Frugal Student Tip #5 – Question Every Purchase

Avoid frivolous expenses. Question every purchase.Do you ever go out for one specific item only to leave the store with a bag full of stuff? Do you find yourself buying things that you only use once — or worse, things that you bring home and never take out of the packaging? Do you have clothes that still have tags on them?

We’ve all been there, wondering what happened. Once you figure out how to prevent these unplanned purchases, you’ll have more money and less clutter — important when you’re a student sharing a small space.

How to prevent buying things you don’t really need?

Question every purchase.

Before you buy, and more importantly, before you even touch an item in a store, ask these three key questions:

1. Is it a need or is it just a want? How do you tell the difference? Figure out if you can do without it for another week. Very often, after the initial want passes, you can forget about that thing you just had to have several days ago. If it turns out you really do need it, it may have even gone on sale in the interim.

2. Where will I put/wear this? If you cannot visualize yourself using the item right away, it is a want (not a need).

3. Can I find a cheaper alternative, or borrow from someone? If the item is something you truly need, can you find it somewhere at a lower cost? Discount stores, consignment shops (for clothing, for furniture, for dishes), and thrift stores can yield bargains on needed items. If you only need it for a short time, could you ask someone to borrow it? Could you trade something you don’t use?


If you like to watch movies at home, don’t buy new DVDs. Go for the dollar rental machine, or — even better — get them free at the library. Like to hang out at the corner coffee shop? Fantastic! But pass on the $5 fancy-named confection and go for the fresh-brewed small with half-price refill. Avoid the latte factor.

There are numerous reasons we buy things we don’t need. If you can identify why you want an item, you’ll be less likely to spend impulsively. That way, you keep your money forĀ things you need.

Find all the Frugal Student Tips here.

Author: Amy Widner

Amy is Vice President, Operations at Smart College Visit. She found her 20+ years of experience in corporate and higher education communication to be almost adequate preparation for her recent experience navigating the college search and admissions process with her oldest child. She finds joy in helping ease the process for all.

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