Think about this for a second – you’ve made a large purchase and later have a dreadful feeling when realizing that your spending decision was a huge mistake.
Sound familiar at all? I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at least once. Perhaps you don't realize for months or years later, but you eventually understand what a waste of money the item was.
Poor spending decisions like that may cause you to:
- Shake your head in disappointment.
- Think about more worthwhile ways to spend your money.
- Regret the purchase in the first place.
- Be angry or frustrated with yourself for wasting money.
- Fall into debt.
However, you don't have to make that same mistake again.
Every spending decision, no matter how large or small, should be thought out so you avoid making spending mistakes. I’ve felt regret or frustration even with the smallest spending decisions, like buying coffee out when I could have made some at home, grabbing takeout when I could have planned on making dinner, and so on.
These may not be large purchases, but those small spending decisions can really add up to a lot if you aren’t paying attention to how they are affecting your long-term financial wellbeing.
If you are wanting to keep better track of you spending decisions, understand which areas you are overspending in, and how you can save for your future, I highly recommend that you check out Personal Capital.
When it comes to the larger spending decisions you are making, it’s even more important to consider whether or not that purchase is worthwhile. Sometimes these large purchases are things we need, like buying a new appliance, a new vehicle, and so on.
But still, a “large purchase” can be whatever you want it to be. It might be $50 on a new pair of shoes or $1,000 on a new refrigerator.
Now that we are living on a sailboat full-time, we’ve had to spend a lot of money on extras and upgrades for our boat. With every boat-related spending decision we’ve made, we have asked ourselves the questions I outline in this article to make sure each purchase is right for us.
Whatever the cost of your spending decision may be, asking yourself a few questions can help you save lots of money over the long haul. Plus, taking steps to make sure you don’t make another poor spending decision can help you can get rid of that regret you have from previous mistakes.
Here are 11 thing to ask for a regret free spending decision:
1. Can I afford it?
The first thing you should do when trying to understand how a spending decision will affect your finances is to make sure that affordability is a top priority.
If you can't afford it, then you should not be purchasing 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.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t eventually purchase that item, it might just mean you’ll have to wait a little longer. If that item is still something you really want or need, you might want to consider some creative ways to make money to help fund that spending decision.
Posts related to making more money:
- 10 Real Ways To Make Money In A Day (or a Week!)
- 12 Work From Home Jobs That Can Earn You $1,000+ Each Month
- 10 Things I’ve Done To Make Extra Money
2. How long did it take to earn the money to pay for it?
Before making that 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 five hours in order to purchase it. If you still think it's a worthwhile spending decision, then go for it. But, if you don't think that item is worth the five hours it took you to earn it, 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. A home is really good example of how hidden costs can lead to spending more than you can actually afford (read more about this in Is Too Much House Making You House Poor?).
However, you can apply this to many other large spending decisions you may be considering. Here are questions to ask yourself about the long-term costs of large purchases:
- How much are you paying in interest? If that large item will require you to take out a loan, then you need to understand how much extra you are going to be paying in interest. Trust me, those interest charges can add up. Plus, understanding how much you are spending in interest will help 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 can vary widely depending on what you are purchasing.
- What future items will need to be bought as well? A pet is one good example of how you will end up buying more because of that original purchase. Adopting a new animal can be a wonderful thing for your family, but it should never cause you to spend more than you can afford. This is especially true if you are thinking about financing a pet, which I find ridiculous. Yes, people actually do this!
The bottomline for this question is that you should always remember to add up the total cost of your spending decision.
4. What else could I spend this amount of money on?
Before making a large purchase, you may want to think about what other things you could possibly be using this money for. This can help you decide whether or not you truly need to make that purchase.
Are you trying to quickly pay off your student loans? Are you trying to build your emergency fund? Are you trying to reach early retirement? Every spending decision you make will affect your ability to reach those goals, so make sure you consider your priorities before making that purchase
5. Which spending decisions have been mistakes in the past?
You should always ask yourself if past decisions about similar purchases have made you happy or regretful.
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 mistake yet again!
6. Can that large purchase wait 24 hours?
If the purchase can wait 24 hours, then you should delay it. This will allow you to really understand the total costs, understand if it’s right for you, let any butterflies you have about the purchase go away, and so on.
You will be able to make a much more rational spending decision if 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 after 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.
Depending on the item and where you are looking, you may be able to save tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. Even though it might take some time, you will be glad you did your research.
There are even websites like Ebates that allow you earn cashback when shopping online like you normally would, which can make a large purchase a little more budget friendly. You can earn $10 back when signing up through my link, and you can read my Ebates review here.
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 on a sailboat, 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 storage spot, and there's no such thing as “making space” on a sailboat.
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 you don’t have room for it, then there's a chance that you won't need it, or maybe this is a good time to consider downsizing and decluttering.
Posts related to downsizing:
- Downsizing Your Home? How I Went From A 2,000 Square Foot House To An RV
- Downsizing Our House Has Allowed Us To Pursue Our Dream Life
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.
A return policy is something you will want to look into when researching where you will be making your purchase. Stores, online and offline, may have differences in cash back or store credit, timeframes, warranty information, and more.
Not understanding a return policy can turn that large purchase into a huge mistake if you needed to return the item.
11. Do I really need it?
Finally, the last question you should ask yourself is if you actually need the item. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but many people don’t take the time to ask themself this simple question. The reality is that this is one of the most important questions to ask when making a large purchase (or any for that matter).
Really dig deep to determine if it’s something you really need. Sure, you might think you need the item, but is it more of a want than 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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