7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Make a Big Purchase

making a purchase on mobile phone
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It's important to make sure that you're financially ready to make a large purchase – and that it fits in your budget.

The definition of big purchases can vary from person to person, and your household income, amount of debt, or size or your retirement savings will all contribute to what you consider a "big" purchase.

When considering a large purchase, ask yourself the following questions before signing on the dotted line.

Do I Have Cash to Pay for the Item?

If you can afford to pay cash for the item without depleting your emergency fund, then you should be OK purchasing the item. This means that the purchase should not adversely affect your current monthly budget.

If you do not have the cash to cover the purchase, do without the item until you have enough money to pay for it in cash. Whenever possible, avoid making big purchases on credit cards.

Do I Really Need This Item?

This question helps you really think about whether you need the item or if it is something you simply want or a luxury purchase. If it is a luxury purchase, be sure that you can afford it and that you can pay cash for it. If it is a true need, then you need to determine why you need it and when.

For example, you may need to buy a car, since yours is in need of frequent repairs. But you do not need a top-of-the-line flat screen TV. Determining if the purchase is a want or a need can help you to prioritize it in your budget.

If You Do Need the Item, Do You Need It Right Now?

If you do need the item, but you do not currently have the cash for it, is there any way you can do without the item for a short time?

For example, ​if your dryer has stopped working, and you need to purchase a new one, can you hang your clothes out to dry or can you use your local laundromat while you save up for a new dryer? You may also be able to borrow the item from a friend or family member while you are saving up to purchase one of your own. You can set up a sinking fund to help you save up the costs. 

Can You Find a Used One that Will Work?

Looking for used items is a great way to save money on a big purchase. You can buy lawnmowers, refrigerators, freezers and almost any other item used for a fraction of the cost of a new item.

Often you can buy professional-grade appliances and tools this way and end up with a better quality item at a lower price. Take time to research your items to determine if it's a good purchase.

Is It Worth the Investment to Purchase the Higher-Quality Product?

It may be worth the money to spend extra to get the top of the line product that will hold up to the wear and tear that you put on it. For example, you can purchase an average vacuum cleaner at a store for anywhere from $50-$80 or even less, but these vacuums often break after one or two years.

If you purchase a more expensive vacuum for $500 with a five-year warranty, you may end up saving money when compared to buying a cheaper vacuum, then replacing it a few years later. This is especially true if you can the expensive vacuum on sale.

When Does the Item Usually Go On Sale?

There are cycles of sales, and if you can wait a month for two you can save a bundle by waiting for the sale. For example, the best time to buy a lawnmower is in October when stores are discounting them to make room for winter items. Here is a more detailed list.

Have You Done Your Research?

When you purchase a big ticket item, you should take the time to thoroughly research the reviews and issues around the product. You should find a product that has the features you want at the best value.

Read product reviews, check out reports on the durability of the product, and even check the resale price to see how well the value holds up. Then, you can be sure you are making the right purchase for you.

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.