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How can I make a good buying decision that I will not regret about in the future?

It happens a lot: I come to a situation where I really want something but not sure if it'll be a good purchase, or alternatively want two or more different things and not sure which to buy.

There are also cases where I buy something and after sometime I realize it was a pretty dumb purchase.

I'm sure this happens to many people, maybe even to most people. How do I make a good decision that I will not regret about in one month or year?

Some examples for such situations:

  • Should I buy a new smartphone or stay with my current?
  • Do I really want to have a new dog/parrot?
  • Do I really need a tablet or it's just a temporary excitement?
  • What's better for me: expensive drums that will last long or cheap drums I'll have to replace if I continue drumming.

Thank you!

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Concerning a new dog/parrot, I hope you won't dump the old one ))) – superM Sep 24 '13 at 8:17
@superM hell no!! actually it was an example... I have a dog for 10 years and parrot for a year now. – Nadav S. Sep 24 '13 at 12:45
How many parrots you need to be happy? – alex Dec 31 '13 at 16:05

There are a few methods you can use

  1. A simple list of pros and cons: Do I really want to have a new dog/parrot?
    • Do I want a do, Pro, it would be good company, Con, I have to walk it daily.
  2. Evaluation of cost: expensive drums that will last long or cheap drums I'll have to replace if I continue drumming.
    • Do I buy the more expensive drums. So the more expensive drums are $500 but will last 5 years, the cheaper drums are $300 but will last 2 years. ($500 / 5 versus $300 / 2) So there is a benefit to buying the more expensive ones. Remember do not buy things which you cannot really afford, you will only regret your purchase.
  3. Temporary excitement: Do I really need a tablet or it's just a temporary excitement?
    • Do not purchase straight away, leave it a few days, a week, a month to see if you still fell the same. Another thought process I like to use here is working out what I am going to do with something, how often will I use the tablet, does it need to be a small tablet or big tablet.
  4. Comparison charts: Should I buy a new smartphone or stay with my current?
    • List the comparisons between the old phone and new phone, be sure to include the points 1,2 also in this list.
  5. Ask yourself if you need it, try to explain your purchase to yourself as if you were explaining it or selling it to another person, see if you can sell yourself on it. You can also try this with another person and see if they are believing the reasons you are saying.

It is nice to buy stuff, from my mistakes I can suggest that you purchase the things you need and not those which add no value in life and end up costing you. But in saying that it is also nice to have a treat, something which adds no value to life every now again.

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Very helpful, especially No. 5. Thanks! – Nadav S. Sep 18 '13 at 18:31

Evaulate the "cradle-to-grave" cost. Go into the purchase with eyes wide open as to the total lifetime cost of the item. The purchase price may just be the start.

This includes:

  • Maintenance. A pet will cost you easily a few hundred dollars a year -- probably over a thousand a year. Your stuff will get peed on / pooped on / torn apart if you get a puppy. (I speak from experience.) Some exotic birds are an incredible amount of work. Are you prepared for this?
  • Depreciation. Electronics lose value pretty quickly after you buy them: Moore's Law.
  • Space. Drums take up space. Do you have the room? What do you have to give up? Will you be able to practice where you live? Neighbors may not take kindly to hearing drums all the time through a thin wall, and you may be asked not play them, and thereform must sell them (at a loss).
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Good points, especially maintenance. BTW, I have a dog, a parrot and drums :) – Nadav S. Sep 20 '13 at 6:45

There is a general five-step process for making decisions:

  1. Clarify what the decision actually entails. State your problem or goal.
  2. Next spell out what the decision alternatives really are. For example, if you want to buy a car, do the options only consist of different types of cars or is another option possibly to refrain from buying a car?
  3. Collect and understand information that can help guide the decision. The more important the decision, the more rigorous you need to be here.
  4. Make your decision.
  5. Finally, evaluate whether the decision was appropriate.
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+1 The final point is often underestimated, while it's the one that allows us to learn from our mistakes and gain experience. – superM Sep 24 '13 at 8:24

The ultimate advice I was given is this:

If there is even a shadow of doubt, don't buy it.

And it really does apply, specially with clothes.

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A quick tip I intuitively use is:

let the time pass, so if you crave something, make a note(Mental or in your calender) of when you have this craving(and maybe why) and let time pass, i usually wait 1-3 months depending on the size of the purchase. After the time have passed. make a new assessment about this purchase and you`ll notice a difference. This is very applicable with the rest of the tips.

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I am mid-way through a book called "decisive" which is fascinating in many ways. One of the key things they talk about is that when buying most things we get into a whether or not mindset and focus on a very limited set of well as the confirmation bias when you're emotionally attached to making a buying decision.

For me, the things that I've changed after reading this book are:

a. I always try and think, "the money I'm spending on X (potentially) - could I use that better somewhere else?

b. What is my ultimate goal in buying X? And is that goal really important to me or am I making an emotional decision.

Sometimes I end up buying exactly what I originally wanted, but at least it feels like I put some logical thinking into it. :-)

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I always delay buying things, unless it's something I urgently need. By waiting, you not only are making sure that you really want it, but are also giving yourself time to learn more about it (eg, you keep hearing friends talk about their smartphones, so you can assimilate information about which models or brands are best before buying).

In terms of drumming, you say "if I continue drumming". If you are not sure that you will continue, then I say buy the cheapest set you can (within reason!). If it gets worn out because you are drumming so much, then you know it would be best to invest in a good set that will last longer. If they break altogether but you are still drumming, then you can count that as a "need" to buy new and better drums!

In terms of technology, it is always best to wait. If you have your sights on a particular model and wait until the new model comes out, then you are getting the model you wanted for less than you would have paid when it was new. I had been thinking for some time before getting my first smartphone. My old phone was on its last legs, and I knew I wanted the new technology. But I put off buying one, and eventually a friend was selling a good model secondhand, much below its retail value. Had I not waited, I would not have found the good bargain. Same thing happened when I was thinking of getting a car (which was not a need for me).

Impulsive buys generally mean you spend more, and may mean you end up with something you are not really happy with or feel you shouldn't have bought at all. Many times I've been convinced I wanted something (usually a cool piece of clothing) but waited awhile and eventually got over wanting it, which shows it wouldn't have been a particular good purchase.

Even in terms of pets: I've always had a better time with animals I came across "by chance" and adopted, than pets I've decided I wanted and went out and bought.

So I think, as others have said, that delay is best. When your "need" becomes stronger over time or your desire doesn't fade, that is the time to buy.

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