Sometimes, when you’re out and about, you see something that you think you just have to have. Maybe it’s a great skirt, or a DVD you can’t wait to get from the rental place. Whatever it is that you see, you buy it, bring it home and, often, experience regret later. You think, “Why did I buy that? I don’t need it.” Sometimes you realize that you
could have gotten the item for free or at least cheaper if you’d waited a week or so. Whatever the source of regret, it’s too late to do anything about it once you’ve removed the tags, worn the item, opened the box, or removed the shrink wrap. At that point you’re stuck with whatever it is you thought you had to have.
One way to avoid this regret is to practice a rule I call, “Stash and think.” Here’s how it works.
- When you buy something (even something you order online) that isn’t an immediate need, bring whatever it is home and stash it. You can stash it in a closet, under the bed, or even in the trunk of your car.
- Don’t remove the tags, don’t open the box, and don’t remove the shrink wrap. Keep the item in perfect return condition and keep the receipt.
- Take some time (I use two weeks but you can go for longer or shorter) to think about your purchase. Do you need whatever you bought? Do you have another one like it? (How many pairs of khaki pants do you really need?) Do you really want it, or were you just shopping for the heck of it? Did you find (or remember) something else that you’d much rather have spent that money on?
- While you’re thinking, look around to see if you can get the item cheaper. Does it go on clearance? Does it go on sale somewhere else? Can you get the book for free from the library? Can you rent that movie? Chances are that a little research can net your impulse item for a lower cost, if you decide that you still have to have it.
If, at the end of your stash and think period, you’ve decided that you don’t really want the item or you were able to find it for less, return the original item. Since you didn’t remove the tags or open the box, you should be able to return the item for a full refund. As long as you have your receipt you can even return items that have gone on clearance.
The trick to this is to not forget your stashed items to the point that you miss your return window. To help with this, keep the receipts in a place that’s clearly visible. Maybe you can pin them to the family cork board, or put them in an envelope that you keep by your computer. You can also set up reminders on your computer or cell phone to go off when you’re getting close to having to make a decision. However you do it, find a way to keep track so you don’t decide you no longer want something only to discover that it’s too late to return it.
The stash and think period gives you time to evaluate your purchase without incurring buyer’s remorse. If you regret your purchase, all you have to do is dig the item out of hiding, grab the receipt and head back to the store for a refund.