What exactly is buyer’s remorse and how do we avoid it?

You know that dread feeling you get in the middle of your stomach after the euphoria of your new purchase wears off? That, dear friends, is buyer's remorse the feeling of regret after having made a purchase. People usually associate buyer’s remorse with large purchases, like a house or a car, but speaking from experience, it can strike any time with any purchase.

When remorse sets in

The winter coat I’ve been wearing for the last six years developed an inside rip this year. I knew a new coat was in my winter 2010 future. While in the mall shopping for something completely unrelated to coats, a for-sale sign caught my eye. Winter coats 70% off. Before I knew it, I was in the change room with a sales clerk bringing me coat after coat to try on. On one level I wasn’t sure if I was really ready to buy the coat, but the salesgirl was being so nice and the price really was good and I was going to have to get a new coat next year anyway. So, I bought the coat.


Minutes after exiting the store I saw another store with coats on sale. Of course, ALL stores selling coats have sales on now! Did I buy the right one? Could I have gotten a better deal? That coat I bought is pretty lightweight – is it even warm? I was living in a cloud of BUYER’S REMORSE.


Buyer’s remorse is the result of cognitive dissonance, the discomfort that arises when you hold two or more contradictory beliefs or ideas – like I got a good deal, but I could I have gotten a better one? Or I’ve got this now, but is it the best version of this thing that I bought? Or, I will need a new coat next year, but I don’t need it now. Could that money have been better spent (or saved) elsewhere?


What you can do about it

Buyer’s remorse is all about doubt, but with a little pre-planning and self-restraint that doubt can be mitigated. According to Psychology Today, “We are actually psychologically motivated to be satisfied with our decisions. On the simplest level, if our choices are informed by trustworthy data we increase the chances of good outcomes.”


If you do your homework and know the pros and cons of your purchase you are much less likely to experience buyer’s remorse. Impulse buys are often associated with buyer’s remorse. Examples of this include purchases where we feel pressured to buy, like under the influence of persuasive salesperson, or when our motives for the purchase don’t align with what we believe is best for ourselves, such as buying something to keep up with trends or friends instead of as part of an integral need.

The coat I bought created the perfect storm for buyer’s remorse. I bought it on impulse. I was influenced by the salesperson and I worried I didn’t get the best deal or product available.


Once you know the triggers for buyer’s remorse, avoid them. Don’t buy on impulse. Ask yourself whether that designer bag you’re about to buy is something you actually want or if you’re only buying it because your friend Janet bought one. Recognize when you are being pressured to buy and learn to walk away. Remember it is the salesperson’s job to sell!


Homework

Before making any significant purchases do some comparative shopping. Check price points. An easy way to do that online is with an app like ShopSavvy, “a mobile application for shopping that scans products and finds online and local stores providing those products. Additionally, ShopSavvy compares the prices, displays user reviews, and searches for deals and discounts on scanned items.” Create a budget for how much you can/are willing to spend and stick to it!


Figure out when you want to make your purchase. For example, if a newer version of an item is coming out in the near future, it makes sense to wait to make your purchase, unless you’re going to be okay with the older model.


Beware of the tendency to click and buy

Online shopping is an easy, quick way to buy just about anything you want. It’s also an easy quick way to buy all kinds of stuff you don’t truly want! The ease of one click shopping has resulted in a lot of people buying far more than they want or need. When you go into a restaurant hungry and order more than you can eat they say your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Online shopping can have the same result. An article about accumulating mountains of things from The Atlantic says, “In 2017, Americans spent $240 billion—twice as much as they’d spent in 2002—on goods like jewelry, watches, books, luggage, and telephones and related communication equipment, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which adjusted those numbers for inflation.” Browsing can be dangerous, so stay clear. You are better than a statistic!


Put the purchase behind you

Once you’ve made a purchase, stop looking at deals you missed or upgrades to the product. If you weren’t feeling buyer’s remorse before, seeing your shiny new thing at half price somewhere else will certainly make it kick in. Once you’ve ensured this is something you actually want/need and you’ve done your homework on where/when to buy it then leave it at that. There will always be newer, shinier things. Newer doesn’t mean better!


In case you’re wondering what happened with my coat, I’m glad to say there was a happy ending. Rather getting depressed about better deals I could have gotten in all the other stores I decided to simply accept my purchase and carry on, but I still didn’t know whether or not it would actually keep me warm. Walking the dog today in temperatures cold enough to make my lips turn blue I got my answer. Yes. Whew.


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