Instant Gratification: the other side of the story.

Earlier this week I wrote a blog on Instant Gratification.  Just like the movie Sliding Doors, the story can have a different ending…..

Twelve months ago, I had a Freddy Mercury moment. “I want it and I want it now”.  What was the object of my desire? A red leather lounge suite.

leather compressed

It would look perfect in our house, not that there was anything wrong with the lounge suite that we had, but the red leather was divine.  It wouldn’t just enhance the room, it would transform it.

We weren’t even looking to buy new furniture, it was one of those moments when you walk past a shop and something grabs your attention, next minute you’re in the shop chatting to the salesman like he is a long-lost friend.

I did all the things that I tell my clients to do when impulse kicks in.  Walk away, give yourself time to assess whether this is a Need or Want.  What is the opportunity cost of the purchase?  Is the purchase worth it in terms of our longer term goals?  We looked at the price tag and decided we weren’t prepared to pay that price.  So we didn’t buy it.

A couple of weeks later, we were back in the same shopping centre and the lounge suite was still there, not only that, but it was now on sale with a fairly significant price reduction – and the shoppers among us love that word SALE!  That alone made it much more appealing, so in we went for another look.  The resolve not to buy was waning.

Then the salesman pulled out his king hit – we could have it now and pay 12 months later.  Oh yes, that was it!    The shot of dopamine hit, the thrill of the deal kicked in, and going for a coffee didn’t help, by now I was hooked.

The conversation with my hubby Simon went a bit like this:  ‘Honey, as a money mentor are you sure this is a rational decision. ’

To which I replied (probably a little tersely), ‘Of course I am’.  All the while knowing I wasn’t.  I was letting the justification and rationalisation bias take over.  Here’s the sliding doors moment; I had a cunning plan.

I continued (in a much gentler tone) “It’s interest free and no payments for a year;  so if we put away money each month, then at the end of 12 months we’ll be ready to pay.  Meanwhile we get to enjoy our lovely red leather lounge suite for a whole year and not have to worry about finding the money for it at the end.  It will look so good in the room.”

I must admit, we did feel quite pleased with ourselves.

Retailers thrive on the buy now pay for it later offers.  Our brains love pleasure; being able to use credit separates the pleasure of acquiring something now from the pain of paying for it.

We did buy it and it has met all our expectations, it has transformed the room.  It is incredibly comfortable we absolutely love it and there is no way we will part with it now.

So, instead of after twelve months of ‘red leather’ pleasure and then the pain of having to find the funds at the end and feeling guilty (yes we still do that), we paid a little each month into our bank account, earned a little bit of interest and we got to enjoy a lovely big discount and interest free terms.  We had double (or maybe triple) the pleasure!

Our story is an example of how to get pleasure now and pleasure later.

So the next time Freddy Mercury peeks over your should and you are about to have a ‘I want it now’ moment here are a few tips to help you get through it.

  1. Walk away;  don’t buy immediately and give yourself time to let the emotional reaction go and logic to kick in.  If it is a big ticket item give yourself at least 24 hours before going back for another look.
  2. Work out the numbers. There is nothing wrong with interest fee, deferred payment providing you can pay the item off before the interest free period ends
  3. Look at your financial goals, what impact is this purchase going to have on you achieving your goals
  4. If you do decide to buy, make sure you put the monthly payment away into a savings account so you have the money tucked away when the payment falls due and you have earned a bit of interest along the way.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up and feel like a failure if you succumb to temptation.  Review the  situation and try to identify the emotional trigger, for example were you really happy or feeling down.  Once you know what triggers you to spend you will be able to manage the situation better next time.

2 thoughts on “Instant Gratification: the other side of the story.

  1. Excellent blog, being smart with your money doesn’t mean you should never treat yourself to anything. We did something similar with a new bed over Christmas. Our bed was 15 years old and really past its better days. There was a deal, pay for a single and get a king and no payments for 12 months. The only catch was it as going to be a couple of weeks before the bed was made. We’re still waiting and it could be a bit longer, but the no payments and interest free doesn’t start until we get it.

    I think some people associate money management with never treating yourself. I think delayed gratification can be just as exciting when the item you want finally arrives. I also think its worth doing your homework first. Very important for a gadget lover like myself.


    • Thanks for the feedback.
      Yes, it is important to treat yourself from time to time, otherwise it is really difficult to stick to your financial goals if you feel you are missing out.
      It’s a bit like going on a diet and trying to totally eliminate something you enjoy, you just aren’t going to stick to the diet because it is just too hard.


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