Delayed Gratification

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I’m having a rough weekend recovering from west coast jet lag and I was up way too late last night and cursing the fact that I had to get up so early this morning as Corey and I were both on duty in the tech booth at church today, but I’m so glad this was our week!  Pastor Rick not only talked about Disney, but also MONEY!  So I had to share some of his tidbits, plus build on it myself.

Financial Follower Friends, if you’ve been reading this blog and my posts for some time, hopefully I’ve beaten into your brain that a lot of financial success is in your head.  It’s how you think.  A lot of it is about not keeping up with the Jones’ and being content with your own situation.  It’s also about setting goals and making plans to achieve them.  And that requires discipline, which was the subject of this morning’s message.  Rick said discipline is about delayed gratification.  Pain now, enjoy later.  This factors into a lot of areas in our life – raising children, cultivating a healthy marriage, building a relationship with God, and of course, taking care of your finances!

Delayed gratification has been a joke in my family.  I learned this “skill” from my Mom and I have only perfected it to a crazy extreme.  When Corey and I were first dating and getting to know each other’s “foibles,” we were enjoying a meal, and Corey asked if he could have a bite of some food that was sitting untouched on my plate while I ate everything else around it.  He thought I didn’t like it and why let it go to waste when he could eat it?  Out came my animal instincts to defend that food, because the situation was quite the opposite of what he deduced.  In fact, that food was my FAVORITE and I was just eating all the lesser foods first so I could enjoy that favorite food last.  Delayed gratification!

Maybe my delayed gratification prowess is one of the reasons why I’ve done so well with finance.  I have no problem giving up things if it means I can save more.  My eyes are on that future prize, retirement as soon as possible!  Enduring some pain now means I’m setting myself up for enjoyment later.

Pastor Rick noted that our American consumer society is all about INSTANT gratification.  We are enticed by 0% financing so we can have things now and pay later, but it only delays the pain.  Practicing discipline and delayed gratification means we see something we want, but we take the time to save up for it to buy it outright.  No debt, no wasted money on interest, more enjoyment because we worked hard and spent time saving for this great thing!  And by setting a budget, we can easily determine if we can afford this new doodad.  It takes discipline to set and follow a budget.  Corey loves tech but he’s really good at balancing his desire for new gadgets with our budget.  If he sees something he’s interested in, he’ll set a price alert for it and research great deals.  Then he discusses it with me to see if we have room in the budget at that time and I trust that he’s getting the best deal because he’s been watching the price for a while.  Time also ensures that it’s something we REALLY want.

Sometimes saying no to things can leave you feeling deprived, but if you have a goal you’re looking toward, you can remember that goal in the moment of desire.  Is this new doodad more desirable than that ultimate goal?  Probably not.   Maybe you have a specific financial goal in mind, but in general the payoff for budget discipline is financial freedom – not being a slave to debt, the satisfaction of seeing your net worth steadily grow, the peace of mind that you’re prepared for the unexpected, being able to retire comfortably, and if you’re like me, being able to retire early hopefully!  That ultimate goal has me questioning even a few dollars here and there, because it all counts.  Discipline is about the little things as well as the big things.

How do you encourage your discipline and your ability to stick to it?  Write it down.  Rick said “if it’s not written down, it’s not going to happen.”  I wholeheartedly agree.  Your budget should be visible and accessible.  Tracking your expenses is a discipline that may take some getting used to but will serve you well in pursuing your financial goals.  You can’t argue with numbers!

As I was planning this post in my head earlier, another thought came to mind.  I know some people who have a very opposite view of life and money.  Live in the moment, live every day like it’s your last.  I can’t criticize, because the folks I know with this outlook have had some major tragedy that contributed to this way of life and I don’t know what that’s like.  There is something to be said for enjoying the journey though.  A lot of the fun of a Disney vacation is the planning and anticipation.  If you told me we were going tomorrow, I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much because I hadn’t spent the time anticipating and getting excited (it would also totally stress me out because I’m a control freak, but that’s another story).  People that win the lottery often spend it so quickly that they end up destitute and in debt.  They didn’t work for it, so it left their hands as easily as it came.  And the chances of a zombie apocalypse are pretty slim. Setting a goal, working toward that goal and having discipline to achieve it makes the journey and the goal that much more enjoyable and worthwhile.

With money, I’ve come to believe that if you’re in the minority, you’re probably doing the right thing.  Be proud to be in the minority!  Forget about the Jones’ and their fancy things!  Be the 1 out of 10 Americans who is NOT in debt!  Be thankful for what you have and you’ll stop wanting for more.  If you’re struggling with your finances and really want to improve, try developing some discipline.  It doesn’t matter how much money you make, it’s what you do with it.  Remember, it’s all in your head!

How disciplined are you with your finances?  Is this something you need to work on?  Do you prefer instant or delayed gratification?  Let me know in the comments below!

If you’re interested in Pastor Rick’s full message, check out this video podcast on Youtube!

"Sometimes saying no to things can leave you feeling deprived, but if you have a goal you're looking toward, you can remember that goal in the moment of desire." Delayed gratification will help you stay on track and reach your goals.

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