How to Save Yourself From a Foolish Purchase

I wish I had a quarter for every stupid purchase I’ve made in my life. I’d have some major dough. Regrettably, my financial faux pas have been remarkable in both quantity and quality. I’ve made some real doozies.

Take the above-ground swimming pool. Its a la carte price was bad enough. Adding everything required but not included took it from barely reasonable to absolutely ridiculous.

First, there was the heater and filter. Then the cover, chemicals and test kit. We needed search-and-rescue equipment (this was one monstrosity of a pool) and a few necessary pool toys. Oh, and let’s not forget the cost of eventually getting rid of the albatross.

Let me put it this way: There is not a lively secondary market for this kind of thing. If I’d had the courage to consider the consequences of such a major purchase before making it, we could have avoided a five-year industrial-strength headache and saved one huge pile of dough.

I’ve since learned how important it is to keep a simple self-test handy before making a purchase, large or small. A checklist clears away impulsivity and allows good sense to prevail. This exercise is about facts, not feelings. Feelings are fickle. They trick us. When it comes to making wise financial decisions, feelings cannot be trusted. Instead, ask yourself:

—Do I need it?

If the honest answer is no and you do not have oodles of discretionary income, case closed. You’ve just saved yourself from a foolish purchase.

—Can I afford it?

If you have to go into debt to make the purchase, you cannot afford it. Forget it.

—Do I already have something that will do just as well?

An honest assessment of all the stuff you already have could stop you in your tracks.

—Am I willing to wait?

Have you ever noticed that you require your children to be patient but rarely put the same requirement on yourself? A false sense of urgency brought on by overwhelming desire, or a sale, can skew your good sense. Getting away from the situation for a couple of days has a remarkable way of clearing your mind. If the purchase is right for you today, it will still be right a few days from now. You may even find the “need” for the item will disappear with time.

—What are the consequences?

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. What are the exact consequences of going through with this transaction? Don’t cheat yourself. Don’t accept “I don’t know” as an answer. If you don’t know the true costs, you are not ready to make the decision.

While my 7,000-gallon inflatable pool fiasco turned out to be a colossal financial disaster, truth be told, that purchase was relatively mild compared to impulsive acquisitions I’ve considered since then. Trust me. No one is more grateful than me (my husband being a close second) that I’ve learned to first consider the consequences. That has saved me from untold foolish purchases.

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