If You Have to Justify a Purchase, You Probably Didn’t Need It.

Do you ever find yourself buying something, telling someone about your purchase, and before they say anything, you start explaining why you needed it?

I know I have.

And 99% of the time, it was something I didn’t need.

Scenario One

ME: ”Hey Babe, I went to the store and bought some ingredients to make dinner tonight”; HIM: ”Sounds great, I can’t wait to try it!”

No explanation needed. Obviously if you need something there is no justification required. My husband wouldn’t retort with ”Why did you buy ingredients we needed for a meal we need to eat”. We need it, so that’s why bought it.

Scenario Two

ME: ”Hey Babe, I went to the store and bought some ingredients to make dinner tonight and I also bought a massive jar of Nutella, a five pound bag of apples and some nail polish…BUT before you say anything! I needed this stuff. I know I only went for the dinner ingredients but the Nutella was on sale, even though we have 6 apples in the fridge I’ll bake (something else we don’t need) with this bag and I haven’t bought new nail polish in f-o-r-e-v-e-r so really, I needed that too” HIM: ”eyeroll”.

I can’t even convince myself with scenario two as I type it out, yet I have done it a gazillion times. I go to the store with a list and convince myself that there are other items that I needed.

If you really have to justify a purchase to yourself or someone else, you probably don’t need it and your money will be better spent (or saved) somewhere else.

There is a difference between thinking about a purchase and justifying it. You need to make the distinction. Take my recent laptop purchase as an example. Initially I didn’t need a new laptop. I spent weeks convincing myself a million reasons why I did though. In the end my head won and for two years I didn’t buy one. When she finally did stop working I no longer had to justify it, rather think the decision though and decide how muchΒ  I would spend and where I would buy it from. Two years ago I would have had to justify to my husband why I needed it. After it stopped working, and needed to be replaced, no justification was needed.

I have so much honest regret about crap I’ve wasted money on in the past and 100% of the time I had to justify the purchase to myself or someone else. Though I have come a long way, the struggle between wants and needs is a real thing.

When making a purchase on a want (the new shoes, the video game, the nail polish, the gym membership…) think about how much justification it’s going to take and then decide if it is worth it.

Life is too short to not be enjoyed. I’m not suggesting you don’t enjoy your money. What I am suggesting is that you value your money and make sure it is appropriated in the best manner. If something makes you genuinely happy, that is justification enough but if three days later you’re convincing yourself you still need ”it”, return it and rid your conscious of guilt.


  1. Yep, we’ve all been there! I have had to return dresses that I bought because I “needed” them. Luckily I have a husband who very kindly asks me to leave the tags on for a few days – maybe even try it on a couple of times – to make sure that I really “need” it. The tough part, though, is actually leaving the tags on!
    Retired by 40 recently posted..A Baby Costs What?!?! (It is not as much as you think) aka: Baby Costs on Tricare Reserve SelectMy Profile

  2. I used to do this ALL the time! (and sometimes, I still do after I buy something on impulse). I used to also hide any purchases I felt I would have needed to justify. Now, even with rare impulse purchases, I don’t hide them. I may try to justify it (especially if a small purchase) but not get upset if hubby calls me out on it. I just try to do better πŸ™‚

  3. I think justifying a purchase is important to an extent only when it turns out you do in fact need something. If you want to buy something asking yourself why you need it and how it will impact your life is important. When I say justify I mean… If I buy this computer I will be able to blog quicker… that’s justification worthy of the expense because time is money. Time also means we can spend more time together as a couple.

