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Before You Break Out Your Wallet

Before you walk into your local music store ready to plop down your hard-earned dough on a new guitar, you need to take stock of what you’re doing. Ask yourself some tough questions about your pending purchase — and you need to do so now. Don’t wait until you get to the store to develop a buying strategy.

The two most important factors in making any purchasing decision — especially concerning a guitar, where passions run high — are to develop a plan and to gather all the information you need to make the best choice. Start developing your purchasing plan by answering specific questions about exactly what you want in a guitar — and how much you can spend to attain it.

Narrowing your scope doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind after you get to the store and see all the nifty instruments available, or that you can’t let on-the-spot inspiration and whim play a significant part in your final decision. (“I just can’t decide between these two guitars . . . oh, what the heck! Just give me both of them!”) But you do need a point from which to depart.

What’s my level of commitment? Regardless of your current ability, do you realistically envision yourself practicing every day for the next five years, pursuing a dedicated program of guitar excellence? Or do you first want to see whether this whole “guitar thing” is going to stick? Just because you can afford a $1,000 guitar doesn’t mean you should buy it. Before plunking down cash, honestly determine the importance of the guitar in your life and act responsibly according to that priority.

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What’s my spending limit? The answer to this question is critical because, often, the more expensive the guitar, the greater its appeal. So you need to balance your level of commitment and your available resources. You don’t want to have to give up food for six months and live in a cardboard box just because you got carried away at the music store. Set a limit on how much you can spend and don’t exceed it.

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