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5 Money Tips to Resist Instant Gratification

Control Impulse Spending and Treat Your Future Self

Delicious looking cupcake tempting you to resist instant gratification

It’s seems humans are hardwired for instant gratification. Whether it is that tempting cupcake or the latest technology, we want it right now.

But in the modern world, temptation can get expensive, especially if you go into debt to satisfy your immediate desires. Delaying gratification in the short term can lead to a much bigger payoff in the future. It might be painful to resist an urge in the moment, but sacrificing an immediate want for a larger reward later on ultimately brings more peace of mind, satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment.

Start by taking the LifeValues Quiz to understand more about your own money habits, then follow these tips to control impulse spending and do something nice for your future self.

Pay Yourself First

For many of us, saving happens only if there is money left over after paying monthly bills and expenses. But spending often fluctuates from month to month, leaving our bank accounts close to zero before we even think about saving. By deciding ahead of time how much you want to save each month and transferring that money over before paying your bills, you’ll not only be able to maintain a set savings target — say, 10 percent of your paycheck every month — but you’ll also force yourself to better live within your means.

Automate Your Savings

Saving money is far easier when you don’t see it readily available in your checking account. Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to savings account every payday to ensure that you make regular contributions to your savings. Automatic contributions also can be set up for investment accounts, retirement accounts and other long-term savings accounts. What you don’t see, you likely won’t miss.

Invest Your Money

Look for investment and savings options that grow your money over time without you having to do anything. High-yield savings accounts that pay interest, investment accounts that compound over time and even certificates of deposit, which pay out interest after months or years, are good options. Not sure where to start? Take SAM’s free Money Basics Investing course.

Help younger loved ones get a jumpstart on growing their money early by setting up child savings accounts or college savings funds (some of which come with tax benefits) to help them in the future.

Shop With a List

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. You can control spending and resist temptation by shopping with a set list in mind, rather than just buying whatever catches your eye at the store. Take this concept a step further by carrying only a set amount of cash and leaving the credit cards at home, forcing you to spend no more than what you have in your pocket.

You might consider developing your own technique to take a mindfulness break before each purchase. It could be a set of questions you always ask yourself to help slow down before you buy, or a picture you carry with you that reminds you of your long-term money goals. Try SAM’s Mindful Spending worksheet to get you started.

Set and Track Your Goals

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Studies have shown that writing down your money goals, tracking your spending and maintaining a budget are all critical parts of personal money management. There’s a side benefit to this goal setting too: By thinking about the future, it can be easier to keep your eye on the prize and resist impulse purchases. Use the SMART Goals worksheet to keep track.

At first, delayed gratification may not seem like much fun at all. But the security and peace of mind it can bring are well worth the effort.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]