Buyer’s remorse is the pit in the bottom of your stomach that you feel after making a purchase you regret. For me, buyer’s remorse usually kicks in if I buy something I can live without. If I don’t really need an item, I often regret purchasing it and wish I would’ve saved the money instead.
But buyer’s remorse can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Some people feel it when they overspend or receive an online purchase in the mail that doesn’t live up to their expectations. The pressure of buying something during a limited-time sale can also trigger buyer’s remorse. Two in five Americans say they’ve bought something at a discount and regretted it later.
After you hand over your credit card and walk out with your bags, it can feel like you’re past the point of no return. But you might not be forced to live with the regret of a poorly thought out purchase. It may be possible to reverse some or all of the financial damage by getting a refund or reselling your unwanted belongings. Here are four strategies to help you alleviate your current buyer’s remorse and prevent it in the future.
Use a Credit Card with Return Protection
Return protection is a benefit that comes with some credit cards. It extends the return window on qualifying items purchased with your card. For example, certain American Express cards come with return protection that allows you to request a refund for up to 90 days after a purchase. Amex will process refunds of up to $300 per item as long as the merchandise is undamaged and unused.
However, you can’t receive more than $1,000 in refunds per calendar year. You’ll also need to make sure that the retailer won’t accept the return and provide a copy of your receipt, so there are a few hoops to jump through. But dealing with some red tape is less annoying than regretting a purchase.
I don’t know about you, but buyer’s remorse can gnaw at me for months, especially when I can’t return the item and have to see it in my house. So the next time I’m in the market for a new credit card, I’m definitely going to look for one that offers return protection so I can avoid the pain of regretting past purchases.
Initiate a Chargeback on Poor Quality Items
Online purchases are ripe for regret because you can’t feel or see the item you’re considering. You only have the photos to guide your purchasing decision, which can sometimes misrepresent the true quality and condition of the product. Creative lighting and positioning can make a poorly constructed item appear much nicer online than it actually looks in person. If you’re experiencing buyer’s remorse because the item you bought didn’t match the product listing at all, you have options.
Even if the seller doesn’t accept returns, you can contact them and try to negotiate a refund or replacement. If the seller is unwilling to cooperate with you, sometimes mentioning that you’re considering a chargeback will encourage them to find a solution.
If negotiating doesn’t work, you can perform a chargeback on your credit or debit card. A chargeback is a consumer protection that allows you to dispute a purchase if the item is damaged, defective, or very low-quality. You can also initiate a chargeback if you never received a product or service you paid for.
However, chargebacks should only be used as a last resort because they can cause the retailer to incur costly fees. You should only dispute a purchase when the product you receive is totally unusable and the seller won’t work with you to resolve the issue.
Shop at Stores With Excellent Return Policies
Shopping at stores with great return policies is another way to avoid buyer’s remorse. Some stores don’t issue refunds or only accept returns within a limited timeframe, such as 30 days. But sometimes it takes longer than a month for buyer’s remorse to set in. Clothes often hang in my closet for months before I realize I’m never going to wear them, so short return windows don’t work for me.
Although you can resell items that are past the return timeframe, listing and packaging unwanted belongings requires a lot of effort. That’s why I shop at stores that offer generous return policies whenever possible. Sticking with retailers that allow me to return merchandise without a receipt or take back clothing I bought months ago has saved me a lot of money.
The Krazy Coupon Lady has a list of retailers with favorable return policies, such as Lowe’s, Macy’s, and Sephora. Even if you have to go out of your way to shop at these stores, it’s worth it to avoid getting saddled with things you regret buying.
Learn About the Cooling Off Rule and Lemon Laws
Buyer’s remorse is also common in high-pressure sales situations like timeshare presentations, which is why the FTC established a cooling off rule. It gives buyers three days to back out of certain sales made at their home or a temporary location like a convention center or hotel. Keep in mind that some types of items are excluded, such as vehicles.
So even if you purchase a vehicle at a pop-up car show, the cooling off rule probably won’t apply. For more details on which purchases qualify, you can check out the FTC’s explanation of the cooling off rule.
Certain states may also have lemon laws that protect you from getting stuck with a nonfunctional vehicle. According to Money Under 30, most lemon laws only apply to new cars.
However, several states also offer protection for used vehicles, including Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine. Although lemon laws can vary, they usually require the dealer to make you whole if your vehicle qualifies. This may mean repairing the vehicle, replacing it, or refunding your money.
How do you avoid or deal with buyer’s remorse? Share your tips in the comments!
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.