3 Questions You MUST Ask Yourself Before Buying Anything

Let’s face it – When we shop, rarely do we stop to ask ourselves a slew of questions about the affordability of the product. We’re either shopping for fun or shopping on impulse, and neither one of those occasions really calls for a run down of financial questions.

However, I’ve found that with a few easy steps and a simple pause before each purchase, you can make sure that everything you bring into your home is something you actually want and can afford.

Here are some examples:

1. How Many Hours Of Work Does This Cost?

Instead of thinking about the price of an item, think about the work input. Maybe that purse will cost you 20 hours of work, and in that case, you really have to ask yourself if 20 hours of your time is really worth that shiny, pretty bag.

I actually ask myself, “How many posts is this dress?” As in, how many blog posts will I have to write to equal the price of that dress? Usually this makes me step slowly away from the store, but sometimes it’s worth it to me, and I realize that I’m happy to work hard to be able to buy something I want.

Ultimately, getting into the habit of asking this question trains you to think about your purchases in relation to your income and helps you make more informed decisions.

2. What Is The Price Per Use?

You know those sassy snakeskin heels you bought? Oh yeah, you know the ones. When are you ever going to wear those? That’s what I have to ask myself all the time.

I might see a really fun gadget or great cookbook or pretty piece of furniture, and I have to ask myself how many times it will get used. That usually helps me to decide if it’s worth it or not.

I’d rather spend more money on items that will get used a lot, like a pair of sneakers if you’re a runner or a nice oven if you’re a chef. One of the most expensive things I own is my computer but I use it about 10 hours a day, so the cost per use is pretty excellent. These are usually the products that are worth their high prices.

3. Do I Need This Right Now?

Sometimes I fall into the habit of buying something because it’s a really good deal, like buying winter boots in the spring. While it might be a great deal, nothing is a good deal if it causes you to break your budget.

Asking yourself if you need it right now is a great way to stop yourself from impulse spending. Chances are, you can find that product later for a good price on a sale website or by trying to find it on eBay when your budget allows it.

I’m sure these aren’t the only questions you can ask yourself to help you stay on track with your spending. If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below. 

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About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog, www.BudgetBlonde.com.


  1. I definitely try to think about how many hours of work I am paying for something! And when you put it in those terms, I find that most “things” aren’t really worth it!

  2. I think one should only be buying something if he really needs it. No matter what its cost is, if you don’t need it, then you shouldn’t buy it, right?

  3. Since I’m retired, I don’t think about the time it would take working to pay for something. What I do instead, is to think “is there anything I’d RATHER have than this. And then I save the money to get the other thing. It might be saving for a month in Alaska when our summers are 98 degrees with 97% humidity. Or it might be a great purse that will last for years. But if I have something I’d rather get than what I’m looking at right then, I walk away with no regrets because I’ll be getting something better later on.

  4. I like to go with the “Do I need this?” I also step back for a bit and let my mind step away from the purchase. That seems to help me out the most.

  5. William Cowie says:

    The “do I need it right now” is definitely important, given that we’re already getting close to the next downturn. What? Yep, do the math: the last bottom was 2009, and downturns typically start about 5-8 years after the previous bottom. When is 5 years after 2009? Not what we want, but better safe than sorry…

  6. I love the tip about asking yourself, “how much work will this cost?” as opposed to just “how much will this cost.”

    Before I buy anything relatively large in size, I put it on a 30-day waiting list. Chances are I won’t want or need that product in 30 days, so that ends up saving me a ton — this is coming from a former compulsive buyer.

  7. Bryce @ Save and Conquer says:

    To avoid impulse spending, I always mull a purchase over for at least a day to make sure I really want the item. Often, I decide after 24 hours that I have been doing just fine without the item all my life, so I don’t really need to waste my money on it.


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