3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying Anything


It happens to the best of us. We make a blind purchase – whether it be clothes, cosmetics, appliances, even – that loses its charm days after purchase and ends up solemnly collecting dust in our homes. Roughly speaking, our discretionary spending falls under two categories: investment and consumption. Ideally, we want to spend as much of our discretionary spending on investments that will enhance our lives and less on fleeting consumerist desires.

Finance gurus tell us that we can achieve this by simply reevaluating our needs versus wants, but it can be difficult to ponder such abstract, philosophical questions when you're staring at that stylish silk blouse from your favorite designer. Rest assured – here are some more practical questions that you can ponder instead to avoid consumption-oriented spending:



1. Do I already own a variation of this?

In other words, do you already own this item, but in a different style, color or brand? If the answer is yes, it's probably a consumption-oriented expense. Unless this item is an "upgrade" or meant to replace your old one, chances are, having one more of this item is probably not going to enhance your life in any real way.

2. Do I see myself using this item a year from now?

If the answer is no, you are likely pursuing something that is trendy or low quality. Trends are just a flashy way for companies to renew their brand imprint in the consumer's mind – they are rarely more substantial or beneficial for you in the long run. Aside from the obvious like perishables or tech goods that upgrade regularly, you should only invest in items that you can see yourself using, five years from now.

3. Will this item enhance my _____?

When we ask ourselves broad questions like "Will this item enhance my life?" we become very liberal about the items we choose. Be more specific about what your life entails. What matters to you? Is it work? Spiritual health? Partnerships? Family? Wellness?

For me, life boils down to work and well-being. Hence I strive to only make purchases that serve as a direct investment for my work or well-being. Which means yes, a 21-inch monitor enhances my work, and is therefore an investment-oriented purchase. Similarly, a blender enhances my nutrition intake and wellness, and is therefore an investment-oriented purchase. However, designer shoes, most makeup products, and appliances like TVs do not enhance my work or well-being, and are therefore consumer-oriented purchases.