Just the other day I was preparing for some summer festivities when I did what most people do when it’s nice out… I made a stop at the good ol’ Costco.
Needing some dog food, a rack of ribs and Aussie bites (Highly recommend) I was slowly making my way to the food isles when I was awestruck by this:
The iRobot Roomba e6 6198 Wi-Fi Connected Robot Vacuum.
Even though we’re on a budget and we count pennies to get Chik-fil-a milkshakes I couldn’t resist. In a matter of seconds I was on my phone looking up reviews and consumer deals for the iRobot Roomba e6.
But then the mental ping pong started happening. I need it, no I don’t, no I do finally I arrived at: What the heck am I doing?
All the justifications that an automatic vacuum would save us time and make life easier quickly turned into, “It’s not like our townhouse is that big.” And sure our dog sheds A LOT, but is buying a $300 robot vacuum something we really NEED?
The simple answer was no. And little did we know, we had just avoided a potential episode of buyer’s remorse.
What is buyer's remorse?
Recently, I wrote an article on overspending describing how Americans were spending $18,000 on non-essentials per year per USA Today. While overspending is an entire problem in itself, the result of overspending is typically buyer’s remorse.
But what exactly is “Buyer's Remorse”?
According to The Hustle – Buyer’s remorse is a form of what’s called cognitive dissonance — a period of mental discomfort caused by conflicting beliefs and attitudes.
Sorta like when your friend did something they shouldn’t grow up and you wondered if you should partake… whenever we are faced with a tough decision (like buying) we go through a multidimensional range of thoughts like…
- I want to get this new vacuum cleaner?
- Do I need a new vacuum cleaner?
- What will my spouse think?
- Did I really just spend that much on a vacuum cleaner
- I don’t think I need this vacuum
Simply put buyer’s remorse is the feeling of regret we get after buying something that we know doesn’t align with our goals (See #9 below).
Now in my particular situation, I was able to say no to myself and avoid buying the vacuum. However, that isn’t always the case for everyone or even my past spending history.
You a shopper or a buyer?
My wife is a buyer. I am a buyer. Chances are you are a buyer too.
When we say we are going shopping we knowingly walk into situations where we’re either:
- Going to spend some money.
- We will be tempted to spend money.
- We spend money, then regret spending it later.
Either way, there are times where are intentions are good, but our actions produce that feeling of buyer’s remorse. For example, it’s Memorial Day weekend and you and in the in-laws want to “Check out” the sales at the local outlet mall.
With no intention of actually buying we waltz into a situation where we might be tempted to buy. And in the case where we end up buying, we get home and sometimes have a feeling of regret.
Which leads to the overarching question, when are we most tempted to buy something that produces buyer’s remorse?
When are you most likely to experience buyer’s remorse?
Believe it or not, there are a ton of psychological elements that retailers and online merchants take advantage of in order to secure a purchase from us consumers.
There are entire firms, platforms and online programs that teach companies and their employees how to be better at selling and marketing their products/services.
To top it off, there is a range of emotions and psychological elements that cause us to buy and or cause us to feel buyer’s remorse.
Case in point, buyer’s remorse can be the result of buying items we purchase don’t end up meeting our expectations or satisfying us.
But how did we end up buying it?
One major contributor to our buyer’s remorse is the paradox of choice. Paradox of choice is the phenomenon when we experience when we are faced with too many choices, and because of this, we experience an element of psychological distress.
For example, Cheesecake Factory. With such a vast menu that is full of so many choices, narrowing down a “Top 5” is the first step, but we must ultimately decide. In a haste, we make a choice and order the shepherd's pie.
We enjoy or meal, but we spend the rest of the night wondering if the “Famous Factory Meatloaf” or the fish tacos would have been better. In other words, all the choices create a feeling of remorse… buyer’s remorse.
Typical reasons for feeling buyer’s remorse include:
- Items purchased did not meet our expectations
- Simply didn’t end up using an item like we thought we would
- We didn’t need what we bought
- The price was too much
So if we know the reasons that we feel buyer’s remorse, what items do we buy that commonly cause us to experience it?
Drop the weights! Common buyers remorse purchases:
Fill in the blank:
The _____________ I bought two years ago is sitting in my garage collecting dust. For me it is a few bikes, an adjustable dumbbell and countless pairs of sneakers.
