How Instant Gratification Kills Your Future

How Instant Gratification Kills Your Future

As a society we do not like to wait. We hate lines, traffic, the DMV and anything that stops us from doing or getting what we want quickly. It’s come to the point where we need packages to arrive the same day (new Amazon Prime feature) or the next day and even then it feels like a hardship. We’re used to being able to download any movie, any book, any magazine at the touch of a button. Out of laundry detergent? Click the Amazon Pantry button and you’ll get more the next day. Want to hear a specific song? Youtube or any music site can help in seconds. Want new sneakers? Zappos! Hungry? Order takeout or delivery without ever having to talk to someone. The world is at our fingertips, literally.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s great that we have the knowledge available to us to learn about almost anything instantly, if we want. It’s great that busy moms and dads can spend time with their kids instead of having to deal with running errands for laundry detergent. It’s great that we can become more cultured in film, or literature if we find a free afternoon. What isn’t great is that we are becoming used to instant gratification. Even worse we’re coming to expect it. If we want something or something is bothering us we expect to take care of it right away. We can’t stand letting that feeling linger. Now I’m sure there are all sorts of psychological reasons this is a bad thing but I am going to focus on a more concrete problem. Finances. Needing instant gratification can destroy your finances and your future, even for uber frugal people.

The obvious example here is shopping. If spur of the moment you decide you want something, or are walking the aisles in Target (DANGER Will Robinson) and see that perfect home accessory, the part of us used to instant gratification says “BUY IT!”. Even people who track their spending run into this issue, especially if the cost is small. You had a craptastic day at work and you have to stop at the store to pick up laundry detergent on your way home. Wow that donut looks good. Hmm maybe a latte to go with it. It was a rough day and you deserve it! O and since we’re in a Target Supercenter let’s walk to the clothing section, because we were just thinking today that a new cardigan would be nice. O and maybe that dress. Snowball (and not the good kind)!woman-1329790_1920

Now there are a few things we can do to help prevent these little purchases which are busting our budgets. The first is obvious: TRACK EVERYTHING. Every single cent you spend needs to be tracked. How can you know what you’re spending on if you don’t track it? I’ll be posting a future article explaining how we track our spending along with a free excel spreadsheet to help out! You also need some kind of budget to know how much you have to spend on “fun” impulse purchases. How strictly you budget is totally up to you but if you don’t have goal, it’s hard to meet it (and not exceed it). Lastly you need to consider whether you really NEED that thing RIGHT NOW. Can it wait? If so don’t buy it immediately and sit on the idea for a while. It’s amazing how many things we NEED in the moment that we don’t end up buying if we think on it for a day or two. One final thought is if you can help it, don’t put yourself in the position to make impulse buys. Don’t wander the store. Don’t browse Amazon aimlessly. In our house we don’t keep chips around very often. The reason being that both Steve and I will eat them, ALL of them. When it comes to chips we have to be abstainers. If you find it hard to stop impulse buying when out shopping, then don’t go out shopping. It sounds simple but makes such a huge difference!

I am a self proclaimed budget queen. I track all our spending meticulously and we have been living according to our budget for over a year now. So the shopping I discussed above isn’t a huge problem for us. We let things sit in our amazon cart for weeks before either removing them or finally buying them. However I’m running up against the instant gratification problem in another way and I am having a much harder time with it. As you know we moved into our Airstream, Charlie, three weeks ago. Charlie is a 2005 Classic Limited Airstream Trailer. He’s got great bones but needs some cosmetic upgrades (he is over 10+ years old). I knew moving in that there were a lot of things I would want to eventually change inside to make the Airstream our home. We knew we wanted to tear out the dinette and add a work space for Steve.  We knew we wanted new floors.  We knew we wanted to reupholster the couch. I was prepared! Or so I thought. We are still planning on doing those big ticket items and are starting to budget/save for them.

Meanwhile it’s the little things that are driving me nuts. The throw pillows are old, and dirty and I would LOVE new ones on the couch, or at least I’d like to give the existing ones a facelift. I want some cute little containers for plants throughout (greenery always makes a place feel more like a home to me). I want to reupholster the window valences to make them more our style. And so much more.

Ugly valences & ugly couch!
Ugly valences & ugly couch! Pretty Patti!

I sit in the Airstream and daydream of the things I will do. BUT and this is a big BUT, none of these things are in the budget right now. We have a certain amount per month to spend on home improvement/decor and we are WAAAAY over and above this month as it is. I knew we’d blow the budget this month in order to get Charlie livable and we allotted some savings for that. But these little details, that don’t actually affect our quality of life, they are going to have to wait. Possibly for a few months. And it’s killing me.

I keep reminding myself that these little things are NOT affecting how much I LOVE living in our Airstream. They are upgrades that will just sweeten the deal later. They are NOT worth throwing my future self under the bus for. Every time we go over budget, or buy something we don’t need that is exactly what we’re doing. We are essentially saying that this thing is more important than our future. I can say without a doubt that is NOT true! My future of traveling full time with Steve and the girls around the US is much more important than window valences. Yes the valences are noticeable now, they bother me now, but if I never got around to changing them we would still have an awesome life of travel. They are not worth it. I will get around to all these projects once the budget allows for it. My future is more important than these little annoyances in my present. So no instant gratification for me. I’m working through it.

We have done a few small DIY projects including painting two small walls in the living room. Check out the before and after! So little by little…..

The wall afterThe wall before

What about you? Do you have issues with instant gratification? How do you keep yourself from spending on things you don’t actually need right now? Do you prioritize your future dreams and desires or do you let your “right now” destroy your future?

4 Comments

  • apathyends

    April 28, 2016 at 7:56 am Reply

    We are the same way with chips and pretty much any other junk food so we are disciplined grocery shoppers.

    I am not a detailed budgeter – but recently started going through our credit card statement line by line to check on our spending and found that valuable.

    It’s so easy to spend money these days! Impulse buying without even leaving your house!

    • Courtney

      April 28, 2016 at 10:19 am Reply

      I agree that tracking our spending is huge, otherwise the money seems to slip away on little things. You are right that it is so easy to do now. Just by checking our social media or email we’re assaulted by ads: “just click here”. It’s like if there were chips on sale everywhere I went. I would be in trouble!

  • The Jolly Ledger

    April 28, 2016 at 5:04 pm Reply

    I like how you and Steve alternate your posts! It gives me something to read everyday. Here’s a parent tip to stop impulsive purchases. Take a kid with you shopping. Every two seconds they will ask you to buy something. Make a game out of saying, “No!”. Say no in funny voices. Say no while doing an aisle dance. Nothing is more fun than saying no to a child. An added bonus is that you are also saying no to yourself because kid’s will call you out on being a hypocrite in a heartbeat. Then grab what you need and scurry toward the checkout line. You guys might have to borrow a kid.

    • Courtney

      April 29, 2016 at 7:56 am Reply

      I never thought about that! I have heard that kids pick up on anything you do that contradicts what you say. So I can imagine that in order to not buy EVERYTHING that the kids want, you have to stick to the list (which has it benefits!). Very cool point!

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