Not Sure Delayed Gratification Is Working…

Part of the reason I’ve been so successful at saving money is my lifelong ability to delay gratification (check out this post on Grumpy Rumblings for definitions and comments, etc..), even in my more impulsive college years and early 20s.  However, lately, I wonder if this method works so well for me anymore.  I just feel like I’m delaying the inevitable purchase (and yes, I know that purchases/spending are rarely inevitable..)  Still, even if it takes me a long time to buy something, I usually end up doing it at some point.  I guess I know my tastes and needs pretty well by this age and it’s increasingly rare that I want something that is useless or frivolous.

That is not to say my ability to delay gratification is useless. Many times, I earmark pretty pictures in magazines or bookmark websites (saving items in wishlists or shopping carts). If I delay the purchase, I usually forget about the urgent “need”.  I may also consult my primary shopping list and remind myself that I have higher spending priorities.  Sometimes I completely forget about the item and lose interest.

With some things and experiences, however, my want usually remains so it’s just a matter of time before I buy those shoes or book that massage.  Of course the delay can mean months, even 1 year or longer, so I suppose this tactic is still working.  And there are times now that I let go of the “want” because more urgent basic and real needs crop up in the meantime.

So I guess it’s back to the inevitability of the purchase that is getting to me.  What difference does it really make if I buy something I want now rather than 3 months down the line ( besides new stuff often going on sale..)??

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12 responses to “Not Sure Delayed Gratification Is Working…

  1. I guess it depends on whether or not you’re not buying other pairs of shoes after you buy the pair you’ve been thinking about. As in, if you satisfy that want, do you end up with another want to replace it? Does delaying the purchase mean you make fewer purchases overall? It could probably go either way depending on a person’s personality.

    • I think what’s tripping me up is the internet, as in the ability to save items on wish lists in Amazon and elsewhere, plus those sneaky online ads driven by cookies that remind me of sites I’ve visited and stuff I want to buy.

      • You can keep them on your amazon list for years until either someone buys them for you, you decide you don’t particularly want them (I always cull right before Christmas or my birthday), or the item is no longer available. That seems to be working for me so far…

        The internet cookies can be turned off. Those things really creep me out. (We like adblocker on firefox, but you can also keep ads and just not have them track you. You can either do that from your browser options or if you look at the bottom of the tracking ads, there’s usually a little thing that says “ad choices” and you can tell it to stop stalking you by pressing on that.)

  2. No, delayed gratification isn’t useless. And yes, as you say, one of the key benefits is how it helps you make sure a “need” is really a need. If you defer buying something, and later forget about it, then it probably wasn’t a need, it was just a want.

    But delayed gratification also is valuable even when you eventually make the purchase anyway. I’ll give an example with a car. Let’s say you usually get a new car every four years, and your current car is three years old. But this time around, instead of buying a new car in year four, you decide to delay gratification and drive your current car for another two or three years.

    Where this gets powerful is if you can sustain this gratification deferral. Think about it: keeping each of your cars for six years instead of four means you’ll be buying at least four fewer cars over the course of your lifetime. Add in financing costs, insurance costs, and so on, and the savings from deferring your car purchases can add up to $100,000 over the course of lifetime! And if you have a two-car family, the numbers are even more powerful.

    The point of course, is that the deferral you make today also defers the replacement purchases you’ll also make down the road. This applies to lots of items that are true “needs”: clothes, tools, computers, cellphones, etc. Defer your replacement cycle and you’ll save a ton of money over your lifetime.

    Dan @ Casual Kitchen

  3. Pingback: Frugal Opposites? | Oilandgarlic's Blog

  4. Agree with both nicoleandmaggie and Dan.

    I might still end up buying certain consumables anyway but if I wait long enough in between, the purchase may only occur 3x a year instead of 6. Or I’ll stumble over a great deal instead of just an ok deal during the wait. (Likewise though, there have been a couple of purchases where I didn’t get as good a deal as I should have because I didn’t spend enough time looking out ahead of time and then the purchase was rushed.)

    Other things that are just purely wants with no other justification than “I like it” will stay on my amazon wish list that no one ever sees or on the backburner until I come into spending money.

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