Top of main content

How to avoid overspending

Whether it's a new outfit, a piece of tech or an expensive meal, it can be hard to say no once we've decided that we want something.

While the occasional treat can be harmless, giving in to temptation too often can lead to serious money troubles.

To avoid developing bad habits around impulse spending, ask yourself these questions before making a major purchase. They may help to save you from an expensive mistake…

Ten questions to ask before you spend…

1. Can I afford it?

It's a simple question, but also the most important. Do you actually have the cash you need right now, and if you spend it will there be enough left over to get you to your next payday? 

2. Are there any extra or hidden costs?

Is this truly a one-off purchase, or will there be repeated or additional costs to take into account? For example, will you need to buy accessories, or a subscription to a service or company?

Don't just think about what you'll need to spend today, consider the long-term cost as well. Is it really worth it? 

3. Have I been thinking about buying this for a while?

Impulse purchases can be hard to resist, but once the initial thrill fades you might end up with a serious case of buyer's remorse. Take your time to cool off before handing over your money. Is this really something you want, or is it just a passing temptation? 

4. Do I need it now?

If you definitely do want to make this purchase, does it need to happen right away? If possible, put it off until you've had time to save a little more money. The thing you want may even reduce in price over time, or you may be able to find a better deal elsewhere.

5. Do I need to own it?

How much are you really going to use this purchase? If it's not something that's going to get a lot of use, maybe you could rent it or borrow it from a friend instead of buying it yourself?

6. Do I need it to be new?

Most things can be bought second hand these days, either online or in dedicated second-hand and thrift shops. This is often much cheaper than buying a brand new item, and the second-hand version may not even have been used before. 

7. What do the reviews say?

There's nothing more disappointing than spending money on an expensive impulse-buy, only to discover that it isn't quite as it was advertised. Reading honest opinions from other buyers can help you to decide whether it's really going to meet your needs. 

8. Is it available at a better price?

Prices can vary from store to store. Rather than buying right away, why not shop around to see if what you want is on sale or cheaper elsewhere. Some stores also offer discount codes that can easily be found by searching online.

9. Is there a return policy?

If the item doesn't turn out to be what you hoped, or if you change your mind later, make sure you check what the return policy is to see if you can get your money back. Remember that many retailers only offer store credit unless the item was damaged in some way before you bought it. 

10. What else could I do with this money?

If you do decide to go ahead with your purchase, consider what you might need to sacrifice in order to afford it. Is there something else you might want even more? Or would the money be better used in a savings account? If you get into a good savings habit, you could build up enough spare cash to buy something even better in a few months' time…

You may also be interested in

Learn how to prioritise your spending and make your money go further.
Maintain a healthy bank balance by avoiding hidden charges and keeping track of your monthly outgoings.
Explore your options for funding one-off purchases such as a new car or a holiday.