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10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Purchasing a New Piece of Clothing—Secondhand, Included

You can beat buyer’s remorse, save money, and reduce waste by keeping this list of questions handy the next time you’re contemplating a clothing purchase.

Written by
Erika Schwerdfeger

In case you couldn’t tell, we love to talk about the benefits of sustainable shopping and buying secondhand. From documenting the hidden costs of fast fashion to recommending online thrift stores to investigating Walmart’s Free Assembly line, we’ve covered it all. But being a responsible consumer isn’t only about what you buy—it’s also about reducing needless consumption overall.

Clothing is one of those areas where impulse buying—aka making a purchase on a whim—is easy. Whether it’s about current trends, a changing season, or that upcoming event, there’s usually something you can invoke to talk yourself into it. And when that happens, it’s not only your wallet but also the environment that takes a hit.

The amount of discarded clothing that ends up being tossed out is staggering: 85% of all textiles wind up in landfills every year. The fashion industry is also responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, uses around 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, and is to blame for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide

Taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of fashion is always a good idea. And one of the best ways to go about it impulse buying? Simply buy less.

How to Avoid Impulse Buying

We're all need to buy new clothing here and there. Instead of mindlessly adding items to your cart (hey, it's easy to do—even at the thrift store!), turn it into a more sustainable eperience by asking yourself some questions before whipping out your debit card.

Cat, the Australia-based blogger behind the blog Simple(ish) Living, shared her list of questions on Instagram that help avoid impulse buying—things she asks herself before purchasing any new item of clothing. As a self-professed “minimalist hoarder,” she knows that trying to shop sustainably doesn’t mean you never spend on things like clothes. But simply reflecting on questions like these, and practicing a little bit of patience, can completely transform that thing you thought you wanted into something you’ve all but forgotten about. 

"Sometimes, we can get wrapped up in the thrill of wanting something, and these questions might not necessarily be true and we might inflate the answer," Cat writes. "Waiting for a purchase is so important! I have a little wish list of items I want to buy, and over the past month I’ve crossed almost all of the items out because I no longer 'want' them."

Best of all, this is one of those cases where frugality and sustainability go hand in hand. Keeping these tips in mind could benefit both the environment and your bank account.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase

Before making that purchase, take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I really want it?
2. Do I have something similar in my closet?
3. Could I repurpose an item of clothing I already have into this item of clothing?
4. Why do I want the item, exactly?
5. Do I actually want it?
6. Will I actually wear it?
7. Can I afford it? Aka—is it really worth X amount of my working hours?
8. Will I get a lot wears out of it?
9. Is this a brand I want to support?
10. Will I still like this in the future?

Sometimes pausing long enough to ask yourself these questions could make you realize that your interest wanes after considering them. Cat recommends waiting at least a week before contemplating the purchase again. At that point, you might be surprised at how much your feelings have changed.