What You Can Learn from Buyer’s Remorse

by Tracy · 13 comments

Buyer’s remorse is quite common. Many people feel sad, let down or guilty after making a purchase. This is true for impulse purchases as well as those planned for some time. In certain cases, the remorse will be so strong that the item will be returned, even if it is in no way defective.

If you suffer from frequent buyer’s remorse, examining your feelings can teach you a lot about your spending personality and give you the tools you need to make better choices. Understanding why we buy and how it makes us feel afterward gives us insight into our needs and values and where we fall short in fulfilling them.

Why the Remorse?

What was it about the purchase that made you feel remorse? It’s not always obvious, so here are some questions to ask yourself to try and pin it down.

  • Was it an impulse buy that you really can’t afford?
  • Do you feel insecure or anxious now that the money is gone?
  • Do you feel guilty for indulging yourself?
  • Did you buy it to fill an emotional need or to help yourself forget something distressing?
  • Do you feel like you were pressured into buying it?
  • Are you addicted to the high of buying?
  • Do you feel like if you’d looked harder or waited longer you could have scored a better deal?

Your reason for buyer’s remorse can be any of the above, or even a combination. As you can imagine, each of these reasons has a very different solution, so it’s important that you understand why you feel remorse, as there is no one size fits all way to make it better.

Spending Should be Emotional – But Only a Little

While logic should play a big part in our finances, I don’t know that there is a way to remove all emotions from the process and that’s a good thing. For example, you might wince a bit to see the total when you pay for your groceries and aim to do better next time or you might feel good for keeping the total under your goal and be motivated to keep up the good work. Or you could feel proud of yourself when you transfer money to savings or worry a bit that you’re not saving enough and look for ways to cut spending so you can put away more in the future.

Buyer’s remorse can be a useful emotion as it keeps our spending in check. However, in some cases, it can also serve as a warning sign that our spending is out of control and it can also be a signal that we need more balance in our lives and our relationship towards money.

Spending money to fill non-material needs or desires is destined to end in unhappiness. There is nothing wrong with a little treat as a pick me up on a rough day, of course, but if your only tool to make yourself feel better is by buying things, it is a problem. If this is the cause of your buyer’s remorse, you’ll need to find productive ways to deal with negative emotions and their root causes.

Likewise, if you experience lingering remorse and guilt every time you spend money, even if you can afford it and it’s something you truly want, it’s a sign that something is out of balance. Saving money is great, but you should also get to enjoy spending some every now and again, too. Ask yourself if you feel bad about spending the money because of anxiety over having enough or because you feel guilty about doing things for yourself and find ways to help yourself feel more confident and secure.

It’s good to delay gratification and do our research to get a good deal, but again, it should be proportionate to the expense. Constant second guessing yourself and feeling an undue amount of anxiety at missing out on a deal can negatively impact your happiness.  Although we can learn lessons from poorly timed purchases or not doing our research, for the most part, once you’ve made a decision to buy, it’s pointless to obsess over whether or not we could have made a better deal.

By looking at why we feel buyer’s remorse, we can learn a lot about our strengths and weaknesses and look for ways to improve ourselves, both financially and emotionally. Money is only part of the picture when it comes to living a healthy, successful life.

Do you feel buyer’s remorse? How do you deal with it?

Photo Credit: NoHoDamon

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • SandyD says:

    When I shop I place items in my shopping cart and walk around for awhile. I usually end up placing several of the items back, when I realize they’re not something I need and really can do without.

  • geneva coupon says:

    Since I learned to super-coupon over 2 years ago I no longer shop at Costco or Sams Club and therefore do not have shoppers remorse. Our monthly food bill is a small fraction of what we used to spend. We just got hit with a major snow-storm and when DH called to ask if he needed to pick up any food prior, the answer was NO. Our small stockpile of non-perishables, canned foods and a full freezer will keep us going for a while.
    And do I have remorse over my designer handbag?? No. Its the only bag I use and having had it for over 10years I just laugh at people who thought I was crazy to get it and have been buying handbags every year and often more than 3 each year.

  • Squirrelers says:

    I try to look at it from a lessons learned perspective. If I regret making a purchase, I accept that the purchase was made, walk through how I made the decision, and then either decide that A) I made a good choice, or B) I may not have made the best choice, but now I know why that choice was made. If the latter, a less than optimal choice, I either try to return the item or figure out how I can make a better decision later.

  • Ryan @ Milwaukee Condos says:

    I usually try to give myself at least 7 days on any large purchase to make sure than I actually want it which removes a lot of buyers remorse from my life. I just had a friend buy an SUV the first time he saw it and now he’s totally regretting his purchase because he didn’t shop around and buy what he actually wanted.

  • David Wright says:

    I have several years’ worth of buyer’s remorse. I wish someone had given me good advice, or that I had listened, prior to buying thousands of dollars worth of music as a teenager.

    I think instituting a 7 or 14 day waiting period on big purchases (which you can wait on) is something that would curb a lot of bad spending.

  • retirebyforty says:

    I feel buyer remorse once in a while.
    Lately I’ve been using an allowance system so I need to save up for a purchase. I find this an effective way to control buyer remorse. If I really want something, I will get it after a few months of saving and this hasn’t failed me yet.
    Buyer remorse usually comes from impulse purchases.

  • Bargaineering says:

    I find that it takes me a while to decide to buy something and I end up weighing pros and cons. By the time I actually make the purchase it’s been so long I don’t even have the energy to feel remorseful about it. 🙂

    • KM says:

      I do that too for some things. Most of the time I realize that if it takes me so long to decide, it’s not something I am passionate about and probably not worth it.

  • Ginger says:

    KM, I feel the same way about most of the stuff my mom buys plus she ships it to me. I live in a LCOL area and she lives in a HCOL area so 90% of the stuff she sends I could buy for cheaper not even counting the shipping. I don’t know how she is going to retire.

  • vered says:

    Not as often as I used to. I think you learn restraint over the years.

  • KM says:

    I feel remorse for things my mom buys, especially when she buys something for me. I am very difficult to shop for, so I prefer to do it myself, but she insists on picking up random little things that I don’t like. Her excuse is that it was cheap or on sale, but for me, even a penny is too much for something I am not going to use and would like to throw away on the spot.

  • Jane Sanders says:

    I also don’t feel guilty after buying groceries. There’s absolutely no buyers regrets when it comes to food. BUT I develop buyer’s remorse when I buy shoes…expensive shoes or bags. However, I have found a way to overcome that guilt. I basically tell myself that I made the right choice and got my money’s worth.

  • indio says:

    I don’t usually have buyers remorse over groceries, unless it’s a mega Costco shopping trip. Logically I know that shopping will last us for a month. I feel guilty when I spend on things for me, like clothes. Children regularly grow out of their clothes so you know to expect that and plan on replacing them. I don’t grow out of clothes, I just grow out of “like” with my clothes. So I can’t justify spending money on new clothes for me, unless it has stains or big holes in it; small holes all get repaired. I want a wireless keyboard and even though I can afford, I didn’t want to spend the money because I know something will come up, it always does, that would be a better use for the money.

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