The Costs of Procrastinating on Purchases

November 4, 2011

Thanks to Raechel Conover for today’s guest post on the costs of procrastinating on purchases. This post actually kicks off a series of articles on the costs of procrastination, so if you tend to put things off, stay tuned for more ways its costing you money and how to beat procrastination.

Do you find yourself constantly putting things off until the last minute — work projects, household chores, travel plans, holiday shopping? While everyone procrastinates occasionally, Psychology Today notes that 20 percent of people are true procrastinators stuck in a repetitive cycle.

If you’re one of them, you know the stress, guilt, and anxiety that typically accompany procrastination. But did you know that procrastinating could actually cost you real cash?

It’s hard to quantify exact amounts, but it’s safe to say that waiting to buy something until the last minute usually has its price. You may miss the low-price window (think airline tickets, coupons with a “use-by” date) or make a rushed decision that imposes unanticipated long-term costs. Here are some common scenarios and tips to help keep you from procrastinating.

The Product
Let’s say your refrigerator has been showing signs of distress for several weeks and you figure it’s time to replace it. But you put off looking into a new unit until, one day, you find a lifeless fridge full of rotten food. You run out to the nearest appliance store and pick a model without really knowing what you’re buying.

You may end up with a replacement that lacks the technical specs you desire (e.g., dimensions, capacity, storage features) and has garnered weak expert and consumer reviews. Doing some research before the old refrigerator died would have given you the information you needed to choose the best model for the price you could afford. 

The Price You Pay
It should come as no surprise that the cost of procrastination is higher on big-ticket items. Say your spouse wants a tablet for Christmas. You can either wait until Christmas Eve to run out and buy whatever tablet is left on the shelves — without the benefit of a coupon or deal that’s expired — or you can start researching now to find tablets with all the desired features and then check for tablet deals.

Staples ran a coupon in July for $100 off any tablet in stock; for a tablet that cost $250, that was a 40 percent discount. In August, HP slashed the price of the now-defunct 16GB TouchPad to a mere $99 from $499; the 32GB model dropped to $149 from $599.

With the holidays coming up, new deals are sure to appear. But before you leap, look at other stores’ prices to be sure you’re getting the best possible deal on the tablet you want. If you check prices for big-ticket items in least 3 other stores then you’ll have a pretty good idea of the going price range and how good a deal you’ve actually found.

The Long-Term Effects
Shopping procrastination can have long-term effects on your wallet. Perhaps you wait until the last minute to book travel for an all-inclusive vacation. The final cost is more than you expected because you didn’t find the time to shop around for the best deal, so you decline travel insurance. Right before your departure date, a hurricane hits your destination. Instead of being rerouted to another tropical location or receiving a refund, you’re out of a vacation and a big chunk of change.

To use another example, an Energy Star-qualified appliance uses far less energy than one without an Energy Star label. Making a rushed decision on a large appliance might mean picking a model that hasn’t earned the Energy Star, which in turn could lead to higher utility bills for years to come. With an Energy Star-qualified refrigerator, for instance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates you could save anywhere from $165 in energy costs over the lifetime of the fridge to more than $200 a year, depending on the age of the unit being replaced and utility prices in your area.

Beating Procrastination
Even if you’re a true procrastinator, it’s possible to break the habit. The key lies in knowing what causes it. According to the University of Cambridge, people procrastinate for a variety of reasons, including anxiety about the task at hand and feeling overwhelmed by whatever needs doing.

If the number of choices, or the price, or the possibility of making the wrong purchasing decision has you dragging your feet, set a clear goal and break down the task into manageable chunks.

For a big-ticket purchase, that might mean making a list of the features you want and searching online for several models that meet your needs. Read some product reviews and make another list of pros and cons for each model. By the end of this process, the choice should be obvious. Now you can start comparing deals to land the lowest price possible on the model you want.

Raechel Conover writes for, a review site that serves consumers on a budget who want the best value for their money. Cheapism’s carefully researched buying guides focus exclusively on low-price products.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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3 Responses to The Costs of Procrastinating on Purchases

  • Lisa

    I agree procrastination has a very high cost. There are times when you should wait or procrastinate when going to make a purchase, but that is when you have done all the research and you’re waiting for the money or the deal to come up. Great advice and post!


    If you ask me shopping procrastination can be a very good thing. Many times there is this “thing” that you must have but if you can delay the purchase until you actually have the money instead of charging it to your card you would realize you really don’t need it or want it.

    I understand that you are referring to planning out your future expenses, sure, but the reality is that many times no shopping is better than planned shopping.


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