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Importance of Delayed Gratification


Successfully managing your finances takes a lot of work and discipline. There are more advertisements than ever before and across many new mediums. It’s not just billboards, TV commercials, or radio advertisements anymore. You can now see ads in your email inbox, park benches, cars, subway trains, and all over the internet. Companies understand the importance of pushing their product to consumers, and unfortunately that means we are victims of subliminal messages. It makes it harder to say, “No.”

Taking control of your finances means learning HOW and WHY to resist the message of consumerism to buy more than you need. It means understanding that material items will not make you happy. Constantly buying everything that you want will not only put you in a bad financial position, but make your happiness dependent on stuff. A great way to curb your spending is to realize the potential of delayed gratification.

What is Delayed Gratification?

Delayed gratification ultimately means holding off on present urges or desires now for a much bigger benefit later in life. It’s all about patience and the foresight to understand that the future reward is worth the sacrifice now. Here’s a great video that helps explain what it is and the trouble that we have.

How Delayed Gratification Impacts Your Finances

Delaying your impulses or desires now has a huge impact in several areas of your finances. If we are to truly embrace this across the board, we would be in a much better financial situation. Here are some examples of how it might change your life.

Career Advancement: Let’s say that you have the choice between two job offers. While it may be rare in this economy to have two job offers at the same time, many people do have opportunities to change employers in their career and they face similar situations. For argument’s sake, let’s say that one job offers better pay now, but has little potential for advancement. The other job would mean that you are taking a pay cut, but has a definitive path to advance in the company. If everything else was equal, which would you take? Would you make a sacrifice now in order to get a promotion and pay increase later?

Most people that I know would take the higher paying job now. My wife and I recently had to answer this difficult choice. My wife was looking to get a new job and she was offered an Americorps position, which literally pays less than minimum wage. While this would mean a year of huge sacrifice on our part, we decided to go for it because there was a lot of potential for advancement. As it turns out, at the end of the year, she got a staff position and a huge pay increase (in addition to great experience). She could have turned down the first position and made more money elsewhere, but this was far better for her long-term career.

Retirement Savings: There are very few young individuals who save enough money for their retirement. There are many other financial demands on young families, including: buying cars, saving money for a down payment on a house, children, pets, etc. Who has money to save for retirement when salaries are minimal? By saving money from the very beginning, not only can you establish a habit of saving, but you can let compound interest work for you. Assuming the same interest rate, someone who saved $5,000 each year from the ages of 25-60 would have twice as much as someone who started saving the same amount only 10 years later. That’s about a half of a million dollars of a difference. That $5,000 may seem like a lot now, but it will mean much more if it is invested properly.

Buying Used: Last, but certainly not least, buying used items can mean the world of a difference in your budget. I am sure you are aware of the latest, fastest, smallest gadgets like the New iPad. Who isn’t, right? Its sleek design and popular name may tempt you to buy it (if you haven’t already), but there is a cost. New technology often comes with a price increase. Vendors know that customers are willing to pay more money in order to have it now. If you can wait several months, you could find out that either 1. someone will sell their used item at a discounted price OR 2. you don’t really “need” it. Learning to say “no” and wait for something (especially for big items like homes or cars) will save you a lot of money in the long run.

It’s not always easy to value delayed gratification, but if you can remind yourself of the benefits of waiting for the future benefit, it will pay off. Remember, two marshmallows are much better than one.

Do you find yourself wanting the latest, newest items? Or can you convince yourself that it is better to wait for the future reward?

This post was written by Corey, a staff writer from 20’s Finances. He blogs to give young adults the materials needed to conquer financial challenges.



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. I’ve wanted a flat screen television for a couple of years now. Even though prices have plummeted, they still aren’t where I need them to be in order to complete a purchase. It’s not that important to me. By the time prices drop to what I’m comfortable with paying, I probably won’t want a flat screen TV anymore. That’s part of the beauty of delayed gratification. You don’t buy stuff you only kinda want.

  2. I think maybe even more important than delaying gratification is changing one’s feelings about what is gratifying. If much of what one finds gratifying involves spending money, saving enough may be challenging!

    • Great point, Kurt. Gratification can mean multiple things…

  3. I am pretty good at delayed gratification. I normally wait for an item’s price to drop that won’t change in functionality as time goes on. For instance I really like some video game series such as Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, and Fallout. I wait until they become greatest hits and buy them for $20 new, or sometimes get an even better deal by buying them used!

    • Not bad at all. I used to buy the same games brand new and now I reflect on that as one of the biggest wastes of money since they are worth pennies on the dollar of what I paid.

  4. This is a great post and I loved the video! I know my husband & I would struggle to save for retirement if we didn’t allocate a set amount right after we got married. I can dream of what we’d love to do with all the money going toward our student loans, emergency fun, and retirement, but we’re still comfortable and able to enjoy our lives.

    • Thanks Jessica! Yes, allocating a set amount is a great way to prioritize.

  5. I want a used mini cooper for my car, but I know i would be better off with a japanese car. 🙁

    • Did you force yourself to wait so that you could get it cheaper or not have to pay as much depreciation?

  6. I think that definitely depends on the item 🙂 I can’t say no to a cute new dress but as far as tech goes – iPads and the like – I can definitely delay it!

    • haha, well, at least it’s better than just spending like crazy. Is the dress more valuable to you than having financial freedom earlier in life?

  7. We struggle with this all the time. We do well for a period, then overspend and struggle to fix it. We are putting money away for retirement, but we need to get our debt down.

    • Kris, stay motivated. You won’t regret it later! Everyone slips up from time to time, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

  8. I find that the gratification really comes in the delay actually. Once the package is opened, I notice a moment of sadness b/c the journey is over.

  9. That’s part of the beauty of delayed gratification. You don’t buy stuff you only kinda want. Which is the truth

    • Very true. I hate the feeling you get a week after a purchase and you start to wonder why you even bought the item in the first place.

  10. That’s part of the beauty of delayed gratification. You don’t buy stuff you only kinda want. which is very true

    • Very true!

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