No one wants to waste money, but some of us go overboard trying to get the best possible deal.
I have spent nearly as much time researching which hiking socks to buy as I have choosing a new car. Others of my species — we’re called “maximizers” — might miss locking in a good mortgage interest rate while waiting for a better one.
Maximizers are the polar opposite of “satisficers,” people who make decisions once they have found an acceptable choice. Maximizers’ high standards mean we often get better outcomes, such as jobs that pay more, but maximizers also have more anxiety about making decisions, which can lead to second-guessing our choices or not choosing at all.
Satisficers have more modest standards for making choices. They are generally pleased with their choices and don’t worry that there might have been a better one.
I doubt a hard-core maximizer could turn herself into a blissed-out satisficer overnight, even if she wanted to. But tempering our desire to make the “best” choice could help us make decisions faster and with less angst.
Take a page from satisficers and focus on your goal, rather than on all the available options. It may help to write down your top two or three priorities. Let’s say you want to refinance your mortgage. Your priorities might be to get a competitive rate (not the lowest, perhaps, but certainly not the highest) and to lower your monthly payment enough to recoup the costs within a year. You shop around just enough to find a loan that meets those criteria and then apply.
Finding a few, trustworthy resources can give you reassurance that you’re making a good choice, even if it’s not the absolute best one. Personal finance sites might offer reviews of your lender, for example. If you are buying a product, you can consult a solid review site such as Consumer Reports or CNET.
When I fall down the rabbit hole of endless research, I can often stop myself just by asking, “How important is this, really?” My life won’t be significantly worse if my hiking socks wear thin too fast. Other decisions, such as buying a house or a car or hiring a financial planner, deserve more — but not endless — consideration.
If buyer’s remorse starts to creep in once you have committed, financial therapist Kristy Archuleta recommends reality-testing your thinking: Would your life really be vastly better if you had chosen something else? Then she suggests turning your mind to positive aspects of your choice.
“Focus on all of the things that are good about making this decision,” Archuleta suggested. “And focus only on those things.”
Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lizweston.