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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Instant Gratification

We live in a world completely dominated by instant gratification, especially in American culture. Everything that we ever could want, with enough money of course, can be had with a few clicks of a button. Companies have made it incredibly easy for us to feed that desire for immediate satisfaction over the years. Consequently, delayed gratification has gone down as well as our savings in the pursuit of the newest and shiniest things. Nobody is immune to this, including myself, but if we are aware of our instant gratification tendencies then we are more likely to control them in the future.

When I was a kid, I loved new things, whether or not it was a toy or a snack; I was enamored with it. I remember asking my parents all the time if they could buy new things for me, it worked about 30% of the time. Although, I knew that my chances were low, I made up for it by asking them all the time (I mean, my probability stayed the same but their willpower didn't ;) ). This has somewhat extended itself into the present in the form of technology, with me wanting to obtain the latest and greatest games and apps. But now the only thing that gets in the way of me getting what I want isn't my parents, its money. I like most people, I only have a finite amount, but the things that I can potentially get are literally infinite.

From about the start of college onwards, I really had to tighten my belt and delay gratification. There were so many things that I wanted but couldn't afford so I had to save up for it most of the time. I made a choice to put those things that I wanted in the back of my mind until I had set my finances in shape. This obviously was a lot easier to say than to put into practice. What helped me was that my peers at the time were in the same situation so it was a lot easier to control spending whenever we went out. But on a whole this was time of my life was when I really bought into the idea of delay gratification and saving for the future.

Now, it is harder than ever to delay gratification, because of the area I live in. It is really hard to save when there are people that are to the left and right of you driving luxury cars and have the latest in technology at their disposal. It brings out the competitive nature in me to try and best them, but alas it is not meant to be. I just don't have the large amounts of discretionary income that others have. I would have to purchase things I want now on credit. I also have to convince myself over a period of a couple of months that something is worth purchasing now. There are larger expense that must be taken care of before I can splurge on something that I want.

There are others like myself that are in more dire need of money, but they cannot seem to be able to control their expenses. They live paycheck to paycheck and never have enough money to be able to dig themselves out of the debt hole. Most aren't aware of the little changes that they can make to prevent them from splurging, such as never going into a store without a list and thinking about a potential purchase for a day or two before buying.But I really think that the key to delaying gratification is awareness of it in the first place, once people are aware that they are spending based on an emotional decision rather than a logical one, people can change their spending habits. Although, I have simplified this to one key reason, there might be several reasons why people spend or want instant gratification. They are mostly psychological and vary from person to person and thus depends on each individual.

Ultimately, I believe that we need to lessen our over reliance on things to make us happy. Happiness should come from internal content and not external material goods. Temporary pleasure is no substitute for long-term happiness and contentment in life.

Stay gratified my friends...

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