In the pursuit of Financial Freedom, there is no doubt that the ability to delay gratification can give you an immense advantage when it comes to reducing your spending and lifestyle “needs”.
But learning to delay gratification takes both practice and self-discipline. Our bodies and brains are hard-wired to pursue the instant reward and resisting our base instincts can prove to be psychologically uncomfortable.
We are also extremely skilled at rationalizing the beliefs or outcomes we want, even if it’s entirely irrational. A form of confirmation bias, we are predisposed to magnify the facts that support our position, and ignore the ones that don’t.
For example, let’s say I really want the newest cell phone on the market, but getting it would entail breaking a current contract, on which you have a phone that meets your needs, and also paying a significant penalty fee.
It’s quite obvious from the outside looking in that delaying the reward of the new phone would be the better choice from a financial perspective, and yet time and time again people choose to upgrade the phone simply because that’s the outcome they want.
Even in scenarios where there are much bigger ticket items at stake, cars, renovations, or even an entire home, people often gravitate towards and justify the upgrade.
In today’s era these two traits, the need for instant gratification and our ability to rationalize the irrational, manifests itself in inflated lifestyles, excessive spending, and financial chaos.
All of which to say, if you want to reach Financial Freedom, there is no doubt that it is well worth the time to train your brain to embrace the discomfort and get extremely good at delaying gratification.
Fortunately for those moments in life when we all succumb to the need for a little boost of instant gratification, there also happens to be an easy way to make that base human need work with our financial plans instead of against them, and it’s really quite simple.
Turn saving money into a game. One that you play in real time.
When it comes to savings, big numbers can be hard to work with. It’s hard to get and stay motivated to save for an amount or objective that might still be years away. But what if you were working for small amounts that you could achieve in a week, a day, or even an hour? How motivated would you feel then?
For most people, a sense of achieving your goals brings on an immediate feeling of gratification, one that studies show provides a greater and more sustained sense of accomplishment and satisfaction than the gratification you may feel by simply dropping some coin to buy the newest gadget.
It’s one of several reasons that video games are so addicting. They provide you with structured levels and rewards that mimic that same sense of achievement or progress.
So by setting small savings goals that you can consistently achieve AND you see immediate progress, your need for instant gratification can be met by cutting expenses rather than indulging in additional ones.
Heading out for a date night dinner and waffling over whether you should forgo the $15.00 appetizer and stick with just a main? If you decide your pocketbook and waistline would do better with a little self-discipline and choose to skip the appy, then capture those savings right then and there.
Give yourself that instant high of accomplishment. Take out your smart phone and move that $15.00 directly into your savings or investment account. (Whatever account you have ear marked as “don’t touch, for early retirement only”.)
Don’t let those savings linger, move them right away and get an immediate hit of gratification along with a sense of progress and satisfaction of money saved.
Go shoe shopping and decide to just buy the one economical pair of runners that you actually needed to replace and forgo the cute pair of boots you were contemplating? Move the $100.00 you were going to spend on those boots into your savings as soon as you walk out the door of the store.
Decide that instead of an expensive latte you are going to get a plain old coffee today? Move that $2.50 into your savings while your coffee’s still hot.
Turn your savings habit into a game, and challenge yourself to find savings every day. Every dollar not spent builds your savings, and moves you one level closer to you goal of Financial Freedom.
Make it a goal to find area’s to save money in everyday life where you would normally have spent it without a second thought.
When you are actively looking, opportunities to save money and reduce your spending can be found around every corner. And when you feel the sense of instant reward by immediately moving the money into your savings, you will motivate yourself to find ever more creative ways to save. If you’re consistent about it, even those small numbers can add up to big sums.
Saving money can be just as addicting as spending it, all it takes is a slight shift in perspective.