11 Questions To Ask Yourself Before A Large Purchase

Everyone has felt that dreadful feeling after you make a large purchase and realize that you have made a mistake. Perhaps you don’t realize for months or years later, but you eventually understand what a waste of money the item was. Mistakes like this may have: Lead to you shaking your head. Thinking about how you…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: December 10, 2016

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Everyone has felt that dreadful feeling after you make a large purchase and realize that you have made a mistake. Here are tips so that you can avoid that!Everyone has felt that dreadful feeling after you make a large purchase and realize that you have made a mistake. Perhaps you don’t realize for months or years later, but you eventually understand what a waste of money the item was.

Mistakes like this may have:

  • Lead to you shaking your head.
  • Thinking about how you could have spent your money on other things that were more worthwhile.
  • Regret about the purchase.
  • Being mad at yourself for wasting money.
  • Going into debt.

And more!

However, you don’t have to make that same mistake again.

Before you complete your next large purchase, you should ask yourself several questions to make sure that it is actually worthwhile.

Note: A “large purchase” can be whatever you want it to be. Maybe it’s an item that’s $50, or perhaps it’s something that’s $1,000.

Whatever the amount may be, asking yourself a few questions can help save you lots of money over the long haul. Plus, taking steps to make sure you don’t make another purchasing mistake can help you can get rid of that regret you have from previous mistakes.

Here are some great questions to ask yourself before making your next large purchase.


1. Can I afford it?

Before you ask yourself any other question when making a large purchase, you should most definitely make sure that affordability is a top priority.

If you can’t afford it, then you should not be getting it.

It’s really that simple.

You shouldn’t be wasting your time on an item you cannot afford, putting yourself into unplanned high-interest rate debt, or anything else in order to make a large purchase happen.


2. How long did it take to earn the money to pay for it?

Before making the large purchase, you may want to think about how long it took you to earn money for the item you are wanting.

This may help you decide whether or not the item is truly worth it.

Just think about it: If something is $100 and you make $20 an hour, then you had to work 5 hours in order to purchase it. If you still think it’s worthwhile after considering this simple question, then it may be worthwhile. If you don’t think working 5 hours is worth it for the item, then you may end up regretting the purchase later.


3. What else is the item going to cost?

Just because you make a purchase doesn’t mean that you are completely done paying for it. There are ongoing costs for things such as homes, cars, and more.

Before making a large purchase, you should think about how much something is going to cost you in the long run. This can be applied in many ways such as:

  • How much are you paying in interest? Thinking about how much you are spending each day, month, and year can help keep you figure out how you are going to pay off your debt quicker.
  • How much will it cost to maintain? Cars, homes, and other items have maintenance costs, which, depending on what you are purchasing, can vary widely.
  • What future items will need to be bought as well? If you bring home a pet for your family, you should think about all of the future costs and everything else that goes into adopting a new animal family member.

Remember to always add up the total cost!


4. What else could I spend this amount of money on?

Before making a large purchase, you may want to think about what other items you could possibly use this money to purchase.

This may help you realize that you have other goals and items that you want to buy even more.

This can help you decide whether or not you truly need to make the purchase.


5. What mistakes have I made in the past with a big purchase?

You should always ask yourself if similar decisions in the past have made you happy, or if you have felt regret.

Reflecting on past decisions can help you realize if you are making the right decision now, or you may all of a sudden remember a bad purchasing mistake you made in the past.

You never know, you may be about to make the same large purchase mistake yet again!


6. Can the large purchase wait 24 hours?

If the purchase can wait 24 hours, then you should delay it. This will allow you to think about the purchase longer, let any butterflies you have about the purchase go away, and so on.

You will be able to make a much more rational decision about a large purchase after you think about it for at least 24 hours.

Plus, for all you know, you may even realize that you don’t need the item at all!

The longer you can delay a purchase, the better off you may be. As more time passes, you may even forget about the item, which means that you most likely do not need it.


