Do you want it all now or are you prepared to wait?

Like a lot of women I have to fight the battle of the bulge. It is so easy to let that instant satisfaction found in a slice of pizza or slab of chocolate replace my otherwise great common sense about good eating habits. When I do that I pay the consequences.

Living in the moment may be a beautiful spiritual principle, but it’s lousy concept when it comes to your finances. It is a violation of the fundamental law of seed time and harvest time. If you allow the principle of seed, time and harvest to work in your life, you will have financial abundance. If you eat your seed, you will not see your harvest.

I am not saying that we should not enjoy our lives. Contrary to that, I like to have the things that I need and want. But, that does not mean that I should not care about when I get what I get. I think that it is easy to get in debt, but getting out is a whole other story.

I'm reminded of The Marshmallow Experiment which was published in 1972. The study, tracked the behaviour of  600 4 to 6 year-olds. The kids were individually brought into a room. Inside the room there was a table with a tray with two marshmallows. The child was given a choice: If the child waited for about 20 minutes for the researcher to return, they would get two marshmallows. If the child simply couldn’t wait, they should ring a bell and the researcher would come back immediately, but the child would only be allowed one marshmallow.

The interesting part of this research came years later. The researchers followed each child for more than 40 years and over and over again they find that the group of kids who were willing to wait patiently for the second marshmallow succeed in whatever capacity they were measuring. This proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.

I admit that human behaviour is generally more complex than this. And just because a four year old makes better choices at that age doesn't mean they will be better adults. But learning this trait early does improve your willpower and ultimately helps you reach your longer-term goals faster.

We all have heard that if you need to succeed in life you will need to learn discipline. It’s not that we should not do what we want, when we want. After all we are adults. But we should realise that giving in to some desires is not good for us.

This type of mindset about money is the reason that so many of us are in financial ruin. So many of us whip out our credit card at every turn without thinking twice.

While many external factors can cause financial hardship, one of the common internal factors that can result in financial difficulty is an inability to appreciate delayed gratification.

Even Warren Buffett agrees: temperament is key to success in investments.

We withhold more of our take home pay to pad a retirement account we may not see for 40 years, we shuttle money into savings accounts that will pay for big purchases later, we pay down debts today in order to free up cash for tomorrow.

A few tips that you can use to help you learn the practice as it relates to your money include:

Build relationships

The stronger your relationships are, the less likely you are to turn to material possessions to fill the void. Relationships give meaning and richness to our work and to our lives. Not to mention that you have a support system that you can access for help and that will hold you accountable if they notice your spending habits are out of control.

Understand your values

The things we value are the ones we end up working for. Roy Disney said, “it’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” If you value short-term gratification and have trouble with finances, it is therefore necessary to change your value system itself. Why? Because your values influence your behaviours and your choices. When you understand your values you will be able to prioritise effectively, make consistent decisions and take action in a way that leads you to success. Understand your values and use this understanding to make better financial choices in your life.

Start Small 

I mean really small. Make an improvement to your saving habits today in such a small fashion that you can’t say no. If you are just getting started, start by saving a small portion like R 100 then build up from there. Saving just for the sake of saving is a recipe for failure. Rather, give your money a job and you’ll be far more likely to avoid purchases or actions that make the path to achieving what you want longer.

Have a better mindset

If you keep thinking that delayed gratification is a hard and unpleasant experience, it will be so. That has to stop. We need to change our mental approach to finance. If you think that saving for long term goals is exciting you can enjoy that as well.
And the next time you want to impulse-buy online or at the store, pause and think about whether you really need to spend the money now. Divert your impulses and think about what you could do with the money instead.

We all deserve true financial freedom, but it will only happen when we are willing to pay the price and make the necessary sacrifices today. 

Do you want it all now or are you prepared to wait? What areas in your life do you feel you need instant gratification and find it difficult to delay?