October 17th, 2012
Living in an Instant Gratification Society
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**Today’s guest post is contributed by Shannon.**
Have you gone out for coffee recently and used an iPhone app to pay for it? How about sending a text message to a cab company to send a car to your exact location? There’s no doubt about it, we are now living in an instant gratification society. Phones come as fully loaded as a laptop and just about anyone can go through a drive through to not only get food, but to get coffee, a car wash, or who knows what else. Having everything we want and need at our fingertips can only be a good thing, right? Not necessarily…
The byproduct of instant gratification is that, well, we expect everything in an instant. Including things we can’t actually afford. That has led us as a society to use credit cards for purchases big and small and seemingly overnight finding ourselves knee-deep in debt with nearly nothing to show for it. So what are we supposed to do? How can we reconcile newly ingrained habits with a chance at a better future?
The only real solution is to revert back to the way people thought about personal finance before it was so easy to swipe a credit card. Here are a few tips that may help you do so:
Use Cash Only for Small Purchases
Have a latte habit you just can’t beat? That’s okay if you’ve found room for it in your budget. But you should only withdraw the budgeted amount of money each month in cash. It’s a lot easier to turn that once-a-day latte habit into two- or three-a-day if you’re paying with a card instead of cash. The same goes for lunches and dinners out or any other discrepancy funds. You might just find yourself feeling the burn of that cash leaving your wallet and choose to make more frugal decisions to save a little more.
Make a Wishlist
See something you want? Whether it be a new outfit or a new car, don’t buy it now. Go home and wait a few days – or weeks for a larger purchase – and make sure this is really worth it. Will the purchase add value to your life in the form of time or money? If it won’t but you still can’t stop thinking about it, don’t buy it until you have the money from your budget set aside so you can make the purchase in cash.
If it’s a large purchase like a car and there’s no way you can pay cash, then make sure to wait until you know you can make it work with your current budget. You may need to make changes in your current spending in order to do so (like canceling cable), but don’t take out credit for something that you can’t allocate your current funds for.
Stay in Touch with Your Long-Term Goals
At the end of the day, you might find that there’s room in your budget for all your wants and needs. But if you compare where your money is going to things you want five or ten years down the road, those wants and needs could change fast. For example, let’s say you have plenty of money for a new outfit every month and a trip somewhere in the US each year. But you have also been thinking you’d like to take a longer trip to Europe sometime before you hit 30. Those outfits and smaller trips now could be a hindrance to that dream. By re-allocating that money towards the larger goal of a trip to Europe, you can make it happen sooner without even having to borrow money.
And if you currently have debt, then you should consider whether your long-term goals will be more achievable if you find a way to pay off the debt now, which will save you lots of interest payments later on.
In order to reach your financial goals while living in an instant gratification society, the key is
to keep your true priorities front and center. Not your priorities at that moment, but your priorities for your present and your future. By doing that, you can be sure to make financial decisions you can be happy about and that you won’t come to regret.
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