How to Never (Ever) Regret a Purchase Again

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Blaire Waldorf Shopping
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In a psychological study on the benefits of “retail therapy” – or the act of shopping to elevate one’s mood or sense of well-being – researchers found that making purchase decisions reduced residual sadness in their subjects. What this study failed to investigate further, however, were the effects of purchasing in the long term, which leads us to the topic of buyer’s remorse.

CNN reports, “Retail therapy might not work quite in the way consumers assume it works. That’s because the happiness that buying something provides is derived not from acquiring the item, or from the item itself, but from targeting it, wanting it, and anticipating its arrival into your life.” Even if you’ve had your sights set on that new Saint Laurent clutch or that gorgeous embroidered Gucci jacket, you might still succumb to the feeling of buyer’s remorse after splurging. That’s because you got more enjoyment out of anticipating the purchase than out of owning the item itself.

Once you have the desired product in hand, you might discover that it doesn’t work with the rest of your wardrobe, fit properly, or suit your skin tone. Occasionally, the reality of owning a luxury product isn’t as glamorous as we imagined. If you want to learn how to never regret a purchase again, here are the essential things that you need to know.

Measuring Cost-Per-Wear

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Learning this simple calculation can save you thousands of dollars down the line and dramatically improve your relationship with your wardrobe. While you are in the research phase of making a purchase, think broadly about how the purchase applies to your current lifestyle. Is it for a special occasion or daily wear? Is the item seasonal or can it work throughout the year? Is it well made or cheap in quality? Once you know these things, you can move onto the next step: conducting a Cost-Per-Wear (CPW) analysis.

If you splurged on a classic Chanel jacket that goes with everything and wear it several times a month over ten years, you can easily average out the CPW of the jacket.

Basically, the CPW is the price of the item divided by the number of times worn. For instance, if you splurged on a classic Chanel jacket that goes with everything and wear it several times a month over ten years, you can easily average out the CPW of the jacket.

Calculating the CPW allows you to see how your money is really spent. If you had worn that Chanel jacket just once, your CPW would be astronomical. The same applies to all of the items in your closet that you have worn less than five times. They have a high CPW, which causes the balance sheet of your closet to become overloaded. What you should aim for is a low CPW for every item in your wardrobe, meaning they are kept in rotation enough to justify keeping them.

Items with a high CPW tend to come with the unintended consequence of buyer’s remorse. And if you don’t want to calculate the CPW of your items going forward, but still want to know the statistics on your wardrobe, there are now apps that track CPW for you. Our favorite is ClosetSpace, which not only helps organize your closet and select looks for you on the daily, but also automatically keeps track of CPW according to your outfit of the day.

Bonus tip: If you want to reboot your foundational wardrobe, invest in mid-range basics that are well-made but average in cost. This guarantees a low CPW for each item, with long-term wearability due to quality. Trendier items should be on the low-cost side, while forever classics should be the items you spend the most on (like high-quality luxury denim, footwear, and handbags).

Avoiding the Sale Fail

Photo: Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures

Ah, the temptations of an amazing sale – we all know them a little too well. There’s something about a markdown, a hefty percentage off, a high-value coupon code, or a bright-red sale sign that really spikes our shopping fever. It’s only natural to want to save money on a purchase, which is why sales are designed to lure you in with psychological tricks that compel you to spend more money than you intend to. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that post-sale buyer’s remorse is the most painful version of the condition.

We’ve all been there before, loading up an online shopping cart with awesome sale items only to discover that we’ll get free shipping if we spend a little extra. This inevitably leads to hasty decisions that fill us with regret after the fact. The simple way to avoid the pitfalls of a shiny new sale is to keep calm and ask yourself a few tough questions before pulling the trigger on a purchase that you may regret later:

  • Am I only buying this because it is part of a deal, promotion, or sale?
  • Would I buy this if it were full price and not on sale?
  • Where will I wear this item?
  • Does this item require high-maintenance care?
  • Does it fit well? (Unfortunately, this is impossible to know when purchasing online, but it’s a potential money saver if you’re shopping in-store.)

If your answers are not fulfilling, this might be a sale you should pass up, especially since most sale items are non-refundable. Hastily purchased sale items are potential booby traps of buyer’s remorse. You’ve been warned.

Thinking Like a Stylist

stylist devil wears prada
Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Once you feel secure in purchasing an item, one last way to hedge your bet against buyer’s remorse is to start thinking like a stylist. Give the item a critical look and ask the following questions:

  • Is it really me?
  • Does it fit into my personal style preferences?
  • What are three outfits I can work this item into? (Seriously, visualize those three outfits.)
  • Is it filling a need in my wardrobe?
  • Am I buying this for status or personal pleasure?

Once you can visualize a real-world need for the item and picture how harmoniously it will fit into your existing closet, you’re ready to take the leap, sans regret.

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