I learnt about …

Questions to ask yourself before you buy

Sometimes it is very easy to buy things just for the sake of it. We get that rush when either we bring the item home or it is delivered. It is easy to form an addiction to that feeling.

When the sales come around we might see something on offer that we think we would like - but had probably not considered before - and this is the time to take a step back and consider whether we really need it. This checklist below is something to consider for the next big purchase, ask ourselves these questions:

  1. Can I work around the problem with a repair, modification, or change in use?
  2. If I buy this, what else am I not buying?
  3. Can I afford this?
  4. Will this item help me do things I can’t do now?
  5. Will buying this item significantly increase my enjoyment of X?
  6. How often will I use this in the next year? In the next five years?
  7. Will this item become obsolete in the near term?
  8. Is this item repairable?
  9. Do I really need ‘the best’? What is a good second choice?
  10. Can I buy something used that will do the job?
  11. Am I supporting a business I know and like? Do our values align?

Taken from this article: Buy less, do more with good enough gear.

Taking each of these questions in turn, let’s expand the thinking behind them …

Can I work around the problem with a repair, modification, or change in use?

It is very easy when something goes wrong to have the reaction to just bin it and replace it. This especially can be the case if it is technology based and the technology has moved on. It is very tempting to just get the latest new thing.

I had this when my mobile stopped charging. I was very tempted to buy a new mobile to replace it however a quick trip to the local repair shop resolved it (and they did it for free). Even more recently the camera on the same phone failed. After lots of investigation it turned out to be a known issue with no fix other than to send it back to manufacturer. Due to my reliance on the mobile for work and also the potential cost I decided this time to buy a new one.

We now keep that mobile as a backup in case one of our other mobiles fails in future and we need an interim mobile while it is being fixed - a subtle change of use.

If I buy this, what else am I not buying?

This is the classic case of deciding if there is a better use for our money or could we buy something else instead which we need more? Most of us have a finite amount of money to spend on things and we can only spend it once. It can be very tempting to buy things we like rather than the things we need. Sometimes we need to take a step back and consider is this the best thing we can buy?

Can I afford this?

Probably one of the most important points. It is easy to buy something we can’t afford if we have access to a credit card or we are offered some form of financing. The lure of delaying the payment or paying it back in small amounts can make the decision to buy easier but does not necessarily make it right.

This can go for small purchases right through to the biggest purchases like a house. In fact it is even more important the larger the purchase. It is tempting when we see a house that we love, or a car, that is outside the price range we can afford and to justify to ourselves that it is just a little bit more. That is the point where we need to take a step back, try and remove the emotion and consider whether we can really afford it.

Will this item help me do things I can’t do now?

Is the item we are about to purchase just something that allows us to do something we can already do or is it something that will add something new to our life? And is it something that we really want to do?

Will buying this item significantly increase my enjoyment of X?

The key word in this question is “significantly” and can also refer to much more than just enjoyment. Most purchases will give a short term high and may give some form of benefit such as doing something easier or quicker, however does the amount of benefit you gain justify the price and the purchase?

I am currently considering upgrading the monitor for my computer. I would love to go for a 4k curved monitor however can I really justify that the purchase provides a significant enough benefit?

How often will I use this in the next year? In the next five years?

This is definitely something worth considering.

If we were to buy a new car and it was going to cost us 200 (pick the currency of your choice) per month then that may or may not sound like a lot depending on our circumstances. If we add in all the extra costs like petrol, maintenance, insurance and road tax then it may end up nearer 300 per month.

How may times will we use it in a month? Even if we use it every day that works out about 10 per day … is that a justifiable cost per day given the amount we will use it?

If we are considering buying the latest gadget - how many times will we use it in the next year? How many years will it last and so how much will each use cost over the lifetime of the gadget? This reframing of the cost may give some pause for thought.

Will this item become obsolete in the near term?

This is particularly relevant to the latest technology. If we buy the latest iPhone when will we deem it to be obsolete and feel the need to replace it? Will it actually be obsolete or is it just the case that we feel that is obsolete due to peer pressure or feeling the need to have the latest version?

Is this item repairable?

An item being repairable is something that is very easy to overlook and not high on most people’s list of decision making lists. However if we want to get value for money, and especially in current times, maybe it should be a major factor. Making a decision based on how easy it is to repair could have a significant impact on the lifetime cost of the item. This could be the cost of replacing a broken screen on a mobile or the cost to repair a car, depending on the choice we made these can differ massively.

Do I really need ‘the best’? What is a good second choice?

When purchasing something do we really need the top of the range choice or the absolute latest version? Would a cheaper or simpler option be sufficient? This is a decision that will need to be made with the head and not the heart.

Similarly, we need to consider the impact of taking the cheapest option as this may be cheap now but add up to higher costs, or not solve our needs, over the course of its lifetime.

Can I buy something used that will do the job?

It is very tempting to always buy new. As an example, I love to read so I have shelves stacked with books. It is easy to go on to Amazon and buy a new book. For books that have been out for a while I now buy them second-hand. I try and pick the best quality I can get for a reasonable price and it means I am saving loads.

Similarly, do we really need that car to be new or could we pick up a better deal buying second-hand or nearly new?

Am I supporting a business I know and like? Do our values align?

This was not a conscious step in my decision making process however it is something I think I considered subconsciously in some circumstances. There are some companies I will avoid due to their actions or their ethos and this has skewed my decision making in the past. Maybe this is something that will grow in importance going forward as we become more and more conscious of the world around us and the impact we are having on it.

Summary

And just to finish … the aim is not necessarily to say yes to every single one but to be able to take a step back and be more considered when making purchases. And if when you come to make the purchase you feel uncomfortable in some way then it is probably for a reason and you might want to just take a moment to consider before going ahead.

Links

Buy less, do more with good enough gear