I’m a woman of action. When inspiration strikes, I spring into motion. Sometimes, that’s a good thing—for example, I make it to more movies, score more seats on the Subway and resolve conflicts and find solutions faster than my slower-moving friends and family.
But, at other times, my rapid progression from thinking to doing is disadvantageous, particularly when it comes to money management. In other words, I have a weak spot for impulse purchases … or, at least, I usually do.
I’m still not sure why, but, earlier this year, when the urge struck me to buy a record player, I didn’t. Instead, I thought about it for a couple of months and relegated my desire to a fuzzy mental note.
Then Christmas happened, and guess what YNAB sent me? (Yes, YNAB sends every member of the team a gift, and not just a generic gift card or standard-issue present. No, way. Emily, our exceptionally talented, and possibly mind-reading, executive assistant handpicks personalized Christmas presents for each of us.) You can imagine my surprise and delight when I unwrapped a shiny, new record player—something I truly wanted, but never got around to buying.
And, that got me thinking about how delayed gratification isn’t such a bad thing, after all. In fact, it’s a powerful tool that can help you optimize your spending habits, saving you a ton of cash and making you happier over the long haul. Here are four reasons why:
1. Get Better Presents
If you don’t buy everything on your wish list, you become immune to the old trope, “What do you get for the person who has everything?”
When Team YNAB visited Lone Mountain Ranch earlier this year, I had a blast playing Johnny Cash records in my cabin. I talked about buying a record player with a few coworkers, and they remembered! Receiving the player as a gift was a lot more fun than buying one, too. There’s the element of surprise, plus gifts are more meaningful. It shows that the gift-giver knows you, cares about you, and the gift serves as a memory of the occasion.
The next time you see something fun to buy, consider waiting. Instead, maybe give your family and friends (or Emily) a chance to surprise you.
2. Stop Clutter Before It Starts
We’ve all felt the pang of buyer’s remorse. It might hit as you load your shopping bags into the trunk, or it could strike months later (for example, after your new Airdyne exercise bike has collected a sturdy layer of dust). But, whether you fell for a slick marketing campaign or simply misjudged your own interest, the result is the same: stuffed closets and fewer dollars in the bank.
If you find yourself compelled to purchase something, immediately, right now, just stop. You don’t have to ignore your desire, but you could save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run by sitting on it. Take a few days or a month (or more) to think it over. Put it on a fuzzy mental note, or add it to your wish farm. Time will tell you if it’s worth the splurge. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s definitely not.
3. Get More for Your Money
As I sit writing this in a Starbucks, I’m surrounded by signs screaming “50 percent off!”
Travel mugs, bags of coffee, cookies and candy are all marked down post-Christmas. Barnes & Noble was the same, offering steep discounts on cards, books, planners and small gifts. I picked up my 2019 wall calendar at a discount, and I won’t even need it until next week! Waiting until after the rush paid off (and gave my mom a chance to gift me a calendar, which she sometimes does—see #1, above).
You can also save money by waiting to make large purchases during sales. Can you get by with your old television until Black Friday? Can you make do with your old coffee machine until Amazon’s Prime Day? You don’t have to say “no” to new things, but “not yet” is powerful!
4. Get More Satisfaction from Your Spending
I can’t put this more simply: there is nothing quite as gratifying as buying exactly what you want with cash that you specifically budgeted for the job. No buyer’s remorse or guilt, just the pure joy of spending money on something you really want.
Prioritize Happiness By Waiting …
Pleasure in the moment is great, but not if it’s at the expense of your long-term happiness. So, pay attention to your impulses. Wait a little, and make sure that the things you spend your money on today add up to a life you’re happy to live. And if you need help deciding exactly what financial priorities would make you happiest, I can’t more highly recommend a budget. Try YNAB free, for 34 days, and you’ll see what I mean!