One Tip that Saves Me Thousands

Delayed Gratification and Impulse Control made coolHow many of us know a person who got a gym membership, was all pumped up to lose weight and then a few days later, nothing!

Or gets this shiny new gadget, promises to use it to justify the expensive purchase, and a few days later, doesn’t even use it as much?

Heck, I know that person. I am that person.

I was burning through whatever money I had by accumulating stuff. Note, I am not a spendthrift but I still ended up buying things (or wanting things) that I knew I would get bored out of.

But we are good at justifying our impulsive buying, aren’t we?

I imagine many people justifying their expensive, impulsive purchases. I justify my shopping based on my plans. “I will start making fruit juices myself,” you say as you pay for the funky fruit juicer.

But these justifications don’t work. I ended up spending money on things that I’d begin to hate as they reminded me of my moment of weakness!

So what worked? What is the one tip that did work?

Anything I buy must be a reward for doing one thing or the other.

Essentially, I do not buy things now. I just reward myself.

This not only gave more meaning to most of the things I buy, but also helped me save thousands!

The Common Sense Experiment

This experiment started about two years ago. I did not know the science back then.  It just sounded right. Made sense.

And it has saved me some serious cash. I have ended buying less stuff to begin with, and the things I buy are now not wasteful.

In hindsight, I see there really are two things to consider here:

  1. The utility of any thing starts to diminish the moment you have it.
  2. Life is not about accumulating but is about doing.

This lead me to not buy anything till I was actually doing something very, very relevant to that thing.

And this attempt at stopping me to buy on impulse had a very rewarding side effect; I started doing more things!

Timex Ironman WatchFor example, I remember wanting to buy a Timex Ironman watch. I was in Bangkok at the time, had the money in my pocket and that gleam in my eye.

Instead, I told myself I’ll buy it if and only if I am able to run and finish a half Marathon distance.

Previously, I would have bought the watch on my plans to be a runner. But I linked it to a very tangible action.

So my Reward for running the odd 21kms was the watch. I took down the model number of the watch to make it look more serious. I even later went online and bookmarked it on my Amazon Wish List.

And as it happened, the desire – nay, the momentary impulse to buy a watch – actually saw me giving running a serious try. But I was running only a few kilometers twice or thrice a week, a far cry from the grueling distance of a half Marathon.

So when I did end up running and completing the Lahore Marathon (my first ever Marathon), I could have bought the watch guilt free. Not as an impulsive buy, not some thing that I’d regret buying a few months later. But as a souvenir for my efforts. A product with a story!

This Rewarding Yourself mentality can be applied to pretty much everything.

The Science Behind the Sense

I later found out that there is science behind the common sense.

It’s called delayed gratification. From the famous marshmallow experiment at Stanford, to corporates using incentives to motivate their employees, this technique is quite well-researched. It works.

But all science (and art) is useless if you do not use it to your advantage.

For example:

  • Start exercising before getting a gym membership. Do half hour sessions of exercise three times a week, for one month in your home, before joining any gym.
  • Start running – in your average sneakers – before buying proper running shoes. I do have a pair of running shoes now that I wear all the time; they are a part and parcel of what I do.
  • Start selling your product from your room before getting into that expensive office.
  • Do not buy that expensive computer, rather reward yourself after doing a relevant, tangible action.

Try to link everything to a tangible, achievable action.

But I don’t see many people consciously implementing this in their daily lives. Do you? Or do you plan to do it now?

I hope this helps and I wish you all the best in your conquests and queries.

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P.S. I actually now have a board on Pinterest where I list down my rewards! Some I have planned for, some I already have achieved. By God’s Grace. If you are on Pinterest, add me up there as well.

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18 Comments

  1. You are a smart man. 🙂

  2. Too bad I read this AFTER I paid for an expensive sports watch 🙁 still good technique for next time

  3. Syed Shahzad Raza

    It depends . Some times you plan to buy something and you don’t find it anywhere. And then you suddenly see it when you are in no mood of shopping.

    • 🙂 I see what you mean. If one has planned to buy, then that means one has thought it through. The only catch is that when I relate a tangible action to most of the purchases, I have realized I really do not need much to begin with.

  4. An excellent post. this will help me alot.

  5. Faisal

    This is your best post hands down. I may not agree with your approach but the way it is written and explained is just excellent. Right on par with others like Ramit Sethi who I follow quite a lot these days.

    • That’s a complement and a half! 🙂 I enjoy Ramit’s posts as well.

      If you have a better option than this to “Save Money and Look Cool”, do share please 🙂

  6. Umar Khan

    I dont like this approach, I want people to be impulsive , they buy we sell and thats how we make money my friend 🙂

    • Hehehe. Spoken like a true capitalist, my friend! 😀
      But on a more serious note – I do imagine that in a world where there is no impulsive buying, one’d have less sales. But this is not that world.

  7. aqeeliz

    Hmm… it makes sense, I should give it a try (actually I would be trying to give it a try, but let’s see…).

    As for the marshmallow experiment, isn’t one bird in hand better than two in the bush? 🙂

    • I wish you all the best in your ‘experiment’!

      One bird is better than two in the bush? You tell me now, is it?

      It may be that we are doing the analogy all wrong here… and it also may be that this ‘one bird better than two in the bush’ is just another one of those phrases we use when we are either scared, greedy, lazy or all of the above? Double hmmm 🙂 :/

  8. mubashir hussain

    Excellent article …

  9. Muzaffar Ali

    Awesome idea thanks for the post, i will try to use it 🙂

  10. Dr Saad ullah Khan.

    AOA Boss

    You are absolutely right. Its a great approach towards life and living. In fact I have been practising it somewhat but since you have brought up the topic, it’s given me a new impetus! “Khush Rahoo
    Stay blessed.

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