I’m going to tell you a story about a purse. Bring on the eye rolls, right! It was my first time in Paris; I was a student; the annual sales had just started. I was traveling with an eclectic group from my college, and I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know them like I knew this purse, or at least that was my impression from falling in love with it at first glance.
But a girl on the trip talked me out of it. It was too expensive, she argued, even though I had budgeted a hundred euros a day for my time there, and as I was with the school, I hadn’t spend nearly that much. I’m not talking about $3,000 Louis Vuitton (although there were other students with us who purchased just that), I’m talking about a modestly-priced beautiful piece of couture from France. I shouldn’t say she talked me out of it; I should say, I let her talk me out it! That was my first mistake.
The other mistake was coming back to America and not just letting it go. I spent hours combing the Internet for this elusive beauty, never to find anything remotely like it, especially not with such an extreme sale. I still think about it. I do believe there is such a thing as buyer’s remorse. I also believe in owning something that is beautiful to you, that would remind you of your first time in Paris, that is functional and yet brings you great joy. Think about Marie Kondi’s sparks of joy when you hold something in your hands.
Sometimes, people make goods that are worth their price tag to you.
Handing over a substantial amount of savings is always anxiety-inducing, even when you’ve budgeted for your purchase and know you can afford it. You may even know this feeling, when you’ve given a credit card or a check and in exchange for some particularly pricey item. Buyer’s remorse is most often associated with large purchases such as cars ad homes, but you can feel it any time you’ve made a significant dent in your savings.
But what about that other kind of remorse, the one that comes with the regret of something you didn’t buy? I have a friend who grew up with a rule: if you want something, wait two weeks, and if you still want it, then buy it. Often, this rule prevents you from overspending on frivolous purchases and helps you eliminate your impulse-buying tendencies. Sometimes, however, you don’t have two weeks to wait: maybe you’re traveling and will only come this way once, or you’re tempted because it’s super on sale, and either the sale or the item won’t last. Especially when it comes to big purchases such as a car that’s for sale by owner, you’re often competing against other people to have first dibs, and you have to use your quickest decision-making skills to determine if it’s worth it.
When You’re Traveling
I hope that if you’re traveling, you’ve considered a budget for your trip. Whether you have a daily allocated amount or use an envelope budgeting system that divides up your total into smaller categories, you should certainly have planned ahead for essential expenses like transportation, food, and lodging. Of course, this budget can include money for souvenirs and gifts for others as well; this is an important part of visiting somewhere else! You’ll want to participate in the local economy and take away something from your trip that’s meaningful to you. Of course, the size of this budget depends entirely on where you’re traveling and how much you’ve saved, but it’s up to you whether you spend it all at once on something big or if you dole it out over many days in many little ways.
When It’s a Really Good Deal
Sometimes, an item is tempting simply because it’s on sale and seems like a great deal. How many times have we bought something we didn’t really need, just because the deal was too good to pass up? It’s important to weigh this against the overall value of the item. In what ways will it enhance your life? Does it come with other, more abstract expenses? When buying a car, for example, will it come with greater repair costs, the cost of parking somewhere, the agony of shoveling it out of the snow and moving it around all the time? Consider all the angles when you’re thinking about splurging on a bigger purchase, and know for certain how it will impact your budget.
When You’re Spending on Experiences
Whether the tickets are for a concert or for a plane, experience-based expenses in general are argued to “last longer” than a material purchase. These can especially carry a hefty price tag, but you have the added pressure of knowing that you need to buy your tickets within a certain timeframe, or they will sell out or go up in price, and you may end up spending more. In this case, consider the return on that experience–for you. My father once argued that there is no return on a concert ticket, but I disagree: the nights I’ve spent with Taylor Swift have been some of the best of my life. They’ve brought me and my siblings together from the far reaches of America, and they’re memories I’m grateful to have. If you’ve saved for it, and you know you can afford it, there are times when it’s okay to quiet that outside voice and make a decision that feels right to you.
In general, I’m a firm believer in the Two-Weeks Rule. But there’s also a point where you should pull the trigger. Knowing your overall financial situation is the key to making these sound financial decisions. If you’re intimately familiar with how much money you have and how much you can spend in a given time frame, there’s no worry when you drop your credit card on something that to others might seem indulgent or too expensive. Sometimes, you’re going to have something that you love that will make you happy for a good, long time.
Think of Paris, and trust me: it’s not worth the Non-Buyer’s Remorse.