10 Questions to ask before making a big purchase

We've had to make some large purchases (some of you, guys, know) -- a roof, an air conditioner, a refrigerator, and some new appliances. Of course we're always looking for the best deal and to use our money wisely. Today I wanted to share a few questions to ask before making a big purchase. 

1. Can I afford this?

What I mean by that is: Do I have the money in my account that doesn't need to go toward something else? Not: Am I going to put it on a credit card? Not: I'm going to take in a loan? Not: I'm going to finance it?

Do I already have cash in hand to pay for it? Is that cash earmarked for something else? If the answers to those questions are yes and no -- yes, I have cash; no, I don't need to spend it on something else -- you might be good to go.

2. Am I getting the best value?

When I was buying my brand new couches, I searched high and low for exactly what I wanted. I knew what I wanted: I wanted brown, micro-suede (meaning, fake fabric couches), I wanted recliners, I wanted something easy to clean, and I wanted it brought to my house in a certain amount of time.

I dealt with several furniture stores before I found exactly what I needed at the best price. It was the local place, and they, actually, gave me a little bit of a discount.

But I had to ask: Am I getting the most value for my money? Not what is the cheapest, but what is the most value? What is the highest quality? Which company is the easiest to work with? Who is going to deliver it for free? What furniture company would I like to work with again? Is it going to be easy to clean?

I wanted to make sure -- not necessarily that I was spending the least amount of money -- but that I was getting the most value for my money.

3. How long do I have to work to pay for this?

Once you start thinking about the time value of money, once you start thinking about how many hours you have put into each dollar amount, you start thinking about money differently. If it's going to take you 3 weeks to earn the money to pay for something, it better be worth that money, right? It better be worth the time that it took to earn that money.

If it's not something that you really need, or something that you're not going to use for a long time, or it's a splurge, it might not be worth the time that it took to earn it.

4. Are there any hidden costs to this item?

Now, this is especially good when buying appliances, like an air conditioner, a dishwasher, a refrigerator, a washing machine. What are the extra costs to this? Is it efficient? Is it going to cost me more dollars than the unit that I have now because it costs more to operate it? Is it going to use more water? Is it going to use more energy?

That requires a little bit of research. There are lots of websites where you can find out these things, like consumer reports, so you can check the Energy Star rating. That's information that you need to have before you make that purchase.

Also, if it breaks down, are they going to come and fix it at no extra charge to you? Is there going to be a maintenance fee? These are questions that you need to ask before making that purchase.

5. What else could I spend this money on?

Do I need this money for something else? When our dishwasher broke, it took us a while to buy a new one because I knew that we needed to spend that money on other things. That money was better used towards other goals, so it meant hand washing our dishes for a while. But it was worth it, in the end, because then we had the extra cash in hand and we didn't have any other outside obligations in our way.

6. Can I sleep on it?

Is this deal still going to be available tomorrow? Am I feeling rushed? Do I have time to think this through? If you're dealing with a salesperson that's like, "You need to buy it now; it's the last one left. You need to buy it now. Sale is ending," you're not going to make a good decision; you're going to feel rushed. Maybe that's not the sale for you, and you just need to walk away. It might not have been meant to be.

7. Can I borrow this from someone?

Do I really need one more? Or can I borrow my neighbor's if I just pay for gas? Are there things that you really need, or can you just borrow them from a friend or a neighbor?

That's what we did when we moved into our house three years ago. We borrowed a horse trailer instead of renting a U-Haul.

8. Can I buy this used?

Can I go to Goodwill and buy the same thing? Or can I buy it from a used dealership? Or from a friend or from Facebook, and save myself a few bucks?

9. Where am I going to put it?

If I bought a big appliance or a new couch or a new piece of furniture, where am I going to put this? Do I have room in my house? Am I going to have to store something else? Is there something I can get rid of? Is there something I can sell and earn the money to pay for it?

Where am I going to put it? Do I have room? Is it just going to be cluttered, at the end of the day?

10. Do I really need it?

Is this something that I've just decided that I needed? Or do I really, absolutely have to have it?

Our microwave exploded in August and we just didn't replace it for a long time. We finally got a new one because we have a baby; I don't have time to heat everyone's food in the oven now. But it took us 7-8 months to replace it. And we really didn't miss it until kid number 3 came.

What about you? What questions do you ask before making a purchase?