We live in a very fast-paced life today. Gone are the days when we wait a long time for what we want and need. The mantra now is, “the faster, the better.” Time is such a precious commodity that waiting is considered a waste.
We want things instantly. That’s why we have instant noodles, fast food, instant messaging … even instant money. In short, we are surrounded with things that give instant gratification. We want that gadget, that car, that return on investment, those results… ASAP.
Yet, one of the biggest lessons in personal finance is being able to stay the course and build up resources patiently. And this takes time. Time, coupled with money invested, will surely yield great wealth. So we, as financial planners, continually look for ways to crunch up money—whether by subtracting expenditures or adding up expenses—to put it off for future use.
In a world of instant gratification, disciplining ourselves when it comes to buying impulsively is a great challenge. Everywhere you look, you see promos, big sales, the latest gadget launches, which demand your attention and ultimately, your money. You see them in malls, the internet, TV, newspapers, and huge billboards. The temptation is always there—and very compelling.
But these expenses can become huge setbacks if they do not contribute to your effort to get closer to your financial goals. The most effective shield against this temptation is a huge financial EQ: delaying gratification, that is, we delay present satisfaction for a future goal. And each peso saved, if properly managed, can bring more than the stuff you put off.
Here are four practical tips to help you delay gratification and curb the urge to buy on impulse:
1) Remember the bigger picture. Your life is not only lived in the present, but in the future as well. Not only your life, but that of your loved ones as well: the people who depend on you. Always remember your dream—for yourself and for them—the very reason you are trying to manage your finances wisely. Are you saving up for a business capital? A retirement nest egg? For your children’s education? So every time you face a temptation to buy something, ask yourself: “How would this purchase bring me closer to my goal?” This will jolt you back to the reason why you are disciplining yourself in handling your expenses, and the end-goal should give you enough drive to hold on to your money.
2) Set a budget. Drawing up a budget means splitting your income into the various purposes you intend to cover: living expenses, discretionary expenses, investments and savings. I suggest doing this on a monthly basis, which can be further enhanced by breaking it down into daily allowances. Hereon, you have an idea of how much you can spend for that day only, and thus, control your urge to buy anything outside the budget. Should you want to allocate a monthly budget for your “impulsive buys,” you may. But stick to it.
Sometimes, however, be prepared to also forego some things that you may be aspiring for, in return for your financial goals. You may hold off purchasing that brand new car, or going on a fancy vacation—sacrificing a bit so that the amount saved can be reallocated to that which will serve your goal. Remember that Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, still continues to live in the same house he bought in 1958. And he is not into hot cars, either.
3) Set a time for an intended purchase. When it’s a sale season, of course items are at bargain levels – and that would be a perfect time to buy them. Yes, you’ll be tempted to go on picking up as many items as you want reasonably for future occasions, such as someone’s birthday or Christmas. But make sure these items have been planned way before then and that they have a purpose. And when you have bought them, stop. Remember, the more you save, the more you get closer to achieving your dreams.
4) Ask yourself if it is really needed. Almost always, the items that we buy out of impulse are things we really do not need. Let’s face it. The latest gadget? That shoe? The “discounted vacation”? I have worked in a bank, and the big clients that I talked with—those people who, through hard work and sheer frugality, have achieved success—did not really buy those things while on their way up. They knew what they wanted, and that the little comforts along the way were only distractions to their real goals. The iPhone Xnow costs almost $1,000. But that money is more than enough to pay for an insurance policy to protect your family, or maybe even your dream vacation in the future. Financial Planning is all about priorities at the end of the day.
Rienzie Biolena is a registered financial planner of RFP Philippines. He is chief financial planner of WealthArki & Consultancy, Inc., a financial planning and wealth management advisory firm aligned with international best practices. To learn more about financial planning, attend the 65th RFP program this October. To inquire, e-mail at email@example.com or text <name><e-mail><RFP> at 0917-9689774.