    We try very hard not to impulse shop but we do… it’s not easy to say no but trying is better than not doing it all. We both stand together and talk through why we need something, (yes, justifying the expense) and sometimes we do come to the conclusion that we do need it. Other times, we put it back and walk away. How’s that new computer? I bet you’re loving it! Great deal!
    canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Work more to work less with a compressed work weekMy Profile

  4. Wow! Love this post πŸ™‚ I’ve bought a few things since the beginning of the year that I didn’t truly “need” and I do always end up justifying them over and over again in my head. It is not a fun feeling.
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted..Decluttering DecisionsMy Profile

  5. Ha! As I was reading this I realized I almost always say “it was on sale!” when it comes to random food purchases.
    Kara recently posted..Budget Tales: When Excess Money Leads to Express SpendingMy Profile

  6. It’s such a slippery slope that I find I’m just better off going cold turkey on everything. Once in a while I gently release the brakes but I don’t really want to buy much. Material things that may lead to clutter are a big turn off to me these days too.
    debt debs recently posted..Preferred Shares – Time to Spend Some MoneyMy Profile

  7. I felt guilty about the iced latte I bought today because money has been tight and I certainly didn’t need it. I talked myself into it because it’s SO HOT outside. πŸ™‚ Guess even us pf bloggers do that every once in awhile. πŸ™‚
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..A Really Cool Surprise!/Link LoveMy Profile

  8. I do this all the time – in fact, I’ve been for an iced coffee today that I needed πŸ˜‰ but didn’t really! It was warm and I wanted something refreshing and didn’t want to wait until I got home. I guess we all slip up at times πŸ™‚
    Nicola recently posted..How Our Budget Works + A Free Budget Template!My Profile

  9. You’re totally right! We do this all the time as consumers I think. I think it would be hilarious if your husband said “Why did you buy ingredients we needed for a meal we need to eat?”…I would say that to my wife. HAHA Only because I’m a dork and it would be funny.
    Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog recently posted..24 Things That Are More Likely to Happen Than Winning the LotteryMy Profile

  10. You are so right! I am guilty of this and always try to do the cart check before I check out. I weigh how I will feel if I don’t get it and if I did would I feel guilty about it later. I have gone shopping quite a few times before where I will return a whole basket of items when I realized I was emotionally shopping and didn’t need a single thing in my basket. I just needed to get out of the house and think about something else!
    Bre @ The Weight of Debt recently posted..Pros and Cons of RentingMy Profile

  11. A big help for me in that department was reading Peter Menzel’s book “Material World“.

    The book documents dozens of families and their possessions. It’s astonishing how much the average Western family has compared to other families around the world. It’s a real wakeup call.

    NO. We don’t need it. We just want it. End of discussion.

  12. I remember a couple years ago falling in to the man trap at Canadian Tire. I walked by a set of drill bits which were on sale and bought them on impulse. After getting home I realized for the amount I’d use them I couldn’t justify keeping the bits. Thankfully I returned them the next day.
    ThriftyHamster recently posted..Getting FocusedMy Profile

  13. So true! I’m really bad for trying to justify things. Also, great job getting on Rockstar a Finance πŸ™‚
    Alicia recently posted..I’ve Been At This Blog Thing For One Year Now.My Profile

  14. I totally bought Nutella last week because I had a coupon. It was a bad buy originally, but now I’m really glad I did. Because it’s delicious and I don’t normally spoil myself.

    And there I go with justification….. :p
    femmefrugality recently posted..Another Way to Cut the CableMy Profile

  15. Good post Catherine! We all go through this and the key is to recognizing it so we can make those differentiations between it really being ok to spend on whatever it is and just spending on crap. I think the temptation is to just throw your hands up and give up on spending anything on yourself, but it’s about balance and finding that justification will generally lead you to foolish spending.

  16. This is the true story of most people including. We normally go to mall for purchasing some basic stuff but end up purchasing a lot more than our allocated budget.
    John Carter recently posted..Bracing for bad debt and how best to collectMy Profile

  17. Kathy from CT says:

    40 years ago I would always say to a friend “I deserve it” to justify purchases and she always laughingly replied “you always say that”. To get over the wants versus needs syndrome, my husband & I each have a small amount to spend weekly on impulse purchases. Oh, that’s not to say I don’t buy and then return half the items! So I guess I really don’t have it under control….or only half under control.

    I have to check out that book Free to Pursue mentioned. I WANT to get rid of a lot of the material possessions we’ve accumulated but to justify keeping them I think “I worked hard for that money I paid for this”. Am about half-way there, as I am finding new homes for the items. Homes where the person actually needs the item. I wouldn’t be in this position if I hadn’t justified the purchase in the fist place. Oh well, only look back for laughs!


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