We live in a generation of instant gratification. We can get almost anything we want in a matter of days, hours, even minutes with a push of a button or the magic of Amazon Prime.
While some “modern conveniences” are definitely nice, like grocery delivery, food on-demand and being able to watch or listen to anything you want, anytime you want—the long-term effects of this instant society has made us overly entitled when we can’t get what we want, right now! Side note: I am currently waiting two weeks for a couch to be delivered and am literally counting the days until it shows up…
The really messed up part about instant gratification? It hinders instead of helps us, in the long run. A lot of us no longer have the ability to wait for the thing we really want, or question if we even need it. We just buy it and it’s done. And by ability, I mean, we’re often unable to tell ourselves “no”.
Spoiler alert: 99% of our society’s needs are more than met, so when we’re buying something, it’s because we want it, we don’t need it. The thing we’re buying is almost always a luxury.
But, for many people, that BUY NOW button it getting them into a ton of debt and stopping them from saving, putting money into retirement and building wealth long-term. LOTS of people are paying so much money toward their debt every month, they can’t afford to save anything.
So much of our society lives paycheck to paycheck when they don’t have to, if they just were able to delay gratification.
I’m gonna go ahead and say it: I think the ability to get things whenever we want, might actually be ruining our lives and quite possibly the world.
I HATE, yes HATE, with all caps, waiting more than just about anything. Waiting on people is one of my biggest pet peeves. Waiting in lines…yuck. And waiting for something I really, really want, like a boat right now (even though I don’t have the money saved for it yet), consumes my thoughts and emotions so much, that it’s actually amazing I get anything else done, because I’m so obsessed. My point is I don’t think anyone likes to wait. It’s just not fun and often seems like a waste of time.
The reason I believe instant gratification is ruining our society? We don’t give ourselves enough time (or any time) to think about how buying this thing right now, even a $5 coffee, can affect our future.
I have to work on delaying gratification EVERYDAY. Especially because for most of my life, up until a few years ago, I wasn’t evolved enough to realize how my decisions in the moment, were affecting my future.
I used to pretty much buy, anything I wanted, whenever I wanted it. From clothes to trips, cars to night’s out, I usually never thought twice. I just pulled out my credit card and swiped or signed on the dotted line. Everyday, still, I catch myself wanting a million irrelevant things, and yes, I do really want some of those things, but that’s all it is a want. I’ve had to completely retrain/rewire my spending habits in order to change my financial present and future, and wow it’s changed my life for the positive.
I used to rationalize so much about why I needed this thing: “It might go up in price tomorrow” “I can’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime girls trip” or “I’m getting too good of a deal on this car not to buy it”. So, what changed? Well, me realizing I was 35, with no savings, very little in retirement and in debt up to my eyeballs. And knowing I was better than this. Knowing I could do better.
I knew I needed to cut the cards up and I wanted to stop buying all the things, but I didn’t know HOW to stop it. It was so natural to me and I was in such an “I deserve it” state of mind, that it took a wake-up call of sleepless nights, filled with stress and anxiety, for me to look in the mirror and say “What needs to change?”
If I wanted to live the life I ultimately dreamed of, then I needed to start living differently. And that started with delaying gratification. I knew budgeting was important and it was something I was supposed to do, but I had never stuck to one.
I knew I wanted to be free from debt, have a savings and one day afford to buy a home. I knew that it was possible, but I knew it was going to be hard. It’s HARD to tell yourself no. Heck, it’s hard to tell others no, too, but starting by telling yourself no—it’s something that HAS TO HAPPEN in order to live your dream life.
So how do you delay gratification? First, you need to want it.
You need to want to change. You need to want to be different, think different. I knew I wanted it. I saw my future self, and she was not held down by credit card debt, school loans or car payments. She was able to make decisions not based on her bank account, but based on her heart. She was able to freely give her time and money to help others, whenever she wanted to. Work was a choice, not something she had to do in order to pay the rent. That vision of future me, motivated me and got my off the couch and back to reality.
That sense of freedom is priceless, and that’s why I intentionally began delaying gratification.
I want you to live your ultimate dream life and be free too. Money shouldn’t be a barrier between you and the life you desire, whatever that is for you. And please don’t confuse delaying gratification with starving yourself, not having fun and not living your life, now.
It’s about changing your awareness and stopping to think, for just a few seconds before pushing that BUY NOW button, swiping your card or taking out a loan with an insane interest rate. It’s about making decisions that you won’t regret later.
It’s simply taking a breath and thinking through a purchase and why you want it, before making a rash decision.
Here are 6 things to consider before making a purchase:
1. Get on a budget, like now
I know the dreaded B word might make you cringe, but in order to win with money and see where it’s all going, you must take a long hard look at what you’re spending your money on. You must “get your ducks in a row” as my Mom would say.
So many people think budgeting is too hard or confusing. They start one then stop. But being successful means doing things we don’t like to do, things we often aren’t good at. You’ve got to figure it out.
There are like one million budgeting tools now, but I’ve found that keeping it simple is the best way to go. I don’t use any fancy apps. I create my monthly budgets with a Google Sheet.
