How to Make Rational Decisions as a Consumer
When heading out shopping, most people buy stuff they need… they shop out of necessity. However, people also make purchases out of other reasons. If you’ve ever bought something because it is cheap or there’s an attachment to it, then you can relate to this. Still, it is not uncommon to find yourself buying something because another person has it. In this case, you make the purchase to ‘belong’, stay trendy, or remain competitive. But whichever the reason for making the purchase, what makes you choose one item over an alternative?
Well, the best way to decide whether or not to make a particular purchase is to gauge the benefits that the item will have for you. Will you save a few bucks or will it improve your quality of life? Do you need it at all? Why pick that item and not the alternative option? The process of asking yourself all these questions as a consumer is what is referred to as rational decision making. It helps you make the right purchase decisions so you don’t end up regretting it in the future. But it is not easy, especially considering the numerous distractions from advertisers and marketers these days. It becomes even harder when presented with multiple choices to pick from. To help you become a smarter consumer, here are some tips on how to make rational decisions when making purchases.
1. Check Out Reviews Before Heading Shopping
As earlier mentioned, many factors surround why consumers make their purchases. If you’ve decided to buy a particular item already, it is always important to do some background research first. This allows you to determine what your options are and which option would be your best fit. However, this can be a tedious and time-consuming task, especially when comparing a long list of alternatives on the market. Thanks to the internet, professional reviews are a good place to look for help in making your purchase decision. From the professional reviews, you can get a wide range of insights to help you make an informed decision. Reviews comparing the best brands or models of the item you want to buy side-by-side and provide you with crucial information like:
- Product purpose and benefits
- How it is used
- And so forth
With this information, you can avoid making purchases blindly, which is all relational consumer decision making is all about.
2. Focus on What You Need
When you approach the mall or your favorite online store to buy an item, it is not unusual to find your attention grabbed by a product you never intended to buy in the first place. If you end up buying more stuff than you intended to, this is called impulse buying and it can easily drain your wallet and even strain your bank account over time. A smart and rational consumer will stick to the purchases they need to make regardless of how appealing the other stuff at the mall or store may appear. Sales and marketing reps can be extremely convincing too, so, remember to keep your focus on the product you need. If you’re going shopping for more than one product, it is important to have a list of things you need to buy to avoid impulse and pressure buying.
3. Weigh the Pros and Cons
Another trick to be smarter in your purchase decision is to have a list of pros and cons of purchasing the item over settling for another one or not buying it altogether. If you need a car, for instance, and you have a specific brand/model in mind, you can list the pros and cons of buying a new car vs a used one. Whenever the cons carry much weight, skip the purchase or pick an alternative. Here, your priorities will dictate your purchase decision, and this will be rational. If you have several options that may end up confusing you, you may want again to refer to professional reviews as we discussed above.
4. Don’t Rush
Delaying the purchase also gives you more time to assess your options, compare, and contrast. If the item is not needed urgently, it is best to give yourself some time to make the decision. This especially applies to big purchases such as real estate property, vehicles, business equipment, and home appliances, just to name a few. It gives you time to decide whether you really need the item or you’re just under unnecessary pressure to make the purchase. In addition to this, practicing restraint can also help you deal with the urge to buy what you really don’t need or can do without. You can look at it as more of taming the “beast of want” inside you, and this can help you avoid making irrational purchases.
5. Rethink Your Budget
One rule of the thumb when it comes to consumer economics is “always buy what you can afford”. You don’t want to buy the most expensive cooker in town using your credit card, only to spend months trying to clear the debt. Especially for groceries and other items normally bought in bulk, it can be a great idea to have a fixed and consistent budget for each period, say monthly. This not only keeps you from impulse buying, but it also helps strengthen your money discipline skills. Your budget should also be based on priority and necessity, as well; as affordability. Also, be watchful if you have to use coupons and avoid being wooed by discounts into buying what you had not planned or can’t afford.
Finally, remember to always shop with your mind fresh, relaxed, and sober. By all means, avoid stress shopping as this often leads to irrational buying and impulse spending. When making big purchase decisions, it is best to ensure that your mind is well relaxed and you are not sleep-deprived or intoxicated. With the above few tips, there’s a big chance you just became a smarter decision-maker when it comes to consumer purchases and spending.