One of the most successful ways that my wife and I avoid overspending is by asking ourselves one simple question before we make a purchase: Do we really need this? This question, among others, has saved us tons of money over the years. Wondering how to stop overspending yourself? Here are six questions to ask before you buy anything:
- Do I truly need this?
- Will I actually use it?
- Would I rather put this money toward other goals?
- Is there a cheaper version?
- Can I wait to make this purchase?
- Can I buy it used?
1. Do I Truly Need This?
Usually, that question helps us get in the right mindset before we make a stupid or impulsive purchase. When it doesn’t work, we always keep our receipts so that we can return anything that we later realize isn’t a good idea.
Of course, we do spend a little bit of money on things we don’t need. But in order to spend money on a want, we have to first save up enough from our fun-money allowance — $50 per paycheck.
If the money doesn’t come out of our fun money and we can’t say yes to our question, we won’t buy the item.
If the “Do I need this?” question doesn’t work for you, there are a few more questions to ask yourself before you buy anything. Sometimes you just need to find the one that hits home.
2. Will I Actually Use It?
Many people buy things that they never actually end up using. Asking whether you’ll actually use the item you’re purchasing gives you the chance to be honest with yourself. If you don’t love the item, you probably won’t use it and should skip the purchase.
3. Would I Rather Put This Money Toward Other Goals?
A great way to keep from overspending is to set financial goals. The goal could be to save $10,000 and take your dream vacation to Europe or to pay off $80,000-plus of student-loan debt. Whatever your goal is, ask yourself whether you’d prefer to use the money toward that rather than the purchase that you’re about to make. This is a great way to cut back on unnecessary impulse or convenience purchases.
4. Is There a Cheaper Version?
When you’re out shopping and come across an item — even one that you need — it's tempting to make the purchase immediately. However, you should first consider whether there's a cheaper version of the item that would accomplish the same goal. You may be able to find the same item at a lower price elsewhere. Or you might find a different, cheaper version made by a different company.
But whatever you do, don’t use this question to justify buying a subpar product to save money. When you buy a poor-quality item, you’ll lose out in the long run.
5. Can I Wait to Make This Purchase?
Sometimes postponing a purchase makes you realize that you don’t really need the item after all. The larger the purchase is, the longer I try to delay the decision. Sometimes all it takes is sleeping on a decision to realize that your money would be better spent elsewhere.
6. Can I Buy This Used?
The last question I like to ask is, “Can I buy this used?” A used item is often just as good as — if not better than — a new item. Admittedly, not every purchase can be replaced by a cheaper, higher-quality used item. But you should at least consider your options before making a purchase.
Final Thoughts on How to Stop Overspending
It’s so easy to get caught up in consumerism and lose track of how we spend our money. Ask yourself the above questions before you buy anything, and you’ll find yourself spending less.