When buying a car, buying a house, changing jobs, or even right before getting married many people start to....well, FREAK OUT! They start to second guess themselves, get sweaty palms, can't sleep, and get sick to their stomach. The second you drive the car of the lot, you think, "Oh no! What have I done?!" Just yesterday I was walking a buyer through signing his first offer he has ever made on a house, and I could hear it in his voice that he simply couldn't believe what he was doing and just the possibility of regret terrified him.
But guess what? That doesn't have to happen anymore.
RULE #1: Expect the anxious anticipation you're bound to experience.
I can tell you right now that no matter how perfect the house is for you, you're probably not going to sleep much while you're waiting to hear if your offer was accepted. You'll probably even fall into the trap of wondering if you paid the right price, if this is the right time to buy, if you chose the right house for your family, or wonder about a million other questions you can bombard yourself with. If you anticipate that these feelings are coming, you'll realize in the midst of your mini-freak out that these feelings are totally normal, and it will restore some sense of control over the situation. Know that it's coming, know that it's normal, and know that it's temporary.
RULE #2: Regret is predictable. Understanding and predicting possible regrets is an important part of extracting as much satisfaction and pleasure from our purchasing power as possible
Over the past several years researchers have been looking into buyer's remorse, looking at the types of purchases being made, and what kind of regret is experienced in relation (Rosenzweig & Gilovich, 2012). When people make large material purchases, ones of tangible possessions, they tend to feel regret. But when it comes to people making large experiential purchases, a life experience unique to that individual like a vacation, they tend to experience more missed opportunities due to inaction. The good news is, temporal studies have shown that the feeling of regret in response to an action is very short lived. The even better news is, it largely has to do with mindset.
RULE #3: Enjoy the experience of purchasing something, and anticipate the future experiences you will have because of it.
Funny enough, even though different types of purchases tend to be associated with regret for either taking an action or inaction, it's possible to change the emotion associated with it by viewing the purchase in a different light (Rosenzweig & Gilovich, 2012). Some purchases are more clearly material over experiential, like buying a new fridge versus a vacation, but others are pretty ambiguous. Studies have been done that framed purchases in a certain light, either highlighting the experiences to be had by the object, or highlighting the possession itself as a tangible item, and when the participant was thinking of the purchase as an experience they said there would be more regret if they did not make the purchase, if they failed to act. For example, the study experimented with the purchase of a new TV.
So, when making a big life decision, or when in my client's shoes, signing a purchase contract for a house - don't focus on the materialistic side of it. If you do, you'll be comparing it to other houses you could have bought, and it will drive you crazy for a hours while you're busy comparing features wondering if you made the right decision. Instead, focus on how you felt comfortable and at home in the house, or how you're going to build your family there, or about the holiday parties you'll be able to host. Focus on the experience and you're far less likely to regret your decision to act. Focus on the fact that this just may be a missed opportunity if you let it pass you by.
Alrighty then. You now have all the rules about how to get rid of that horrible feeling of buyer's remorse, and you can make your purchases in peace. If you find yourself freaking out a bit, just remember: you expected these feelings to surface, you know why you're feeling that way and you know how to adjust your mindset to change that. It's all about what pair of glasses you view the world through - all you've got to do is put on the right pair.