Simple Money Man’s Big Purchase Checklist

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Sometimes we may not be able to really tell if something is a want or a need. It’s hard when you’re at a store running an errand and you peek over to a different department, see something on sale that potentially costs hundreds or thousands and then convince yourself that you don’t really need it.

A big purchase can be a different for everyone. A big purchase basically means you are thinking a little more than usual about buying the item in question.

Whenever a big purchase time period comes into play, I run a mental checklist through my head to convince myself whether or not the purchase is a good or bad decision. I try to make the decision-making process as black and white, short and sweet, and effective and efficient as possible.

And so I’ve decided to refine that checklist a bit and share it with everyone here. So I present Simple Money Man’s Big Purchase Checklist; a simple and easy to use tool to evaluate the necessity of acquiring certain items or services from inevitable encounters we have in stores and online.

Simple Instructions: You simply answer Yes or No to each question. If yes, assign the corresponding value to that question. The value determines how important that question is to your overall big purchasing decision.

No. QuestionResponseValue
1Can I pay for it with cash?Yes5
2Have I determined that there aren’t any existing substitutes for this item which I currently own?Yes3
3Have I determined whether or not there’s a less expensive and suitable alternate item?Yes3
4Can I incorporate this into my daily life?Yes5
5Have I spent a significant amount of time envisioning the benefits this may provide?Yes3
6Will it improve the quality of my life (e.g., less stress more leisure/entertainment/happiness)?Yes5
7Have I calculated and considered other costs associated with this item (e.g. installation, maintenance, costs to operate etc.)?Yes3
8Will it replace an existing item or expense?Yes1
9Will this item last for an extended period of time?Yes3
10Do I need the item from a physical or mental health standpoint?Yes5
11Have I found the best possible deal on this item, including coupons, discounts, rebates, etc.?Yes5
12Have I considered the options and pros/cons of buying it used versus new?Yes5

Big Purchase Checklist Scoring

Maximum Score = 46

Scoring Scale:

46-40 – Go For It!

39-31 – Think about it or consult your friends/family

30-21 – Reconsider it or think about a favorable solution

20 or lower – Run away from it or close out the website!

Ofcourse some questions are more important than others from a Personal Finance standpoint. You may argue that questions with a value of 5 suggest that item may be a necessity.

The more you respond with a “Yes”, the more comfort you can gain in proceeding forward with the purchase.

The checklist also provides some buffer time for you to think about the objectives you hope to achieve and to ofcourse avoid impulse buying.

Other Points Concerning A Big Purchase

Sometimes big purchases come with auxiliary items or services that need to be considered (e.g., large customized batteries, special cleaning supplies for maintenance, and ofcourse warranties).

For some items, it’s worth it to obtain a warranty. For example, if you have kids or anyone else susceptible to make a mess, a warranty on furniture is a good idea. You should buy quality furniture when kids are involved too due to the potential of rough usage and that makes the warranty all the more important.

You should also determine what is and is not covered in a warranty and for how long. Some items may have a limited warranty and only for one year. Determine how you plan to use an item and see if a warranty is worth purchasing.  

Big Purchase Returns

It’s important to understand the return policy for big purchases as well. Some items you buy online may take a while to ship. And if the policy for returning is within 30 days of purchase, understand that the 30-day period begins when you click the button to order the item online, not when you receive it in the mail.

Therefore, when the item arrives, it’s important to start unpacking and using it as quickly as possible so you may determine if it is truly what you expected it to be.

You don’t want the return period to elapse and find out the item did not meet one of your expectations.

The inability to return an item due to expiration of the return time period really happened to a friend of mine. She thought she was getting a great deal on a Samsung smart TV, but it turns out it didn’t have an app that she regularly uses. The app was not available for installation as well as it required special hardware which was built into the TV due because it was an older model. Long story short, she had to purchase a separate Roku device to download the app and meet her objectives.

On the flip side, if you are determined enough you can always think of reasons to buy something. But at least a checklist can keep you honest and allow you to back up your decision.

Join The Discussion:

  1. What’s your process when evaluating big purchases?
  2. How long does it usually take before you decide to move forward or not?
  3. Describe a past big purchase which you later had to return or exchange.

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I use Personal Capital because (1) it’s free, (2) it tracks all of my accounts and overall net worth, (3) my account balances automatically update, (4) it shows how my investments are diversified and allocated in various sectors, and (5) can use built-in tools like “Investment Checkup” to get….wait for it…free personalized advice!