Four Questions That Can Keep You from Buying What You Don’t Need

A Sucker is Born every Minute. My minute was November 15 1946.

A Sucker is Born every Minute. My minute was November 15 1946.

I’ve always been an easy mark for glitzy sales gimmicks. When I go to outdoor sporting shows, you can find me standing in a trance, handing my money to some pitch-man who does fancy demonstrations.

I bought a hand-cranked vegetable compactor/combination/food dehydrator that makes peanut butter out of recycled zucchini skins. And that pocket-fisherman thing, as seen on TV. Fished around in my pocket for years. Never caught a thing.

So the vacuum cleaner guy who appeared at our door one day must have thought he’d died and gone to heaven.

I sat breathless as he demonstrated how the powerful suction of his vacuum cleaner could rip a newspaper to shreds. Then he leaned closer and lowered his voice: “You won’t believe this,” he said, as he reconfigured the vacuum cleaner so that it blew air out rather than sucking it in.

He pointed the nozzle of the hose upward and placed a ping pong ball in the column of air blowing from the machine. The ball magically bounced up and down, suspended in the air flow. I couldn’t even speak. Then he whispered, “Watch this!”

From his little demonstration case he pulled a golf ball, which he released into the flow. This heavier ball dropped almost to the hose’s nozzle before it began to bounce and bob in the column of air. I barely heard the salesman who looked over his shoulder as if to tell me a secret no one else could hear. He whispered, “Other vacuum cleaners won’t do a golf ball!”

I was already reaching for my wallet. I paid over three hundred dollars for that vacuum cleaner, and to this day it won’t suck dirt.

Buyer beware!  It isn’t the glitzy demonstration or the smooth canned sales pitch that should suck the dollars from our wallet.

Here’s three questions that will help you determine what to buy and when.

1.  Do I really need it? 

I never used that vacuum except to impress me friends with the golf ball trick.

2.  Can I afford it?

Back then, 300 dollars was to me like a thousand is today.  I ate peanut butter sandwiches for months to help pay for my foolishness.

3.  What benefit will it bring me? 

This is the most important consideration of all.  It is closely related to  the first question.  I already had a vacuum cleaner that sucked just fine.  What benefit was there to one that could blow air out?  None! It wasn’t powerful enough to blow leaves only powerful enough to hold up a golf ball.  Now there was a benefit that would serve me well the rest of my life.

4.  Will I still want it tomorrow?  When I expressed a desire to buy something, my Dad would make me write it down and wait two weeks.  Somewhere in the world there are thousands of scraps of paper containing the scribbled name of something I couldn’t live without — but did live without.  Most of the time I forgot what I had written within days.

There is nothing wrong with a great sales presentation.   As a person who sells goods and services, I ask the same questions before I produce anything I expect people to buy.

1.  Do they really need it?  Will it enhance their lives?

2.  Can they afford it?  Will it be worth their time and money?

3.  What benefits will it bring to them?  There had better be plenty!

4.  Will it continue to be of value tomorrow? Will they return for more because of  the value received?

There are more questions that can be helpful, but there is a guy at the door with a machine that will knock ten strokes off my golf game in three days.  I gotta go!

Have you ever bought something worthless because of a smooth talking salesman or glitzy demo?  

What keeps you from impulse buying?

NOTE:  There was ONE benefit that did make this vacuum cleaner worth it’s weight in gold.  Watch for my next post.


  1. After being really stupid with money and paying the consequences at 25 years old, God has grown me big time.

    I will NEVER own another credit card and I wait at least 24 hours before making any large purchases.

    Oh.. and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a MUST for everyone!

  2. I love this! Thank you for sharing it. My little way of dealing with buying decisions is to think on it for at least 24 hrs and of course sometimes it is a decision where the item may no longer be available after that time but that is part of the process for me.

  3. God knows only too well what I’m like with money, I can get
    $10 value from $100 any day of the week so He sent me a woman who does the opposite,
    $100 value from $10. Guess who runs the money side of things in this house. It’s a win
    win all round, all I do is tell her how much I want and My Lady does the
    rest. Ain’t the Lord awesome? My Lady’s wonderful too. I love them both.

  4. I used to be an impulse buyer. At the young age of 26 I put myself on a budget because I wanted to be a home owner. I followed it to the penny, determined to get out of debt and buy a house. I did it, too. Since then I’ve run into the loss of jobs too many times and had to pull myself out of debt to get back on top. My trusty budget works every time. Now, at the age of (nunya bidness) I won’t buy things I don’t need UNLESS I have extra to spare for a trinket. I will allow myself a reward once in awhile and that helps with the “walking away from” most of the time. It’s like being on a diet, you deny yourself most of the time but to be successful at it you have to allow yourself that treat. If you don’t the diet will fail every time. I make a living at being on a diet…. I am financially responsible for my parents now and that’s a scary burden but I am blessed to have the means to do it and that I still have them in my life. PS: I read your post in my best Ken Davis voice and mannerisms… 🙂 (Jennifer, from Family Fest with the tablet you signed. Thank you, by the way)

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