Tough Love Financial Lesson 2: If You Can Afford It, Don’t Buy It

by Justin Weinger on August 8, 2011

(Editor’s Note: Yes, I know I said “if you can afford it.”  It’s not a typo.  Thanks for checking though.)

Today’s lesson is the second post in the tough love financial lessons series.

As you’ve probably guessed by reading the title, this lesson piggyback’s the first post in the series, If You Can’t Afford It, Don’t Buy It, where I talk about the importance of not going into debt (i.e., spending money you don’t have) in order to buy stuff. Understanding this first lesson is fundamental to improving your financial well-being in both the short and long terms.

That being said, the “If You Can Afford It, Don’t Buy It” lesson might actually be an even more important lesson in helping you maintain your financial well-being.

buyer's remorse, even if you can afford it don't buy it, sleep on your big purchase, stop buying crap you don't need, tough love financial lessons, understanding needs vs wants

Just because it's on sale and you CAN afford it doesn't mean you should waste your money on it.

Needs Vs. Wants

The fundamental principal behind this lesson is understanding the difference between needs and wants. The fundamental example I use is food: you need something that is nutritional and fills you up, but you want to go out and eat a steak at a five-star restaurant.

A need is something that sustains you – food, shelter, clothing, etc. A want is something that is discretionary – either dramatically enhancing your needs (i.e. a 6,000 square foot home vs. a still very comfortable 2,500 square foot home), or something you would like to have but can very, very easily do without – a PS3, 65 inch TV, surround sound, etc.

Common sense tells us that just because we want something and can afford it doesn’t necessarily mean we should be buying it. Unfortunately, common sense doesn’t always win, and that’s why we blow a lot of money on stuff we want as opposed to stuff we need. And, when we decide we no longer really want the purchase, we just have something that takes up space in our home and leaves us with a case of buyer’s remorse.

Stop Buying Crap You Don’t Need

All too often, this what our want purchases come down to: buying something we don’t need just for the sake of buying something. Maybe you’re an emotional spender, maybe you buy stuff because you’re bored, or maybe you buy something simply because you like knowing that you can. Stop. All you’re doing is draining your wallet and filling your house with stuff you don’t really need.

One of my favorite sayings comes from Suze Orman, the well known common sense personal finance TV personality and author. She says: “Stop buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t even like.” Incorporate this thinking more often when you’re out shopping and you’ll come home with a lot less stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all want purchases are evil and forbidden. It’s okay to splurge every once in a while, but try to keep it to a minimum and make the amount spend something within reason.

buyer's remorse, even if you can afford it don't buy it, sleep on your big purchase, stop buying crap you don't need, tough love financial lessons, understanding needs vs wants

Sleeping on your purchases will lead to a lot less buyer's remorse!

Sleep On It

My favorite tactic for stopping “want spending” in its tracks is by sleeping on it. If I go into a store and grab something I want, I can’t buy it that day. Instead, I have to go home and sleep on it. If I wake up the next morning and still have an overwhelming desire to buy it whatever it was, I can. However, 99% of the time I either wake up and am glad I didn’t make the purchase or completely forget I even wanted to buy something in the first place.

It’s a great way to help you avoid buyer’s remorse as well as keep a lot more money in your bank account.

So, moral of the story: even if you can afford it, unless you can really justify the purchase, don’t do it.

What do you think? Leave your comments below and, as always, please help others by sharing this post using the social bookmarking buttons below – especially Facebook and Twitter.



Raymond Chua August 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Sleep on it is a great method and it serves me very well throughout the years.

Brian Carr August 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Thanks for the comment, Raymond. Sleeping on it has saved me from a lot of buyer’s remorse and kept a lot of money in my bank account that would otherwise be wasted. I think if more people practiced this, a lot less people would be in massive consumer debt.

Bruce August 10, 2011 at 6:53 am

I agree, limit your stuff. Do more with less. More pleasure, happiness, stress free life if you don’t have to take care of and worry about your stuff.

Brian Carr August 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

Thanks for the comment, Bruce. “Do more with less” will certainly become a post topic on this site!

Corinne Edwards August 10, 2011 at 7:07 am

Good advice, Raymond.

I am trying to get rid of stuff – not buy more.

(Except I cannot resist a great shoe sale)

Debbie @ Happy Maker August 10, 2011 at 9:15 am

Good post Brian. I do a lot of sleeping on it. Sometimes when I am out, I might find a dress that i like. I’ll go home and think about it and say to myself, “If it is meant for me it will be there tomorrow.” I do watch things that I would like and wait until they go on sale. Most of the time i wouldn’t get anything unless it is on sale. And I am talking about 50% or above sale.

I say, why buy something and then have to de junk later. i do agree with you when it comes to a house very much. When you have one couple and 2 kids, why do you need a 6,000 sq ft house. I don’t want to have to clean it. LOL

Great post and thank you for let me know I am on the right track.

Brian Carr August 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

Thanks for the comment, Debbie. Glad to hear you’ve had success with the sleep on it tactic! It’s such a great way to save a lot of money and all it really takes is just a little bit of will power!

Joel Williams August 10, 2011 at 11:25 am

It can be quite tough to sleep on it in this age of one-click buying online. However we’re very good at sorting things out and to a certain degree everything I own I need. and use or at least want. A yearly garage sale and goodwill donations have seen to it that I don’t have much spare, unused stuff.
Stop buying crap has been my mantra for years 🙂

Brian Carr August 10, 2011 at 11:47 am

Thanks for the comment, Joel. I certainly agree that online shopping makes the “sleep on it” mantra a bit more difficult. I guess it just takes a little more will power!

Tyrone September 23, 2011 at 6:30 am


Well many would know me for valuing money a lot so I can definitely relate to this. But honestly there have been times when I was also tempted a lot to buy things which I think may not be as useful and so what I did was to list things down plus the prices and answering the question where do I need this item beside them which helped me eliminate the things I shouldn’t have at the moment.

Sleeping on it may also be helpful!



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