6 questions you must ask to become a smarter shopper

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Do you have outfits in your closet that you bought but never wore? What about books you haven't read or Blu-rays you haven't watched? It's not uncommon to see something you want to snatch up right away because it looks good or feels right.

That's why grocery stores stock sugary cereals at kids' eye level. If they see it, then they want it. There's nothing wrong with buying something that might not appear to be abundantly practical, but there's a way to approach an impulse buy with the keen sense of a smart shopper. By asking yourself some of these thoughtful questions before you make a purchase, you can start to spend more mindfully and avoid bringing home items you may not truly want or need. With the holidays coming up, these questions are especially important to ask yourself.

1. Am I buying from a reliable source?
That shiny Rolex being sold on the street corner from a guy who has his wares displayed on a milk crate might not come with a warranty. One the other hand, a legitimate company that offers a warranty in writing is someone you can feel more confident about trusting. The credibility of the retailer you choose to purchase products from matters for any type of appliance, electronic device or another item that could easily break down.

By the way, just because a warranty is offered doesn't automatically mean it's a good one. Read the fine print and know what you're getting yourself into.

2. Did I comparison shop?
There are many one-of-a-kind items for sale, like artwork, that you might not find anywhere else. If it appeals to your sense of style, then go for it! As for clothes, shoes, computers, TVs, cars and appliances, there will be dozens of other stores selling the exact same item. Not only brick-and-mortar outlets but online too. Before you buy, compare prices. Too much work? Then you're not trying. There are dozens of smartphone apps that let you scan a barcode on a product, then list comparative pricing for that same product. Isn't a simple "click" worth the effort if you're going to save money?

Composite image of packed cardboard boxes

3. Did I get reeled In by fast shipping?
In the not too distant future, Black Friday spending will be totally replaced by Cyber Monday shopping. We're all getting accustomed to "point and click" purchases. It could be that the convenience of fast shipping proves to be too much to resist.

After all, ordering something at lunch and getting it by dinner sounds sweet, but there could be all kinds of added charges tacked onto that speedy delivery. For me personally, I don't get tempted by fast shipping if I have to pay for it. But if the store promises to offer free fast shipping, then I find myself browsing the site for stuff to buy even if I previously had no intention to shop there.

Free shipping sounds like a great bargain, but think of it from the business perspective. If they're doing high volumes, they can afford the shipping. The smaller outlets might have you absorbing those costs in hidden fees. Again, remember to comparison shop.

4. Is the shopping venue influencing my decision?
I don't know about you, but I'm more likely to be in control of my spending impulses when I'm shopping at a familiar place. Whether it be a mall I visit often or a store I frequent, I'm less likely to buy things I don't really need when I'm hitting up my regular shopping spots and I already know what they offer.

I visited LA over the summer and felt myself "needing" to buy a lot of things. Clothes, accessories, trinkets – you name it. Hollywood Boulevard is famous, but is no doubt, also a cheesy tourist trap.

And yet, I really felt like shopping at the funny t-shirt and memorabilia stores. I realized that I was just really excited about being in a new city and my mind was on full 'vacay mode'. It's important to check yourself to see if these types of factors influence your shopping decisions.

5. Will I use this thing right away?
This is where the impulse buys issues come into play. As you hold something in your hand (or hover your mouse over a picture), you need to ask if you're going to use that thing right away. Yes, it would be nice to have a cake stand for your next dinner party, but what if you have no idea when that will be? Plus, have you ever tried to put a cake on a stand? It's kind of tricky. That's just one example, but you get the picture.

6. Can I afford this?
Finally, the big question that should really be one of your first questions: Can you afford this? That answer might be found in your wallet. If you don't have the cash on hand, the issue is resolved. If you plan on charging, you have to take in account your finance charges. What you're getting "on sale" might end up costing you a lot more than the base price. Plus, most things are not really worth getting into debt over.

The post 6 questions you must ask yourself to become a smarter shopper appeared first on My Debt Epiphany.

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