I love shopping and I am easily influenced by my surroundings. My shopping habits are fueled by emotions and I use it as a stress-reliever. What’s worse is that I am always able to justify my purchases in any ways I can and so every purchase always make some sense. I honestly need to ask myself: Do I really need this?
This is not a frugal living article. I don’t think I can ever give up shopping nor do I want to. I am not the most frugal person out there and I absolutely love to shop and spend my money. But, despite of so, I’m a huge advocate of having financial security and managing your own personal finance. I find it important to try really hard to save and budget. And, I find it important to shop based on what I can truly afford and based on what I really need.
I‘ve caved in to consumerism many times. It’s nice to have new things. I get it. But, I don’t want to just buy things to get a quick dose of dopamine hits and just because I can afford it. I don’t want to have an abundance of unnecessary things and I don’t want to keep accumulating future waste.
That’s why, I’m sharing these 7 main questions I ask myself before I make any purchases (mostly fashion related stuff, but also applicable to non-fashion items). I hope that this can also help you.
the main question is of course, “do I really need this?” But, there are other key questions you need to consider before you make the purchase, such as…
1. Can you afford it?
If you make this purchase, do you have to go into debt? Do you have to cut back on essentials or a lot of other things after? Will you be short on money for bills, groceries, etc.? How’s your quality of life after the purchase? Are you dipping in your savings to buy this item?
Having the money in your account is one thing, but the ability to spend that money is another. It’s more than whether or not you have the money in your bank account. This is also about whether you have disposable income which you could use.
It’s important that you budget and you make a forecast to see how your life will be after the purchase. You don’t want to make this purchase and lower your quality of life to the bare minimum. It’s super important to budget so you can be aware of what your day-to-day spending amount will be after the purchase.
It’s one thing to have the money ready, but it’s another to assess whether or not the purchase will have an impact on your day-to-day situation (until your next paycheck at least). Sure you can earn the money back, but just remember that you can only spend your money once.
Another important point: I’ve been seeing a lot of the ‘buy in installments’ schemes and I personally feel like this can go really wrong and people should really use this sparingly with extra caution. It’s good if you’re super, super, financially responsible and you know for certain that no matter what you’ll always meet those payments. But, these schemes have real impact on your credit scores and they’re serious purchases. It doesn’t just disappear into thin air – there are consequences if you miss your payments.
There are some scenarios where it’s better to pay with installments of course, but specific to clothes and accessories – high end or high street – I’m just a bit skeptical of it, personally. These third parties make it look so simple to get into this financial obligation with them and I just feel like it’s good to be wary. Know what you’re getting yourself into.
Note that at the end of the day, you know your own financial situation best and it’s 1000% your own decision. These are just my opinion and a word of caution.
2. Do you have something similar? What’s the added value of getting this item?
I know it’s nice to have variations, but do you have something similar? What’s the difference and why do you need to buy another one?
I have duplicates of most of my clothes and I literally have the same things in a slightly different model because I’m a sucker for variations. But, is that really necessary and do I really need this? I ended up giving away most of my stuff or just not wearing them altogether. Plus, certain things do go out of style (or at least I grow them) no matter how much I wanted to believe that it wouldn’t.
That’s why it’s good to really consider it well. Do you have something similar and do you really need this additional variation? What’s the added value to your closet? Do you even have the closet space?
I wrote this thinking of mainly fashion items, but this is so applicable to basically everything. Excess in cutleries, towels, plates, and cups, beddings, pillows, different kinds of speakers. I mean, there’s always a story behind it, but some can become so unnecessary and it’s definitely a habit I’m trying to fix.
3. be honest to yourself: is this an impulsive purchase? Have you waited (at least) 2 weeks?
Did you really want this item before you saw it just now? Is this something you have planned for a while?
I can be an impulsive shopper and I am not proud of it. I try to fix this by spending some time separating myself from the item and have a “cool off” period. If after a considerable amount of time, I still want this item – then I definitely want it. But, if after a while I recall not even having it on my mind – then I wouldn’t go for it cause I obviously didn’t like it enough to have it in my mind day and night.
