Ever venture into a store and want to buy all the things? I think we’ve all been there. Especially with the holidays fast approaching, we need to whip our wallets into shape and build a habit of asking ourselves these questions before we buying anything new. So what are the questions to ask yourself before buying something new? I’m glad you asked!
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As a frugal minimalist, we have built up these muscles of questioning every purchase over time. If you’re new the to the frugality game or just more intentional shopping, these questions to ask yourself before buying anything new will help tremendously. And these asking these questions doesn’t mean that you’ll make perfect purchases each time. Or completely stop impulse shopping. Just give yourself some grace and do better next time.
If you have a hard time not wanting anything new, I highly recommend you check out my post How to Quiet the Voice of Wanting New Things. It will help you find contentment with the items you already have and find a more purposeful way to bring things into your home.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Anything New
1) How am I going to pay for this?
Before you even get to the cash register, before you click “add to cart”, this is the first question to ask yourself before buying anything! How am I going to pay for this?
If the answer is:
- I’ll put it on the credit card
- Money can be transferred from savings
- I’ll just “borrow” money from next month’s budget
You shouldn’t buy the item! Plain and simple. If you have to put an unnecessary purchase on a credit card or use money in savings, you don’t need to buy the item*. Why go into debt if the item really isn’t something you need?
*The exception, of course, is if it is a true emergency.
2) Is this item on my 72 Hour List?
Think of a 72 Hour List as a wish list for all occasions. You walk by something really wonderful in the store, but instead of impulse purchasing it, you add it to the list. So when you shop next time, you can ask yourself this question before buying.
A 72 Hour List (printable here) is a place where you can write down things you would like to buy. Like that cute fall mug at Target, concert tickets, or even clothing that you’d like to add to you wardrobe. The trick is to wait three days before you buy the item. If you forget that item in three days or don’t want to purchase it anymore, you just saved yourself some money!
Just yesterday I added this super cute fall dress to my Amazon cart. I’ve already decided not to buy it from Amazon. Instead I’m going to search my local thrift store to find something similar!
3) Is this useful to me right now?
I’m a sucker for a good deal. A GREAT example of how deals reel us in is that “clearance” price tag. Clearance literally means “the disposal of merchandise at reduced prices to make room for new goods”. So all that out of season stuff that the store is marked down to an irresistible price so you buy it for your future self next year.
Get out of the habit of buying items for your future self. Things you may use next year. Yeah, the frugal gal in me is having a hard time with this one. But if I wouldn’t buy it at full price, should I buy it at half price? If I can’t use this item right away, then I don’t buy it.
There are, of course, exceptions that I make for my family. Exceptions include clothing for my toddler son in the next size up for the next few seasons, and Christmas gifts for my son that I find throughout the year (PS: I have a budget for that!).
4) How long will I actually use this/like this?
This is a great question to ask yourself before buying something new especially if you are avoiding regretful purchases. How long will you use the item you’re about to buy? How long will you actually like it?
Clothing is a great example for this question!
Fall sweaters are often soft, warm, and just the right color for your skin tone. So you pick up three different colors at the store to wear this season, because, why not?! You come home, wash them, wear them for a season, and then toss them in the donate bin. “I’ll buy new sweaters next year!” you tell yourself. But if you would have considered the purchase in terms of how long you’d use that item, you may have looked elsewhere to find a sweater that would last you year after year.
So instead of buying new every season, purchase items that will last beyond the next few months.
5) Does it have a place in my home?
Clutter is a buzz kill. Purchasing new items and bringing them home is a true delight sometimes. But when you realize that you’ll have to make room in that cabinet or drawer, it gets less and less fun.
So before you purchase something, ask yourself this question: “Does this item have a specific place in my home?”
If the answer is “yes”, great!
If you answered “no”, either reconsider the purchase OR use the one-in-one-out method. Because you’re bringing something new home, a similar item needs to leave. That way you’re allowing yourself the space for new items in your home and preventing the build up of clutter.
6) How much is this really costing me?
Have you ever thought of spending money in terms of hours worked? Paula Pant has, and provides an amazing way to calculate what you earn an hour.
Say you make $15 an hour, an even number for example’s sake. And you would love to purchase this fun new kitchen gadget from the department store. It’s on sale today only for $60! Are you willing to part with four hours of your life in order to pay for it? [60/15 = 4]
After you think about how long you have to work in order to pay for an item, dinner out, or event ticket you will realize what you actually value spending your money on.
7) Do I already have something similar or serves the same purpose?
I love making do with something else that serves a similar purpose. Another question to ask yourself before buying something new is “Do I already have something that can serve the same purpose?”.
Cheese cloth to strain homemade oat milk? Nope – used a tea towel instead.
Grill for burgers when family comes over? Nope – used a cast iron pan instead.
New outfits for vacation? Nope – got creative with what was already in my wardrobe to make new “vacation” ready outfits.
Especially for one time use products, can you find anything similar in your own home to use instead? Or can you borrow from a neighbor? Owning two very similar items often means that one will get used and the other will sit in the back of a closet or cabinet untouched.
8) What am I going to do with this item when I am done with it?
Once you figure out how long you’re going to use an item, the next question to ask yourself is “What happens when I’m done with this item?”. Truth bomb – Americans throw away 4.51 pounds of garbage every. single. day. Yikes. (source)
For all that is good in the world, do not just throw away items you’re done with. That isn’t the answer. If you plan to purchase an item to use once and then throw away, please reconsider that purchase. However, when you find yourself getting rid of items, try these resources first:
- Give through your local Buy Nothing Group. Even if they aren’t very active, you could be the person that jump starts it again!
- Donate items to a local women’s shelter, homeless shelter, pet shelter… you get the idea. Always call before you just drop off a donation.
- Sell items through Facebook Marketplace. Take good pictures and reasonably price items.
- Host a garage sale (or a free garage sale!).
- Ask friends and family if they want the items, but don’t be pushy.
- Recycle what you can. There are several textile recycling companies that can take worn out clothing. A quick Google search will tell you where they are.
- Donate to local thrift stores. The ones run by churches are often the best.
- Donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army.
- Trash what is truly trash that no one else can use.
9) Am I shopping out of boredom/sadness/stress/etc?
There are so many feelings and emotions that can trigger the urge to shop.
- Bad day at work (stress)
- Tests coming up (anxiety)
- Break-ups (sadness)
It seems like just about any negative feeling can trigger us to want to shop. Shopping gives us instant gratification. When we’re given instant gratification, we feel better! So why wouldn’t we shop?!
This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself before you buy anything. Do a quick feelings-check. Are you bored, sad, anxious, stressed? If so, try to find another outlet for those feelings. Making a warm cup of tea, completing a crossword puzzle, taking a nap, crafting, taking a walk, calling your mom or a friend, can all help squash those negative feelings.
The result of asking all these questions before buying something new?
After all these questions to ask yourself before buying something new, or maybe you just get through a few before you decide whether or not to purchase the item, you’ll feel your intentional buying muscles grow. Because that’s what you’re doing – you’re making a conscious decision to buy an item. Not because the amazing-ness of Target made you do it!
You’ll gain control of your spending and the ever forthcoming flow of item into your home. And that means there will be less clutter, less time tidying up, less deep cleaning, and more time spent doing what you love.