There’s absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that we live in an “instant gratification” society. Everything is at our fingertips just waiting for us to buy it. Movies on demand. Amazon Prime delivery. Fast food on every corner. Cell phones and tablets for continuous entertainment wherever we go. Even I get impatient when videos take more than 3 seconds to load!
In 1989, Queen sang,
Thirty years later, this sentiment is even more prevalent than ever. Author Paul Roberts, who wrote “The Impulse Society,” states that our entire culture has “elevated immediate gratification to life’s primary goal.” Everyone is enticed by it, and almost everyone gives in to it. “I want it now!” is harming our health, our relationships, our attention spans, and most of all, our budgets.
Immediate (or instant) gratification is giving in to the temptation to have whatever pleasure you want the moment you want it, rather than using logic to plan for it financially, and patience to enjoy the anticipation of it.
Instant gratification is a natural urge. It’s almost instinctive.
- Those new shoes that will make you the envy of all the women at the office, or
- That new SUV that would make driving so much nicer, or
- Going out with friends instead of studying, or simply
- Picking up dinner tonight instead of having to cook
Instant gratification promises to make our lives better this minute. Today. Right NOW.Getting what we want right now does not make our lives better LATER.Click To Tweet
Delayed gratification, on the other hand, requires maturity, intelligence, coping skills, and self-discipline. It is the conscious choice to look forward, think about the long-term consequences, and make wiser decisions. Delayed gratification is being kind to your future self.
But just knowing that delayed gratification is more rewarding in the long run doesn’t solve our daily struggle with wanting it “now”!
So, when you see that adorable top at your favorite online boutique, or that pizza commercial makes your mouth water, or those new car ads make your old minivan look kinda sad by comparison, how do you keep from giving in to the temptation of instant gratification?
Well, let’s start by making some lists!
Making Instant Gratification Lists
Yes, I’m all about the lists. But they do keep you on track! Let’s look at how three different types of lists can help you cope with the lure of instant gratification.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to shop with a list. Wish Lists or Need Lists help you avoid impulse shopping, which results in impulse buying!
Having a grocery list is one of the most valuable lists because
- we spend so much time at the market
- impulse buys at the grocery are consumable and “affordable,” so it never feels like you’ve wasted money.
It’s so easy to grab something while you’re grocery shopping that isn’t on your list. Maybe you’re hungry or thirsty, perhaps the kids are begging, or maybe you really feel you deserve those Oreos today.
The more you make a habit of “sticking to the list,” the easier it becomes to do so without thinking about it. You can even say to the kids, “Is it on the list? No? We can’t buy it if it’s not on the list!”
And if an impulse item really entices you, that’s okay. After all, you’re human. Be tempted, but do not put the item in your cart yet.
Give yourself permission to come back for it after you’ve shopped for everything else on your list. Chances are before you check out, you will have either forgotten about it or decided it’s not worth going back for.
Wait Lists are a very useful tool for delaying gratification when it comes to items you may need or want, but that aren’t factored into your current budget.
I like to keep a “Wait List” in my budget planner specifically for these items. And, I do the same basic thing with my online shopping carts (especially Amazon!).
- For items in my notebook, I write down all the specific details, including the price. At the end of the 30-day wait, I often decide I don’t need or want some of these items at all. Some I find better deals on. Some even go on sale while I wait. And sometimes an item on the list just keeps calling to me. When that happens, I know it will be a good purchase once I’ve saved the money to buy it.
- For online items, I put them in my cart, (or move them to “Saved for Later” if possible.) Then I make myself wait 30 days – until the next budget cycle – before purchasing. By doing this, I get all the same results as before,
In the long run, I’m always glad I waited. I end up not spending money I don’t have on things I don’t need or even really want once the impulse moment has passed.
Instant Gratification Tips:
- Avoid temptation in the first place by removing the factors before they have a chance to reel you in.
- Fast forward through the commercials, or at least mute them.
- Distract yourself instead of watching.
- Recycle catalogs and sale flyers and remove your name from the mailing lists.
- Don’t use shopping as a form of entertainment, whether online or at the mall.
- Don’t click on social media ads.
- Don’t spend time looking at and lusting over things that aren’t in your budget. If you don’t see it, you won’t buy it.
The Instant Gratification Wish List
The Instant Gratification WISH List is my favorite!
While the Shopping List helps you only buy what you need, and the Wait List enables you to weed out the impulse buys, the Instant Gratification Wish List is a dream list, which makes it fun!
The Wish List – which can be kept in your Budget Binder or on your refrigerator or your Visual Budget Wall Board – is a list of things you WILL be spending money on once you have saved enough!
Anything can be added to your Wish List, from cookies to shoes to phones to vacations to houses! You can make Wish Lists for:
- Short-term and long-term goals
- Big items and small items
- Each person in your household
The goal with the Instant Gratification Wish List is to turn the “Instant” into “Anticipated.”
Being able to SEE your goal, to watch the money in that envelope grow week by week, to plan for how you will use it, helps you appreciate the item and the work it took to acquire it.
Long-Term Benefits of Instant Gratification Lists
You will learn to become a patient spender and more responsible. Your budget will not be negatively affected, which means your goals will stay on track.
Living on a budget doesn’t mean you always have to feel deprived. In fact, you should cut yourself some slack and enjoy a frivolous purchase once in a while. But practicing delayed gratification will make these treats extra special.