How to prevent post purchase regret

On Monday we went over several tricks that marketers use to try and get us to purchase their goods and services. They are very good at getting into our minds and getting us to not think rationally. 

Today, we will go over a few tips that may help to overcome the temptations and beat the marketers at their own game.


1/. Be grateful for what you already have

I cannot recommend this enough. Saying out loud on a daily or weekly basis, things that you are grateful for you in your life turns your focus from things you need to buy, to things you already have.


2/. Don’t be greedy

Do you have enough to get the job done? We are often guilty of buying much more than we need. Houses with extra rooms, cars with extra features, so much food that we stuff ourselves. Enough is as good as a feast. Anything more than enough is a waste.


3/. Have clear goals and plans

Clear goals and plans that detail what you want out of life, what your priorities are and how much you are willing to spend help to develop boundaries. With clear goals and plans we are less likely to purchase something that doesn’t meet our values.


4/. Think long term

With a long-term focus on products we are more likely to purchase quality over quantity. We are also less likely to buy something today that will negatively impact on our long-term self. For example, do I purchase this brand new car that will make me feel good for a fleeting moment, or buy a second-hand car that will allow me to save money on the difference to give my future self a better life.


5/. Understand the true cost

We often don’t calculate the true cost of things. If I earn $20 an hour for example, and purchase a $20 widget, I may tell myself that it is just one hour’s work. But once I take off tax from my pay, as well as other costs of working such as petrol, clothing and travel time, I realise that I only earn $12 per hour. If we take it a step further, $20 invested now will be worth $85 in 30 years if invested instead (5% returns). What I thought was one hour of work, this $20 widget is now costing $85 or 7 hours of work ($12 x 7).


6/. Delay temptation

If you really are passionate about buying something give it a week so that your emotions can cool down. If you still really want the item after one week then you should probably purchase it because you have reduced your ‘hot’ emotional brain and given the rational ‘cool’ side of your brain more time to think.


7/. Place more emphasis on experiences

I have learned the costly way that it is experiences that have bought me the most happiness. Not things. A lot of these experiences have been free or low cost. Volunteering, learning new skills, spending time with family, travel, and group sport. If we continue the pursuit of happiness by buying new and shiny things we will not find it. This only results in short term happiness. We will just adapt to the new level of happiness very quickly and then look for the next thing to get that temporary spike in happiness again, before our levels return to neutral. It is a never-ending chase. Experiences and relationships are what provide deep and fulfilling levels of happiness.


8/. Stop cherishing unattainable values

Marketers like you to think that buying their product will make you sexier, faster, happier or a better person in general. It won’t, so stop trying


9/. Leave the ego at the door – impressing people

We shouldn’t be making purchases to impress other people. They may feign interest for a short period but we need to get real – they don’t care nearly as much as you may think.


10/. Don’t take your kids shopping

It is well known that adults tend to spend more money when shopping with the kids. Sometimes it is just easier to buy them what they want than to put up with the public displays of kicking and screaming. Leaving your kids at home with mum or dad will be much cheaper on your wallet if you have the luxury of not having to take them with you.


11/. Automate your savings so you have no spare cash

If you can set up your bank accounts in such a way that all transfers are done automatically, you can set it up in a way that leaves you with no extra cash for spending. Your income can go straight to other accounts such as monthly expenses, savings, investments and so on. If you have no money in your cheque account, you have no choice but not to spend in excess. Every dollar should have a job. A place to go.


12/. Don’t get bored

People tend to spend money when they are bored. There are lots of activities you could do instead of shopping. Think of these when you are not bored, so when you do experience boredom you will have a substitute activity in mind.


13/. Do your research

If nothing else, research will help delay your purchase. Allowing you to think purposely about the purchase instead of getting caught in the moment of sales and marketing gimmicks.  Research will also help you determine quality over rubbish. It is not a nice feeling making an impulse purchase and realising it is not the product you should have got.


