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7 tips to avoid shopping regret

August 14, 2013

by Shannon Ables
Portland writer
The Simply Luxurious Life

Teased by advertising, coaxed by magazine editorials and tantalized by your favorite fashion blogs, that certain handbag you’ve had your eye on continues to be at the top of your shopping list, yet the price tag is extraordinary, and you are understandably guarded as to whether or not you should make the purchase. After all, what if you end up not being happy with your purchase?

Shopping regrets, also known as buyer’s remorse, reportedly affects many of us as research has revealed consumers regret 80% of our discretionary expenditures and 35% of all returns are attributed to buyer’s remorse.

So what fail-safe strategies can we use to ensure we are no longer a member of this undesired club?

1. Necessity vs. Discretionary

Once you determine which category the item falls into, the indecisiveness becomes a non-issue (necessity) or you have to now begin to search for sound reasoning to justify your discretionary purchase.

2. Sleep on It

While buyer’s remorse does occur after choosing a particular item on a menu (the wrong ice cream flavor, steak rather than chicken, etc), it won’t break the bank or your heart if you either don’t enjoy it as you thought or don’t eat it. Buying your next car, home or designer dress/handbag/shoes is another matter.

In cases involving the latter, follow the price tag rule of thumb – the more it costs, the more time dedicated to deciding on whether or not to make the purchase. In other words, no spur-of-the-moment decisions while surfing the internet to purchase that Hermès Birkin bag that just popped up on Vaunte.

3. Purchase Quality

However, don’t shy away from something because it is top quality. In fact, by choosing quality, you end up purchasing less because the items last longer which increases your satisfaction with the purchase and decreases your stress because you have less clutter. The key is to make sure that the quality you are purchasing is what you need or works well in your life (and doesn’t put you in debt).

4. Use Cash

Often the purchases that are regretted the most are the ones in which both debt has been incurred to purchase it coupled with dissatisfaction of the purchase. By choosing to use cash, you physically see the amount of money it requires to attain the item/experience/etc, and in seeing this transaction if your stomach is not hurling but rather remains quite calm, you are less likely to experience regret.

5. Assess Past Purchases

Do a quick search through your most recent receipts. Look at the items purchased and how much. Then for each item ask yourself, would I make this purchase again? Was it work the effort I put in at work to earn the money that paid for it? Keep track of your answers, and if necessary, make a list of the items you wish you hadn’t purchase to refrain from making the same mistakes in the future.

6. Eliminate Extra/Unnecessary Choices

As Barry Schwartz brings to our attention in The Paradox of Choice, while we think the ideal is to have as many choices as possible in order to select exactly what we want, when we are confronted with endless choices, we become nearly paralyzed and often don’t know what to choose, thus resulting in unnecessary stress and bad decision making.

By reducing the options, much like applying the filter when looking for jeans on your favorite website (select straight-leg only), you eliminate hundreds of options that would have clouded your decision making. By weeding out what we know won’t work, by zeroing in on just the varying flavors of chocolate at the ice cream parlor, we reduce the options in front of us, making it easier to choose which one we genuinely want.

7. Do Your Homework

Last, but not least (and honestly, one of the most important strategies), take the time to do the legwork on exactly it is you will be purchasing. What is the gas mileage (city/hwy), what is the warranty, what is the return policy, what have past consumers of the product said about their purchase, etc. Read Consumer Reports, read more than one review found on different media sources, and go forth with confidence when you make that purchase.

Similar to life, the more you know, the more likely you will be happy with the direction and decisions you make as you travel toward the destination you wish to reach.

As you can see, while there is no guarantee the items, trips, or experiences we spend our money on will produce the exact results we expect, we can put the odds in our favor. We can go take that test run of the new BMW Mini Cooper convertible. We can choose to rent in that city we have an inkling we want to settle down in before we buy. We can go try a particular item of clothing on to see how the size of a particular designer fits our body. In other words, there is a lot we can do as insurance to prevent regret from occurring. So why not employ these strategies the next time your hard earned money is tempting you to spend it?

So I’m curious? On the flipside. What was one thing you have purchased that, contrary to what you were concerned about, provoked no regrets? And what did you do beforehand to help ensure this outcome? Feel free to share in the comments below or on Facebook.

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