5 Questions Before Buying Anything

I have a bin in my closet full of clothes I’ve never worn. I have a donation box in my parent’s garage full of purses, sweaters, shoes, and accessories that I’ve used at least maybe once? The very last thing I was thinking when I bought these things was, “Should I buy this?”

What frustrates me the most?

That the money I spent on these things could have instead gone towards something valuable and meaningful or into my saving account.

These are things I accumulated during my teens and mid-twenties. When I started working at 16, as soon as I got paid, I would go shopping and spend all of it.

At 16, I was living with my parents and didn’t have any financial obligations so spending all of my money was a “no brainer”, I thought to myself, “Why do I need to save right now?”, “I’m young, why do I need to worry about saving for college?”

I wish someone would have helped me understand how important saving was and that spending money on clothes, fast food, and junk was a waste of time. Because when I look at the things I’ve accumulated throughout my teen years and mid-twenties, it was junk.

To be fair, my mom almost always told me to save when I would come home with my shopping bags from Guess, Bebe, Old Navy, Walmart, Marshalls, etc. (I cringe at that the clothes I bought at Bebe….).

So, what did I learn? Stop wasting money on things I don’t need and be mindful when I do spend.

If you just love spending money and are running out of space (or already have) for your things then you NEED to ask yourself the “5 Questions Before Buying Anything”.

The thing is, when we’re buying, we are not really thinking (right?). So, one of the most important things we can do is to take just a few moments to ask ourselves a few simple questions.

5 Questions Before Buying Anything

Before we start, I’ll say that to make the most out of these 5 questions. When you do buy something, try your best to consolidate your shopping trips. The less you walk into a store or shop online, the better!

Also, always keep a list of things you want to buy. I use a little black notebook that’s easy to carry and I also use the notes app on my iPhone.

With that in mind, let’s get started! These are the 5 Questions Before Buying Anything.

Question #1 – How much is this costing me?

The first question you will ask yourself is, “How much is this costing me?” Your answer is not just going to be the price of the item. It’s not going to be $20, $39.99, or $120.

To answer this question the right way, you’re first going to find out your hourly take-home pay.

Grab your latest paycheck and divide your net pay or income by the hours worked. This is how much you actually make an hour, it’s your hourly take-home pay.

You probably know how much you make an hour but after taxes, healthcare, social security, retirement account contributions, how much do YOU actually make an hour? Take a few minutes to do this, you’ll most likely be surprised by the number.

Here’s an example:

5 Questions Before Buying Anything, Question #1, how much is this costing me?

In the example above, Total Income was $2,592 but after deductions (401(k) and health savings account contributions) and taxes (Federal, FICA, Medicare, and State), net pay is $1,801. So after working 80 hours, the hourly take-home pay is $22.50.

Before contributions and taxes, you can say you make $32 ($2,592 / 80hours) but the hourly take-home pay was $22.50 ($1,801 / 80hours). Ouch!

This small exercise helps put things into perspective and you get the chance to understand how much you really make an hour.

Alright, now that you know your hourly take-home pay. How many hours of work did it take to buy this item?

Using the example above, the hourly take-home pay is $22.50. If I’m thinking about buying a pair of shoes that cost $80 (don’t forget the cost will be a little higher when you’re charged taxes). If I do buy them, it would have taken me 3.5 hours ($80 / $22.50) to buy these shoes.

Then I would ask, am I okay with that? Are these shoes worth 3.5 hours of work? If yes, let’s move on to question number 2.

Question #2 – How long will it last?

I made this mistake so many times. Buying something and not thinking how long it would last. For example, the clothes, accessories, and shoes I bought.

I live in Chicago and snow boots are a must. However, what did I do? I would buy a cheap pair of boots (about $40) that barely lasted me a season and then bought another the next.

What I should have done was buy a good quality pair of snow boots (about $90), even if they were more expensive, that would have lasted me a solid four winter seasons. The boots would have been more expensive upfront but a lot cheaper down the road because I didn’t have to replace them as often.

So, when you’re okay with paying a certain price for an item, the second question you will ask yourself is, How long will it last? A season, few years, or less than a month?

If it’s an item that should last a few seasons like a winter jacket, don’t buy something cheap, buy something that will last.

Like in my example above, the more expensive boots would cost me more upfront but they would last me longer and ultimately cost me less.

The second question applies to items like:

  • Furniture (sofas, dining set, chairs, bed, dressers, etc.)
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Coffee maker
  • House decor (lamps, baskets, frames, pillow, throw blankets, vases, holiday decor, etc.)
  • Accessories (jewelry, belts, hats, sunglasses, scarfs, etc.)
  • Clothes
  • Purses
  • Shoes

Always choose quality vs quality. Always.

