I think we can all admit that we have made purchases that we regret whether because the item didn’t last like we thought it would, we realized we didn’t get a very good deal, or we just realized we didn’t really want that item as much as we thought and it ended up on a shelf with a host of other items we really thought we needed at one time or another.
While I certainly can think of purchases both large and small that I later regretted, here are 6 tips I have used to try to make sure that I make wise purchases.
Ask a friend
The first and probably most obvious way to make wiser purchases is to ask a friend, particularly if you have a friend that has some expertise in that area.
Buying a new vehicle? Get your buddy that is a mechanic to come take a look at the vehicle you are looking to purchase.
Need a new computer? If you have a friend who works in information technology ask them for some advice on what would serve your needs best.
Need some home repairs? Ask that handyman you know for suggestions.
You get the idea.
One of my favorite ways of researching purchases is checking the reviews on Amazon.com. Amazon sells practically everything. Even if I don’t ultimately plan to buy the item from Amazon, I’ll often try to search for the item there.
One of the underrated benefits of Amazon are the user reviews. I’ll find the item that I am planning to buy and then check the reviews.
What is the overall rating? If there are more than a few reviews and the average rating is less than 4 stars that’s usually a red flag there may be issues.
If there are only a few reviews I’ll read them all.
If there are many, I’ll check out some of the 5 star reviews and some of the 1 star reviews. That gives me a good flavor of what people really loved about the product and what people really hated.
Finally, Amazon will also show you other similar products. It’s worth taking a few minutes to check out some of those. It may be there is a similar product that is better rated or costs less. It’s a really easy way to shop around.
Consumer Reports provides reviews and ratings of many consumer goods. I subscribe to both the magazine and the online website.
The benefit of the web site is it allows you to search for historical ratings without the need for keeping stacks of magazines on your shelf. If you don’t regularly subscribe to the magazine, the library is another good source as many libraries have subscriptions and allow you to search through old issues.
Consumer Reports is an independent rating organization. They purchase all the items they rate so as to have no appearance of bias. Generally I have found their ratings pretty useful.
While Amazon and Consumer Reports are good sources of information, one of the simplest ways of finding more information is to simply Google the item that you are looking to purchase. Search for the item and user reviews. Search as specifically as you can using the actual model or version if possible.
Often you’ll find several articles that provide information about the item you are considering purchasing.
Another benefit of this is you’ll also likely find several sites that are selling that item. You can use those to get an idea of what a fair price for the item might be.
One way to “shop around” is checking places like Amazon or Google search results as we have already mentioned. Another good practice is to check at least three or more different stores in your area.
Naturally, the amount of time you spend on this depends a bit on the price of you item. If I am looking to buy a cheap $20 pair of head phones, spending several days checking multiple stores is very likely a waste of time. If I’m looking to buy a new refrigerator for a couple thousand dollars though shopping around might save me several hundred dollars.
Take your time
Finally, don’t be in a rush. Most of the purchases I have regretted, in retrospect have been impulse buys.
Make it a rule that before making any purchase over a certain dollar amount that you’ll sleep on it before buying the item. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought I really wanted something, but decided to wait a couple of days before buying it only to discover I really didn’t want it nearly as much as I thought.
Taking your time also allows you to do your homework using the above steps. Almost always the person with the most information is going to get the best deal.
You work hard for your money. Make sure you spend it wisely. There is no guarantee you won’t still make mistakes, but if you follow these steps you stand a much better chance of not making purchases you regret.
What tips and tricks do you use to make wise purchases?