Before You Buy It, Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

Have you ever peeked at your checking account with dread? Or broke into a sweat at the sight of your credit card balance? Face palm: “How did this happen!?” Here’s the hard truth: There’s a chance it’s because of reckless spending.

But it’s not hopeless! You can turn it all around with a new mindset of spending more conscientiously. To improve your financial situation, use this “5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy It” guide to better manage your spending.

Q: Why Is Now the Time to Buy It?

The temptation to spend is everywhere, and the thrill of buying something in the moment is powerful. This challenge is impulse buying vs. thoughtful spending.

To combat mindless overspending, pause every time you’re about to buy something frivolous. Hold off for 72 hours. During this waiting period, your financial goals come into focus again. You could realize that after time passes, you actually don’t need, or even want, the item anymore. The urge to buy it could even pass right after you walk out of the store or X out of the website. If you don’t need it now, you may not need it at all.

Q: Is This an Emotional Purchase?

Shopping is exciting! The euphoric experience of seeing something desirable and purchasing it is called a buyer’s high. You can’t resist how shopping makes you feel good — but shopping isn’t always a good idea.

Disordered shopping, like eating or drinking, becomes the coping mechanism for handling negative feelings, such as anxiety or loneliness. And the more you shop to fill a void, the more you’re at risk for becoming an addicted, compulsive shopaholic.

Is retail therapy draining your bank account? These steps can help:

  1. Identify the underlying reasons for your shopping
  2. Track what triggers you
  3. Look for other ways to deal with those triggers, like going for a walk or talking to a friend
  4. Remember the pleasure is temporary; excessive shoppers often crash from the high as guilt and buyer’s remorse set in
  5. Reach out to a mental health professional or financial advisor for help

Q: Is My Social Life Affecting My Finances?

Happy hours, shopping dates and weekend trips – these social activities can come at a high price, but who wants to decline an invite to join something fun? Only to see the photos posted to Instagram stories #FOMO. There’s a lot of pressure to keep up with your social circle, but finances come first.

Start by budgeting for events and learning to say no once you’ve hit your limit. Also, be honest with your friends about your financial situation and goals. True friends will understand and be open to more affordable or free activities, like grabbing coffee instead dinner and drinks, or cooking a meal together. Connecting with others doesn’t have to revolve around money, prevent you from achieving your financial goals or worse, put you into debt.

Q: Is This “Thing” an “Investment”?

Ingrid Nilsen, a beauty and intentional living vlogger (who considers herself to be financially rich) re-evaluated her shopping by asking: “What is the deeper contribution?” As a guest on The Financial Confessions podcast, Ingrid shares that when she does shop, she knows exactly why she’s making a purchase. She feels good about her purchases. So consider the contributions of your purchases. Is this a big-ticket item with long-term value? Does this purchase contribute to creativity, a passion or continuing joy? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you’ve given yourself the green light to go ahead and buy it.

Q: Do I Shop to Impress Others, Fit in or Keep Up?

Every time we tap, click and scroll on social media, we get the highlight reels of friends, celebrities and influencers. Our eyes fixate on their stylish clothes, fancy dinners out and luxurious trips abroad. We want that shiny life, right?

But on second thought, should a designer outfit or brand-new car be what boosts your quality of life, self-esteem or even social status? Is impressing others and getting their approval worth it? Keep in mind, you don’t know the financial background (like mounting debt) behind what other people have. But if you’re easily influenced, take a break from social media, create personal financial values to stick by and decidedly avoid the comparison game.

To shop more intentionally, write these five questions (and even your financial goals) down on a piece of paper to keep in your wallet. These questions can serve as a constant reminder to always evaluate what you’re about to buy. As you get into the habit of answering these questions, you’ll start to save money and make more controlled shopping decisions.

The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.