Regret Your Most Recent Purchase? A Guide to Understanding & Avoiding Buyer's Remorse

Regret Your Most Recent Purchase? A Guide to Understanding & Avoiding Buyer's Remorse

| June 24, 2020

According to a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom, 82 percent of people reported feeling regret or guilt over a past purchase. The most prevalent categories of regrettable purchases included takeout food, clothing and shoes.1  Social media advertisements are definitely not helping the affects of lifestyle creep and buyers remorse. 

We’ve all been there - you buy something on a whim, get home and regret it (sometimes even immediately). No one wants to feel shame or guilt when it comes to their purchases. But if you find yourself frequently feeling this mix of emotions, you may be experiencing buyer’s remorse. The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to understand exactly what it is and what you can do to feel more confident and comfortable with your purchases moving forward.

What Is Buyer’s Remorse?

Simply put, buyer's remorse is the feeling of regret one gets after making a (typically expensive) purchase. This regret is often paired with stress and panic.

In fact, it's actually considered a form of cognitive dissonance. You’re battling between two different emotions and beliefs - the need to avoid risks or consequences and the desire to do what makes you happy.

According to the UK study, people feel buyers remorse because:

  • An item didn’t meet their expectations (58 percent)
  • They never ended up using the item (30 percent)
  • It was too much money (20 percent)
  • They found a better deal (15 percent)
  • They realized they didn’t actually need it (15 percent)1

4 Ways to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

A majority of people have experienced buyer’s remorse at least once in their lifetime. Follow these four steps to avoiding it the next time you plan on making a purchase.

1. Research Before You Buy

Did you look into the item before you bought it? If the answer is no, then you should start implementing research into your buying strategy. The more you know about a product before you buy it, the less likely you’ll be to regret the purchase later on. This could include the purchase of cars, electronics, jewelry or anything with a higher price tag. Being knowledgeable about your purchase and reviewing what others have to say about the product can give you a better understanding of what you’re getting into. 

2. Sleep on it

Is there a pricey item you’ve been eyeing up? Instead of jumping online or running to the store right away, take a step back and wait before purchasing. Time can be a helpful indicator when determining if something is purchased on impulse, or if it’s an item that could really bring value to your life. Pick a predetermined amount of time (a day, a couple days, a week, etc.). It should be however long you need to get past any feelings of elation or excitement at the prospect of simply purchasing. 

For instance, if you think you want to buy a new car, head to a dealership or even two and feel out your options. While there may be pressure to buy right away (either from your own excitement or the presence of a salesperson), you are already armed with the reassurance that you’ll be going home and waiting before buying.

3. Ask Yourself if it’s a Necessity 

Buyer’s remorse can stem from the realization that what you’ve just purchased really isn’t needed. Before your next purchase, ask yourself, “How badly do I need this?” Taking the time to stop and ask yourself such a question requires brutal honesty. In the end, if the item is necessary, you won’t feel guilty because you know it passed the test. In other words, think carefully before buying something that you don’t truly need. 

4. Stick to Your Shopping List 

To prevent buying things that you don’t actually need and regretting it later, make a detailed list of what you plan on buying before you shop. For instance, if you’re heading to the mall for socks and a new shirt for work, write that down and stick to it. A list can help you hold yourself accountable. 

Everyone experiences buyer’s remorse from time to time. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent it. As long as you take some easy, careful measures before buying, it’s likely you won’t regret your purchase. And if there’s a big purchase you’re still not sure about, you can always ask your financial advisor for their input as well.