What's standing in the way of all the expensive stuff you want in life? Do you pine for an iPhone or dream of studying some of man's closest relatives -- gorillas, not your Uncle Marty -- in their native habitat? As soon as you win the lottery, you can do all those things. Or maybe it's those lottery tickets causing the problem.
For those of us without limitless checking accounts, big-ticket wants can impose some serious frustration. It seems like there will never be quite enough money in the bank to realize those big spending goals. Sound familiar? Then it's time to get comfortable with delayed gratification.
The problem with delayed gratification is pretty obvious. You have to wait to have your fun, and frankly, that sucks. It's not enjoyable to give up the thing you could have right now for the thing you might have some day in the far-off and hazy future. It means you have to forgo the hot, steaming cafe mocha with chocolate shavings and whipped cream on a cold and rainy morning, in favor of keeping that $3.50 in your pocket for a vacation you won't take for another year. (Mmmm ... mocha ...)
Here's where we run into trouble. We buy the mocha, figure we'll save the $3.50 someplace else, then complain that we never have enough money. Or, we book our tour with Super-Duper Safaris on the credit card, without coming up with the money to pay for it. That forces us to give up fancy coffee for a while to pay off the debt, in a kind of compulsory savings plan. In the worst case, it starts a cycle of high-interest consumer debt that lingers longer than a bunch of monkeys stalking a banana delivery truck.
Think gratification, not delay
Here's a better way. Instead of griping about the delay, concentrate on the gratification. Imagine yourself living your goal, right down to hearing the insects swarming around your head while you're crouched in the African bush. You're dressed in khakis and a pith helmet, like you belong in a National Geographic photo. You watch the gorillas clustering, looking for food, and looking back at those strange, tan-clad human creatures that appear every so often in their midst.
Make this image so real that you can call it up in a nanosecond when you're standing at the coffee counter about to order the most expensive thing on the menu. Then, ask yourself whether you'd rather have your sugary caffeine fix today, or a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife adventure next year.
To get this strategy to work, you need to remind yourself of your goal when temptation crosses your path. Put a safari screen saver on your computer to intercept your online shopping sprees. Put a picture of gorillas next to the photos of your kids in your wallet, and look at it when you pull the credit card out. (Or dress the kids up in gorilla costumes and take some pictures. You could probably stand to update the pictures in your wallet, anyway!)
Think opportunity, not sacrifice
You'll also need to put that money away so it's available when your boss approves your vacation time, the iPhone prices drop, or whatever opportunity you've been waiting for comes along.
Moving the money out of your regular day-to-day accounts helps preserve it for the time when you need it. It may even earn you a few extra dollars. There's a long list of places you can stash the cash, but you generally want to put it somewhere safe and easily accessible.
Consider holding your money someplace where it will make more money and get you to your goal that much faster. Some high-yielding money market and savings accounts, such as those offered by Capital One Bank
What's stopping you? Keep reading for more savings motivation, and find out:
- the secret key to wealth;
- how to save more, whether rich or poor; and
- how to play more later.