How to Make Better Purchase Decisions

Should you buy that? Ask yourself these questions from Get-It-Done Guy Stever Robbins, and the answer will be clear.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #379

I just love buying new things! They say that if you buy enough new things, you win. The lady who lived upstairs liked to buy new things. She bought clothes, knick-knacks, computers, books, and linens. She bought so much that eventually her rooms filled up. The things made walls, like a maze, inside her apartment. She would go through the maze to her bed, where there was just enough room for her to sleep for the night. But she kept buying new things and the walls of the maze got narrower and narrower. One day she walked into the apartment and disappeared. She was never seen again.

The moral of this story is clear: always carry a ball of string so you can find your way out of any maze you happen to wander into. That, and think three times before buying stuff.

We all buy stuff. We buy computers, beautiful Moleskine notebooks, expensive software, air conditioners, and vacation timeshares. The first step to a wise decision is knowing what you hope the purchase will do for you.

Check Your Motives

Other than the fun of sheer consumerism, trading a potentially happy, joyful retirement for something you'll play with for a few months and then discard, why do you want to buy this thing now? Surely it can't just be that you are looking forward to a wretched old age of sickness and squalor. There must be some other reason.

Ask what else you'd do with that money if you didn't spend it.

My next big purchase isn't a computer, or a car, or something work-related. It's a mattress. My current mattress was born around the same time as Justin Bieber. One of those those needs replacing, and since the Biebs isn't going anywhere any time soon, it's time for a new mattress.

Why do I want the mattress? To improve my sleep. My work takes thought. The right mattress can be the difference between waking well-rested and being a zombie in the morning. A mattress is one key to my mental productivity.

This seems sensible. Motive-wise, this purchase checks out.

Consider Your Full Purchase Price

Next figure out the total amount you'll be paying. For one-time purchases, this is just the price. When using a credit card or other financing, add the amount of interest you'll be paying. For a monthly purchase, like a subscription, choose a sensible time frame and total up all the payments you'll make in that timeframe. For a $50/month Internet subscription, you might think of it as a one-year $600 purchase.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.