7. Where can I find the best value?

Have you shopped around at other stores before ending your search? If not, then you should be searching as many places as you realistically can, both offline and online.

Prices can vary widely from store to store, as well as offline and online, so you should try your hardest to find the best value.


8. Can I borrow the item from someone else?

If the item isn’t something you need forever, then you should definitely think about just borrowing it from someone or even renting it.

This can save you a lot of money, plus you won’t have to store it.

Also, always be sure to return the favor!


9. Where am I going to put this large purchase?

Now that we live in an RV, we ask ourselves this question about nearly every item that we think about buying. When you live in a tiny space, pretty much everything needs to have a designated space, and there’s no such thing as “making space” in an RV.

Even if you live in a “normal” home, though, you will need to determine where you are going to store what you have just purchased.

If there’s no spot for it, then there’s a chance that you won’t need it.


10. Is there a return policy?

When making a large purchase, return policies are especially important. Plus, if you’re not 100% sure on an item, you will want to have the option to return it and receive your money back.

You should see what their return policy is, if you’ll get cash or credit back, what the timeframe for a return is, any warranty information, and more.


11. Do I really need it?

Finally, the last question you should ask yourself is if you actually need the item. It sounds easy enough, but many people do not even think about asking this question. When it fact, it is one of the most important questions to ask when making a large purchase (or any for that matter).

Really dig deep and ask yourself this simple question. Sure, you might think you need the item, but is it more of a want or a need?

“Wants” are fine, but you do want to be realistic with your budget and your spending. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, have a large amount of high-interest rate debt, or anything else, then you may want to skip any large splurges for now and stick to what you truly need.

What questions do you tend to ask yourself before making a large purchase? How has this saved you money in the past?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Yes before budget I bought without asking nothing to myself now I do a lot of questions and number 1,2,6,7 and 11 are very important and seriously since I have a budget Ibecame a more conscious spender!!!

  2. Amanda-LivingFullyandFree

    The asking yourself “Do I need this?” is such an important part! So often we forget the difference between a need and a want. Also, with all the credit cards and loans available today it’s easy to forget to ask “Can I afford this?” Thanks for sharing!


    1. Ree Klein

      @Amanda ~ you bring up a super important point…the ability to distinguish between a need and a want. A few years ago I put up a list on my original blog “Escaping Dodge” that had this list of seven questions to help get to the bottom of that very question before making a purchase. Here’s the list:

      1. Would I still buy this if doing so would use that last X dollars to my name? (Answer No and it’s a want not a need.)
      2. Would tragedy strike if I waited 30 days to buy this? (Answer No and it’s a want not a need.)
      3. Is there another way to solve the problem without spending any money? (Answer Yes and it’s a want not a need.)
      4. Do I already have something similar to this? (Answer Yes and it’s a want not a need.)
      5. Could I borrow this from someone instead of buying one for myself? (Answer Yes and it’s a want not a need.)
      6. Could I rent this instead of buying it and save money? (Answer Yes and it’s a want not a need.)
      7. Could I repair the one I have instead of buying a new one? (Answer Yes and it’s a want not a need.)

  3. Kate @ Cashville Skyline

    Now that I’m self-employed, I ask myself how long I’ll have to work to pay for something all the time. It’s been super helpful for avoiding expensive dinners and unnecessary drinks. I ask myself if the extra dessert or appetizers are really something I need. The answer is almost always no.

  4. The amount of use (cost per use) helps so much when I make my decisions. I’m so guilty of bringing decision fatigue on myself and overthinking everything. Sometimes, I can even make grocery shopping painful for me. These questions definitely help! Tracking spending and budgeting in advance also removes some of the mixed emotions.

    1. I overthink everything as well. I know how you feel!

  5. Some really great questions to ask! We always make sure to look at the opportunity cost and think of all options before making big purchases. Most of the time it’s a conversation around whether the item is materialist or an experience as we’re looking forward to spending our retirement money on more experiences (vacations, sporting events, etc.)

