9 Purchases You Should Never Pay for in Installments, Financial Experts Say
Don't get used to using "buy now, pay later" services for these types of items.
It feels like everything is way too expensive these days. Forget spending all your savings on an actual vacation—nowadays, a simple trip to the grocery store can run your bank account dry. The heightened cost of living has made buy now, pay later (BNPL) services like Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna seem more attractive than ever to consumers. These companies essentially offer you a short-term loan to buy whatever you want without having to pay for it in full, instead making several payments over time. But relying on BNPL plans can end up hurting you more by putting you into a cycle of debt and at risk of potential penalty or interest fees. With that in mind, financial experts warn you to always pay for certain things upfront. Read on to discover nine purchases they say to avoid using BNPL for.
Many people are considering purchasing fitness equipment in the new year to help with their fitness resolutions. But Robert Farrington, money expert and founder of The College Investor, warns against using BNPL plans to do so.
"Think about the necessity of the purchase and how often you'll use the workout equipment," he says.
Farrington also suggests buyers consider second-hand options instead of financing expensive machines.
"Come February or March, you'll likely see a lot of folks selling unwanted workout equipment on online marketplaces as they invested in their fitness for the new year, but realized they set unrealistic expectations," he notes.
When people get used to services like Afterpay, Affirm, and Klarna for bigger purchases, they might start relying on them to buy everyday essentials as well. But this could become a bad habit that's hard to break, according to Austin Hair, financial expert and real estate investor.
"Purchasing everyday items like groceries or gas on installment can create a cycle of dependency on credit for basic needs," he shares. "It's crucial to budget and pay for these items outright to avoid a situation where you're continuously paying for past expenses."
Clothing is something you should never pay for installments either, as Farrington says this can make it rather easy to accidentally overspend on fashion items. Instead, "consider implementing a waiting period before making purchases to prevent unnecessary expenses and potential buyer's remorse," he recommends.
But buying luxury goods—which include designer clothes, accessories, or jewelry—through a BNPL plan is an even worse idea, according to Hair.
"This can lead to unnecessary debt for items that don't offer long-term value or return on investment," he cautions. "It's better to save and pay in full to avoid the added stress of installments on non-essential items."
It's not just the expensive items you need to watch out for, however. Brian Quigley, financial expert and founder of Beacon Lending, says he discourages installment payments for things like low-cost furniture. This is to help buyers "avoid interest charges on non-substantial purchases," according to Quigley.
"Low-cost furniture items are generally affordable enough to be bought outright, making installment plans less financially advantageous," he explains. "Individuals should budget for these items and pay in full, preventing unnecessary interest expenses and promoting responsible spending within one's financial means."
You should be careful when it comes to relying on installment payments for depreciating assets such as cars, Sherman Standberry, certified public accountant and managing partner at the tax firm My CPA Coach, tells Best Life.
"Anything that loses value over time should ideally not be purchased with BNPL tools," he advises. "The item could depreciate faster than you're able to pay it off."
When the newest iPhone comes out, you might think it's vital that you get the latest model. But it's really not—especially if you'll have to pay for it in installments, according to Melanie Musson, a finance expert working with Clearsurance.com.
"If your phone is functional, you can keep using it," she points out. "And when you do decide to upgrade, chances are you can do it with your phone company with 0 percent interest for a longer period of time than you can with BNPL tools."
A winter getaway might sound like a good idea over the next couple months. But as tempting as it may be, Musson says your trips should never be paid for in installments.
"Vacations should be a time to let go of stress," she says. "If you know that you have to pay for your vacation after it happens, you'll have stress as you travel, and then you'll have to figure out how to pay for it when you get home."
Overall, BNPL services can make one kind of purchase more tempting than ever before: the impulse buy. But Hair advises against shoppers relying on installment plans for these types of items.
"These are often non-essential and can lead to regret and unnecessary debt," he warns. "Waiting to purchase until you can afford to pay in full helps ensure that it's something you truly need or want."
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Best Life offers the most up-to-date financial information from top experts and the latest news and research, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the money you're spending, saving, or investing, always consult your financial advisor directly.