The Power of Delayed Gratification

Do you remember as a child, that feeling of standing in your favourite toy shop, with a piggy bank full of coins you’d tirelessly saved and then holding that shiny new box in your excited little hands?

The sheer anticipation meant you barely slept the night before and the pure joy of finally owning that well-deserved toy felt like Christmas, but better. Kids have a natural ability to do everything with mindfulness.

Fast forward 20 years and we’re still just big kids chasing after shiny toys, just with a higher price tag.

The sad change is, we’ve lost the joy in the process. Today, we see something we want and feel we deserve it by default. We need it immediately! All we need to do is pull out the plastic and it’s ours.

We may experience some level of pleasure but that dissipates quickly as we’re already onto the next thing. Our needs are usually disguised as wants and that initial feeling of happiness or excitement turns to guilt and inadequacy as that void we were trying to fill is still there. We jump on social media and are instantly bombarded with shiny new toys we just have to have. And the cycle continues.

So how have we lost this sense of joy we experienced as children? Two words: Instant gratification! In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown explains that we are programmed through social media and our “culture of scarcity” to be constantly feeling that we are not enough, we don’t have enough and that we need to acquire more.

This fear of being ordinary is mostly a result of the comparisons we make with the images we see.  And so one of the ways we seek to become less ordinary is through acquiring more externally. Marry that with the ease of obtaining credit and you have a perfect match!

So how do we go back and capture that longer lasting joy we used to associate with spending? We need to approach this issue with mindfulness and this is a skill that we almost need to re-learn, using the power of delayed gratification.

Here’s where to start.

Apply the slow money rule

Take a page out of Get Rich Slow and simply stop living above your means. If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it, simple!

If you haven’t allocated funds towards this purchase it usually indicates one of two things; It’s most likely not that important; but if you feel that it is the next question should be, “Does it align with my core values and will it bring me closer to reaching my goals?” If the answer is yes this isn’t a green like to go shopping. Instead, sit down, restructure your finances and start saving!

Address the underlying issue

There’s usually a deeper reason behind our need for retail therapy. Ask yourself the following questions

  • What am I feeling right now and why?
  • What am I hoping to gain emotionally if I buy?
  • Can this emotional need be fulfilled in some other way?

In most cases, it can and by addressing these issues before you pull out the plastic, you’ll not only uncover some habitual triggers but you’ll be in a better mindset to make your purchasing decisions.

Give it 24 hours

This automatically eliminates impulse buys as most of the time this urge slowly fades. But if after 24 hours the desire is still there then great. You’ll be in a different emotional state which will give you more clarity and control over your decision making.

Set material rewards for hitting goals

This is one of the best ways of bringing mindfulness into your spending. Rather than having a ‘need it now’ attitude, earn it! You will get more enjoyment out of these purchases and there is absolutely no guilt attached. Plus your budget will thank you.

Make time to practice gratitude

Being grateful for what you already have will diminish the need for what you don’t.

Practicing daily gratitude is widely becoming accepted as the life enriching tool that it is. When we actively sit down and list all the things we feel blessed for having, the lack in our lives and the wanting for those things tends to lose some of its power. The ‘wants’ that remain become only those that are truly aligned with our goals and values.

Book a Free Strategy Session

To really uncover the emotions behind how you spend and line up your financial goals with what’s important to you requires taking time to sit down and evaluate.

This is what our FREE 1 hour Financial Possibilities Consultation is all about. It’s not just asset allocation and wealth distribution, but digging deeper to uncover what really drives you and then putting a plan in place that lines up with your core values.

Mindfulness has a lovely habit of spilling into other areas of our lives. By incorporating these techniques into our spending, we can really maximise the joy in not only the purchasing process but the journey towards achieving our financial milestones. And we can start enjoying the rewards the way they should be enjoyed, wholeheartedly and with more meaning, just like we did as kids.


Disclaimer: all information contained within this article is of a general nature and should not be relied upon when making financial decisions. Please consult a professional financial advisor or planner (like us!) before acting.