Can delayed gratification help you with your finances?

Are you the type of person who always has to have the latest clothes, smart technology or gym gear?

If you answered yes to this question, you could be a person who likes instant gratification, that is, you like to indulge in instant reward now, rather than exercising self-control, in return for a potentially greater reward in the future.

The “marshmallow test”

Instant gratification was first explored about 40 years ago by psychologist, Walter Mischel, in what has become known as the ‘marshmallow test’. This experiment tested children’s ability, or inability, to curb their urge to have one marshmallow immediately (instant gratification) rather than wait and receive two marshmallows, as promised to them, at a later time (delayed gratification).

This test still seems relevant today, so it’s not surprising that many of us choose to eat our marshmallow now, rather than wait, and possibly get a bigger reward at a later date.

In today’s materialistic, throwaway society, we’ve been bombarded with messages convincing that instant gratification makes us feel better. Combine that with the pace of modern life giving us easy access to credit and rapid changes in technology, instant gratification is tempting us all.

But while instant gratification might make us feel good for a while, it may not help us achieve our longer term goals.

Delayed gratification has its own rewards

Delayed gratification, by exercising self-control, allows you to resist the urge to have an instant reward now with the aim of a better reward down the track.

For example, you could give up your daily coffee and put the money aside to save for your next holiday, go without sugary treats to help you lose weight, or contribute to your super to help you save for a comfortable retirement.

And while exercising self-control isn’t easy, resisting temptation can have its own rewards, such as imagining how you can indulge yourself once you’ve finally achieved your goal!

How to use delayed gratification to help with your finances

The next time you want to impulse-buy online or at the checkout, pause and think about whether you really need to spend the money now. Divert your impulse and think about what you could do with the money instead.

Some ways you could use delayed gratification to help achieve your longer term goals:
  • Save up enough money before making a purchase to avoid credit card debt or a personal loan. When you do run up a debt, make sure you can afford to pay it off when the bill comes in or try to pay it off as soon as possible.
  • If you invest in a term deposit, don’t get tempted to take it out before the maturity date. Savour the wait so you don’t lose the interest you’ve earned.
  • If you’re saving up a deposit to buy property, try to save up for a bigger deposit so you’ll potentially borrow less in future. Of course, this may mean you are vulnerable to future market or price changes.
  • Reinvest any dividends you might get from your shares to increase your total number of shares−this could potentially give you greater returns in the longer term.
Take control of your future

Exercising delayed gratification can help you to take control of many aspects of your life, so why not start with your finances?

Whether your goal is to be debt-free, save enough to buy a property or to have a comfortable retirement, we can help you. Call us at (08) 8231 4709 for professional advice on how to achieve your financial goals.

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Zac Zacharia (Managing Director) has been assisting clients to create wealth and secure their futures for over 14 years.

He is also an accomplished presenter and educator

Co-authoring the popular investment book, Property vs Shares.