It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of making a specific purchase. After all, that’s what advertising is all about: The attempt to encourage you to buy something that you don’t actually need.

Before you pull the trigger and make a purchase, consider stepping back a moment. A waiting period can help you spend smarter, ensuring that you are making the right decision for your finances. Many people institute waiting periods of between three and 30 days. Figure out what time period is likely to work for you. If you still need or want the item after the waiting period is up, it’s more likely to be a smart purchase.

Why Do You Want That?

The first question to ask yourself is, “Why do I want this?” First of all, this question forces you to consider that you might not want something that you think you do. Instead of buying it immediately, on the impulse of wanting something, institute a waiting period. During this time, ask yourself why you want the item.

Be honest about why you want something. If you want something just because it looks cool, or because you want the same thing the neighbor has, you might be on the short path to a poor purchase decision. The waiting period can give you time to examine your motives, and decide not to buy if they are wanting.

Do You Still Want It?

One of the great things about the waiting period is that it really puts things into perspective. After 15 days, has your lifestyle really deteriorated because you didn’t make that purchase? Do you still really want the item? In many cases, the answer to both of those questions is probably no. Your life probably isn’t worse because you didn’t spring for the bigger TV, or the fancy exercise equipment. Additionally, you might be eying something else.

When we make purchases in the moment, our feelings are more intense. However, if we put off the purchase, those feelings of urgency tend to fade. As a result, you are more likely to view the situation in a clearer light if you wait. And you might find that the strong feeling to buy now fades over time — saving you from making an ill-advised purchase.

Even if you still want something, it might be worth it to wait longer. Many items, especially electronics and entertainment purchases, drop dramatically in price over time. If you have the ability to wait a few months, you can save between 10% and 50%.

True Emergency

There are cases in which you might really need something right now. In a true emergency you might need to make quick decisions and dispense with the waiting period. However, most purchases don’t fall in this category. Needing to replace a broken freezer is a completely different proposition from buying Madden 2013 the day it comes out. Be realistic about what constitutes an emergency, and put a waiting period in place for all discretionary purchases.

Tom Drake

Tom Drake

Tom Drake writes for Financial Highway and MapleMoney. Whenever he’s not working on his online endeavors, he’s either doing his “real job” as a financial analyst or spending time with his two boys.