5 Reasons You Should Wait to Make that Purchase

4 min to read

Humans are impulsive creatures. We like to have things now, and sometimes we don’t even know we want something (or think we want something) until the very moment that we see it. Often, we’re tempted by novelty or by what we perceive as a bargain.

Before you plunk down your hard-earned money for yet another impulse purchase — or even a purchase that you’ve thought about for a day or two — consider waiting. Here are 5 reasons to wait before you buy:

1. You Probably Don’t Need It

One of the issues that we have is a sense that we “need” things, even though we don’t. You might say that you need a bigger TV, or a new mattress for your bed, or that tortilla maker. Even though you think you need something, you probably really don’t. If you create a waiting period before you make a purchase, you can see whether or not you actually need it. If you can go two weeks or a month without it, you probably don’t need.

2. You Might Not Even Want It

Another issue is that you might not even truly want the item that you are buying. In many cases, you make a quick purchase because you think you want something, or you’ve seen something that your friend or your relative has. However, if you wait a couple weeks, the desire for the item might decrease, and you are likely to decide that you don’t want the item after all. You can head off buyer’s remorse simply by deciding not to make the purchase after all.

3. You Might Not Really Be Able to Afford It

Instituting a waiting period before you buy something provides you with time to really decide if you can afford the item. You might think you have the money right now, but what happens if your car breaks down. Could buying the item now leave you vulnerable to financial issues later? If you don’t have some sort of emergency fund, you might be better off contributing to that instead. Wait to complete your purchase, and you have time to review your budget and see where you really stand.

4. The Opportunity Cost Might Be High

When you spend money on something now, that’s less money you have for purchasing power later. This is especially apparent when you look at your opportunity cost in terms of investing. If you take the money you would have spent on the item and invest it, you have a chance to put your money to work for you, rather than spending the money.

Over time, the true cost to own something — especially if it is something that requires ongoing maintenance and other costs — can become very high. When you think about what else you could have done with the money, you are likely to be disappointed. Waiting on the purchase can give you time to rethink the situation, and determine whether or not the opportunity cost is truly worth it.

5. It Might Not Advance Your Goals

Think about your financial goals and your desired lifestyle. Consider your long-term goals, including spending and investing. What you do now affects you later. Additionally, it dictates your current lifestyle. If you are unhappy with your current lifestyle, it might be an indication that you are spending money on things that don’t match your values and goals.

Before you make an impulse purchase, take a step back and ask yourself whether or not the purchase will advance your goals. Will it help you live the lifestyle you want? Will it help you prepare for the financial freedom you want in the future? If it doesn’t mesh well with what you are trying to accomplish, there is no sense in buying it. A waiting period can help you see that, and make a different choice with your money.

In the end, a waiting period is about forcing you to think about your purchases. Too often, we just buy something without thinking about it. Later, we become upset because we don’t have enough money to do the really important things, or we are surrounded by things we don’t like and wish we hadn’t bought. Institute a waiting period for most purchases, and you can become a conscientious shopper who makes decisions based on long-term financial goals.

Miranda Marquit is a freelance journalist specializing in topics related to personal finance, investing, and entrepreneurship. She writes regularly for a number of web sites, including AllBusiness, Huffington Post, and Wise Bread. Miranda’s work has been published at U.S. News & World Report, MSN Money, Fox Business, and Business Insider. Her work has been linked to from USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and she has appeared on NPR Morning Edition and American Public Media’s Marketplace