This month I celebrated two years of selling clothes and other items online. I began selling things online out of curiosity and as a way to get rid of extra clothes in my closet. Since then, I no longer list items only from my own closet. I sell on behalf of friends and family. I also actively search stores for items to sell.
When I first started shopping at thrift and second-hand stores in the community, I found lots of things I wanted to buy for myself. If you shop regularly enough, you’ve probably found yourself holding onto an item at one time or another and debating, “Should I or shouldn’t I buy it?” This still happens to me from time to time. Luckily for me, I end up putting the item back on the shelf probably nine out of every ten times this happens. And I almost always look back on the situation afterward knowing that I made the right decision to leave the item behind.
How do I do it? I’ve learned to ask myself a series of questions before I make any purchase. I have eight questions and use one or several of them each time I’m out shopping. Hopefully you’ll find that the questions that follow are useful to your life and experiences too.
1) Will I use it?
This is a key question to ask. How many times have you come across something you liked while in the store only to find it tucked away in the back of the closet unused months later? I know this has happened to me plenty of times with new fashion, cooking utensils, and other household goods. If you’re absolutely positive that you will use an item, then it’s probably worth purchasing. If you’re unsure, go ahead and put it back and allow yourself any disappointment from not having purchased it. I’ve found that snapping a picture of an item I like and seeing it later can be just as satisfying as having it.
2) Is it a necessity or a luxury?
Some things are absolute necessities in our lives. You may need a car to get to work and a laptop to do your work (or be a blogger!). Your children may need new school uniforms each year. Most people would agree these are necessities for your job and for your children to attend school. The big difference is whether you purchase luxury versions of these items or additional unnecessary items. One example is buying a high-end laptop versus a reliable cheaper alternative or purchasing every add-on because it’s available. If you can afford a high-end laptop, that’s great. But if you can’t, think about whether it’s essential to your life before purchasing it.
3) Can I afford this?
My grandfather always said, “If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it.” One essential thing to consider is whether or not you’re able to actually afford the item you want. I might want a safari vacation or the latest designer bag, but if I don’t have the money for it, then it’s not happening. Another way to spin this is to ask if you have the money available in your budget. Would you need to finance it or sacrifice in other areas of your life to have it?
4) Do I already have something else that will get the job done?
It’s easy to forget that sometimes we already have an item that will work just as well as the one we’re considering. This happens to me often when I come across new kitchen gadgets and household items. I’d love to have new serving dishes, but then I remind myself that I already have nice ones that work just fine. One bonus of not buying additional dishes is that I don’t have as much clutter in the house, which is key when living in a small space.
5) Can I do without it?
How many times have you walked into a store to buy one thing and walked out with a lot more in hand? I know it’s certainly happened to me. Nowadays, I think about what I can do without rather than what I want to have. That helps me put back any non-essential items I have in my basket or cart and leave a store with only what I need. If you’re still debating an item, it may be worth asking yourself if it can wait for a later day when you may find it on sale or have more funds for it.
6) How many hours do I have to work for this item?
This is my favorite question to ask myself and the first question I ask before any potential major purchase. Most of us work really hard at our jobs and probably wouldn’t work as many hours as we do if we didn’t have to. This question helps you determine exactly how much time and effort you expend for one item.
Let's say I make $20 per hour. I'll ignore deductions such as taxes to keep the math simple. When I see a blouse that costs $100, I ask myself if it is worth five hours of work for it. More often than not, the answer is no. My feeling is that five hours of work is a lot of time and effort for something I'll likely wear only a few times, which leads me to my second favorite question...
7) How much does it cost per wear or use?
I estimate the cost per wear for each piece of clothing, accessory, or item I'm considering buying. If a blouse I like is $100 and I estimate I'll wear it ten times, then the cost would be $10 per wear. Would I hand over $10 to the imaginary toll lady in my closet each morning in order to select that blouse? More often than not, the answer is no. This is especially true for seasonal or disposable clothing or things that are sure to go out of style. After thinking in these terms, I often put an item back on the rack where it came from.
8) Will I regret not buying it?
There's a saying about regretting the things we didn’t do in life more than the things we did. I’ve found this to be relevant to buying things. In my life, there are very few things I regret not buying. More common is regretting some of the things I have bought. Thinking about a purchase in terms of regret may help you sort out whether you really want to purchase an item or not.
When it comes to saving money, there’s no doubt some choices have to be made on what to buy and what not to buy. Asking yourself any or all of these eight questions whenever you come across a compromising situation will get you to focus on purchasing the things that you’ll love and use.
What are your thoughts on the questions above? What are some methods or criteria you use to decide on buying things?