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Instant gratification is something that everyone has been guilty of at least once in their life. It can be eating that extra laddu when you were already full or buying that T-shirt that you really liked, even though it was out of your budget. The feeling of pleasure felt after fulfilling your impulses is like nothing else in the world.
However, fulfilling your impulses also has consequences. You might have broken your diet by eating that extra laddu. You later find out that the T-shirt doesn’t even suit you very well. This dissatisfaction from your purchase is ‘Buyer’s remorse‘.
Sometimes fulfilling your impulses is harmless – like choosing to stall work to watch Netflix because you can delay the work for tomorrow (unless there was a deadline!).
However, many times, the consequences can be more serious. You might never really start exercising, might strain your relationships and even lose money. But that’s not the bad news.
It is not surprising that despite knowing the consequences, sometimes we willingly look away from what’s more worthwhile for us.
Instant gratification is choosing short-term pleasures over long-term gains.
Does delaying gratification help in the long run?
The Marshmallow Experiment
The above question can be answered by “The Marshmallow Experiment” conducted at Stanford during the 1960-70s by Walter Mischel. He tested around 50 children between the ages of 4 and 5 years old. It is one of the most significant experiments conducted for studying success in health, life and work.
The children were left alone in a room with a table and chair. Then they were presented with a plate with one marshmallow on it. The researcher informed the children that they could eat the marshmallow immediately or wait for the researcher to come back after a certain period of time. The children would get a reward if they waited for the researcher’s return to eat the marshmallow. The prize was a second marshmallow.
The resulting wait was quite entertaining, as the children had various reactions to waiting for the researcher’s return. Some children gave into their impulse as soon as the researcher left and ate the marshmallow. Some were able to control their impulses for a while before they gave in and ate the marshmallow. Others used various means to distract themselves and wait for the researcher’s return and successfully obtained the reward of a second marshmallow.
Years after the experiment, the researchers continued to track the children’s progress in various areas. The children who waited for their reward and delayed gratification were more successful in life when compared to their counterparts that failed to control their impulses. It was proven that delayed gratification is a critical factor for consideration when it comes to success in life.
The good news is that the attitude of Delayed Gratification is not necessarily an in-born trait. It can be acquired, and honed over time. So anyone can practice delaying gratification to achieve more.
Impulsive Buying – Fun or Pain?
According to Cambridge Dictionary, it is the act of buying something that you had not planned to buy, because you suddenly want it when you see it.
Taking the t-shirt example again, you might have bought it because you liked how it was on the mannequin, or you liked its colour or design. It is also possible that you saw an offer online and you just couldn’t resist it. Psychologically, there are many more reasons why one takes impulsive decisions.
However, small impulsive purchases like the t-shirt might not have much of an impact on your financial well-being, but the same might not be true for big-ticket purchases. For such spends, you might take a hit on your hard-earned savings or end up buying it using the ‘Buy now, Pain later‘ options.
What’s the point of having short-lived joy if it leads to regretting later (Buyer’s Remorse!)?
Impulsive buying is not good or bad. But one must know when not to!
Delayed Gratification can be and powerful
There are so many things that can be bought after diligent planning. Once you’ve bought what you wanted after deliberate planning, you wouldn’t think, “Why did I buy it?”, but rather think, “I’m happy that I bought it”.
The joy of shopping lies in making the purchase, but isn’t the fun doubled if you are in a good financial standing (with lot of savings) while making the payment? We’re not suggesting that you don’t buy what you like, but just like you hunt the web for best discounts, why not plan for your next big-ticket spends a little in advance, so that you get the best value for your money!
For this, you don’t need to make any big decisions or drastically change your current ways.
For example, if you wanted to travel every year – what we suggest that the only level of change that you need to bring is something as follows:
You to yourself: I love travelling. Hereafter, I will travel every year! Approximately I need Rs 50,000 every year for this.
Also, you to yourself: I can save this amount from now on. I can always decide my destination later. This way I’ll have money (multiplied) by the time I am ready to travel.
You don’t need to decide now where you want to go. You can take that decision (spontaneously or planned) when you are actually booking for your trip. But by saving for an upcoming travel diligently, you can get more value for your 50k spend. Also, when you actually want to travel, you will have money already set aside.
Thus by shifting your gratification of travelling further from saving for that travel, you can avoid impulsive buying at a higher price/lower savings.
We strongly believe in enjoying life, however, it can be done debt-free and stress-free. Avoid impulsive buying and do not give in to instant gratifications. Look for long term value. Choose to delay gratification to have more of it.
Enjoy long term gains over short term pleasures. Just a tweak in the way you save and pay for your spends can bring you more value, more savings and more peace of mind!
Now, isn’t that cool?!