Develop the Skill of Delayed Gratification

If you are participating in our February financial detox , then you are probably adopting or learning to accept delayed gratification.

Deferred gratification is a popular topic on personal finance blogs. Instead of buying impulsively, you are advised to put it off for a while to get the potentially better reward. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it’s a useful skill that can help you in more than just controlling your impulsive spending.

As Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler write in Dollars and Meanings , “[we] are constantly confronted with self-control problems, from the mundane – we procrastinate, spend hours on social media, eat the third portion of dessert – to dangerous and destructive – we don’t take medication, we have unprotected sex, we write lyrics and we drive. ” Delayed gratification is one way to help our self-control.

If you’ve attended a basic psychology lesson, you’ve probably heard of the marshmallow experiment in which the researcher offers each child a choice: if they can’t eat the marshmallows left by the researcher when they leave the room for a few minutes, the child will receive two marshmallows when they return. researcher. If they ate mallow in the absence of the researcher, they would not have received the second. Most of the children could not resist – they ate sweets instead of waiting. But some put off getting the marshmallows and got two.

What interests me about this study is that the kids who were waiting didn’t just get a second sweetness. James Clear, writer and entrepreneur, writes that :

Children who were willing to delay gratification and waited for a second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better stress response, better social skills as reported by their parents. and generally better grades on a number of other life indicators. (You can see more researchhere ,here, and here .)

Researchers watched every child for over 40 years and over and over again, the group that patiently waited for the second marshmallow excelled at whatever ability they measured. In other words, this series of experiments has proven that the ability to delay gratification is critical to success in life.

It turns out that a little self-control goes a long way.

Not that exhibiting everything or even most of the time is very easy. As Arieli and Kreisley wrote, we are constantly bombarded with temptations, be it a marshmallow or a new dress. And “we tend to value certain things right now, in the present, much more than we value them in the future.” This is why it is so much easier to buy a new expensive sofa than to open a retirement account or spend money from a student loan on non-academic expenses.

How to develop a skill

To become good at anything, you need to be disciplined and learn to give up the easy option for the more difficult or time consuming one.

While it may seem like some people are simply better at controlling themselves than others, Clear writes that other experiments have proven that this skill can be developed in the same way as any other. “The child’s ability to delay gratification and demonstrate self-control was not a predetermined trait, but rather dependent on experience and environment, he writes .

So what steps can you take to create it?

  • Make yourself wait : Agree with yourself that if a purchase exceeds X dollars, you will have to wait X days or weeks to complete. So, for example, if something is worth more than $ 50, you have to wait a week after you first want to buy it to actually buy it. (You can also use the 10/10 rule .)
  • Start with something small that you know and then build on that. This could mean skipping one meal a week, or taking an alternative route home from work so you don’t walk past your favorite store.
  • Remember what you’re grateful for: According to Fast Company , a recent study found that “subjects who wrote about a time they felt grateful were more likely than other groups (who wrote about a happy and neutral experience, respectively) to choose the test. be mailed to them later than for a lesser amount in cash immediately. “
  • Save a photo of a larger goal you set for yourself on your phone , or set a daily calendar reminder of your goals. (Personally, I wrote a goal in my planner that I see every time I open it.) Think of impulsive spending as an obstacle to achieving those goals. “When you just think about the things you like and not the other things you also like that are right in front of you (hello potatoes!), You have a better chance of holding out for the best reward,” writes Fast Company .
  • Set a spending day and remember that you don’t have to spend money every day.
  • Avoid Amazon: If your problem is Amazon over-ordering, you can add the items you want to the list and come back to it when you have the money to order something for yourself. You can also install the Amazon Contemplate Chrome extension.
  • Make your future “ specific, vibrant and detailed .” Talk to the future and choose specific dates for your goals.
  • Try our monthly financial detox for a muscle game (and post your goal publicly so you feel too guilty to even consider opening the Seamless app).


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