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The Power of Delaying Gratification

A lot of people like the ability to act without thinking about the consequences, and while that feeling is definitely liberating, it may not be so wise. I advocate a system of saving for purchases and waiting at least 30 days before making any significant purchases.

First let’s look into the reasons why we should save for purchases instead of going with our first impulses.

There are two clear dangers of buying now and paying later: The risk of building up credit card debt and the risk of being disconnected from our money and making purchases without thinking of the consequences.

If we are irresponsible with our credit, we will pay for it. By making purchases with the mentality of “I’ll put it on the credit card and worry about it later,” we are getting yourself into trouble and will regret it later. The same thing goes for people who have the “This is not a big deal because I’ll make more money in the future.”

There are studies that show that people who use cash spend less than those who use credit. The disconnect for those who use plastic could end up costing them a lot of money in purchases they otherwise wouldn’t have made.

It’s clear that by making rash decisions can hurt us financially and implore us to not only spend more than we expect, but more than we can afford.

After looking at the financial reasons, there are other advantages of saving up for future purchases that have equal or greater value.

When setting goals and saving for purchases, we force ourselves to prioritize and think about what we really want to spend our money on. I recently saved up for a nice new pair of headphones, and while waiting for the money to build up, I realized just how much I valued them and how much use I’d be getting out of them (on the subway, at work, and exercising). It made me appreciate them more and work harder to save. That time in between was key, and now that I have them, I couldn’t be happier.

Similarly, by saving for a certain period of time, we also get time to reconsider our purchases. Instead of making impulsive decisions about buying the latest gadget, the month or two spent saving is often enough to realize that you can live without it. I’ve had an old clunky tv for years, and there have been several times when I thought that getting a new LCD was the most important thing in the world.

I told myself that if I waited 30 days and still thought it was necessary, I’d pull the trigger. Just days later, I realized that not only does my tv work fine, but there are a lot of things that I get far more enjoyment out of, like my iPhone, which was it’s own adventure.

Readers, are you able to delay gratification? What strategies do you use to ignore items you want immediately?



  1. I think that I am pretty good about delaying gratification. I try to do something similar to what you’ve described with waiting and saving for it. I really try to honor my budget so there’s not really any room for impulse shopping even though I’d love to do it sometimes. Right now my next buy is a new phone and my incentive to wait is the bonus I’ll get come the two year anniversary which is about a month away – after that it’s game on Droid X :)

    • @Nunzio Bruno, I’ve got the iPhone 4 so clearly I think your Droid X isn’t as good haha. Actually a friend just got it and loves it. Hopefully the competition will lead to even better products!

  2. NICE post!! I have this topic written down as a topic to write about. I was actually going to use the 30 day rule as well! It really is an awesome rule that makes so much sense. I do that with clothes all the time. Just this past weekend I was at the Outlets with my GF. I was going to buy two new shirts. I held off, and already I’m glad I did not buy them haha.

    In addition to what you mentioned, delaying a purchase until you reach a certain goal can be so rewarding!

    • @myfinancialobjectives, My only prolem with delaying a purchase until reaching a good is that every time I get close to reaching a goal, I think ‘Eh, this wasn’t so hard, I don’t really deserve a reward, I’ll wait until I actually do something impressive.’

      I don’t reward myself for reaching a goal but occasionally I let myself go for an impulse buy. Make sense? Didn’t think so.

  3. I’ve gotten pretty good at delaying gratification. I find I get more satisfaction out of things that I wait for. Along with that, if I wait long enough, I may not even need it in the first place. While I don’t have a set “30 day rule” I do tend to wait a while (it’s usually longer than 30 days, it’s more like 3 months). It’s worked great.

  4. I’m currently saving for an Android phone. I’ve already spent weeks thinking about this purchase, which is definitely more a WANT than a NEED as my current “dumbphone” works perfectly and fulfills all my basic needs. After a while, I realized that I could only find the peace of mind to buy the smartphone after selling something I don’t use so often anymore, e.g. my Xbox 360. Now the console is sold (and so is every videogame that I had) and the money is in the bank, just a couple hundred short of my goal. Until then, I’ll just keep browsing the Net to make sure I get the hardware that best suits my needs (not to mention daydreaming about it). :)

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