I enter how much I’m anticipating to make that month, estimating on the low end, so I don’t screw something up. And then I plan, line by line, where every dollar I have coming in, will go.
I plan for my monthly bills first, then how much money I’ll spend on food, gas, etc. I also have a line item for entertainment, to buy something nice for myself or do something fun. I also budget 15% of my income for retirement and 10% for my church.
I look at my sheet almost daily, as well as my bank account, to track charges and make sure I’m staying on budget. Yes, it’s time consuming and tedious, but because I didn’t budget for most of my life and liked to “treat myself” on the daily, it’s the only way I’ve found I feel secure and confident that I’m staying on the right track.
So if you don’t hear anything else from me, make the B word your new fave and get to tracking. It’s the only way to stay laser focused.
2. Go on a spending hold
Spending holds aren’t fun, but they can be if you make them a game. A spending hold is a day when you intentionally don’t spend money. It can be a day every week, or a week a month. Doing this helps retrain yourself from instantly buying things.
When you know you can’t spend for a day or a week, you have to consciously think about it and stop yourself. Using this part of your brain begins the reprogramming process of thinking before you spend.
Make sure to remove apps on your phone that may “tempt” you to buy something and close open store tabs on your desktop. Whenever you find yourself going to browse, watch an educational video or read a book instead.
Also, remove yourself from situations that may make it hard to fight the urge like window shopping or going out to “just look”.
Window shopping might make you feel good for a few, but you KNOW what happens when you go shopping and aren’t looking for anything? You suddenly find the cutest clothes that fit you perfectly and everything’s on sale!
You find 500 household items, gadgets and decor, that you never knew you needed, but suddenly you can’t say no.
I’m like a deer in headlights at Target if I don’t have my list on me and know what I came in for. If I don’t have a list, I will leave with nothing I needed and $200 of nonsense, EVERY TIME.
Find other ways to entertain yourself, because the feeling of not spending, can be just as good (or better) than the latter.
You will feel accomplished and a renewed sense of pride. And if you accidentally mess up and buy something, don’t be hard on yourself. Try again.
3. Do you already have one (or two)?
I know from personal experience I tend to buy the same styles of clothing and items for my house. I usually already have the thing I want, or something very similar.
I don’t know how many times I’ve stood in a store wondering if I already had a shirt like the one I’m holding, or didn’t know what I would wear with it. This is an instant indicator that you probably don’t need it.
For housing items, unless it’s a necessity like toilet paper or toothpaste, which I will wait until I almost run out of before buying, I make sure it’s something I actually need. Which brings me to #4….
4. Had you been planning to buy it?
If you hadn’t planned on buying something, you’re likely impulse shopping, which can be very dangerous for your bank account.
Try to only make a purchase when you’ve already been planning (in your budget) to buy it.
Otherwise, if you see something you want, wait at least a day to think about it before pulling the trigger. This will help you understand if it’s really a necessity.
Oh, how many times I’ve come home with bags to instantly regret the hundreds of dollars I’ve just blown, wondering, why I even bought the stuff. There’s no worse feeling than buyer’s remorse.
There’s no shame in returning something that doesn’t make you feel good once you have it at home. I’m a big fan of returns. Just keep that receipt!
With planning, comes writing out a list, and I highly recommend doing this, especially when grocery shopping. Planning in advance prevents you from buying things you don’t need and overspending.
5. Does it pass the future test?
The best questions you can ask yourself are “does buying this thing, improve my life?” “Can I live without it?” “Does this help me meet my future financial goals?”
It’s profound how differently you will spend when you think about your purchases this way.
For me plants and crystals bring me joy. When I fill my house with them, they bring me a sense of peace and zen. They make me feel good and I believe, help me be more productive.
Now, obviously this doesn’t mean I need 500 of them, but I know when I do choose to buy them, they’ll have a positive impact on my health and life. So I can say yes to the questions above.
Knowing what gives you life, instead of steals your energy, is super important.
If spending $5 a day on coffee impacts your life in a positive way, then by all means go for it. Just make sure you’ve budgeted for it, and you’re still able to save if that’s what you’re choosing to spend your hard-earned money on.
$5 a day might seem small, but it really adds up. I know I’ve made many impulse coffee decisions I regretted later.
6. Are you trying to impress someone?
This is a good one. Getting to the “why” of why you want the item is super important. If you’re buying something to impress someone, or if someone’s making you feel pressured to spend money, you 100% need to reconsider.
If you feel the need to impress the people you’re hanging around with, you’re likely not hanging out with the right people.
Recognize if you are feeling pressured into going on a trip, spending money on an expensive dinner or going to a concert when you don’t even like the kind of music. It’s ok to say no, remember. It’s healthy to.
I know I’ve been pressured many times and definitely bought things to impress other people. Now I’m much more aware when I’m doing it. And I know my true friends won’t pressure me into blowing my budget. They’ll respect my decisions.
The bottom line: No one’s perfect when it comes to money.
We all make mistakes, have regrets and make impulse decisions we wished we could take back. So be easy on yourself, and try your best. You will start to see the impact on your state of mind and your finances in no time.
Looking for additional support? I’ve got your back. Work with me one-on-one for personalized guidance and help with your money blocks. I’d love to work with you.