Now or Later: How to Decide the Right Time to Buy Almost Anything

There are some things that make sense to buy right away, because spending a little money now can save you a lot of expense and hassle later. Other purchases are best deferred as long as possible, since there is little or no advantage to buying the item before you really need it. (See also: How to Never Succumb to Impulse Spending Again)

Here's a handy guide to help you determine what you should buy now versus later.

Buy it now

You shouldn't wait to buy these items.


Check your tire tread depth by inserting a penny into the groove — if you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tires are considered bald. Replace worn out tires now instead of waiting for a flat, or even worse, an accident.

Car Battery

If your car shows signs of a weak battery, such as difficulty cranking the engine or dim lights, it is time to have the battery checked at the shop. Battery checks are often free, and allow you to replace your battery at a convenient time while you can still shop around for a good deal instead of when you are stranded somewhere with a car that won't start. (See also: Bookmark This: Save Money With an Easy to Follow Car Maintenance Checklist)


It doesn't really save you money to run on fumes since you will end up buying the gas anyway. You might as well reduce your risk of running out of gas in traffic by filling up before the needle falls well below the "E."

Oil change

You might feel like you should wait as long as possible between oil changes to save money, but the extra cost of changing the oil a little early is minimal. By staying ahead of schedule for oil changes, you avoid the risk that you will forget or get busy and push your motor oil beyond its life, ultimately damaging your engine.

Roof repair/replacement

Address roofing issues before leaks form by promptly repairing roof damage. Waiting until your roof starts leaking before taking action doesn't save money, since you'll have to repair or replace the roof anyway, plus the added expense to repair water damage. (See also: 10 Simple Household Repairs Every Frugal Person Should Master)


Since investments tend to appreciate in value, you are better off buying them now for two reasons:

  • Buying the investment will cost more if you wait.
  • If you invest now, you will start gaining appreciation sooner.

Out-of-season clothing or gear

Clothing or gear that is out of season will often end up on the clearance racks, and these sales can be a cheap way to pick up things you know you'll need next year. Winter coats, swimwear, and sporting goods are some of the best clearance sale bargains.

Energy efficiency upgrades

Adding insulation, replacing leaky windows, or upgrading an inefficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system will save you money on utility bills every month. The sooner you make energy efficiency upgrades, the more money you'll save.

Buy it later

If you're trying to save money, these items can wait.

Tech gadgets

The longer you wait to upgrade tech products, the more capability you'll get for less money. Wait as long as you can before buying a new TV, smartphone, tablet, or computer.

New car (or newer used car)

Driving a car for as long as possible is one of the best things you can do to save money. Keep your current car in good working order to help suppress your desire to get a different car before you really need one. (See also: Could You Put Away a Million Dollars by Driving a Used Car?)

In-season clothing

Styles can change, or your size could change. If your current clothes fit and don't have holes, there is no real advantage to buying brand new clothes until the situation changes.

A bigger house

Unless there's a disruptive ghost in your attic or a consistent flood in your basement, you should wait to upgrade to a bigger house. Delay ratcheting up your mortgage, property tax, utilities, and insurance payments to save money until you really need more space or to live in a different location.


Try to get one more year of life from a piece of furniture before buying something new. You can repaint or reupholster it to give it a new look for much less than you'd spend on a brand new item. After the year of waiting is up, try to do the same thing again.

Aged or unsightly items

There are a lot of possessions that get "uglied out" before they get worn out to the point where they no longer function. For example, my garbage can is faded, has a cracked lid, and has some paint on it. But even though it is ugly, it still works perfectly well as a garbage can and there is no advantage to rushing to replace it. Things that tend to get ugly before they wear out include luggage, carpet, furniture, appliances, and tools. Keep those around until they break or you can afford to replace them.

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