  6. These are awesome questions! It is funny. I don’t hesitate to spend money on trips but I hesitate ALOT when it comes to home improvement projects/decor as well as things for my blog. (Which is why my house isn’t decorated very much and I am in need of a new computer). I like how you said to think how much a $1000 purchase would cost hours wise. That really makes you think twice.

  7. Lisa

    #11 is something I repeat to my spender husband ad nauseam. I don’t see the need to buy most things so I like to get a concrete reason how this new item will improve our lives or is necessary in some way. I also naturally tend to wait on purchases even if it’s only a few minutes or hours while I’m walking around. 99% of the time I forget about it before I leave the store!

  8. So many great points! Total cost is one many people don’t consider. We just think about covering the cost of the item and not the other expenses having that item might bring!

  9. I love this post! The questions you’ve set out are definately thought provoking and some I have never considered before. Shopping around, as well as considering cost per use are definately awesome tips! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  10. Lindsey

    These are such great tips! I’ve made a lot of mistakes after making a large purchase and I was never able to get back what I paid in most cases :/.

    1. Thank you! We’ve all made this mistake, but it’s all about changing for the future 🙂

  11. Norman

    In this day and age of instant gratification, it has become extremely difficult for many to follow your list above! For me, thinking about how long it would take me to earn the money to pay for it really puts things into perspective.

    1. That’s a great way to think before making a purchase 🙂

  12. Michael

    Nice post, Michelle!

    I love question #6. I actually wait ~3 weeks (21 days) on the purchase. If I still feel the need for the item at the same emotional level as day 1 then it is a no brainer for me to go ahead with the purchase.

    Just this one step has helped me avoid so many expenses.


  13. Great post, Michelle. We need to thoroughly thought through before making a buying decision, especially on large purchase with high value. We should make sure we buy only things that we feel necessary for us. I would like to recollect a famous quote from Mr. Warren Buffett, “If you keep buying things that you don’t need, soon you will start selling things that you need”

  14. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions

    I definitely think if people focused on #2 more often they would re-consider some purchases. I also think when you consider the taxes you pay, you have to make even more than you’d think to make that purchase!

  15. sabina edwards

    Quite a few things these days cost tons of money…. but realistically there are things you NEED like a bed….can I afford a $1000 (thats super cheap) bed and frame? or do I sleep on the floor? Recently a co-worker decided he could no longer sleep on the floor and went and bought a twin sized bed, even though it was over 1/3rd of his cheque!!! (When I heard how little they had I gave them some of my furniture lol ) Do I need a $5000 wedding dress? LOL ..yeah, that one always blows me away at what some people spend..or even grad (ours was $69 and last years model and my daughter still didn’t want to spend that much) Some people feel that having things is more important then having money in the bank and some people have money in the bank and are so used to being frugal that they know nothing else.

    1. Beds are actually a lot more affordable now and you can find a really good one for around $500 🙂

  16. Great idea! Love it and I’m also a spreadsheet geek. 🙂 We’ve also moved into a smaller place so the space is a big one.

  17. this is very good. i read is carefully that’s give me a good thing.

  18. Liz

    I love the idea of asking yourself how many hours of work will it cost to get the item. Really puts it into perspective!!

  19. Colin

    Before I got married I used to buy anything that tickled my fancy without batting an eyelash. Needless to say, I ended up having to throw or give away a bunch of stuff that were almost new when my wife and I moved houses. Now I always evaluate my purpose for purchasing something before I actually decide to get it.

  20. All of these questions are really great to ask yourself before purchasing something major!

    Question #2, “How long did it take to earn the money to pay for it”, puts your purchase into perspective. If you spent months earning money to spend on one purchase, you start to question if it is truly worth it.

    Question #4, “What else could I spend this amount of money on”, is also a great question to think about. When making such a large purchase, you should think about if you should not buy this one product and instead use the money to spend it on a more important purchase!