First off, I’m not going to tell you to never buy anything again. I’m not crazy or mean! haha. But as I continue on my minimalism journey (pretty sure it’s lifelong) I’ve realized that minimalism and decluttering won’t work if we continue to fill our homes with new stuff. In fact, decluttering can often lead to worse results. I’ve seen people get frustrated, throw EVERYTHING out, only to get rid of stuff they wanted and needed. And then they end up buying more stuff to fill the void. The trick to minimalism, I’ve found, is to use what you already have and being intentional about new purchases. So here are 10 questions to ask before making a new purchase that can help you on your minimalism and decluttering journey too. (And let’s be honest, it can help financially as well!)
10 Questions to Ask Before Making a New Purchase
1.) Is it a need or a want?
Wants aren’t bad. I bought a squirrel picnic table last week because I’ve wanted one for years. But they become a problem when we start to want everything. But we simply do not have enough money, storage, or time to maintain all our wants in life and so we might draw a line somewhere.
Too often we disguise wants as needs. We may need new shoes for work but start to convince ourselves we also need the most expensive brand out there. The first step is to ask yourself, “Is this a genuine need or do I just want it really really bad?” And it’s OK to still buy something just because you really really want it. But be honest with yourself first. Often times we may realize something else (much cheaper) will suffice. We may even find we like it better than the most expensive kind out there.
2.) Can I borrow it from someone?
Whether it’s a tool from a neighbor or a crib from a friend who doesn’t currently have a baby, there are loads of stuff we can borrow from someone when a need arises. Not only does it save money, but you can return when you’re done, saving you space too. Just don’t forget to return the favor and allow others to borrow your stuff too. You might just start a new trend!
3.) Do I have something similar I can use at home?
The other week I wanted to buy a new backpack for outings with my toddler. But then I realized I already have several bags at home that could suffice for a day outing without spending extra money. Now, in my brain, I thought, “But a backpack would be easier!” Still, I gave myself a week to try one of the bags I already had. And you know what? It worked out fine. Next time you go to make a purchase double check your own house first for something that could work…even if only temporarily. Start by trying it out for a week and go up from there.
Similar, here are green and zero waste cleaning swaps that can help you cut down on monthly expenses and purchases.
4.) Can I buy this used?
Buying used is my love language. Haha. Before I buy anything – I mean ANYTHING – I check Facebook marketplace. (With the exception of things like underwear that is…) If you’re patient you can find just about anything you want. I wanted Serena and Lily Bar stools forever but was never going to pay full price. So I checked Facebook Marketplace religiously and after about six months someone was finally selling them! Although pricey still, they are of amazing quality and were worth the wait.
5.) Does it fit within my monthly budget?
Is this a purchase you’ve been saving for or will it cause you to go way above your monthly budget? (Worse if it’s a last-minute splurge.) My husband and I each have a personal spending allowance each month and if we want to buy something ridiculous with it (AKA a squirrel picnic table) the other person is not going to care. You should never make a new purchase that is a want and will put you into debt, no matter how much on “sale” it is. But if it fits into your budget and you can’t find it anywhere else, this also helps you feel better about the purchase.
6.) Do I have a place to store it?
I can’t tell you how many “must-have” items I’ve bought only to find out I don’t love them and have no place to store them. If your closet is already busting at the seams, you probably don’t need another dress. The same goes for a kitchen gadget, new bath towels, shoes, electronics, kids’ toys, etc. Ask yourself if you have a spot for the item before purchasing it.
7.) Am I buying it to make myself feel better because I had a bad day?
This is another doozy. How often have you had a terrible day and felt a need to blow money on something to make you feel better. Maybe it was a spa trip, a new outfit, a meal, or even a trip. Too often we say, “I need this” or “I DESERVE this” after something bad happens to us. But in reality, that purchase will not make you feel better, and may even lead to more remorse later.
8.) Will I still like it in a month or a year?
I understand this one is not as easy to figure out. Obviously, our first thought is, “of course” or we wouldn’t be buying it. The key is, to be honest with ourselves. A lot of times we may end up realizing that in a month we really won’t care or want it (think cutesy seasonal items). Or an item that will wear down quickly. Over time you’ll become a better judge of what you will still want/need long-term for you and your family.
9.) Is it worth maintaining?
Years ago I bought a humidifier. And I don’t know that it was a bad purchase because I’ve used it every time my toddler or I have gotten sick. However, it is a PAIN to clean. You have to disinfect the thing frequently or else you will be spraying contaminated air into your home. Going back to #6, it’s also a pain to store! It’s large and cumbersome and our small home doesn’t have much storage. If I could go back in time I’m not sure I would buy it again.
10.) Can I get it on sale?
Last but not least, if you can’t get it used, borrow it from someone, or make do without, always always look for a good sale! Sometimes sales take patience too. You may want something now, but you may know it’ll be on sale in a few months. This is also a good rule for Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any other large sale day. Were you already going to buy it? Then it’s a good deal. If not, you may just be overspending on something you really don’t want.