Before Your Next Purchase, Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

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Today you’ve got a special treat from the mind of the funancials.biz creator. My friend Hunter, aka A. Blinkin (get it?), agreed to write a guest post about the excessive purchases many of us are making today. The dollar amounts might not be large, but when measured appropriately the costs are astronomical! I hope you enjoy this read as much as I did!

Do me favor and mentally walk into your closet.

Look around.

How many of the items in your closet do you consistently wear?

If you’re like most Americans, your answer is “not many.”

In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that the average American only wears 20% of the clothes in their closet.

before your next purchaseAt first, this figure felt extremely low to someone that has a habit of rotating and recycling clothes. But, once I looked around at my crazy-patterned shirts and my wife’s shoes – I realized that many of these items have turned into nothing more than expensive dust collectors. Although I have no recollection of buyer’s remorse, it still stings to look back on impulsive purchases and recognize the lack of value that they bring to my current situation.

While it hurts to imagine what all of those purchases combined could add up to in monetary terms, the serenity prayer reminds us to be peaceful with the past (because we can’t change it). The future, however, is a different story and we should have the courage (discipline) to make better decisions going forward.

So, the question becomes:

How can we save money, de-clutter our closets and spend money on things that provide true value?

The answer:

Ask yourself these 3 simple questions before your next purchase:

  1. What’s the cost per wear/use?
  2. Will this be useful in 2 weeks?
  3. What else can I but with this money?

Question 1: What’s the Cost per Wear/Use?

This question may not save you money necessarily, but it gets you thinking about long-term value. It’s an analysis of cost versus how many times an item can be worn (or used) and it’s extremely easy to calculate. All you have to do to figure out the “cost per wear” of a particular item is and divide the price by the number of times that you can wear it (or use it).

Cost Per Wear Calculation

Price / # of times you can wear it

Example

One of the irrationalities that I recognized from my past is that I’ve been willing to pay $100 for a Carolina Panthers (NFL) jersey, but a $300 coat often seems too expensive. The cost per wear analysis shows why this is irrational:

before your next purchaseNFL Jersey

  • Price = $100
  • Estimated # of wears: 17 x 5 years = 85
  • Cost per wear = $1.17

Regular Coat

  • Price = $300
  • Estimated # of wears: 182 x 5 years = 910
  • Cost per wear = $.33

Assumptions

  • I estimated that a Carolina Panthers jersey could be worn 1 day per week throughout 17 NFL weeks per year (I feel safe in saying that the Panther aren’t going to regularly make the playoffs – even in the terrible NFL South). I also estimated that the jersey would last 5 years. The quality may certainly withstand more time, but there’s always the possibility of wanting a new (better) player’s jersey.
  • I estimated that a regular coat could be worn every day for roughly half the year given North Carolina’s climate and that the coat could withstand 5 years.

Results

As you can see, the coat is likely to be more valuable than the NFL jersey. While the regular coat is 3 times more expensive in nominal terms, the coat may prove to be nearly 4 times less expensive from a cost per wear perspective. Before your next purchase, consider the per wear cost.

Take Away

It’s important to account for quality, seasonality and “trendiness” in order to judge the real value of an item.

Question 2: Will this be Useful in 2 Weeks?

It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and be influenced by your surroundings. For example, your desire to own a football jersey increases dramatically as you’re tailgating or after a recent victory. Or maybe you really want a band’s t-shirt immediately following a live concert only to realize that you probably won’t wear the t-shirt later. This costly tendency could be combated by calculating the cost per wear, however, you’re likely to lie to yourself.

“Of course I’ll wear this Bieber shirt every day for the next 10 years!” – said no one ever

What you can do instead is ask yourself “will this be useful in 2 weeks?” This simple question can save you loads of money by trading a short-term loss with a long-term gain.

Halloween and theme party costumes are other situations where this question can be beneficial. As much fun as it is to be the most ridiculous attendee, it without-a-doubt adds to the percentage of non-wearable clothes in your closet (resulting in unnecessary drainage of your bank account). Why not dress like Jake from State Farm (red polo & khakis) and save the $100?

Before your next purchase, think about how much of a money-pit this purchase really is.

Take Away

It’s extremely easy to get caught up in the moment, be spontaneous, and make impulsive purchases.

Question 3: What else can I Spend this Money on?

Asking yourself what else you can buy with a certain dollar amount is a basic analysis of opportunity costs. Opportunity cost is a fancy term in the field of microeconomic theory that considers the best alternative “foregone” when making a decision between mutually exclusive choices.

In practice, if I spend $100 on a fancy dinner – that’s $100 that could have purchased 10 pairs of socks, one killer WordPress theme or 2 mid-level seats to a Charlotte Hornets basketball game. Before your next purchase, think about the other awesomeness that this purchase could buy elsewhere.

Take Away

This simple practice can save you loads of money because you’ll often find yourself wanting something else MORE than the item in front of you.

Readers: Do you commonly ask yourself any of these questions? Do you have any other questions that can help us save more money and de-clutter our closets?

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Money Save Money

Derek

AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

15 Comments

  1. Wow! That 20% statistic is crazy – but so true! I even rarely buy clothes anymore but I still have so many cluttering up my closet. Thanks for the inspiration to purge some of them!

    You make some great points about thinking what else your money can buy – or even costs per use. I’ve had that thought creep into my head before – especially when buying more fashionable items that may only be fashionable for a year or two.
    Mrs SSC recently posted..January 2015: Our money went where???

  2. Cost per wear is a great idea.

    I have more in my closet than I need or, wear. Yet, I am not going to thin out my clothes. It seems the one item in, one item out method failed; after my last closet clean out. So, I am going for “I can’t buy another thing, my closet is full.”
    This might work for me.

    Too, the daily visualization of excess money spent on clothes I don’t wear, is a great reminder to just “Stop it, already!”

    Enjoyed the post.

  3. I prefer to buy clothing only once a year. It saves money because when you buy once a year, the money spent really makes your heart pain.

  4. I used to buy things just because I felt the urge and had the cash to do so. Realized eventually we only use a few things. Yup so that bieber shirt was only worn once.

  5. I honestly had not thought to look at that type of cost analysis on articles of clothing. It makes a terrific point when opting to buy quality coats and such that do have a higher ticket price but wear longer. Thanks!
    Dawn recently posted..Day 1

    • You’re welcome Amos! Glad you like the post and got something out of it!


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