29 August 2019
Do you know which popular vehicle name reads the same forwards and backwards? Find the answer at the end of this article.
If you scrolled down straight away, you might be too keen for your own good. We’ve all heard that patience is a virtue, and it can even save you money.
Now’s a good time to discover the benefits of delayed gratification.
That’s because instant gratification is the enemy of hitting your long-term goals, the things that really matter in your life. Think of it as a trade-off. Passing on something less important now, for something more important down the track.
If you’ve only recently started earning for yourself, taken out a mortgage or started a family, you’ll know it’s a far cry from the teenage impulse to order up that amazing jacket right now.
Of course, giving something up involves sacrifice, which doesn’t sound like fun. So instead of thinking of the pain, concentrate on what you gain. Instead of clicking on another piece of wearable tech, imagine a property with a backyard where your kids can run around.
Why we want it now
It’s only human to want things straight away. Evolution has given us a desire for immediate rewards. We’ll eat the food in front of us if we’re not sure where the next meal’s coming from. Most other animals simply act on these impulses, they don’t know any other way. But we can imagine the future.
After all, instant gratification doesn’t just mean spending 50 bucks a week on takeout coffee when we could make it at home for a fraction of the price. It’s the basis of compulsive behaviour and even addiction, leading to heightened anxiety and stress.
People don’t always make rational decisions straight away, which is why some areas like house purchases usually have cooling-off periods. Waiting a while before you commit to a purchase can reduce buyer regret and free up money better spent on what you really want.
You can do it already
Even if you think you’re a hopeless case when it comes to resisting temptation, it’s likely you already practise some form of delayed gratification.
You join a gym because you want to look and feel better down the line. You don’t expect one session will make you a shoo-in for the Olympic team.
If you have kids, you’ll already know the challenges of unfiltered demands. Most parents teach the benefits of waiting and sacrificing something now for something more rewarding later.
Here are some ways you can keep your eyes on tomorrow’s prize.
Although behaviour change can take time, breaking this cycle might be easier if you visualise what you want and make it your business to get there.
The first thing to be clear about is what you want to achieve. A goal, or a set of goals helps incentivise your brain. Do you really want that mulled wine more than Xmas shopping in New York? Wouldn’t it taste sweeter after ice skating at the Rockefeller Center?
You might pick one of your big goals and stick it under your fridge magnet. A picture of Bora Bora will look nicer than an overdue bill.
Tell your friends
Nothing says you have to reach your goals all on your own. They may be yours, but your partner, family and friends can all help you get there. If you’re saving for renovations to your house, you might get some great tips for reliable tradies from those who have been there and done it.
Tell them your plans and see how your objective becomes theirs, bringing you useful advice and encouragement. You might also consider finding a financial adviser to partner with long term. Even the solo round-the-world sailor has a support team.
You can still pop the bubbly
Decide what you will keep doing. You might be able to do without your gym membership, but if you love it for your physical and mental health, then it might be a false economy. Cut too much out and you risk splurging it all in frustration later on. Reaching your goals means you can still enjoy yourself.
Indeed, you might have a reward system along the way. If you’ve cut out takeout coffee, then once a quarter you might have high tea at a smart hotel within your means. You’ll look forward to it more and celebrate reaching another milestone along the way.
Self-control is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will be. The stronger you get, the easier it’ll become. Over time you’ll become less susceptible to dropping back into old habits and finding yourself searching online for this week’s hot Apple gadget. Early adopters often pay more for tech that’s new to market. Waiting for the bugs to clear and price to fall might be cheaper and better.
Talk to your future self
There’s a trend for famous people to write notes to their teenage self, saying what they’ve learned along the way.
Will your future self thank you for trading up to the latest phone or vehicle? Or would they rather you’d saved for the holiday of a lifetime, or that beach shack with a view?
The answers help you plan your goals. Often, it’s experiences rather than things that are truly memorable. There may come a time when you come across that designer jacket in the back of your wardrobe and casually toss it into the op shop pile.
Talk to someone older about what they’d have done differently. Many retired people wish they’d put more aside, or started saving earlier in life.
See the difference a day makes
Waiting just 24 hours before you commit to buying that band t-shirt can be enough to persuade you that you’d never really wear something that yellow.
Taking time to reflect often changes the choices you make. You might just find you can do without that extra case of shiraz, when next day you come across one you haven’t opened.
Many consumer goods are marketed to persuade you that you need something right now. Think of those shopping channel ads where they’ll throw in an extra mophead if you buy that new cleaner within the next 10 minutes. Make sure you really care about that mophead before you commit.
Don’t be a tech slave
Own your phone, not the other way around.
As advertisers get more and more personal data they’re better at targeting what we want, and using techniques to get us to buy right now. Is 10% off the end-of-financial year sale really worth losing a week’s holiday? Think of your other goals so you use the value scale that’s right for you.
Instant advertising often pushes for instant responses that don’t look so flash down the line. Marketers often structure offers to take advantage of our FOMO. Resist this year’s model in favour of the future car. It might just be a jetpack by then.
And the vehicle?
A Toyota. It also works if you hold it up to a mirror.