How Long Do You Shop for Big Purchases - picture of woman's face holding camera up to her eye

How Long Do You Shop for Big Purchases?

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Just the other day, I was browsing Facebook when a status update from David at Young Adult Money caught my eye:

“I’m the kind of person who talks and thinks about buying a tablet for well over a year, but never buys one.”

-Young Adult Money

My first thought was, “that’s hot.”  Then I realized that it was also really funny because I can totally relate.  After all, I’ve been shopping for a new iPod for at least a year.  But there’s a reason why I haven’t purchased one yet.

When Too Many Options is a Bad Thing

I do most price-shopping online for obvious reasons.  But, have you ever searched for mp3 players on Amazon.com before?  Do it and you’ll find that there are a whole slew of models in every color, shape, and size, including some with some pretty snazzy features like touch screens and FM radio.  But, do I want a touch screen?  And, do I need FM radio?  Does it matter whether it has 16 GB or 32 GB or if it’s pink or green or blue?  I mean, seriously.  Scroll up and look at the picture of my iPod for heaven’s sake.  Do I look like I’m into special features?

The problem is, my iPod is not really working anymore.  This summer, it wouldn’t even stay charged long enough for me to mow the yard so I would mow half, charge it, then continue.  Pretty sad.  But now it’s dead and I can’t get into my old iTunes account either, which means that I would likely need to download a bunch of music off of CDs again.  About that…….

The last time I put music on my iPod I drank a lot of wine and ended up putting songs from both Colbie Caillat and Slayer on it.  Bad, bad idea.  But finding good music takes time, and most of my old CDs are pretty teenage-angsty.  There are some good ones here and there, but the last thing I want to do is break out the old CD collection and start downloading songs like some middle-aged dinosaur.  Unfortunately, my only other option is to pay for those songs again.  Oh, the horror!

My husband is probably reading this post and thinking it is a cryptic plea for a new iPod loaded with my favorite songs but it isn’t.  I actually think shopping around for big purchases for extended periods of time can be good for all of us.  Here’s why:

You might decide you don’t need it

One reason I like to shop around is because I often find I don’t need whatever it is I’m looking for in the first place.  For example, we’ve shopped around for big ticket items before only to end up borrowing something from a friend instead.  Or we’ve shopped for something only to realize that we didn’t want to spend that much money.  Taking extra time gives all of us a chance to let the prospect of a big purchase sink in.

You can strike when you find the best deal

I like shopping around for a long time because it helps me gain perspective on what is, and isn’t, a really good deal.  When I take my time, I can browse, hem, and haw until I see a deal so crazy that I just can’t pass it up.

You might find something better

Shopping for electronics is tricky anyway.  There are so many models of cameras, camcorders, tablets, and phones out there that it can be difficult to know what you want in the first place.  If you shop around long enough, you might find a product that has different or better features than the one you were initially looking for.

You can find out what you really want

I don’t know about you, but I change my mind about wanting things all the time.  I wanted Ugg boots once, for example.

Glad that’s over.  On the other hand, when I really want something, I buy it.  In fact, I had $286 in “fun money” in a Huntington Bank until last Tuesday when I ordered a giant blown-up picture I took of Stonehenge from Shutterfly.com.  It was $57, and I freaking love it!  Now I just need to spend 1-3 years to figure out where to hang it, and feel really guilty that it’s sitting on the floor in the meantime.  See how that works? 

The point is this: We all work hard for our money.  Spending time to shop around can be beneficial because we are more likely to end up with things we really want- not just impulse purchases.

How Long Do You Shop for Big Purchases?

Awesome.
Awesome.

I’m pretty bad about price-shopping, but my husband is the absolute worst.  He will wear a shirt with a big hole in it for months because he doesn’t feel like shopping for a new one.  I swear, I need to do an entire blog post about his wardrobe.  It is…sooo….sad.

Regardless, delaying purchases isn’t really a bad thing as long as your basic needs are met.  And there’s nothing wrong with taking the time to make sure you get exactly what you want.  It’s your money, right?  And you never know, you might even find that you don’t need that pricey gadget or piece of furniture anyway.

How long do you shop for big purchases?  Should Greg get me an iPod for Christmas?  Where should I hang my 36 X 12 picture of Stonehenge?

