Delayed Gratification | What Do You Think? Typical? Or Exceptional?

I signed up for the financial newsletter LearnVest a few weeks ago.

Of course, true to form, I went ahead and selected all the various newsletters, so every morning I now have a deluge of emails in my inbox.

I’ve actually gleaned a lot of inspiration from them – blogging and otherwise. Like today, there were a bunch of tips for raising your credit score (apropos to yesterday’s post on regularly getting your credit report).

But what really jumped out at me today was this anonymous quote on spending habits.

I impulsively buy little things that I convince myself I need … but cannot seem to find the money for larger purchases that I actually need. I’ve needed a new winter coat for several years but always think it’s too expensive, so I don’t buy it. However, I go into Costco and spend $220 on random stuff!

When I read this, it so resonated with me that I actually said “YES!” outloud. I think this mentality is the heart of the problem for so many of us.

I have fought so hard to change my own inclination to not delay gratification. I suspect living in the right now is fairly typical for many of us, but I’d love to hear your opinion: Typical or exceptional?

Do you relate to this quote?


  1. I totally agree. I have been doing the exact same thing and I cannot seem to cut it. I really needed to buy some work clothes for a new job and felt I “didn’t have the money” but was fine buying tons of food (that I am sure we could have done without or less of) at BJs spending close to $300. That $300 would have been useful for the new job, or even half of it (just to buy 1 new suit or something).

    • Sometimes I put stuff into my cart and then put it back before I leave. I know that sounds weird, but just the act of putting it into my cart sort of fulfills that impulse need. I do this online a lot, too – I call it virtual shopping ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I had the same “yes!” reaction! I think it happens most when I’m being an “emotional spender” and just want to treat myself for keeping it together. Boy do I wish I was more of a practical spender! I’d be able to save about $5 to $10 more a week. I know it sounds like a little, but I think it would add up quickly. That’s $260-$520 a year!

  3. So true Mara. I know I have been guilty of that to greater or lesser degrees at various times in my life. Not that this is an excuse for any of us, and not to get to philosophical, but I think that the invention of credit allowed society to not feel the need to delay gratification any longer. Our grandparents just plain old didn’t buy anything unless they had the money to pay for it. My parents didn’t really teach me about delaying gratification and now as an almost 40 year old I’m having to teach myself while simultaneously trying to teach my kids about it.

    Even when we live within our means I’m always questioning myself. Should we put that money into retirement or is it ok to use it to pay for a family vacation. Should I struggle more to keep the food budget lower or is it ok that it’s as high as it is? If I could spend $100 or $200 a month less should that be going towards emergency savings or college? Or is it ok that I have a food budget that is comfortable and allows me not to stress about it too much? These are the questions I ask myself all the time. ๐Ÿ™‚ OK I think I got off topic there maybe.

    • I do the SAME thing. Now that we are living with our means, the next challenge is to delay gratification not just for the short-term goals (those are easier for me to handle), but also for the long-term ones. RETIREMENT is my #1 savings priority for 2012!

  4. Mara, I thought I was the only one who did an “inventory review” before checking out of the store! I actually think it is a very positive habit, as it puts one more fence between my impulse to buy something , and actually paying for that impulse.

    The other day my preteen daughter and I were shopping at Target. She had money of her own, and put a couple of items in the cart, saying, “I’ll think about if I really want it when we get to checkout” She did not buy the items. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Another strategy I use is to bypass the item and tell myself I can pick it up right before I go to checkout. I usually don’t go back to get it.

  5. Hi! I have 2 things to say. 1, I always “virtual shop”, with an “inventory review” at the end. Online and RL, all the time. I find it so much more fun and less stress of constantly looking, wishing, debating, bargaining with myself. I find it extremely gratifying walking around the store pretending to buy it. A virtual indulgence, but its really satisfying. By the time I get to check out, it’s so easy to leave it. I remember reading about a study of people who imagined lifting weights, really closing their eyes and picturing themselves sweating and squeezing. These people had an actual increase in muscle tone, they’re bodies responded as if it were actual. Kind of a similar situation.
    2. My secret to impulsive unnessecary shopping is to send my husband. He sticks to the list, doesn’t know what we need anyway, and hates shopping so much that he just does what needs to be done so he could get out of there. It means that I have to be super organized with the listings and coupons so he has what to follow in his hands and that’s that. It also means that i have to search the coupons, circulars, and managers specials online, and present it all to him in an organized way, and i dont have the opportunity to scan the shelves, so its a lot of work, but There are no surprises, no extras, and no unnecessary indulgences.

    • I am so glad I’m not alone in this – and hey, there may even be brain chemistry behind why this work … even cooler!

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