As 2013 is coming to a close, this is a great time to be thinking about how you want next year to go, especially in terms of money. Should you be making some changes in how you spend yours?
All of us want what we want and we want it now. It’s just the way we’re wired. Unfortunately, always operating in the mode of instant gratification keeps us from being truly happy and successful.
Epicurus warns us: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Keeping up with the Joneses should be considered a disease. It’s contagious.
It’s hard when we see things that other people have not to want them, too. The house, the car, the boat, the jewelry, the clothes—these things sure make it look like that person has it all figured out.
We think, “Maybe if I look like that person I’ll be as happy as that person seems, or maybe I’ll be accepted or even admired.” Oh, the stories we tell ourselves.
In our society of wanting more all the time, we feel like we’re never satisfied. When we get the thing we want, we’re frequently over it quickly and on to wanting the next thing. When we don’t put in the effort of working toward something, it loses some of its value.
There’s a lot of emotion tied to the things we want. Especially when they’re dreams we have, like a vacation house on the water. Not being able to have those things right now is frustrating, so instead we try and satisfy our desires with smaller things we can have.
But what we have trouble remembering is that we can’t have the things we really want in our lives—the big things—if we waste our emotion and money on the little things. A few dollars here and there adds up.
If we weren’t trying to keep up with the Joneses, if we weren’t tormented by wanting what they have and wanting it now, then we’d be in a much better position to achieve our real goals when the time is right. But it can be really hard to stay focused, especially when what you want may be years away.
So, here are some questions you can ask yourself whenever you’re tempted by instant gratification:
- Why do I want this new thing?
- How will it help me?
- Is it a want or a need?
- Is what I’m currently being tempted by a priority over what I really want?
- How long will having this thing delay my dream, and is it worth it?
- If it’s a low-cost item and doesn’t delay my dream, does it open the door to thinking I can make more purchases like this, which will ultimately delay my dream?
- Does this thing match up with my beliefs and values, especially my financial ones?
Here are some other things you can do to stay focused on what you really want.
1. Keep images of what you want most on a board to keep you inspired.
I have a board like this in my office. Whenever I get tempted by something, I walk over to the board and ask myself which thing I want more.
2. Stop putting yourself in situations that get you in trouble.
You’ll be less tempted to spend money if you don’t go to the mall or shop around online.
3. Set up a reward system.
Consider only going on vacation if you meet a savings goal you set; this incentivizes you and rewards you at the same time.
It’s not fun to give up what you want right now, but you’re only sacrificing your future if you keep putting it off. There will come a time when you can relax your restrictions, and the bonus is that at that time you’ll also have what you really want, and that’s worth buckling down and doing the work now.