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56 Comments

  1. I tend to ponder them for a few months, but Mr PoP will ponder purchases for YEARS. He’ll research every aspect of an item and make sure he’s absolutely getting the best value before finally pulling the trigger – that is, if he pulls the trigger at all. Often I think that the research is the part he enjoys the most.

    1. Mr. Frugalwoods is EXACTLY the same as Mr. PoP in this regard! The man has been researching compact tractors (and hunting for them on Craigslist) for our future homestead for a good year and will continue to do so for the next several years until such a time as he might actually buy one.

      I do appreciate the thoroughness and I wait an incredibly long time to purchase large items too. I’ve been known to keep things on list for years as well. And usually, I don’t end up buying them.

      1. Yep, I did that with a John Deere 2305 compact tractor. So what’s the issue? 🙂

  2. Depends. Mostly we put things off if they take effort, like finding someone to fix the master bath after the kittens destroyed it.

  3. They still make ipods? Can’t you just use your smartphone as a music player? I mean that’s what I have been doing for years.

    As far as large purchases go… I take my time. I am really really good at talking myself out of spending money on things.

      1. Me too, Holly. I don’t want my phone to be smarter than me!

  4. Hilarious about Greg’s wardrobe! My wife has become so distrusting of not only what clothes I wear but also how I wear them. Before I leave every day she does the triple check: shirt ironed, fly zipped, pants not tucked in socks. Seriously? Actually she’s saved me a lot of potential embarrassment. I’m looking forward to that post.

    1. My husband wears a suit to work. The problem comes with his loungewear. He has shirts and shorts that are 20+ years old.

  5. I’m sort of like this…haha. So, it takes me FOREVER to finally decide I want to purchase something, but once I decide…I purchase it within a day, lol.

    Our SUV is a good example. We had a Toyota Corolla and 2 babies in the back, making it extremely crowded. My poor hubby could barely even fit in the car because of the car seats. He had been wanting an SUV since before our second even came along. I stalled, and stalled, and stalled, until finally deciding he was right. We bought our SUV one day later. I know for sure we would have purchased a less expensive one had we shopped around, but if I do that…I back out lol. I just have to go for it sometimes!! 🙂

  6. I take forEVER with big purchases because I don’t want to make the wrong decision and regret it. It drives my spendthrift husband crazy, but I have several purchases I’ve made too quickly sitting around the house that I regret… It’s like I keep them around to taunt myself.

    1. Oh, I have plenty of things I regret buying around here!

  7. I think about things for a long time but when we decide, I’ll buy it pretty quickly. Although, we have been shopping for a new couch for about 2 years now….. My iPod is older than yours and it’s going to die any day now, but I know how to use it and I hate to learn something new, so I hope it hangs on!

    1. I hope so too =) Mine hung in there for a long time.

  8. I’m usually not quite that……careful about purchases, but I won’t make even a small one without thinking about it for at least a little while.

  9. Ben Luthi says:

    I’ve been thinking about buying a new (used actually) car for well over a year. I’m pretty sure it won’t happen anytime soon though. BTW I have a solution to your ipod problem. Email me your address and I’ll send you my ipod shuffle (if I can find it…it’s even the same color!). I haven’t used the thing in ages.

    1. Ben Luthi says:

      Nevermind! I found it and it’s dead.

  10. That’s funny about Greg’s wardrobe! 🙂 My seven year old daughter is pretty frugal, she doesn’t want me to buy her a new pair of shoes because her old shoes are still fine even if it’s old already and her feet got red after she wore her shoes!

  11. I’m not quite that careful but I usually last months before I spend money on things. I did that with my car and any tech gadget over $50. Oh, and my haircut! 😉 I usually research like crazy for way too long before actually making the decision. On smaller stuff though I’m way less careful and prone to impulse spending. It’s kinda strange.

  12. Haha…I’m just like David! That’s how I am too. I definitely am not an impulse shopper and often times the urge to buy whatever I was going to buy goes away. But the times that I do buy it…I often score a great deal because I’ve been patient.

