Buyer’s Remorse

If you have ever bought something you just couldn’t live without and afterwards found yourself scratching your head and wondering, ‘what the hell was I thinking?’ you’ve experienced buyer’s remorse. And if you find yourself shopping and taking-back, shopping and taking-back, you’ve got a chronic case of buyer’s remorse.

What is it exactly, this thing called “buyer’s remorse?” In psychological circles it’s referred to as “cognitive dissonance” and it refers to an inconsistency among attitudes or an attitude and a behaviour. In the case of “buyer’s remorse”, you buy but then you continue to think about what you bought and end up regretting the purchase because you know you shouldn’t have, you didn’t have the money really, you were supposed to use that money for something else, your partner is going to flip a kidney, you’re sure now it wasn’t the best deal going… I could go on and on. At the centre of your dilemma is the fact that your thoughts and your actions don’t match.

There are a lot of things sellers do to “motivate” you to make a quick buying decision you then come to regret. From the right music to the right smells, from the “get it now or it’ll be gone” to the “today only” close, you may be pushed to do something that later creates conflict for you.

Here’s a hint that may help. The next time you’re thinking of buying something that’s not on your list because you LOOOOVE it, pull out your cell phone and take a picture of it. Walk away. Then show the picture to someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth, and if there’s a consensus that the purchase is worth the price, go back and get it (assuming you’re not putting it on credit!).

Can’t pull yourself out of the store because you just can’t imagine leaving the “deal” behind? Email the picture to your trusted pal and then have a quick conversation about it. This pal has to be the most sensible person you know, not your shopping BFF!

Taking pictures with your cell phone is also a great way to make comparison-shopping easier. Buyer’s remorse often climbs on our backs when we find out we’ve paid too much for something. Make sure you know how much the item you’re buying is really worth and whether you’re getting the best possible deal.

Here are two more questions to ask to save the regret:

1. “Do I need it, or do I just want it?” If it’s a need, put it on your list in a position of priority. If it is simply a want, it goes at the bottom of your list. Take care of your “needs” before you start scratching your “want” itches.

2.  “What else could I do with the money I’m spending on this item?” Are you working towards a goal that would be served well by this money? Is there another priority that should take precedence? Put your money where it will do you the most good.


Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

Twitter Google+ 

20 Responses to “Buyer’s Remorse”

  1. I have buyer’s remorse over purchases I’ve made unnecessarily in past years, thinking of money “wasted”, and I always thought myself frugal! Even my wedding china set (married 20 years ago). I think, “What a waste!” as I’ve seldom used it. Realizing now, in my 40’s, that though we’ve rarely been shoppers, I have bought clothing purely for trying to impress or fit in, and not for need. Following Mr. Money Mustache has really given me a wake up call. So has my child’s future university costs as I try to budget for that! Where did our money go? Yes, debt free at 42, and we both have some RRSPs and work pensions, but the amount of money we could have had… Sigh. We’ll just continue to make better decisions.

  2. We could be a lot richer now if we hadn’t turned the back bedroom into a TV room and put a deck off of it because now….the hubs isn’t well and needs his own room and we’ve had to buy bedroom furniture for that room and put our nice TV furniture down in the basement where we never go. Rats!! There have been many such expenditures over the years that were rendered useless due to changing circumstances. Bad buying habits or just bad luck…not sure but it had the same affect.

  3. My SIL just did the cell phone pictures! She visited the store twice and still couldn’t decide if she really wanted to spend the money. She took a picture of the expensive option and the two cheaper ones and asked for our opinions. The expensive option won out, but taking two weeks to decide helped limit the remorse.

  4. I would like to offer some positiveness that this can be concurred if you really want to and have the right support system!

    I have overcome the implulsive shopping and remorse cycle. It was a bit difficult, but like any bad habit you can do it with awareness and persistance.

    I now have the automatic “questions in my head” when I see something. If I’m still not sure, I let it go for that day and if I really wanted it, I will go back another day to buy it.

  5. My biggest buyer’s remorse was permanent life insurance. DH was looking for somewhere to invest money years ago (before things like TFSAs) and an insurance guy suggested this option. I was distracted with work, our young son, and I didn’t want to rock the boat. So we signed and plowed money into the policy. Fast forward 10 years and when we finally decided to check on the status of the account (never even got yearly statements), it was languishing. The new insurance guy blamed our inattentiveness. Geez. While we didn’t lose money, we really could have made it work better for us. Ugh. So we cancelled that policy. Never again. BTW: I bought a nice, affordable term policy in case I’m hit by a bus.

  6. I prefer online shopping so what I do is save the cart and check back every few days to make sure I really need the things on the list. I do this for a week, then pay for it.

  7. Getting past risking buyer’s remorse makes every new purchase so much sweeter.

    You could say I’m in recovery from a previous life with a fat five figures of consumer debt. I never want to go there again, so new purchases are measured by what’s in the savings account already and whether I really need it, including whether I’ll really enjoy and use the item.

