Now that we’re entering a new year and have left our profligate pasts behind, it’s time to start on a clean slate. After offloading all those items you “accidentally” bought at sales in 2017 on Carousell, you’re ready to live a clutter-free life.
Except that thanks to the sheer density of shopping malls in Singapore and the inescapable nature of retailers, which are crammed into every conceivable public space all in the name of monetisation, if you’re not careful you might end up finding yourself drowning in unnecessary purchases yet again.
Here are three questions to ask the next time you’re about to buy anything. Bring this checklist along and refer to it the next time you find yourself in line at some shopping mall counter.
Can you live without it?
Distinguishing wants and needs can be hard when you’re already standing in line and the auntie behind you keeps jabbing you with her handbag.
But before you take out your wallet, don’t just ask yourself if you’re buying something you need and stop there. Depending on whom you ask we all “need” air con on a hot day, a massage when we’re tired, multiple overseas holidays and llaollao yoghurt.
The real question to ask is: can you live without it? Imagine your life without that item. Would it really be that terrible?
What would your life be like without that new pair of shoes / smartphone / Snorlax stuffed toy? Chances are, you’d feel exactly the same, and life would go on.
Do you already own something else that can function as a substitute?
Most of us own a lot more stuff that we’d care to admit. That person who always complains “I have nothing to wear” usually has a wardrobe bursting with clothes. Meanwhile, those folks who really do function on a limited wardrobe are perfectly happy rotating the same three tshirts for the rest of their lives.
So delve into your memory and your cupboards and ask yourself if you have something else that could function as a substitute for what you’re about to buy. It doesn’t have to be a perfect substitute—anything that’s “good enough” passes the test.
For instance, there are a lot of kitchen appliances with very specific uses that you could almost certainly do without. Gadgets like egg separators, sandwich makers and garlic peelers are mostly a useless waste of space, as you could easily achieve the same results with a pan, a knife and your hands.
How often would you really use it?
If you’re even thinking of buying something, chances are you can already think of at least one occasion when you’d use it. In fact, you might even be convinced that these occasions will pop up fairly frequently.
But before you hand the cashier your credit card, ask yourself if you can identify at least three to five specific scenarios in the new future where you can be sure you’ll use the item you’re buying.
For instance, if you’re thinking of buying a Nespresso coffee machine, you need to realistically ask yourself how often you have coffee at home.
If you wake up late every morning and rush to the MRT station right after your shower, only managing to get your hands on your first coffee of the day at the office, that’s unlikely to change after you buy your Nespresso machine.
On the other hand, if you have family members come over every weekend for lunch and usually serve them food and coffee, then those are situations where you’d legitimately be able to use your Nespresso machine.
Don’t expect yourself to change your behaviour for a new product you want to buy. The product has to fit your lifestyle, otherwise it’s probably going to end up collecting dust.
What is a recent purchase you made and then regretted? Tell us in the comments!