Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase

As much as we’d all love to have a meticulously crafted Excel budget that perfectly accounts for every swipe of our card, it’s hard to fully anticipate purchases to the degree that would require. Whether something unexpected comes up, you hear about an exciting new product, or you’ve found yourself scrolling through Poshmark more than usual lately due to social distancing, it can be hard to say no to making a purchase right now.

six questions to ask before making a purchase

Kaikebo refers to a Japanese strategy for saving money by asking yourself meaningful questions before making a purchase. It allows you to think through your purchases and be more mindful with how you spend your money. In the spirit of practicing Kaikebo, ask yourself these six questions next time you want to buy something to make sure you’re making the best use of your financial resources.

1. Will I still want this item in a week or a month?

About a year ago I tried on a pair of jeans that was a little above my price range. I decided to make the responsible decision and leave them behind, but not before taking a selfie in the dressing room. Over the next few weeks I found myself looking at that photo a lot and thinking about them whenever I couldn’t decide what to wear. After a month I decided that they were worth the price and went back and bought them. They were still more than I wanted to spend but after thinking the purchase through I knew it was a good use of my money.

On the flip side, ever bought something you absolutely needed in the checkout line at TJ Maxx only to have it end up in your junk drawer a week later? Guilty.

Whenever you find yourself compelled to make a purchase, especially an impulse purchase, walk away and let the idea simmer for a few days. If it still feels right after sleeping on it, go ahead and make that purchase with confidence!

2. Will I use this item?

Sometimes it’s easy to think that buying something new will help you become the type of person that uses that thing. However, if you’ve tried to like spin classes and they just aren’t your thing you probably won’t become a regular at SoulCycle even if you buy spin shoes. Make sure that whatever it is you’re compelled to buy will actually bring utility to your life. If it won’t it’s probably best to skip it.

3. Do I have something else that fulfills the same purpose?

While you’re considering the potential utility of an item, consider whether you have something else that’s fulfilling the same function. Do you really need a slow cooker *and* an Instant Pot? If you’re already doing whatever this new item will theoretically make easier with no problem, move away from that purchase.

4. Can I afford this item?

It seems obvious but it can be easier said than done. There’s more to being able to afford something than quite literally having the cash in your checking account. Ask yourself some follow up questions before making a splurge. Even if you can afford this purchase, will it divert funds you’ve been saving for a vacation, buying a home, or investing in your career? Be sure that you can truly afford to make purchases without compromising other financial goals.

5. Will this item bring me joy?

The quintessential Marie Kondo question has gotten a little bit gimmicky, but it’s also incredibly useful. It’s easy to fall into the trap of purchasing pleasure and feel that instant dopamine rush that comes from clicking “add to cart” regardless of what it is you’re purchasing. Instead of focusing on the joy you’ll derive from the act of buying something, be sure that the item itself will bring you that same joy (or utility) once it arrives.

6. How did I come across this item?

Is this something you’ve wanted for a while? Or does the Instagram algorithm know you a little too well?

I like to keep a note in my phone of products that I want to eventually buy. I add where I found it, what it is (for those times you see something you just have to have only to forget about it a few hours later – see tip one), the price, and any applicable promo codes. That way, when I have some extra cash or am in the market for something new, I can check my list, see what purchases I’ve been sitting on, and make a more mindful purchase than waiting for an Instagram add to suck me in.

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About Kira Schreiber

Kira grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is passionate about mental health, healthy eating, and sustainability. After spending the first part of her career working for a non profit mental health agency in Southern California, she transitioned to pursue a career in her passion for cooking. Now back in Chicago, Kira spends her days developing healthy recipes for a food tech start up. When not in the kitchen or on her laptop she loves spending time outdoors, hitting up a spin class, or watching home decor DIYs on YouTube.