Buyer’s remorse: It’s that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you drive away from the store. It’s that tiny, relentless voice that says, “You shouldn’t have bought that,” or “Your spouse is going to be mad,” or, “You let that salesperson walk all over you.”
I’ve been the victim of buyer’s remorse myself. The day I bought our boat I remember getting off the phone with the seller and thinking, “What have I done?” Fortunately, I’m happy with the decision now, but at the time, all I wanted to do was call the seller back and tell him I’d changed my mind.
Preventing Buyer’s Remorse
No one wants to experience buyer’s remorse, but if you find yourself frequently second-guessing your purchases, follow these tips to help prevent it:
1. Do Your Research
Have you ever purchased an item you didn’t really need, or one you could have scored a better deal on? If so, you made an impulse purchase. To avoid this common pitfall, do your research before shopping. My general rule is that anything over $50 should be researched and cleared with my spouse. That or a similar rule can keep you from blowing money on things you don’t really need.
When you think “research,” you may think of looking through Sunday’s paper for ads or going store-to-store. But the most effective way to research is to take it online. Read reviews, compare prices, and look for price-matching deals. A little online research can give you the confidence you need to make a smart purchase without the hassle of visiting multiple stores.
2. Save Your Pennies
When I was little, my favorite treat was Macintosh’s Toffee. And if I wanted a 50 cent bar, I had to save the money. It’s a cute lesson for a seven-year-old, and a necessary one for an adult. Buyer’s remorse has a tendency to rear its head when you make purchases without saving for them. I’m not talking about toffee here, but larger purchases like a flat screen TV or new laptop computer. Sure, buying the item on credit might make you happy now, but paying the item off with interest can be a serious buzzkill. When you save your money and make your purchases free-and-clear, you end up feeling proud, not remorseful.
3. Walk Away
“Limited time offer! Act now!” These familiar shticks lure you in and encourage impulse purchases – the kind that leave you with a sense of regret. Whenever you feel pressured by a salesperson or advertisement, just walk away. There’s rarely a sale so steep you can’t score the same deal at another retailer, and by walking away, you remove yourself from the pressure zone.
If you really want to make the purchase, set a reminder on your phone for two or three weeks in the future. When the alarm goes off, reevaluate whether you still want the item. Chances are your attitude will have changed.
4. Use Apps
Smartphone apps are a genius way to ensure you’re never swindled. For example, the ShopSavvy app tells you how much an item costs online and at other area stores when you scan its barcode. Another cool app is RedLaser. It compares prices, but it can also store coupons and the information from your store loyalty cards so you get extra discounts without lugging a packed wallet around with you.
If you don’t need an item immediately, check out the price predictor app Decide. It tells you whether an item is likely to go on sale or if a better model will soon come out – so you can decide to buy immediately or wait for the better model or price.
5. Check the Return Policy
Do yourself a favor and ask the cashier about the store’s return policy before pulling out your wallet. Stay away from retailers with limited or strict return policies, making a point to purchase from stores offering reasonable return times (at least two weeks) and cash back options. Even if you never make a return, the safety net of knowing you could make one will help prevent buyer’s remorse.
If you’re shopping online, always check the return policy to see not only how long you have to return an item, but also if you must pay for return shipping. Ideally, a retailer gives you ample time and offers to pay for return shipping for any reason. But not all retailers are so generous, unless the item is damaged or incorrect. Read the return policy before you checkout. If you’re not happy with the policy, find another retailer to buy from.
6. Define Your Reasons
When was the last time you felt guilty about buying a gallon of milk? The answer is probably never, right? Necessities don’t incur guilt because you know you need them. To avoid feelings of remorse, you need to define why you’re set on making a particular purchase; if it’s to keep up with the Joneses or because you feel the pressure to buy, it’s time to put it back. Superficial reasons for making a purchase are more likely to lead to regret.
7. Forget the Hype
There’s nothing worse than making a purchase only to find out that a new model is soon being released. I’ll admit to having major envy when the iPad 3 came out shortly after I bought an iPad 2. I was disappointed, but I had to ask myself why. It turns out the biggest difference between the two models is a retina display and better graphics package.
I use my iPad to surf the Web, play games, and FaceTime my family – I don’t really need the bells and whistles of the newest model. Plus, I paid much less for the older version. Once I realized the upgrades were unnecessary, I was a lot happier with my purchase.
The truth is that just about everyone experiences buyer’s remorse from time to time – I still get a little worried over the occasional pair of shoes. In the end, how you feel about a purchase comes down to affordability and your desire for the product. But, as long as you do the leg work, avoid impulse buys, and you know you’re making a purchase you can afford, go ahead and enjoy the fruits of your labor without the guilt.
When was the last time you felt buyer’s remorse? What did you do about it?