss out on a deal.
Guess what? In all the times I’ve waited to buy something, I’ve only regretted it a few times. On the other hand, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve regretted overspending because I bought something now.
7) Is there a better option than buying this?
Does your child really need another game even if it is a great price?
Do you really need yet one more blu-ray for your family movie collection?
I made the mistake of buying an instant video movie through an Amazon sale last fall. It was just $5 for a popular movie I thought would be fun to watch with the kids over Christmas break. The problem is we never got around to watching it. And last week, I discovered our library offers this movie for FREE as a week-long rental.
Often times, there’s great alternatives to buying something. You could borrow a game from a friend, go to the library, even download a free book from Kindle.
By asking yourself these 7 simple questions before you buy something, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and stress. Think about it the next time you want to buy something impulsively. Is it really worth it?
(Mine is Amazon Lighting Deals and Kohls’ with their 30% off coupons!)