Purchasing what? Anything. Keep these questions in mind to ask yourself before purchasing.
Money is a hard topic to tackle because there’s so much baggage & emotion wrapped up in it. To change your financial future, you have to change your spending habits. Changing your habits means being intentional about what you purchase. Having a list of questions to ask yourself before purchasing will help you be intentional.
It’s so easy to fall into bad habits or buy things without really thinking about the consequences.
It’s also hard when you’re “all or nothing” about saving money, paying off debt, or other goals; you need to find a balance between living your life and chasing those goals.
It’s not going to be easy or perfect, but small steps are still an improvement.
Keep these questions front of mind to ask yourself before purchasing
You can download ANY of the images in this post to use as a phone wallpaper when you’re really serious about changing your habits. Look at your phone when you’re shopping online OR in a store to remind yourself of these questions.
Just click & hold on the image you like, then save it to your photo folder on your phone. Set it as the home or lock screen background so it’s always in your face.
Questions to ask yourself before purchasing:
1. Is this a want or a need?
Are you going to die, lose your job, or harm others without this thing?
Clothing is a need; $200 jeans are not. Shelter is a need; a 3,000 square foot house is not. Be honest with yourself when answering this question.
This doesn’t mean you should cheap out all the time; if you can afford it, quality items usually last longer. My husband has to wear steel-toed shoes for work, so we plan to buy him $200 boots every 2-3 years. There are definitely cheaper alternatives, but these ones last through the many miles he walks. All that said, he only has one pair of work boots (a need) even though having two might be more convenient at times (a want).
2. Does this align with my bigger financial goals?
Ask yourself before purchasing: does this impact my goals? How much will this purchase set me back or delay me? Would I rather be debt-free or have this thing?
I can’t tell you what your answer should be. We all have different priorities and I truly believe it’s important to balance life and money goals. Where that balance lies is up to you, but you need to recognize the boundary.
My family is deep in debt-payoff-mode, but we still decided to take on new debt to pay for our dog’s unexpected surgery. Unfortunately, she didn’t live long after, but my husband & I both still agree that we had to take that chance. Trying to prolong our beloved pet’s life was more important than our goal of debt freedom.
3. Do I have something similar already?
Do you already have something that is basically the same thing? Or… do you really need that 12th pair of identical black leggings?
Since I have two daughters, I almost never buy the younger one new clothes. Granted, they’re both young enough to go along with hand-me-downs, but they both have perfectly fine wardrobes. That means there’s a good chance that my younger daughter already has a clothing item similar to the cute one I’m eyeing on the Target app.
4. Is it worth this number of work hours?
While considering whether you should make a purchase, do some quick mental math. Divide the cost of the item by the hourly rate you make at your job.
If the purchase isn’t worth that number of hours of your time, walk away.
For example, my husband recently purchased a hunting backpack that I would never pay that much for. He determined that this specific backpack was worth 18.5 hours of work and is happy with his purchase. He’ll use it for days-long hunting trips for many years, to haul supplies and the meat that feeds our family, so it’s worth it to spend more to find exactly what works for him.
In contrast, I’ve been researching indoor cycling bikes for months. I’ve been eyeing one that is pretty expensive new, with many features. I finally decided that it just isn’t worth the 26 hours of work it would take to purchase. Instead, I found a cheaper, used model that is the equivalent of just 10 hours of work.
For a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t have a paid job, use $100 per hour because your job is hard! Just kidding, but remember that what you do does have value too.
5. Could I make this myself?
I ask myself this question often when it comes to food because I am not crafty in any way. If you have some skills, you could probably ask this question in relation to home decor, clothing, and sewn goods.
I’m often tempted to go through a drive-through when I’m driving my kids to appointments. I stave off that temptation by thinking about the snacks available at home and drinking water (I have this big-ass water bottle and it’s a lifesaver/wrist crusher). Now, I can’t make delicious greasy french fries at home, but I can grab a handful of salted cashews instead.
I also make pizza at home pretty frequently, rather than ordering delivery. The quality is more reliable and it saves a lot of money. I haven’t perfected breadsticks, but I make some good pizza with this crust recipe (I add 1 tsp garlic powder for extra flavor).
Remember to ask yourself before purchasing
We all make so many decisions every day that it can quickly get overwhelming. It’s easier to just follow our habits, even if that means clicking buy now or grabbing a quick dinner from the grocery store. Habits are a huge part of our lives
To overcome your less-great money habits, you have to retrain your brain. Here are a few tips to help with that:
Make it harder to shop online by deleting your saved credit cards from your favorite websites & apps.
Enforce a 24-hour rule – add whatever you want to buy to the cart, then WAIT 24 hours before checking out. If you still want the item at that point, buy it.
Don’t shop when you’re feeling feelings, especially if you’re an emotional shopper. When you’re sad, frustrated, upset, or bored, buying things can make you feel better temporarily. Pay attention to your emotions when deciding to make purchases.
If your usual commute takes you past a coffee shop or fast-food restaurant that you frequently stop at, change your route. Make it inconvenient for you to make that stop by also putting your wallet in the backseat of your car.
I know how hard it can be to change your money mindset and habits… but it is possible. You CAN do this. Just remember to slow down, think about your intended purchase, and ask yourself these 5 quick questions.