Buyer’s Remorse Explained: What It Is and Tips for Avoiding It

By Jamie Cattanach · February 21, 2024 · 10 minute read

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Buyer’s Remorse Explained: What It Is and Tips for Avoiding It

You know that feeling when you are excited to buy something, be it a cross-continent vacation or a slamming pair of boots, and very soon after are overwhelmed with regret? Welcome to the world of buyer’s remorse.

Maybe you are disappointed with your purchase, feel you have blown your budget, or both. Buyer’s remorse can rear its head for small and large purchases alike. You can feel it when you’ve swiped your card on a whim or even after researching your purchase for hours.

Fortunately, with a little bit of time, practice, and patience, you can learn to ditch the spending habits that most commonly lead to buyer’s remorse — so you can look forward to only those happy post-purchase feelings going forward. Keep reading to learn the full story.

What Is Buyer’s Remorse?

Buyer’s remorse is, quite simply, the feeling of regretting a purchase. It may be that you spent too much (i.e., the feeling you get in January when you review your holiday expenses) or because what you bought wasn’t quite as awesome as you thought (i.e., the feeling you get when your new boots give you blisters).

Buyer’s remorse is usually the effect of a certain level of cognitive dissonance, which is what happens when you have two competing and incompatible thoughts at the same time. For example, if you really want a new pair of headphones, and the ones you like are on sale, but you know you’ve already gone over budget for this month and simply can’t afford them, no matter how good the price is. That can be an example of cognitive dissonance. If you go ahead and purchase the item, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience buyer’s remorse.

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Examples of Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s remorse can show up in a variety of different ways, and the feelings themselves can be slightly different, too. Here are some examples of buyer’s remorse:

•   Booking a trip to Europe on your credit card and then realizing you’ll have to dip into your emergency savings to fund your vacation

•   Buying a cashmere V-neck sweater on sale — only to remember, when you get home, that you have one in excellent condition tucked in your drawer

•   Purchasing a new suitcase and realizing, when you first try to pack it up, that it’s too small to hold everything you need and wishing you’d bought a larger one.

Buyer’s remorse can occur for tiny purchases (a coffee you didn’t need, and now you’ve got the caffeine jitters) or huge ones (some homeowners, unfortunately, experience buyer’s remorse after they move in). The basic common denominator, though, is simple: You wish you hadn’t bought what you did.

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Types of Buyer’s Remorse

While buyer’s remorse can happen for a wide range of purchases, it can generally be broken down into two different categories: outcome regret and process regret.

Outcome Regret

As its name suggests, outcome regret refers to buyer’s remorse you experience when the outcome of your purchase doesn’t meet your original expectations. This might happen because you realize something else would have been a better purchase to suit your needs or because the thing you bought doesn’t meet your expectations — or both (as in the suitcase example above).

Process Regret

Process regret, on the other hand, indicates that you regret the purchase process more than the outcome itself. For example, if you think you should have spent a longer time researching before making a purchase decision (or, in some cases, less time) you’re likely feeling process regret.

Perhaps you spent a whole weekend choosing a hotel for a trip and then weren’t satisfied with the place you stayed. Or maybe you made an impulse purchase while at a furniture store and realize you should have spent more time and measured more carefully because your new coffee table is too big.

Signs of Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s regret shows up as an emotional reaction. You may feel anxious, angry, annoyed, scared, or sad about your purchase. You may notice that this feeling starts to show itself shortly after the purchase is made.

If you’ve ordered something online, for example, maybe before it even shows up at your doorstep. Or you may buy yourself a new watch and, the second you walk out of the store, start panicking about what the purchase will do to your credit card debt or checking account balance.

What Do You Do if You Have Buyer’s Remorse?

If you have buyer’s remorse, take heart: there are usually steps you can take to rectify it.

•   Return the item. If you’re feeling buyer’s remorse over a purchase, like a new sweater, you may be able to simply return the item for a refund. (Similarly, if you’ve booked travel you’re now regretting, you might see what the cancellation policy states.)

•   See if you can find ways to increase your satisfaction with your purchase. If you’re experiencing buyer’s remorse over a larger purchase, like a home or car, it might not be as simple as a quick return. However, you may be able to find ways to increase your satisfaction with the purchase. For example, you might decorate your home in a way that feels good to you, or outfit your car with a bike rack to increase its storage capacity.

•   Use the opportunity to change your spending. If you’re stuck with the purchase you made, now might be a good time to review your spending habits and come up with some new ones. While it won’t cure your current buyer’s remorse, it may keep you from feeling it again in the future.

For instance, you might realize that you shop when bored and find other ways to spend your free time versus strolling through your favorite stores.

How Long Does Buyer’s Remorse Last?