It’s also important that you stop looking at the item because I find that familiarity builds attraction and desire. The more you look at something, the more you want it. That’s why if it’s all over Instagram (excluding those that are super saturated in the market), you’d just feel like it’s a familiar item which you need as well. Don’t tell yourself you absolutely need it, when you know deep down you actually don’t.
Again, it’s important to really spend some time to separate yourself from the purchase. After a while, it gets easier to answer the question of: do I really need this?
Shopping and impulse purchases are an indulgence. Our neurotransmitters like that and the excitement of adding it to cart and proceeding to check out is real. I’ll add sources and other great reading materials below for you to check out.
As much as I love shopping with my emotions, I think it’s also important to be rational and logical because each purchase can have a real impact to my financial security.
4. Why are you making this purchase? Can you explain to yourself how and when you’re gonna use it?
Is it suited to your need and situation? Don’t over justify your purchases. If you have to try really hard to come up with reasons to convince yourself why you need it, then you probably don’t really need it.
I feel like this is so important to do. It’s good to critically think why you’re buying something (what was your main motivator) and how exactly you’re going to use it. For instance, I love buying vacationwear/beachwear. But, guess what? I live in the Netherlands where summer comes only for a week max. Next to that, whenever I do go on vacation, I mostly go to cities and not really to beaches. I love the idea that I’m this tropical girl (having come from Indonesia), but honestly in practice, I’m really not.
I also really love to buy items that I can’t necessarily wear to work because it’s too informal, but I also can’t wear to parties (because they’re too expensive and they’d definitely get destroyed by me sitting on whatever stained surfaces there is at a party or when someone accidentally spills beer on it). But, it’s also too extra to wear during the weekend just when I’m out and about. So when do I use this? Maybe once a quarter in a full moon. I don’t even know.
I also buy dresses and evening pieces, but they’re always way too formal for events that I attend. So, again, when do I use this? Do I really need this? Do I really need to buy a different sparkly dress everytime new year comes? ☕
If you’re buying something just because you feel like you’d have use for it in the future, then point number 1 is really important. Be sure that you have that kind of money to spend without you falling short a few hundred euros per month or that you take away from your savings.
Examples of common motivator for me (in no particular order):
- “I don’t have anything to wear”
That’s probably not true. It’s more likely that you feel uninspired and you desire something new to keep up with the trend. We’ve been socially conditioned to think that it’s not okay to rewear certain things. But, why not? I have certainly fell for this, but I just feel like it’s so stupid to not rewear items. Why should I buy something only to wear it once? If it’s a great, and washable, items – why wouldn’t I wear it again?
- “It’s on sale and it’s a super good deal which I cannot miss out on”
Sit back down. Unless it’s a necessity, or something that you have been planning to buy full price – it’s really not a saving. You’re just spending money because of the illusion of a good deal. If you didn’t want it before the sale, then what are you doing buying this thing?
- “This is good for XYZ occassion in the future, in case it ever happens”
Look, buy it when you need it. Unless you have the money to easily spare, don’t buy it just because it might come in handy in the future.
- “I’m stressed and I need to treat myself”
I do this so often and I’m trying really hard now to get to the root of the problem instead of just caving in to the temporary fixes and pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I engage in a lot of other things to try to alleviate the stress, but nothing compares to shopping. I feel like an absolute addict when I say that, but at least for me it’s true. I’m now becoming more aware of my purchases and I don’t try to make myself happy or fix my problems through shopping. It’s a luxury which I can enjoy, but it’s not the bandaid that I want to use.
A bunch of good sources and reading materials linked below.
5. are you making the purchase with the intent of returning it (get it now, figure out later if it works?)
Then don’t. Chances are you’ll justify it in some ways and you’ll end up not returning it. Trust me, I have tons of these.