14/. Live in a smaller house

We tend to want to fill our houses with stuff. If we live in smaller houses, then there is less room to fill. Thus, less things to buy.


15/. Build good habits

If you can build good habits such as saving, investing and automatic bank accounts then you get to see some real reward after time. Once you see the rewards you then become hooked on continuing the good habits. Breaking bad habits and starting good ones is easier said than done and requires real purpose and motivation.


16/. Stop justifying your poor decisions

A lot of us have a habit of buying things on special, even if we didn’t have any intention of buying that product in the first place. We trick our mind into thinking it is such a good price that we are saving money. But how can we be saving money if we are spending it? If we continue to tell ourselves we did a good thing, then we will never discontinue the behaviour.


17/. Unsubscribe

One of the best things for my wallet I have ever done is unsubscribe from all the daily e-mails, such as grab one. The e-mails would often prompt me to look around the site. Browsing would then lead to purchases. Now I don’t get the e-mails I only go looking for product deals when I NEED them, in my own time. Not when they tell me. I have taken back the control by removing an obstacle. After all, we are all human and are subject to impulses.


18/. Pay with cash

Speaking of impulses, studies have confirmed that when we make purchases with cash, it triggers more emotional impulses in our brains than if we were to tap a card or phone. In other words, it hurts us more to part with cash even if we are spending the same amount. By paying for everything in cash we tap into that pain so are less likely to make as many poor purchases.


19/. Stop following the herd

Recognise that no one else cares as much about your future as you do. You are the one that has to live with the consequences of your decisions. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, because the Joneses are broke and unhappy. The herd don't even know where they are going.


20/. Remove your FOMO and embrace your YOLO

We need to remove the feeling of missing out if we don’t act on a special or the deal of the century. If we don’t want it, we shouldn’t want it no matter what the price. If it's on sale, who cares. We don’t want it. Stop thinking you are missing out on something you never wanted BEFORE the sale.

In 2017, the Fyre music festival was touted as the must see event of the year. There would be sexy models, great music, great food, luxury accommodation, all on a secluded island. The ads would target ‘average’ people who want to party with Instagram models and influencers. These influencers are put on a pedestal that we normally can’t have ‘access’ to. There was so much buzz around the festival that the feeling of FOMO was created.

As it turns out, the event was so poorly organised that the musicians didn’t show up, the luxury accommodation was actually cheap tents, the food was pre packaged sandwiches, and the guests had no way out. With tickets priced between $5,000 and $250,000 that is expensive FOMO.

Many people respond to making purchases, “YOLO”. This is implying that we can’t have fun unless we are buying things. True, you only live once. Which is even more reason not to waste our time and money on material things that we don’t need. Many people on their death bed do not wish that they worked more, or bought more things. They wish they spent more time with family, or experienced things. YOLO.


21/. You are worthy

Realise that you are a good person and you don’t need ‘things’ to make you better or more accepted. Embrace being you, not someone else’s vision of you.


Final Thoughts

Some of these tips can be applied immediately with not much effort. The majority of these tips however, require a deep change in our mindset. It can be summarised as:

  • Have clear goals

  • Develop habits and behaviours that align with your top priorities whilst removing habits that do not.

  • Stop caring what other people think about you

  • Seek experiences not things

  • Start giving long-term a bit more focus

  • Be grateful for what you have already.

Not until we have trained our minds and developed habits to take us away from a consumeristic viewpoint, can we make permanent change. Until then, it is an uphill, potentially never-ending, challenge. We think we can buy happiness, but that is a mugs game, where the only winners are the companies selling us their goods and services. They are clever in that they tap into our need for happiness. The problem is their solution is not a long-lasting solution. This is why we keep chasing something we will never achieve. The sooner we can realise that our happiness is not derived from having more, the more time, stress and money we will save.

To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you somebody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
— E E Cummings

The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here


Do you have any other tips to fight the marketing machine? Do any of these tips help you with your own purchases?