    1. I am impulsive about putting things in my cart but usually put them back before checking out!

  13. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    I think it depends for me on the need. I will research for a while, but if it’s an immediate need item, I will go ahead and buy it. My old laptop was physically and software-wise falling apart (screws in bottom panel somehow disappeared? blue screen of death at random moments? it was cheap…) so I had shopped around and decided on a Lenovo Yoga which I love and plan on using until it dies. I also bought it from Costco, which I shopped around and learned had the best warranty option. This was when the Yoga first came out so I couldn’t really buy one used on Ebay. I’m not opposed to buying used, high-quality electronics on Ebay, however, and I might do that for my next purchase (so long as the seller has a good rating).

    Same thing with a car we recently purchased. We went the certified used route and ended up having to take a 2 hr bus ride to a dealership with this specific car I found online. After researching other models out there and getting actual vehicle value from my mom who works in auto financing, I knew this was the car to buy. Because we needed a car, we went through with the purchase instead of continuing shopping around.

    However, I am in the need for a better desk, but because I currently have a less-than-ideal desk and I don’t want to spend the money, I am crawling craigslist for the best deal. Because I have a desk, I really don’t need it, but because this desk lacks a filing drawer and storage drawer, and is not large enough for my printer, computer, and other desk needs, I want to replace it. But since I have a desk, I can’t justify spending much on the replacement, hence the long time Craigslist search

    1. I bought a really awesome desk on craigslist once- the buyers of my old house wanted it and wrote it into their purchase agreement. Ugh!

  14. I struggle with purchase paralysis on the big purchases too, thinking I’m always going to find a better deal somewhere else if I just wait (of course the choice overload doesn’t help either). It’s generally when I know I really NEED to get it done and can’t afford to delay anymore that I finally pull the trigger.

  15. I usually wait a pretty long time for big purchases. Right now I keep thinking bout a video camera of some sort because when I can get the opportunity to shoot, I don’t really want it to be on my iPhone But I work with plenty of people who do have good cameras, and for now I’ve been fudging my way through borrowing theirs…although it’s inconvenient, and makes me nervous if something should happen to it. On the other hand I bought a small little $20 ish tripod for my iPhone because it wasn’t much and could do a lot with it right now. Have you thought about a used iPod on CL?

    1. Yes, I check sometimes. Nothing in my area yet. I’m not that picky and would probably buy one if it was a relatively good deal!

  16. It depends. If it’s something I want but don’t need, I might take a few months and wait for a good deal. However, when it comes to electronics, I’m usually forced to make a quick decision because the one I have suddenly broke.

    1. That has happened to me with laptops before. I have to have one for work. Waiting is generally not an option!

  17. I tend to ponder for a few months before I pull the trigger. For the last big purchase, an iMac, it took me over half year to decide that the old MacBook Pro is too slow and needs to be replaced. There have been times where I end up not buying the big items at all after months of pondering.

    1. I need a new laptop- that’s another thing I’ve been putting off.

  18. If I really want something I buy it. Other things, like a new ukulele, I’ve been shopping for years to find the perfect one and then to think the price is justified.

    My husband uses a service on his phone where he can stream any music he wants to hear for free. There are lots of options now outside ipods!

  19. That picture is pretty awesome – you took it? I guess I know what your next side-hustle is going to be…..geez. At any rate, I do the same thing. It usually does take the hubby getting sick and tired of me shopping and he’ll finally just make the decision for me. With regard to the ipod, though – I love the FM radio on my phone. A paid of headphones and I’m good to go! No ipod needed!

    1. Yes, I totally took it! Love that picture! Yeah, my phone doesn’t do anything.

  20. I still have my ipod from college that I bought 10 years ago. I have to charge it after every time I use it bc the battery only lasts like 30 minutes, but I only run for like 25, so it actually works out…
    ANd also? I don’t even HAVE the CDs anymore with the all the songs that are on my ipod, and frankly, I’m not sure that I can own an ipod without my whitney houston and celine dion collection 😛
    Until it doesn’t turn on anymore, I’m not getting a new one.

  21. If it costs more than $20, it takes me forever to make the decision to buy it. And yet I will buy 5 things for $20 each, but freeze up buying 1 thing for $100. I have no explanation for this.

