5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase
March 1, 2019 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on April 10, 2020
I’ve been on a bit of a minimalist kick lately.
There’s just something about cleaning out your closet that makes you evaluate every purchase you’ve made in the last calendar year.
I prefer to organize and deep clean first thing in the year.
There’s something about cold weather that makes me want to nest in my home (probably because it’s too cold outside to go anywhere), it’s after the holidays, and it just feels like a perfect time for reflecting.
As a bonus, Marie Kondo’s tv show Tidying Up came out… so, I mean who wasn’t ready to declutter, organize and spark joy?
I’m pretty happy that the Tidying Up TV show involves no shopping minus gathering a few small boxes for drawer organization. I’m even happier that after following up with a few of the families that participated, their homes have stayed TIDY!
This means they’re not running out and filling up their new found space – which is great!
In the past, I have definitely gone shopping after decluttering and felt excited that I had space to store all of my new belongings.
I never intentionally went out to shop and fill space, but because I had space I often allowed myself to shop, does that make sense?
I feel a lot of people fall into this mindset. I don’t think many people intentionally buy things they don’t want or don’t love. I think in the moment they think they want and love it, but only with time and space do they realize… they don’t.
As a former shopaholic, I can tell you that’s how it was for me. I tended to love things in the moment but never really thought about them practically.
In college, after I sold my books back to the book store, I’d take that money and spend it frivolously. I remember I bought a beautiful pair of heels that were 5” tall… do you know how practical it is to wear 5” heels without a platform? For me, it was not very practical. I wore them a few times, and that was it.
My instinct was to run to the store for anything and everything I needed, instead of sitting with that want or need and thinking about it. I didn’t want to wait for a solution. I wanted to buy a solution RIGHT NOW which I think is an overall symptom of our society which relies a lot on instant gratification.
I try not to reflect on all of the money I could have saved had I been a bit wiser….
But, on top of all that, I didn’t value things. Things were not something I respected. I viewed things as disposable, mostly because I was buying disposable goods. But, disposable is 100% a mindset, and it’s not a very healthy one.
1. does it fit my ethics?
This one right off the bat will eliminate A LOT of things I don’t need. I’m not saying every purchase I make is an ethical one, but I do try to make my purchases as ethical as possible.
And, if I need something so bad that I’m willing to sacrifice my ethics for it, then I KNOW it’s something that I NEED.
The most common instance of this scenario is jeans. In most designers ethical ones or not, I have a small waist and an x-large rear. I’m pear shaped, and trying to find pants that fit both areas of my body is a real challenge.
I often resort to buying jeans that aren’t the most ethical simply because they’re what fits.
Before going shopping, try to determine your ethics. Ask yourself if the things you’re about to purchase fit into those ethics.
Do you want things to be mostly plastic free?
What about slave labor?
What about ecological business practices?
I feel like this blog post could be a topic all to itself, but I have talked about this a little bit more in How to Make the BEST Choice for the environment.
2. would I be willing to pay full price?
Because I do try to opt for ethical purchases, this often means shopping second hand or on sale, because ethical purchases can be really expensive.
Before you go shopping, try to identify how much money it hurts for you to spend? $20, $50, $200? I don’t know what your budget or spending habits are like but anything that costs $50 gives me serious pause. It makes me truly evaluate the item and whether or not I need it.
I come across a lot of deals when I’m shopping second hand. I come across items I like, maybe an item that’s been on my list for a long time, and maybe that item isn’t quite perfect, but I find myself saying, “Oh, well it’s close to what I’m looking for, and it’s only $8”
Have you ever uttered the phrase, “It’s only X amount of dollars”?
If you have, then you probably know that phrase means you don’t love it and you definitely DON’T need it.
So, the first question I ask myself before making a purchase is, “Would I pay full price for this item or would I pay my sacrificial price for this item?” Ask yourself whichever number is higher, and if the answer is no, don’t buy it.
3. do I need it?
This one is tough because it can be difficult to sort through what we need, a true want, and a temporary want. We want to make sure that we’re eliminating temporary wants because those are the ones that clutter our closets and drawers.
For more info on this topic be sure to check out my post Why I Wait 30 Days Before Making a Purchase all about setting a personal buy-ban for yourself.
You can pinpoint a true want and need if you give yourself enough space. If you’re still thinking about something weeks or months later, then it’s probably a true want or need.
4. is this for the person I am or the person I want to be?
Maybe you’ve waited 30 days or months, but still find yourself dreaming about that item. Is that a true want, probably. But, you also need to get real with yourself. Ask yourself the hard question. Is this item for the person I am or the person I want to be.
For instance, I love skirt suits. I LOVE them, but I don’t go to the type of meetings necessary for wearing skirt suits and always feel very out of place when I do wear them. So, no matter how much I want them, I know they’re for the person I want to be vs. the person I am.
In my mind, I’m also excellent at gardening and working out 4 times a week. In actuality, I am NONE of those things.
So, there’s no need for me to go overboard on gardening supplies or to buy 15 pairs of leggings. Owning a few pairs for the few times I do manage to workout before doing laundry is perfect for me.
Speaking of which, check out these 7 eco-friendly activewear brands!
5. what is the end plan?
The last thing I ask myself is about my end plan. Somehow framing the product in it’s full lifecycle beyond just, “I see it; I want it; I buy it.,” helps to create a story and a plan for my purchase.
Because everything you buy, at some point, has to leave your home. Ask yourself:
Is this an item worth passing down?
Is this an item I would repair or can be repaired?
Is this an item that can be recycled?
Is this an item that will be sent to the landfill?
Is this an item I could resell?
There’s no judgment from me on what the answers may be, but sometime’s it’s helpful to give more context to a purchase.
Now, this isn’t a question, but I hope that you’ll wait for the perfect item. Sometimes, it’s just about having enough patience for that perfect item you’ve been looking for to arrive. And when it does, you will be so filled with joy!
Have you asked yourself any of these questions while shopping? Are there any tips and tricks you have to reduce the amount you shop?
This article is SO helpful! I’m asking all these same questions for garments, toys, and household items, and it has staved off some impulse purchasing. These questions are especially helpful and justifying for those of us with not a lot to spend, not just those of us looking for "a deal." This whole low impact living mindset helps me and others feel less left out in keeping up with the Joneses.
I’m so glad you found these questions helpful!
You are honestly such an inspiration to me, I am young, only 12, and I heard about the zero waste movement last year, and whilst I am not quite there yet have implemented it into my life, making lots of changes and feeling so happy when I accomplish them. Whenever I don’t know what to do I come to these sort of blog posts, and you have just truly helped me along the way, thanks so much, when I grow up I want to live a lifestyle just like yours, and hopefully make just as much of a difference. Again thank you so much, you have changed my life.