Regardless of what you filled the blank in with, chances are you bought some stuff you didn’t use or need. The most common items we buy that produce buyer’s remorse include:
- Clothes & Shoes (Because we often don’t truly need more of them)
- Cars (The price was too much)
- Random house items (Don’t meet our expectations)
- Exercise equipment (Because we almost never use it)
While the little things might produce buyer’s remorse (And they certainly add up overtime) it is the big purchases that you really have to be mindful of.
1. Your House
The classic American Dream of home ownership has gotten countless individuals into trouble financially, and they’re often left with a long term feeling of buyer’s remorse.
Typically, a home is the biggest purchase we make. But overspending on it just to get one has some long term consequences.
Eating up roughly 50% of our net income (After all the hidden expenses like utilities, taxes, insurance and maintenance) when money gets tight, we might ask ourselves, “Did I really need this big house?”
2. Your Car
The ironic thing about buying a brand new car is that if you put it on Instagram or Facebook you will get more likes then if you post a screenshot of a zero student loan balance.
How do I know? Because it happened to me.
I bought a brand new truck and had 117 likes (Who’s counting) and a few dozen comments saying, “Congrats!” and “Well deserved”.
The irony of the situation is that 4 months later I was experiencing buyers remorse and 9 months later the truck was gone.
3. Your Degree
That piece of paper in the shiny frame hanging on a wall somewhere that makes you feel all distinguished… yeah about that.
Depending on how old you are, you may be experiencing a little buyer’s remorse when it comes to your college degree – thanks student loans.
This is certainly true in instances where individuals majored in something that didn’t quite workout like they thought it would. Whether the degree didn’t land the job they expected or they majored in something to please someone else, those who are stuck paying for student loans well into their 20’s typically experience some buyer’s remorse.
11 Tips to Curb Your Buyers Remorse Problem:
Identifying what buyer’s remorse is, when it occurs most often and what items cause buyer’s remorse is 75% of the battle.
Preventing buyer’s remorse all together might not be possible, but there are some simple tips to help you.
Here are 11 simple tips to finally end (as much as possible) your buyer's remorse…
1. Leave your wallet in the car.
Sounds crazy right? It's not.
Next time your spouse and the in-laws drag you to the outlet mall, leave your wallet in the car. It will prevent you from impulse buying, thus avoiding buyer's remorse.
If you decide you're willing to walk back to the car, grab your wallet and walk back and make a purchase – then you're really committed to buying that item!
Chances are you are less likely to experience regret because you didn't impulse buy and you got a few extra steps in!
2. Have a list.
It is really easy to buy the sushi sitting by the entrance of your favorite super market for $8. After a long day of work when we're hungry our primal instincts take over.
But avoid it! Never go to the grocery store without a list. Even better – plan your meals out and be thrifty with what you already have at home. Not only will you prevent buyer's remorse with your list, you'll save money!
Related: Save Money Meal Planning in 7 Steps
3. Bring your own booze.
The sense of euphoria alcohol can provide is quite amazing, especially when all the money problems are out the window and we can now magically buy anything we want.
But what's worse then the headache the next day is the crumbled receipt for $136 that you have no recollection of. So if you're at the age where going out a few times month is in your wheelhouse, it might be time to get smart about your alcohol purchases.
Bring a flask, use cash when you go out and set limits. Chances are you can avoid feeling like crap the next day and you'll help limit your spending regrets!
4. Checkout 1x per month online.
Buyer's remorse hits a whole new level with online shopping. It is one thing to see a tangible product, feel it, then purchase it…
It's another beast to purchase something online, find it on your front doorstep and feel disappointed the moment you realize it wasn't what you thought it was. But because returning it means going to the post office and eating the initial shipping costs you keep it anyways.
Talk about buyer's remorse…! Here is a simple tip to help with your online shopping:
Add everything to a cart for the month, checkout 1x per month.
It's that simple. Chances are you will avoid buying things you don't truly need, your impulse 1-clicking shopping temptations will be put to rest and you just practiced a little delayed gratification.
Not to mention there is a positive psychological effect of seeing how much you're spending. Seeing one big order vs. a bunch of smaller orders will bring awareness to your spending habits.
