16 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Making A Purchase

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When making a purchase, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions to determine if it’s the right decision for you. By taking the time to assess your needs and wants, you can avoid making frivolous purchases, and improve your saving habits.

With that in mind, here are 16 useful questions you can ask yourself before making a purchase:

How Much Will This Cost Me In The Long Run?

Some items may seem like a good deal upfront, but end up costing more in the long run.

Therefore, before you buy anything, be sure to consider how much it will actually cost you over the course of time.

This includes things like monthly payments, maintenance costs, energy usage, and replacement parts. If the item is going to consume more of your income in the future, you might want to avoid making the purchase.

Will This Help Me Achieve My Life Goals?

When making a purchase, it’s important to ask yourself if the item in question will help you achieve your life goals.

For example, if you’re trying to save up for a down payment on a house, buying a new television might not be the best idea. Sure, your future house might look awesome with a 75-inch HDTV hanging on the wall, but you can always save for the TV of your dreams after you move in.

On the other hand, if you need a new computer for your side hustle because you’re afraid your 5-year-old computer is about to die, then that purchase would be more justified.

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Do I Need This or Do I Want This?

Sometimes we buy things because we think we need them, but in reality, we just want them.

Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you really need the item or if you’re just wanting it because it’s cool.

If it’s the latter, try to exercise restraint and wait until next month. That way, if you still really want it, you can work it into your budget.

16 prudent questions to ask before making a purchase | Be The Budget

Will I Remember Buying This In 5 Years?

One way to help you avoid frivolous purchases is to ask yourself if you’ll remember buying the item in question 5 years down the road.

If not, there’s a good chance you don’t need it. After all, most things eventually go out of style and become irrelevant.

To give you a good example: when my wife and I were planning our wedding, it would have been all too easy to blow our budget.

From decorations to venue add-ons, the little expenses would have accumulated quickly. Fortunately, we took the time to ask ourselves this little question, and I’m not kidding you, it kept us from wasting thousands of dollars!

What Are My Priorities Right Now?

Before making a purchase, take some time to evaluate your priorities.

Are you trying to save up for a vacation? A new car? Are you trying to pay off debt? Are you trying to invest more for retirement?

If the answer is yes, then the purchase you’re considering might not be the best idea.

As an added measure, you might want to list out your top financial priorities and keep them on your person (in your wallet or purse) at all times.

That way, when a spending conundrum arises, you can consult your list and make the best possible decision.

How Often Will I Use This?

Some items, like a new set of dishes, you’ll use all the time.

Others, (ahem, like that treadmill you never use) you’ll only use once in a blue moon.

Before making a purchase, ask yourself how often you’ll actually use the item in question. If it’s not going to get a lot of use, you might want to reconsider buying it.

Will I Regret Making This Purchase? 

The answer to this question might be a little tough to swallow, but it’s important to ask nonetheless.

Will you regret making the purchase later on? If the answer is yes, then you should avoid buying the item.

For instance, when I look back on my life (before I decided to avoid consumer debt), I took on quite a bit of car debt. Between a lease and 2 financed purchases, I wasted tens of thousands of dollars.

To say that I regret those purchases would be an understatement.

What’s the moral of the story?

Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Instead, be brutally honest with yourself and answer this question whenever you’re going to make a questionable purchase. In most cases, if you can tap into that feeling of future regret, you’ll have a much easier time saying no to a purchase you shouldn’t actually make.

What Are The Alternatives?

When considering a purchase, it’s always a good idea to explore your options.

What are the alternatives to what you’re about to buy?

Could you borrow the item from a friend or family member instead of buying it?

Can you wait until next month and save up for the item instead of buying it outright?

By exploring your options, you might find that there’s a cheaper, more creative, or better alternative than what you were originally thinking of buying.

Do I Have To Justify This Purchase To Myself? 

One way to help curb impulse buys is to assess whether you have to justify the purchase to yourself.

For example, if you follow this blog, you probably know that I have a weakness for power tools. Seriously, there are few things I love to spend money on more than woodworking machinery.

The problem is, power tools are expensive; in most cases, too expensive for my budget.

So, how, exactly, did I end up with so many of them? Well, I justified the purchases by telling myself that I could make money selling the furniture I made with the tools.

The hard truth is, a smart purchase doesn’t require any–or at least, very little– justification.

To put it simply, if you have to come up with reasons why a purchase is a smart decision, then it probably isn’t.

What Else Could I Use This Money For?

When considering a purchase, it’s always helpful to think about what else you could use the money for.

For instance, if you’re thinking about buying a new car, ask yourself what else you could buy with that same amount of money.

Am entire year of retirement? A down payment on a house? Your kid’s college tuition?

When you start to weigh a purchase against other options, you might find that the item you’re considering is a little less appealing.

Can I Actually Afford This?

One of the most important questions to ask yourself before making a purchase is whether or not you can afford it.

To be clear, I’m not talking about whether you can afford the monthly payments. I’m talking about whether or not you can afford to purchase the item outright.

With the exception of your house, if the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t buy the item.

It’s that simple.

Will This Cause A Domino Effect Of Spending? 

When considering a purchase, it’s important to think about how that purchase will impact the rest of your spending. Will it cause any downline repercussions?

For example, if you buy a new TV, are you going to spend more money on cable or streaming services?

If you buy a new dress, are you going to spend more money on accessories?

The truth is, many purchases have a domino effect on our spending. In other words, they actually lead to more spending.

Before making any purchase, ask yourself whether or not it will cause you to spend more money down the road. If the answer is yes, then you should probably avoid buying the item.

How Much Value Will I Get Out Of This Item? 

When considering a purchase, it’s important to think about how much value you’ll actually get out of the item.

To use my earlier reference, if you’re thinking about buying a treadmill, ask yourself how often you’ll honestly use it.

If you’re only going to use it once or twice a year, is it really worth the money?

Can I Get This Item Cheaper Somewhere Else?

Another question to ask yourself before making a purchase is whether or not you can get the item cheaper elsewhere.

In some cases, it’s worth it to wait and purchase the item on sale. In other cases, it might make more sense to buy the item used.

Whatever the case may be, it’s always helpful to do a little research before spending your hard-earned money.

Am I Buying This Out Of Emotion Or Logic? 

In personal finance, logical purchases are almost always better than emotional purchases.

For example, if you’re considering a purchase because you’re bored or lonely, then you’re buying the item out of emotion.

On the other hand, if you’re considering a purchase because you need it for a specific purpose, then you’re buying the item out of logic.

Generally speaking, it’s smarter to buy items out of logic rather than emotion. After all, when we buy things out of emotion, we often make bad decisions.

Will This Item Last A Long Time?

It’s important to think about how long an item will last before you buy it–especially when you’re considering a large purchase.

Some things, like clothes or electronics, may only last a year or two before they need to be replaced. Other items, like appliances or furniture, should last for years or even decades.

If you’re not sure how long an item will last, do some research online or speak to a salesperson. They should be able to give you a general idea of how long the product should last.

Ultimately, if you don’t feel like the life of the purchase is worth the price, then it will be much easier to walk away and save your money instead.

Summary

Before making a purchase, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions.

For example, will the item I’m considering cause me to spend more money in the future?

Is this something that I need or just want?

How much value will I get out of this item? Can I get this cheaper elsewhere?

If you can answer the questions in this article honestly, you’ll be much more likely to make a smart purchase.

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About The Author

About The Author

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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