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As a finance coach, I often ask my clients to wait to make a purchase and they don’t like to hear they should wait to buy anything from shoes to cars to homes. They want the new stuff right now, at that moment, and I totally get it. I
want new things too, but for those that wait, they experience the satisfaction of delayed gratification and begin to understand how waiting will actually get them more than when they make an impulse purchase.
The Marshmallow Experiment
In the 1960s, a psychologist named Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments at Stanford University involving children age 4-5 years old making choices. The most renowned is the Marshmallow Experiment where Mischel instructed the children that they could eat one marshmallow while he was gone from the room or they could wait until he came back and have two marshmallows. There was a greater reward for waiting a few minutes.
Mischel wanted to see how their behavior impacted their level of success later in life. By the time they got to high school, the children who had waited for him to come back into the room before eating their snack had fewer behavior problems, drug addiction, and obesity, and higher SAT scores than the children who ate the snack faster.
What does the Marshmallow Experiment mean for us today?
While I am pretty sure you’re past SATs and homework, you may still be tempted by clothing sales and new cars. What we can learn from Mischel’s studies is the power of self-control and the reward of waiting until later to get what we want. That’s called delayed gratification.
Weekends tend to be the worst time for adults who love shopping. You’re home from work. You’re relaxed, and you’re more likely to make an impulse purchase. Over the weekends, I see my clients purchase anything from magazines and candy to cars, boats, and houses. While they may have those things today, they may not be able to afford other things in the future.
Think about it this way. You’re driving a car that is paid off. Even if it needs a $1,200 repair, that’s just $100 per month for one year. That’s way less than a car payment. If you buy the new car, you’re spending $300-600 per month that you could be saving for a dream vacation. If you delay the new car purchase, you can have a vacation sooner. THAT is delayed gratification.
When we delay gratification we’re resisting something smaller right now in exchange for something bigger in the future. The next time you want to make an impulse buy, take a few minutes or a few days to reflect on the long-term impact of your decision. You might just thank me later.
If you’re still not convinced about the power of delayed gratification, schedule a Eureka Session and we can talk more about reaching your financial goals.