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8 Questions to Ask Before Spending Money on Something


Sometimes a purchase is just a purchase. Like if your pants get a frayed seam and you buy a replacement pair. Or when you buy dish soap. But many times, we aren’t so deliberate and clear about our purchases. Instead, what we buy reflects our unconscious attempt to fill a need or desire. So, just why do we spend the way we do?

Belonging — our sense of acceptance and inclusion in a group or community.
Security — encompasses our ability to meet our basic physiological and psychological needs, including investment in the future and our health.
Purpose — refers to our contribution in a specific setting (or our reason for being).
Autonomy — refers to our independence and ability to exert control over our life, including personal enjoyment.
Connection — our relationships with others.
Expression — refers to our need to share our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and sense of self.

We can cultivate clarity and non-attachment by getting to the root of why we are making a purchase — by identifying which of the BSPACE needs is driving our decisions. Once you’ve determined any underlying reasons, it is still up to you whether or not to proceed. Sometimes you’ll deem the expenditures appropriate and sometimes you’ll decide to meet your underlying need in another way.

For example, suppose you’ve started a new job and notice that key individuals in your business unit all wear nice watches from the same few brands. Your need for belonging may unconsciously influence you to want to buy a similar watch. However, once you become mindful of this need, you may or may not choose to actually buy the watch. You might instead find other ways to feel a part of the group in your new workplace. Or you might buy a watch because you genuinely like it, and realize it can also fulfill your need for self-expression as well as belonging.

Pause Before You Purchase

Ask yourself the following types of questions as you pause before making a purchase or engaging in other types of monetary outlay. You may identify other specific questions you like to ask yourself, but these provide a good place to start. Some people like to write a few questions on a note card in their wallet or in their phone so they have them on hand and ready to use.

  • How am I feeling right now? Is this emotional state influencing my spending?
  • Am I spending to belong — to feel included or accepted?
  • Am I spending to feel more secure or to positively impact my future security?
  • Am I spending for reasons related to my sense of purpose in a particular situation or in general?
  • Am I spending for reasons related to my independence or to exert control over my circumstances?
  • Am I making this purchase to connect with others in some way?
  • Am I making this purchase to express myself?

And a final question, that isn’t related to the underlying needs but is always good to pause to ask: Is this purchase appropriate, given my resources?

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