Number One: You just went through a break-up.

(Or you lost your job, or your kid just lost his job, or your Mom criticized you for not having a good enough job, or your Mom criticized you for how messy your apartment is and it reminded you of how she always criticized you for playing too many video games when you were young, or you were playing too many video games and you lost at Overwatch…)

OK, you get the point. You lost at something. Love, life, career or video games. Now you need something to fill that emptiness so you can feel like a winner. So you buy a power tool. Yay!

It never gets used.

That didn’t help.

Number Two: You’re trying to solve some other problem.

What I mean here is: Let’s say the real problem is that I’m procrastinating on working on this Spend Smart Live Rich website. But I don’t want to face that procrastination. So I tell myself, “I just need to buy some better video recording equipment and then I’ll be all set!” No, because there’s no reason why I can’t work on some other aspect of the website in the meanwhile. So without the excuse to procrastinate, do I still care enough to buy that video equipment?

I mean, maybe I do care enough. But the excuse that I can’t work on the site until I buy such video equipment is just BS.

Or, let’s say you’re not good at talking to guys you have a crush on. So, you buy a totally cute dress! Amazing, but that isn’t really going to solve the actual problem. You have plenty of cute dresses, and the guy of your dreams has never seen any of them. Why? Because you’re too scared to talk to him! So he doesn’t even know he’s the guy of your dreams, and until you open up around him, he’s never going to notice you or your cute dresses.

Or, let’s say you are unhappy because you aren’t making enough money. So you buy a fancy car so you can feel rich. No elaboration is necessary here.

Number Three: Someone is selling it to you.

See the issue is that if it’s such a great service, why does it need to be sold to you? If it’s such a fantastic product, why aren’t you already looking for it?

Out of all the hundreds of things that anyone was trying to sell me, I can think of exactly one free sample that I got once that improved my life. It was some facial soap that really did help clean up and soften my skin. It was given to me by a really cute sales-girl at a mall who completely ignored me the first two times I walked by because I did not look like the target audience. I only talked to her because I was trying to figure out how to get over my shyness about talking to cute girls.

Hey, the best decisions I’ve made were for all the wrong reasons.

In all seriousness, if someone is trying to sell you something, always ask yourself why it needs to be sold. There will be rare occasions when a sales-person is hawking something you genuinely need. Most of the time, you should be suspicious.

Number Four: Your broke brother-in-law recommends it.

We have the strangest habit of believing recommendations and taking peoples’ advice. We do it even when we have no reason to believe the source is qualified.

Normally I don’t tell people I’m a financial advisor when I first meet them. And I’ve been shocked at the number of clearly unsuccessful people who have offered me investing advice that I did not ask for. What is it with us? Why do so many of us feel such a need to offer advice on precisely the topics we are least qualified to discuss? Who are we trying to convince?

Is the giver of advice mostly trying to convince himself? At this point, I think so.

Here’s a personal story. When I first started this project, I asked people for their input. And a lot of the suggestions I got encouraged me to look at similar projects, all of which were essentially promising to teach people how to maximize their income. You know the drill: how to make money from home, how to get rich off of passive income, how to make a million dollars a year off the internet, etc.

And for a while, I tried to move this project in that direction. I tried to make this about teaching people how to be amazing successes. Then I remembered something important. I haven’t had the success I’ve had primarily by maximizing my income. The truth is, I’ve turned down executive positions in order to do things like prison ministry. Now decisions like that fit with my deep values, but they have not made me rich.

For now, here’s the point of this story. I was really tempted to offer advice on a subject that I am not qualified to discuss. I am absolutely qualified to tell you how to achieve financial freedom. I’ve achieved that myself, and I’ve helped my clients achieve it. I am not qualified to teach you how to become rich. I never wanted to become rich, and my rich clients were rich before they ever started working with me. Becoming rich and becoming free–those are two very different things.

you need a christmas hat
Dude. You totally need a Christmas hat. Only cost me 99.99. Such a deal!

See, your broke brother-in-law wants to give you recommendations on computers, investments, real estate and who-knows what else, not because he’s qualified. No, he wants to do it because offering advice makes him feel important, and allows him to believe, just for a little while, a story about himself that has nothing to do with reality.

Number Five: You saw an advertisement that you really loved.

The ad is not the product.

Come on now, you’ve been burned more times than you can count. The ad is just the ad. Enjoy it for its own sake if you must, but don’t think that it has anything to do with the reality of what’s being sold. Your actual experience of what you buy is what matters, not the fantasy being sold by a marketing department.

But what if you don’t have the opportunity to test out whatever it is you are considering buying? In that case, find your friends who are obsessed with the product or service you are considering, and ask them to help you out. This brings us to our final tip off…

Number Six: You didn’t consult with your friends who are maximizers.

What’s a maximizer? A maximizer is the sort of person who is just obsessed with something, like, say, computers. She knows everything about every computer ever. When she talks about computers, you can barely understand what she says because she uses so much jargon. Can this trait be annoying? Certainly. But it can also be useful.

Maximizers are great sources for recommendations about the things they are obsessed with. And even if they can’t tell you what you should buy, they can often do a fantastic job of telling you what not to buy. The maximizers in my life have saved me thousands upon thousands of dollars that I was intending to spend on things I didn’t quite understand, and I definitely didn’t really need.

Well there you have it. Six tip-offs that you don’t really need to buy that. So be honest. How many red flags are there for that next purchase you’re considering?