Before I buy something – my purchase chart
Despite my effort to reduce spending, I find myself running in a purchase cycle that is built upon lifestyle, environment, social expectations, peer pressure, and marketing outreach. And the default setting is, sadly, an unending loop. Do I buy what I need and not what I want, or buy things that spark joy? How do I choose when I go out with friends who think RM20 cup of coffee is too cheap to record as an expense?
What has helped me over the years is being mindful of buying things, not only to saving money but also to know that buying too much will clutter my small space. To make good purchase decisions, there are a few questions that I like to ask myself before buying something:
i. Why I am buying this?
ii. Can I borrow this?
iii. How will I use this?
Iv. Is there a cheaper way to buy this?
These questions allow me to review my purchase and maybe choose an alternative. If I put them in a doodle, this is how it looks like:
The grey arrow is my thought process in making a purchase while the purple arrow is alternatives to get out of the cycle. The more purple arrows I do, the smaller my purchase cycle becomes, and the less I need to maintain my life (minimalist).
The most dangerous purchase is an urgent need, it creates a loop that is unending. Impulse purchases happen when I am in an urgent conner because I am unprepared or insecure. Sometimes marketing creates a sense of urgency to make me buy things, phases like ‘Last day promo”, “Time-limited sale”. If I believe that I need something instantly, the consideration process is cut short and I spent without considering the alternative. I think the best way to stop impulse purchase is to pause. Don’t shop when you are in a hurry, don’t shop when you have a deadline to meet.
Do I only need the tool once? I don’t often borrow items from friends, but I find that is by far the most effective way for one-time use items. This could be rare things like 3D printer, hot glue gun, lamination tool. If I can’t borrow a one-time use item, do without is a ruthless rule in exchange for higher financial security.
Next, I’ll google for alternatives. Alternative items work exceptionally well in the household category. A conventional oven can be used as an air-fryer. A multipurpose knife can replace a set of knives. Alternative ingredients like lime for lemon (lime is much more affordable than lemon here). For high-value purchases, can I get it second hand? Thrift is a great place to source for clothing accessories like branded bags and clothes.
Finally, I look for the best price to buy and own that item. There are a few things that I will reach here. Mostly food, chemical products (face cream), disposable items, and gadgets. Things that I need for daily living. How many stores do I have to go before I can clear the groceries list? Two or three in the past. Now I like to use online store for pantry items and just buy fresh item in store.
Buying something doesn’t end there. Keeping things accessible and maintained after a purchase is important. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was a teenager. Out of temper, I throw a keyboard cable on the wall and it broke. Because of that, I don’t get to practice my keyboard, and today, I can’t play music. A life-long regret.
Too many times, I buy something because I forget I have it, or I misplace the item. When an item is lost at home, I will need to buy it. Last month, I misplace two of my nail clippers and had to buy an additional one when my nail chip. Now, I have too many nail clippers.
Yes, it is a lot of consideration to buy one item. Sometimes I give up thinking and put the items back on the shelves, and I don’t regret not buying it – I am still healthy, living well. The time spent may not be worthwhile at the beginning but as this becomes a habit, it helps me to build a quality lifestyle without spending too much.