Have you ever made an unplanned purchase and regretted it later? We all do this from time to time, and odds are, you made your purchase based on the emotions you felt during that time.
Maybe you felt like the purchase would make you feel happier or excited in some way. Maybe you could imagine the item hanging in your closet or sitting in your home and the thought made you feel good. Perhaps you were hungry and spent way too much on a gourmet lunch when you had food at home.
Regardless of the reason, unplanned purchases based on emotional impulses can really throw you off financially if you make too many.
One way to combat making an unplanned purchase is to slow down and ask yourself some important questions to determine if you’re making the right decision. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before making an unplanned purchase.
1. Do I Want or Need This?
This is one of the easiest questions you can ask yourself before making an unplanned purchase. It’s easy to determine whether something is a want or need. Needs are things that you can’t get by without like groceries food, basic shelter, transportation if you rely on it to get to work, toiletries for your household, utilities, and adequate clothing.
Most of everything else is a want. Wants make us feel good and they can be tempting more often than not. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in wants every now and then. If you wants are taking over your entire budget, however, that could become a problem.
Before making an unplanned purchase, decide if it’s a need or want. If it’s a need, you’ll have to purchase it sooner or later, so determine your timeline for that. If it’s a want, consider why you want it and whether you’ve already purchased too many wants already.
I usually include a category in my budget for fun, entertainment, and small wants. Whenever I hit that limit each month, I start steering clear of wants. This helps me stay on track with my other financial goals, and this strategy can help you as well.
2. Will I Be Thinking About This in 48 Hours?
Sometimes, that emotional impulse to buy something can leave as quickly as it appears. You may be walking in the store and see something that you want to throw in your cart. Instead of giving in, ask yourself if you will still feel the same way in 48 hours.
To test this theory, sleep on the idea of purchasing the item for at least 48 hours. If you find that you still want it and have developed a solid list of reasons why, go back to the store and get it.
At the end of the 48-hour waiting period, you’ll probably forget about the purchase or won’t be willing to go back to the store in most cases.
This may be really tricky to do when you shop online since it’t more convenient. I buy quite a few online resources and trainings for my business online, and I still use the 48-hour method. Some tools I buy are on sale for a few days so instead of being one of the first people to sign up, I wait for a little.
If I can’t stop thinking about the item and the sale, I usually go back and purchase it with no regrets.
3. Will It Be on Sale Again Later?
Sales can be super exciting if you like to catch a good deal. However, sometimes I find myself spending more depending on the sale. Some sales actually prompt you to spend more by buying multiple items at once.
In general, you’re not really saving money if you’re making an unplanned purchase – even if it’s on sale. Before you came across the product, you didn’t have any plans to buy it in the first place. That means you would have saved money by not spending anything at all.
If you are still considering the item but can’t really afford to spend the extra money, ask yourself if it will be on sale again in the future. This will usually be the case.
For example, around the holidays I saw that Instant Pots were on sale, and I really wanted to buy one. Had I been thinking about buying an Instant Pot all year long? No. Had I been budgeting for it? No.
So it was basically an unplanned purchase I was considering to make based on my emotions. I already had my list of items I was getting for the holidays so I decided to wait until the next sale came around for an Instant Pot.
In my mind, I’d made it this far without one so why not wait a little longer until I can plan to buy it without going over budget.
4. Can I Use a Coupon?
Let’s say the unplanned purchase you’re considering is a great offer. You really want or need it urgently, and it will add long-term value to your life in some way.
If you are leaning toward making the purchase, consider lowering your out of pocket costs with a coupon. I hardly ever buy anything – especially online – without searching for a coupon first. It’s easy to do and only takes a few seconds.
Manufacturers offer coupons on their products all the time. Plus, you can use sites like Coupon Chief to find online coupons, discount codes, and offers that can help you save money on your purchases.
5. Am I Robbing My Future Self By Making an Unplanned Purchase?
This is probably the most important question to ask yourself before making an unplanned purchase. If the purchase is unplanned, odds are you had other plans for that money.
It’s up to you to decide whether making the purchase will throw you off track. Maybe a one-time thing won’t be too bad. If you make impulse buys all the time, however, you may never reach any of your other financial goals.
Get clear on what you want to do with your money and ask yourself whether certain buys will take you closer or further away from those goals.
Once you have your answer, your decision to buy or skip over the purchase will be clear.
Do you ever struggle with making unplanned purchases? Which one of these questions would help you most when you’re feeling the emotional urge to buy something?