  22. Haha glad this inspired a post! I wrote a blog about tablets in November 2013 and honestly have gone back and forth since then. I’ve actually had quite a bit of fun looking into various types of tablets, 2-in-1s, and even traditional laptops. I can’t bring myself to make a decision, though! But if I had made a quick decision last November/December my tablet would probably already be outdated and/or I’d regret it if I didn’t end up using it much.

    There are some things that I spend very little time or energy deciding on whether to buy. This tends to happen when I can’t afford to wait (i.e. if a car is totaled or needs some ridiculous repair). But if I can afford the time I take as long as possible.

    1. I don’t think I’ll ever have a tablet because I NEED a laptop. It doesn’t make much sense for me to have both.

  23. I tend to over-research large purchases 🙂

    About your picture- it looks awesome ! I love to travel too- so I made a travel gallery wall of pictures 🙂 it’s pictures of where I want to go, where I have been, and cool postcards that people have brought me back from their travels. I actually found picture frames at thrift stores and yard sales and spray painted them so they match color wise, but aren’t the exact same boring frame over and over

    1. I like that idea! I should do that because I have a ton of random frames that would probably look cool together.

  24. I tend to pull the trigger pretty quickly, mostly because l hate shopping, so l don’t try it on or anything. The problem is once l buy it, l don’t use it..which Is just wasteful. At the end of the year, l end up donating to Goodwill, especially clothes, all with the tags intact, and l wear the same clothes over and over again. My husband usually has to secretly toss a lot of my clothes, to get me to wear the newer ones..lol! Now, thankfully, l am getting better. I just don’t feel the need to shop anymore. Apple has stopped production on iPods. Maybe buy an old iphone 4, could probably get that cheaper on ebay now as people are snapping up the old iPods for nostalgia sake.

  25. Oh, I do the same thing. It takes me a long time as I like to research things until the cows come home. My wife has to push me to actually purchase something because I won’t if it would be up to me.

  26. I love your picture of Stonehenge!! It came out awesome! As far as where to hang it, it seems like a living space or office space would be the best bets. I can’t imagine it hanging in a bathroom or bedroom. As far as big purchases, I used to make knee-jerk decisions where those were concerned, but now it usually takes months. I like to wait for newer generations of items to come out and then I get the “old” model that no one wants but works fine for me.

  27. I can definitely relate. For me it depends on whether it’s a need or a want, and how big of a purchase. Even if it’s small, but it’s a want, I take my time and often decide against it altogether. I’ve been toying with buying a small, cheap coffee maker for awhile now. I don’t really need it: I don’t drink coffee every day and I can drink instant, so I’m leaning against it despite my wife’s plea to just buy it already. If it’s a big purchase, I take my time to get the best deal, often continuing to check the prices even after I’ve made the purchase. Another benefit of waiting to buy is that you have extra time to save up for your purchase.

  28. I often shop a long, long time. I find that if I am doing that then I really didn’t need or want the item all that bad…yet anyway. And sometimes it turns out to be a really good thing. When we were thinking of getting a second car we shopped for a year and a half. Now part of that was because DH is tall and just doesn’t fit in every car and I am short and what works for him won’t always work for me. Anyway, when we shopped that long we ended up with no pay for 2 months and half pay for 6 months. We used what we saved while shopping, to live. Now, we’ve learned and just don’t buy things spur of the moment till we are ready. And usually if we are ready it really doesn’t take us very long to shop.

  29. I spend a long time. I am currently in the hunt for a 30 gallon + air compressor and because I heard that my buddy got one on sale for < $300. I keep shopping for that deal. I just need to wait until that sale comes around again. So far I have waited 5 months. I will also take months to years to to buy a car.

  30. On my phone I have my “it can wait” list of big purchases I need to make at some point, but that aren’t urgent. A new iPod is on my list, too! Like you said, I often, in time, realize I don’t need some of the things after all. I also use that list to make notes of prices as they fluctuate. This helps me mull it all over and be absolutely sure when I do shell out the money.

  31. I’m the same way! I used to buy things randomly so now I take a super long time to buy something. I really want a Chromebook, but I’m sure it’ll be months before I get one. Unfortunately I waited too long to get the iPod classic and now they’re out of stock. 🙁 Sometimes waiting can hurt you.

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