Depending on the size of the purchase, buyer’s remorse might be brief or long-standing. For instance, it could linger for just a few moments — for example, if you order way more sushi than you can actually eat — or for several months or longer (say, if you discover you really are unhappy with the neighborhood in which you purchased a home).

In any event, going through and combatting buyer’s remorse is an emotional experience, so it’s important to be gentle with yourself. Do what you can to minimize its impact, and learn from the experience.

Tips for Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse

The best way to deal with buyer’s remorse? To avoid feeling it in the first place. Here are some ideas to help dodge that post-purchase sinking in your stomach again.


A budget can give your spending some guardrails. Making a budget can help you work out to cover all your necessary expenses and to prioritize which discretionary expenses are most important. Sticking to a budget can be a great way to avoid buyer’s remorse from the start because you know what you have to spend. Follow the guidelines, and you likely won’t regret blowing too much on a purchase.

Practice Patience

Sometimes, the main culprit behind buyer’s remorse is impulse buying: If you’d just given yourself a day or two to really think through that purchase, you might have decided you didn’t need it in the first place. By practicing patience and forcing yourself to take time to think through your purchases, you may be less likely to experience buyer’s remorse.

Some people find that waiting a couple of weeks or even a month before making a big, unplanned purchase can help escape buyer’s regret as well. It gives you time to decide whether or not that new item or experience is actually worth it.

Try the 30-Day No-Spend Challenge

After experiencing buyer’s remorse, you may decide you want to take a temporary break from non-essential spending, sometimes known as a no-spend challenge. You could start with as little as a week, but extending your no-spend challenge to 30 days will give you a chance to understand how often you make impulse purchases. (Be sure to write out a clear list of exceptions to the rule, including regular bills, groceries, and pre-planned one-time expenses such as regular car maintenance.)

This exercise can help give you a new perspective on spending and be more mindful with your money going forward.

Ask the Right Questions

Say there’s a jacket you like that is on sale, reduced from $300 to $189. You’re about to snap it up, but wait a moment. Ask yourself: How long did you have to work to earn enough (after taxes) to afford the price tag? How many jackets do you have at home, and are they in good condition? Do you really need another? How will you feel if you buy the new jacket and see it hanging unworn in your closet six months from now?

Hold yourself accountable for the impact a purchase will have on your financial situation and whether you really need it or it’s just another nice thing you might own. Instead of shopping, could your money do more for your finances if deposited in a savings account?

Do Research Before You Buy

While it’s possible to feel buyer’s remorse after a well-researched purchase vs. an impulse buy, it’s less likely. Usually, the more information you have before you pull the trigger, the more likely you are to get what you want. So consider amping up the amount of time you spend researching your purchases before you make them.

Write a List of What You Need and Stick to It

If you tend to make impulse buys while you’re meandering the grocery store, for example, it might be time to employ a shopping list. That way, as tempted as you might be to grab that package of pistachios, Pop-Tarts, and some fancy flavored seltzer, you’ll have that list to hopefully keep you in line and on track with your spending.

Set Shopping Boundaries

Like any other part of life, establishing boundaries around shopping is critical to ensuring your wellbeing and success. Some examples of boundaries: Decide you won’t shop alone, online after 10 pm, or while you’re feeling sad or angry.

Bring Cash Over Your Credit Card to Avoid Overspending

Money is money, but tapping your card at the terminal can feel a lot easier than parting with cold, hard cash — too easy, in fact. Plus, credit makes it easy to spend more than you can actually afford to, and buyer’s remorse can just be compounded when it also leads to having to pay down debt.

The Takeaway: Saving Money with SoFi

What is buyer’s remorse? It’s the feeling that occurs when you regret making a purchase, whether it’s that cappuccino en route to brunch or booking a beach trip that’s way out of your budget. You can avoid this uncomfortable and potentially budget-busting sensation with some careful consideration and new shopping habits. Your bank account may thank you!

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What are some questions to ask yourself before you make a purchase?

To avoid buyer’s remorse, consider asking yourself questions like: Do I really need this item, or just want it? Will I still want it in two days? Two weeks? How much time and effort did it take me to earn the money I am about to spend? What else could I purchase with that money if I made a different decision?

What should I do if an item is limited in stock and won’t restock after?

Sometimes, buyers make impulsive purchase decisions because an item is in limited supply or on sale for a limited time. While these external factors can make a purchase seem more urgent, it’s still worth taking the time to decide whether or not you truly need the item — or if you’re likely to feel buyer’s remorse over it. A new pair of boots you didn’t need can still feel like a waste of money, whether you spent $200 or $139 on sale for them.

What are common items that people have buyer’s remorse about?

This is a very personal situation. People commonly feel buyer’s remorse over large expenses like huge weddings, vacations, boats, or expensive cars. However, you can also feel buyer’s remorse over smaller purchases like unnecessary clothing, restaurant meals, makeup, or anything that you simply don’t need.

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