Question #3 – Is it on sale?

The third question you will ask yourself is, “Is it on sale?”

Most stores usually have sales but the most important question is, “Is it really on sale? Am I getting a good discount compared to the retail value?

Some stores (like Macy’s) ALWAYS have sales so when I see something on sale I don’t get as excited because it’s.always.on.sale….

You will find some of the best deals only a few times a year like during Black Friday, Memorial Day, or the Cyber Monday after Black Friday. So if you want to buy something, definitely take advantage of these sales and only buy it during this time.

My sofa, for example, one of my most expensive purchases, I bought during a Memorial Day sale. I have to thank my co-worker Peter for this tip!

Also, if an item is not on sale but you really want to buy it, look for coupons! If you shop at craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Joann Fabrics, then you probably know about the 40% of coupons. If you didn’t know, you do! The coupons are usually always available and you can use them on any one full-price item. I’ve taken advantage of this deal more than once and it’s great!

For coupons, Google will always be your friend. Just google the store and coupons available and I’m sure you’ll find something. If you don’t, call the store and ask when the next sale and/or coupon will be available and wait to buy until it is!

Just get into the habit of only buying something when it’s on sale (really on sale) or using a coupon with your purchase.

P.S. If you’re moving into your first apartment or house and have absolutely no idea what to buy and don’t want to waste money on things you won’t use, read, First Apartment Essentials – Only Buy What You Actually Need.

I wish I had this when I moved into my first apartment about two years ago. I’ll be honest, most of the things I bought I used (which are included in the post above) but there are a few things I didn’t need and a lot more that I completely forgot to buy.

So, If you’re moving be sure to check out this list and save money and time!

Question #4 – Where will I put it? or Do I have the space for it?

Back to my bin full of clothes I’ve never worn. This bin takes up a lot of space in my closet! I’m sure the last thing you want is to have clutter so the fourth question you will ask yourself is, “Where will I put it? or “Do I have the space for it?”

If it’s a kitchen appliance you’re only going to use once a year, a pair of shoes you’ll only ever wear once, or holiday decorations you’re going to buy again next year, DON’T DO IT!

The fourth question is really important.

Most of us have already accumulated a lot of stuff but it keeps happening, right? We keep buying without thinking if we have space for it.

If this has been you, that’s okay because now you realize it’s an important question. You shouldn’t have to buy more storage for your things, you should instead be getting rid of things you don’t need or use anymore.

Question #5 – Why am I buying this?

The last question you will ask yourself when buying something is, “Why am I buying this?”

Are you buying it because you need it or because you want it?

I’m going to guess that when you buy most things (yes most things) it’s because you simply want it not because you need it.

I’m not against buying something that will enhance the quality or mental health of your life (exercise equipment, your favorite latte, vacations, museum tickets, etc.) but I am against buying things that will end up in the back of your closet, will only be used, or a complete waste of your money.

I know it’s hard to think of the future when it hasn’t happened yet but in the future, you will need money and the more you can save and invest earlier on in life, the better. WAY BETTER.

Now, don’t cheat on this one. If you ever answer, “I need it”? Do you really need it? Do you really need to have 15 purses, 30 pairs of shoes, another nail polish color, another basket, a 100th candle?

If you’re tempted to buy something you know you don’t need but still want to buy it, just tell yourself, “Okay, I will buy it next month”. When the next month comes, tell yourself again, “Okay, I will buy it next month”.

Just keep postponing until you forget about it. You’ll most likely forget and that’s a good thing because t’s not like you needed it in the first place.

This is a little mind trick I tell myself and it usually works 99% of the time 🙂

5 QUESTIONS BEFORE BUYING ANYTHING Summary

If you take a few minutes to ask yourself these 5 questions before buying anything, I’m confident that you always save time, energy, and money!

It feels good to be in control and you will be after answering these 5 simple questions.

It’s amazing what can happen when we take the time to think about what we are doing. In the end, it’s all about mindful spending and understanding what’s really important in life.

Here’s a summary of, 5 Questions Before Buying Anything:

  1. How much is this costing me?
  2. How long will it last?
  3. Is it on sale?
  4. Where will I put it? Or, Do I have the space for it?
  5. Why am I buying this?

The next time you ask yourself the 5 Questions Before Buying Anything, let me know! I want to know if you changed your mind, spent less, or are going to “postpone” your purchase until next month 🙂

Leave a Comment