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What is Buyer's Remorse?

People experience buyer's remorse after buying a home, a car, even groceries!

Let's dive into what buyer's remorse is and when it goes away.

What is buyer's remorse?

Anyone who's purchased a house or a car knows that emotions are involved whether you want them there or not. Excitement, apprehension, fear, anxiety, and happiness mix together to form a perfect symphony as you sign on the dotted line. Your life is changing. Then you go home and think it over again. Your hormones have calmed down and your rational brain starts thinking through the details and realizing that you've just closed off some options in life. That doesn't feel good. You're suddenly second-guessing your decision. What if they hoodwinked you? What if it wasn't the right option to take? What if that other ____ would have been better for me? What if... That's buyer's remorse. You made a large decision and feel the intense restriction that you just placed on your life. Personally, I had intense buyer's remorse after each of our home purchases. They were both the right decision. Each house served our family well. We love the house we're in now. I felt buyer's remorse and it didn't mean anything. So that begs the question...

Why does buyer's remorse happen?

Simply put, your brain is flooded with serotonin when you make a big purchase or big life decision. It's one of the same neurotransmitters that floods your brain when you get married. Serotonin makes you feel good. People tend to assume that the big decision will always feel that good. Once that serotonin is all used up, your brain starts to recover from its momentary high and you start to think through all the limitations you just put on your life. The feel-good chemical is gone. You wonder why you don't feel good anymore and wonder if the decision you made is really what's best for your future. That's completely natural. Buyer's remorse is your brain's reaction to feeling great at the moment of decision and then not feeling great just as you're thinking through the details of your decision. It's an emotional low following an intense emotional high. Sometimes buyer's remorse helps us get out of large bad decisions, but sometimes it gives us cold feet for changing our lives in a good way. How do you know the difference?

When is buyer's remorse a good thing vs. a bad thing?

How do you figure out if buyer's remorse is telling you the truth? That's a hard question. Now that your brain has processed its load of serotonin and is back to being a mostly-rational decision-making machine, you can think through your purchase. I follow a line of questions:

  • Does this purchase improve my life and my family's lives more than the other options we were looking at?

  • What will having this purchase change in our lives? Is that a change we want?

  • What kinds of risks does this purchase come with? How do we mitigate those risks?

  • What if we decide later that the purchase isn't worth it? How do we get out of this purchase? How much work is it and how much would we lose?

Those few questions usually put my mind at rest. If the purchase is an investment for myself or my family, buyer's remorse tends to last just a couple of days. Now, my husband and I ask ourselves these questions before any big purchase decision is made - before we even start the search. It helps keep buyer's remorse at bay.

What do I do if I decide it really was a bad buy?

If you decide that your purchase really was a bad one, then you'll need to look into your options for backing out of the deal. If you're buying a home and need to back out, your options will be in your contract. If you've bought a car and need to back out, some states have laws that allow you to return the car within a few days. Many states do not have these laws, so please Google your state car return laws to see if your state has these or not. If you're stuck, please reach out for help. Honestly, lots of what I do as a Financial Coach is to help people dump debt for purchases they wish they never made. I've bought some lemons as well.


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