    Great to hear stories like tasii’s, too.

  8. @CAS – I soooo hear you regarding the wedding china – thousands upon thousands collecting dust in my china cabinet! We entertained quite a bit at first, but as my health declined, I’m lucky if I pull it out at Christmas…. Just had this convo with my son and his fiance to be ~ suggested they don’t go and buy it all; also suggested they can get really pretty plates etc. for about $6 each at Bowerings and Winners, which is nice for a change up, but doesn’t cost as much. Don’t think I persuaded them though 😉

    @Delores – yea, changing circumstances, I hear that too; but you can only plan so much for the unknown..

    As I look around my house getting ready to pack up a BUNCH of stuff for Diabetes (Value Village), I see so many purchases that are not much more than dust collectors, pretty, but essentially useless… And I don’t want to get started on my Partylite collection, OMG! Yard sale anyone??

  9. LOL – Cerebral Palsy just phoned for a pick up also…. lord only knows I have enough for both and then some! Yee haa! Get to rid myself of stuff and do good!

  10. I just listen to myself. I don’t buy much for myself so when something comes up that I really want and I can afford it in cash, I make the purchase. If I’m questioning it, I don’t need it or can’t afford it and I don’t buy it.

  11. I do the sending photos thing all the time! But I usually have a rule that I need to love it before it enters my house (whether clothing or item). I very rarely return something or regret a purchase.

  12. If you are in debt it’s an emergency! There’s no room for frivolous purchases so don’t waste precious time pondering new items is my preferred method.

    For those that don’t know Mr. Money Mustache you should find him. His views on saving and living a simpler life are valuable.

  13. Cas and Sheri,
    My mum was always a firm believer in “Use your Beautiful China every day, So what if it gets broken”. You’ll never get your money’s worth if it only appears twice a year, but use it at every meal and you will enjoy your purchase every day!

  14. […] Buyer’s Remorse […]

  15. I am getting better at this! I usually text hubby and ask what he thinks. He is the more logical one who will say “we don’t need it” or “where are we going to store it” which is huge since we are in a small house! I usually don’t end up getting whatever I am looking at. Or else, I will try to think of other ways to have what I am looking at (ex. popcorn popper – is there another way to pop it at home instead of buying one?).

    A good wake-up call to is when it comes time to re-sell or get rid of the stuff – it’s a rude awakening to realize how much you will get for something you bought!

  16. avatar Crystal Says:
    March 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Buyers remorse for the current house we are living in! We are in a suburb of Vancouver BC so it is hard to just sell and move. So overpriced!

    The open floor plan is terrible, no privacy unless you lock yourself in your room. Neighbours are too close and don’t know where the property lines are. No driveways and detached garages in back of homes. Basements in all homes which equals basement suites with tenants, people using their garages to store junk rather then parking in them, and tenants parking on street = parking nightmare. It is a detached single family home, but the house next door is less then 10 ft. away. I love how when I lay in my bed at night in the winter, I can hear the neighbours running up and down the stairs in their home or talking. In the summer it is just pure bliss, especially with the neighbour that likes to let her 3 yr old outside at 7:30am to scream and run around whiles others try to sleep and the window are open because it is hot. Big time buyers remorse. These homes should have been a strata as they are so close instead of freehold – that way there would actually be parking rules and noise restrictions. I swear in our previous home – an attached townhouse -we had more privacy.

  17. I’m with Sylvia!

    We bought our china ourselves (despite complaints from people about what was on our registry, we got very little that we had requested), using our registry discount and waited for a sale. We use it daily. In fact, it is more resilient than the “everyday plates” that we have.

    We also got a reasonable priced set that is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe (low temps). We use our china constantly, so if you’ll use it, why not?!

  18. Delores, if you never go into your basement try posting that furniture on Kijiji. Another frugalista else might be very interested in a slightly used half-price set and then you’ve got a little extra cash in your pocket.

  19. Having done stupid with money in the past, I swore off credit and lived on cash. I didn’t have any debt but didn’t have much saving’s either. When the engine went in my vehicle I had to get another. Not having enough saving’s to buy something reasonable for a couple grand I had to finance a used car. Word to the wise, hating to use credit gives you a bad credit rating…duh. I had to finance at 17%. I HATE that I have a car payment and wish that money was going into my ING account every month. I have since made peace with the credit system and am using it (wisely) to build my credit rating so I don’t get hosed in the future. I have remorse for the purchase but much like the credit system it is a necessary evil.

    A memorial service for my money is held on the 25th of each month should any of you wish to attend! :)

  20. I really wish I could understand buyer’s remorse. I’ve seen people do it and my brain just doesn’t work that way at all. Not bragging, but it would be so fun to be inside somebody’s head for a second and see what they’re feeling when they buy it and when they feel bad and when they return it.

    I’ve had conversations like:

    Friend: “I really shouldn’t have bought this.”
    Me: “Well why did you then?”
    Friend: “…Dunno.”
    Me: “What the heck is wrong with your brain?!”


Leave a Reply