I know this is a bit of a strange qualifier that I have set for myself, but I’ve come to learn that planning your purchases based on the return policy is a terrible idea. I am so good at justifying purchases and I’ll find a way to make it work. Or, I say that I truly hate it, but I’ll just drop off the package sometime later cause I want to think about it some more.
Guess what? I just end up not returning it. I then end up with yet another thing in my closet with tags on which I never wear.
It’s literally such a waste and now I’ve been stricter with myself by only purchasing things that I hope will work out. Not just things that I kinda like and I want to see how it works out. Trust me, it adds up. If you can relate to this, then I would strongly suggest that you include this in your consideration as well.
6. Really look at the item, is the item really all that great or is it just well advertised?
Is the model super good-looking or is the item actually cute? Is the product so well-lit that it looks fantastic or is it just fantastic on its own?
I fall for this a lot. The store can be so good at styling something and setting a super inviting ambiance that I’d just die to have the items. But, in reality, these items are just subpar, regular, basic items. The seller’s just really good at marketing. Don’t get distracted by the way the product is placed / stylized. In real life, you can’t always pose like you do on Instagram. Real life also doesn’t always come in perfect dim romantic lighting which complements the color really well.
Find as many reviews as possible and definitely try to look for the item elsewhere. I always browse Google Images or Instagram and YouTube to see how it looks in real life. Also, Be critical and really think back on question 3-5.
7. have you considered other alternatives?
I know it’s nicer to have the top of the line stuff. But, sometimes it’s not necessary. A really easy example is with the iPhones. Do you really need to spend the $$$$ on an iPhone 11 Pro when the iPhone 11 or even the other iPhones before that works just as well? Do you really need that additional camera on the 11 Pro if you barely take any photos? Think back on question 1, 4 & 6.
Shopping is great. Trust me, I know how it feels. But, this instant gratification you get from shopping isn’t worth getting yourself in a difficult financial situation. Financial security, although boring, is way more attractive than any of the limited edition bags or shoes. I often justify by saying that, this is limited edition and I must get it now before it sells out. But, I mean, we live in a world full of fashion creatives. If not now, something great will come out again next time.
There’s always gonna be something new and it’ll never stop.
It’s okay to miss out on this one if you’re not convinced and if you’re especially not in the financial position to make such purchases.
It’s okay to get the look for less if you’re not down to spend hundreds of euros on a single piece of clothing.
I have a super expensive tshirt from Balenciaga and I honestly can’t tell the difference between the quality of this one and the quality of my other, less expensive, tshirts. Maybe it’s a little bit thicker, but at the end of the day, they’re just tshirts. They wear out and they get stained. Just because it’s a designer tshirt, doesn’t mean that it’s higher in quality or it’s superior. If you want to get the look for less, it’s cool and probably a smarter financial decision.
Also, rewearing things is 100% okay. You bought great stuff, so why shouldn’t you rewear them?
Again, shopping is so great and I absolutely love doing so. I think it’s a really fun past time activity, but at the same time I think it’s important to shop responsibly. Do not get into hot waters over a piece of clothing or accessory, or other unnecessary items.
Buying things cannot make you happy. It’s an indulgence and a temporary fix. Only buy what you can afford to and don’t ever feel like you have to be able to afford something to keep up with the rest.
Hope that this has helped you in some way. I am an avid shopper and my boyfriend often drills me on this before I make any purchases. I used to hate it, but they’re all legit questions. It has helped me so far and it’s now ingrained in me. I think it’s super important to have financial security and I hope the above can help in any way. Please feel free to share your own tips down below, I would be interested to know! 🙂
Other great reads in relation to this topic:
- Types of shoppers and understanding the science/psychology behind it (link)
- Another one on understanding the science behind the excitement and anticipation you get from shopping (link)
- Why shopping can become addictive (link)
- Article on why you’re becoming more susceptible to online shopping and why it’s okay to rewear things (link)
Business of Fashion article on fast fashion (link): “Fast fashion makes it about newness and scarcity. We have been socially conditioned to love everything that’s new.”