I knew I had a serious problem when I stood in front of the yearly planners at CVS contemplating buying two calendars for $10 or one for $5.99. I seriously took 15 minutes trying to decide if I needed two calendars so I could save $1. I debated whether I could gift the extra calendar or find use for it sometime this year. The smartest move was the money-saving one, so I bought only one because I didn’t have a use for two. This got me to thinking: I wasted 15 minutes when this should’ve been a no-brainer for me.

Save yourself some time—ask yourself these five questions prior to spending your hard-earned dollars so you can stay on track when purchasing necessary items.

1. Does this item fit the need?

I needed one calendar for the year to carry in my purse. It needed to be less than eight inches in length and it needed to have enough space to write in the blocks. Purchasing two calendars didn’t fit my need because I only had space and need for one calendar.

Bonus tip: Having a specific description for the needed item will remind you of what you actually intended to buy. As a couponer and the owner of a stockpile, I implement this strategy to ensure that my purchases fit my storage capability.

2. Do I have enough money to purchase the item?

I had some rewards to spend when I was trying to decide which and how many calendars I needed. To get the most benefit from my rewards, the smart thing to do was to purchase my need for the price of my rewards—no more, no less. Purchasing two calendars would’ve cost more than the rewards that I planned to shop with, so that helped me make a decision.

Bonus tip: Set an allotted amount to spend and stick to it. Staying within your financial budget for the month is a priority as a couponer—so reel in the savings on every purchase you make.

3. How much time do I have to make a decision?

I didn’t purchase a personal calendar in December of 2014 because I was hoping to get a calendar on clearance in January of 2015. CVS was actually the third store I visited in order to find a calendar. I had purchased my 2014 calendar at CVS and it served my purpose well. So based on the shopping I had done, I decided I wanted the exact calendar I had in 2014. When I was standing in front of the calendars deciding on whether to buy one or two, one thing was for sure—I was not leaving the store without a calendar because my time had run out for making a decision.

Bonus tip: Set a specific deadline—for example, say “I’ll leave this store at 1:32” and make sure to stick to it! This will keep you focused on the purchase and your budget. A shopping list is an excellent method to plan your purchases as store sales cycles change and your budget evolves.

4. Am I settling or making the best decision for me?

At Walgreens I found a similar calendar to the one at CVS, but it was a dark color and I wanted one that was super bright. I had put the calendar in my shopping cart, but decided I didn’t want a dark color, so I put it back. I visited Kerr Drug and found a larger calendar in a beautiful black and lime green design, but it was too large for my purse. The calendar I purchased at CVS was the prettiest, just like my calendar from last year and I loved it (which helps me know that I’ll actually use it!).

Bonus tip: No matter how many stores you have to go to in order to make a purchase—make sure to get the item that best fits your needs—even if this means the inconvenience of going to multiple stores. My goal as a couponer is to make the best purchase for the amount of money I have available to spend while also meeting the needs of my family.

 5. Am I overthinking the purchase?

My calendar purchase should not have been as complicated as I made it; however, I learned a valuable lesson about myself. I learned that being willing to pay more to get a deal for something I don’t need doesn’t make any sense. I also learned that I was willing to pay more money than I wanted to spend—which I should never do!

Bonus tip: Typically, your first instinct is the best indicator for a quick decision. Plus—carefully considering prior shopping experiences will help you hone your money-saving skills and stick to your budget!

5 Questions to Keep Your Shopping Trip Focused