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When you’re tempted to splurge on something you don’t need, what’s your decision-making process? Do you let emotion determine whether you head to the check-out counter, or do you rationally consider the financial pros and cons? Do you even have a strategy? If the answer is no, don’t panic. Lucky for you we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of questions to ask before pulling the trigger on any splurge-y purchase. Read on and smarten up!
1. Shopping Can Be More Satisfying Than the Purchase Itself
Buyer’s remorse is the slyest devil of them all. At first you’re beaming about your new pair of designer jeans. But will you feel the same way a month out when the high of the buy wears off? Research shows that the flood of happiness we feel when we make a purchase peaks at the check-out counter and then slowly starts to dwindle. Indeed, it’s the experience of shopping that satisfies us — not the purchase itself.
“Thinking about acquisition provides momentary happiness boosts to materialistic people, and because they tend to think about acquisition a lot, such thoughts have the potential to provide frequent mood boosts,” said Marsha L. Richins, author of the research paper, When Wanting Is Better Than Having. “But the positive emotions associated with acquisition are short-lived. Although materialists still experience positive emotions after making a purchase, these emotions are less intense than before they actually acquire a product.”
2. Shopping to Cure Sadness Only Makes Us Sadder
Retail therapy is a term used so flippantly that it can be difficult to take seriously. Yet studies show that when we’re feeling sad or grieving, we tend to compensate with compulsive shopping. As it turns out, shopping can seem to fill an emotional void while really only serving to dig it deeper. In truth, shopping to curb that feeling of loneliness actually makes us feel lonelier. Take this sage advice: If you’re going through a breakup, battling depression, grieving the death of a loved one, or otherwise feeling alone and blue, take a pause from recreational shopping until you’ve addressed your emotional state.
Read More: Retail Therapy: The Benefits of Shopping
3. Just Because It’s a Good Deal Doesn’t Mean It’s a Good Deal for You
The price tag on that gorgeous wicker chair very well may be a steal — but is it truly a good deal for you? For instance, maybe you already have a perfectly fine chair in the living room, and this one, though newer and nicer, would nonetheless qualify as an unnecessary purchase. If you weren’t planning on buying a wicker chair until the good deal came along, then you’re running the risk of throwing your money away on something you simply don’t need. And that’s not a good deal at all.
4. Don’t Buy It If You Can’t Afford It
It’s simple advice. It’s also crucial. If you can’t afford to take the financial hit, put away that wallet. And if it’s a stretch but you think you can swing it, take a moment to consider all the possible future unknowns. If you lose your job, or your spouse does, or some other unforeseen circumstance dramatically shifts your financial situation, will you look back on this purchase with regret?
5. Don’t Buy It if It Will Derail Your Financial Goals
Maybe you’re saving for college. Or a down payment on a new car. How will this purchase influence the savings goals that you’ve set for yourself? If buying that new sofa is going to derail your plans to save up enough money for a down payment on the house where you want to put the sofa, consider pumping the breaks. Take it one financial goal at a time. And remember: Your financial habits today determine your future financial health.
6. Consider the Hidden Costs
As with boats, in-ground pools, and motorcycles, there are purchases that require future funding not specified on the price tag. Boats, for example, need fuel, winter storage, and almost constant maintenance. And you can’t operate a backyard swimming oasis without investing in at least the basic accessories, such as a pool cover and cleaning tools and treatments. Whatever the purchase you’re considering, does it have any financial strings attached — and if so, can you afford them?