Skip to Main Content Skip to bottom Skip to Chat, Email, Text

Pause before you purchase

The psychology of buying stuff is complicated. The way you were raised, the culture you live in, your personal values, even how much you’ve eaten on a given day impacts your shopping habits. And in an age where instant gratification (and online shopping) is the new normal, students need to be extra diligent about keeping themselves in check.

Before swiping that card or pressing “purchase,” pause and ask yourself the following 10 questions  (or even just a few) to help you make choices you can feel good about the morning after.

1. Does this purchase satisfy a basic need, or does it satisfy a want?

A need is a matter of survival. A want is a desire for something beyond that. You need a car to get to work. You desire a really good-looking car with a lot of cool features.

2. Do I believe this purchase will have a positive impact on my life that’s great enough to justify the expense?

What factors am I using to measure that benefit? Are those factors realistic and reasonable? Not sure? Examine your values, and don’t make the purchase until you’re clear on them. (See number 6.)

3. Is this the best deal I can get?

Would more research reveal a cheaper (or higher quality) option?

4. How soon will I need to replace this item?

Am I clear about—and comfortable with—the cost of any related repairs and additional attachments or parts?

5. Do I already have one of these or something like it?

If yes, is this item an essential upgrade? Am I willing to sell my current model to offset the expense?

6. Does this purchase line up with my core values and long-term goals, such as getting your degree from the University of Phoenix?

How will it deepen my relationship with those values or take me closer to my goals?

7. What are the consequences of not buying this item?

Do they represent major disadvantages or minor annoyances?

8. Why do I want this right now?

Is special sale pricing, strategic product placement or peer pressure influencing me?

9. Will I have room for this thing (either physical space or time-wise)?

If not, what will I need to change or get rid of?

10. How might my current mood affect my desire to buy this item?

Am I using this purchase to calm an anxiety, relieve depression or avoid an obligation? Is there a more effective—and less pricey—way of meeting these emotional needs (e.g., time with friends, professional support, better nutrition, more exercise)?