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How to Resist Urges to Buy Useless Products

Updated on August 4, 2022
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LA is a creative writer from the greater Boston area of Massachusetts.

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Save Your Money

Though it makes me a disgrace to the shopaholics in my family, I have never been a fan of window shopping or of browsing in general. I do my best to stay away from stores and only travel with a beloved shopaholic if I know for sure that they are too injured or broke to drag me into a store. On the rare occasion when I do enter a store, I stay true to my list and my budget. Yet, like everyone else, I am susceptible to the shiny packaging of new products and am filled with the need to purchase this item. When this happens, in order to keep the product on the shelf and my money in my pocket, I consider the following ten tips. Let me elaborate on them now.

  1. Why Do I Want This Item?

    Though you don’t know why, you’ve been staring at a product from across the aisle for what seems like hours. Finally, you get up the courage to approach the item for closure inspection. You pick it up and feel a sudden surge of energy flow through your body. Never in your wildest dreams did you think you’d be about to put a six-pound bag of pencil erasers into your cart, but here you are doing just that. As you lovingly place the bag next to a roll of toilet paper, you emit a sigh that otherwise was reserved for your significant other. You can’t fight the love you feel for these erasers. When this happens, you need to try to figure out what has made you snap. Is it the packaging? Are six-pound bags of erasers trendy and thus will allow you to finally fit in with the "cool people"? There must be a reason why you so desperately want this item. Before lugging it through the checkout, you need to figure out this reason. Six-pound bags of erasers cost money you know!

  2. Do I Really Need This Item?

    Yes, it looks fun, and it just might save you some hassle, but do you really need it? With the number of new, “must have” gadgets that keep showing up on the market, you have to use your brain to weed out the actual “must haves” from the “I’ll use it once and then it’ll collect dust” products. When you do this, you’ll be surprised at how empty your shopping cart is at check out and how uncluttered your house remains.

  3. Will It Go on Sale for Less the Second I Buy It?

    Too many times I’ve bought an item only to see in the store’s circular that, had I waited a week, I could’ve saved a few dollars. Though it’s always a gamble to wait and it’s rarely easy to gage whether or not the item is going to be cheaper later on down the line, unless you need the item immediately, I suggest you wait a week to buy the item. Even if there is no change in price, you still have saved yourself a week’s worth of worrying about a possible decrease in the price.

  4. Can I Get a Better Deal on It Elsewhere?

    Considering how aggressively stores compete to get your business, it is likely that the $9.99 item you’re holding in your hand is going for $8.87 at another store and, if you’re willing to wait a few months, may even be able to find it at the dollar store. If it seems like the price is too high, chances are it is. If you’re willing to put in the work, I urge you to look at circulars for your local stores and search for the best price. Though it may only be a dollar difference, those dollars tend to add up when you’re not looking.

  5. Do I Have Room in My Car/House for It?

    Without a doubt, it’s an awesome product at an unbeatable price. However, it’s bulky and will be a pain to carry. Before going through the checkout line, you need to figure out if it’ll fit into your car and, more importantly, if you have space to put it in your home. Unless you can envision where you’re going to put it, don’t buy it. Bargain junk takes up as much space as pricey junk.

  6. Shouldn’t I Research It First?

    I’m a pain about researching things. Whether it is a body ache or a new brand of toothpaste, I need to know what’s going on. With regard to a product, unless it’s received good reviews both by professional critics and by the general public, I won’t consider buying it. Before I spend my money, I need to know if the product is durable, if the manufacture has a reputation of putting out outstanding products and if they attach a warranty to their product that will cover any issues, I may have with it. As they expect us to give them their money, they need to expect us to get our money’s worth. Unless a company is willing to stand behind their product, no consumer should waste their time or money on it.

  7. What Is the Retailer’s Return Policy?

    On a connected note, before buying an item, I need to know what the retailer’s return policy is. Will they issue a refund if the product doesn’t meet my standards or am I stuck with this item no matter what? If the item breaks the second, I take it out of the box do I have to call the manufacturer’s hotline or will the store either offer me a replacement or my money back? If a number of weeks should elapse and I return to the store with the unopened product, will I be charged a “restocking fee” before my money is refunded or will they refuse to issue a refund at all? In short, if the store’s return policy doesn’t match up with your idea of a fair return policy, don’t buy from them. The only thing worse than having a new item break on you is having to contend with a rude service clerk who is “just doing their job.”

  8. Why Does This Look So Familiar?

    Looking at this item, you know you’ve seen it some place before. Was it in a dream? On a commercial perhaps? If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling this way because, somewhere under the rubble in your house, this exact same item is waiting for you to show it some love. When you can’t shake this feeling, I suggest you return home, move some things around and find that item in a bag that accidentally got kicked under the couch. On the other hand, you could always buy it and make your discovery at a later date when you’ve bought the item for the fifth time. It’s up to you.

  9. Am I In A Rush?

    I don’t know about you, but it’s a bad idea for me to buy “non list items” when I’m in a rush. When I’m rushing, I tend to overlook things written on the package that might tip me off that the product won’t be of use. Sure, I can always return the item, but I usually don’t realize my error until I’ve already opened it and it has become a “store credit.” In order to limit the frustration in our lives, I believe we both should stick to our lists unless we have time to read labels. Agreed?

  10. Do I Have Enough Money to Pay for It?

    I can count the number of times I’ve used my credit or debit card on one hand. When I first got them, I felt cool and was always tempted to use them. Being that I was naïve, I didn’t fully understand that credit meant you had to pay the balance later and on time or else you had to pay interest and debit meant that unless I deposited more money into my checking it wouldn’t be there when I needed it to be, and I would bounce a check and be slapped with a penalty. For these reasons, unless I can pay for the item with the cash I have in my pocket or can reason out driving to a bank sanctioned atm, I will forgo the purchase. Yes, it’s kept me from buying some items that I really liked, but obviously it didn’t kill me or leave me feeling unfulfilled. Unless you can handle paying bank, penalties or dreading opening your credit card bill, I suggest you be like me and only pay with cash. If you’re meant to buy the item, it’ll be there when you have sufficient money on hand.

Thanks to crafty advertising and retailers who need your business, we are all faced with this dilemma each time we enter a store. Lucky for them, despite the current state of the economy and the heeding of knowledgeable advisors, we still continue to spend beyond our means. The next time you’re at a store and reach for an item that appeals to you, but that you question the necessity of, I hope you’ll consider my ten tips. Unless you come prepared, those darn retailers will get you every time!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2009 L A Walsh


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