General Question

weeveeship's avatar

How do you know whether something is a waste of money?

Asked by weeveeship (4387 points ) May 6th, 2014

Some purchases seem exciting at first but then turn out to be dull and rarely used. Those purchases’ fate is usually fire sale (at garage sale, ebay or otherwise), donation, or the trash heap.

Some purchases seem dull at first but then turn out to be quite useful and practical.

So, I’m wondering, how do you know whether something is a waste of money? Is there a thought process or checklist you use when deciding whether to make a purchase?

Note: I am mostly referring to everyday items like clothes, gadgets, toys, electronics, etc. Though, I suppose this question could extend to bigger purchases like cars and houses as well.

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10 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

I purchased my education ($25,000) believing that I was getting a good deal… sometimes you have to learn the hard way.

hearkat's avatar

Great question. I do try to project into the future and imagine if a cool app, or a pair of shoes, or a waffle iron are things I’ll be using frequently enough to justify the cost.

When clothes shopping, I don’t look at the price tag. Once I try it on, I set a price for how much I’d be willing to pay for it, and then look at the tag and see if it’s at or below my assessment of its value. If it’s over it goes back on the rack.

One purchase that I thought was frivolous but now can’t live without are heated seats and cruise control in the car. I got a great deal on a ‘last year’s model’ car that had the luxury package that I never would have sprung for, but now I wouldn’t live without those two features.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Yes, is it an impulse or not? It’s better to wait a few days and see if you still hold an interest. Usually I try to get most things used so if I don’t get any utility out of it I can sell it for about what I have in it.

LDRSHIP's avatar

I tend to buy as I need versus want. Then I research and read reviews from there. Typically I can come to a conclusion if the product is worth buying, or if it will fully serve my purpose and utilize it.

Also consider how often many of times I can use it.

Some purchases are directly related to my goals. For me if it helps me reach that goal it was worth it.

Crazydawg's avatar

I work hard for my money and approach any buying decision as anything hyped or heavily discounted is a waste of my money. I do my homework and make my purchase based on need, want and desire to own that item. There are some items where price is the last of my concerns because I have done my research and my desire is sufficient to purchase the item and not lose sleep over it.

Mimishu1995's avatar

How do I know? Through experience. And “experience” means “after some time of being deceived by the appearance and buying crap”

ibstubro's avatar

First I ask myself is I already own something that serves the same purpose. This is most useful for kitchen gadgets. ’Quesadilla’ maker? Don’t you call that a skillet, or griddle?

Beware clearance items. i love them if they’re cheap enough, but, chances are they are there for a reason.

Shop. Look online and read some reviews. If you still want the item, shop for best price.

Second hand. If I can find something I think I want cheaply second hand, I will, even if it’s not 100% perfect. I was always leery of paying big money for a set of Circulon or Calfalon (sp) pans. I bought one nearly new at the Salvation Army for $10. Now I’m hunting a set, as I love it.
If you have the time, 2nd hand clothes are great, too. I used to buy cotton button-up shirts for $1–3 2nd hand, and then take them to the laundry when needed at the sale price of $1.35. After purchase and 10 launderings, I’d still have only $15 invested in a Polo shirt and I looked great all the time.

Coloma's avatar

I spend about $100—$150 a month on massage. It only lasts an hour, but keeps me feeling great for days. Nothing is a waste of money if you truly enjoy it for awhile.

Unbroken's avatar

If its not on the list and I see it I think I might want it I don’t pick it up… Holding it makes me feel attached to it like I might be depriving myself if I don’t get it.

I think about how I would use it make sure there isnt a similar gadget laying around or gotten rid of since, that I thought was a good idea.

Also I have a budget. Right now I don’t have any money budgeted for extras..

But in the past set the limit based on monthly and annual expenses. How much I want to save, a gift fund… Then I don’t exceed that. That includes eating out. Clothes, personal and household items.

I buy the stuff I need.. then if I have extra… I keep a list. Priorize it by how useful it is or sometimes I make an exception for a really good deal or something that comes up…

It works but takes discipline. I still do the impulse buy and sometimes regret it. But if I do.. and can’t take it back resell it on cl or listia or pawn it. Or if it would work as a gift I might hold on to it until the right person and occasion comes along.

Thammuz's avatar

Depending on my circumstances I use two criteria.

If i have money to spare, i evaluate, if it seems it could be useful, even in some weird way, i usually buy it.
If i don’t have money, and i’m not sure it will be useful, i pass.

I stopped having prejudices against gadgetry that looks useless when i got my smartwatch.

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