5. Take advantage of the buyer's remorse “Cooling-Off” rule.
The “Cooling-Off” rule is something that was enacted by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that says a buyer can back out of a sale or contract in a certain amount of time.
While this rule varies state to state, let's say the pest control man comes to your house and convinces you to purchase some mosquito services you really don't need. That night, when your spouse comes home you tell them what you did and you're now feeling some buyer's remorse.
Luckily for you, chances are you can back out. The cooling-off rule was enacted for door to door sales originally, but typically you have 3 days to act.
Just be sure to brush up on how the rule might apply for you!
6. Add a no-risk return clause when buying a car.
First thing is first, make sure you know what you're doing when it comes to buying a car. Even after all your careful consideration and research, make sure you add a no-risk return clause into your contract.
It's one thing to want something, it's another thing to follow through and buy it. However, the game is completely different when you buy a car and park it in your driveway and start paying for it.
If you think buying a pair of shoes creates some buyer's remorse, wait until you buy a car you didn't need. So just in case here is what you do:
- See if the dealership offers a no-risk return clause, if they do you're good to go.
- If they don't follow these quick tips.
- Get them to the price you want.
- Once you meet your budgeted price point, hesitate, squint your eyes and look up to the left like you're thinking.
- This body language will tell the salesman you're not sold
- After a brief pause, tell them you're not sure.
- Ask them to include a no-risk return clause in the contract
- If they don't walk away – there are 1,000's of dealerships that want your business.
Chances are following the script above you will have the car you wanted at the price you budgeted for, BUT you will still have the return clause just in case you experience some buyer's remorse!
7. 48 Hour rule on any purchase over $50.
Make a family rule that all purchases over a certain amount ($50, $75, $100, whatever) have to be approved by both members and thought about for at least 48 hours before following through.
Not only will this prevent buyer's remorse, but chances are also you will magically not need whatever it is that you wanted just two days before.
Note: If you're single, just follow the 48-hour rule. After two days if you're undecided, ask a trusted individual if you should get it, that you have been thinking about it for 2 days but you're still unsure.
8. Stop falling for sales.
Everyone's seen the Black Friday memes where a $70 pair of jeans are marked up to $140 and then placed in front of a sign that says 50% off!
Like I tell my wife when she gets a coupon or sale promotion in her inbox – they wouldn't send it if they weren't going to make money in the process.
There is nothing wrong with buying things that are on sale and finding good deals, but buying just BECAUSE they're on sale is a sure-fire recipe for buyer's remorse.
Instead, consider the following:
- Cut up or throw away coupons (Cutting coupons makes you feel like a bad a$$)
- Unsubscribe from emails or create a burner email account
- Immediately toss promotional mail
- Always have a list (#2 above)
9. Needs are different then wants.
When you went to the store the other day and bought some eggs, did you have buyer’s remorse?
Chances are no, you didn’t. But if you went to Chipotle and got a burrito bowl and one hour later asked yourself, “Why did I eat this entire thing?” you may have had buyers remorse… and a little bit of eater's remorse.
In other words, you don’t get buyers remorse buying things you need, you get it from buying things you want (That you don’t actually need).
10. Learn to say no.
The hardest word in the English language starts with “N” and ends with “O,” and it’s two letters.
Learn the magical word NO. You tell your 3 year old no when they ask for candy before dinner, but when it comes to telling ourselves or the sample guy at Costco no, we struggle.
Learning to say NO won't just help you prevent buyer's remorse and stop overspending, it will help you in almost areas of your life.
“No I can't work late today.”
“No… that won't work for us this weekend, sorry.”
“No, that doesn't match our work life balance.”
“No, we are not interested in your organic magic healing beans.”
11. Buy experiences, not stuff.
Right now, think of what you bought exactly one year ago today. Can you remember it?
Chances are, even if you did or didn't buy something, you don’t remember what it was. On the flip side, what if you were at the beach, you got engaged, or maybe you watched a sibling graduate?
You won't forget those experiences, but you will forget the stuff that causes the buyers remorse in all of us!
At the end of the day, you will never feel remorse for an experience you enjoyed. Be sure to focus on creating memories and experiences…and all of your buyer’s remorse woes will disappear!
Question: What do you think is the best way to curb buyer's remorse in your life?
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.