Like many people in first world countries, I have a problem with instant gratification. Everything is so accessible, so affordable, and even if it’s not so affordable, with credit available I can just toss it in my cart and worry about the ramifications of ownership later.
I’d like to think I’m doing a great job at simplifying my life and living on less, and I suppose I am doing pretty well at keeping my impulses in check compared to a year ago, or even two, but, now and then I still succumb to the ‘one-click’ shopping on Amazon or the end kiosks with various chap sticks and lotions at the checkout counters. Sometimes I feel like I’m gearing up for battle before I go shopping, like I need to put armor and a shield on and get in and get out as fast possible, or the advertisers will win and I’ll be forced to make purchases I don’t want!
With everything so readily available, and for the most part cheap enough that the average person can ‘afford’ it, how do we get past that impulse to fulfill our wants instantly? I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s hard, but it can be done.
What follows are a few tried (by me) and true ways that I have overcome the desire to buy things on impulse. Whether it is the peanut butter filled pretzels or the newest moisturizing lip balm, these ideas can help you make it through the gauntlet of aisles filled with items calling out to be purchased.
Always take a list. If you go to the store with just an ‘idea’ of what you need, you’re asking for trouble. Whether it’s groceries or household products, make a list so you don’t get side tracked by other items you don’t need.
Ask yourself questions. Where was the item made? Where will you keep it? How often will you use it? Is this on your list? I personally like to check and see where something was made, especially if it is very cheap. I am deterred by the idea that I can purchase an item so cheaply because it is made by those in second and third world countries who are so desperate to get by, they will work for next to nothing,
Don’t shop when you’re hungry. This gets me every time and is definitely to blame for those carb-loaded chips and chocolate covered granola bars that end up in my pantry once in a while. I try to eat a snack before going grocery shopping, and to make a menu, once again focusing on just the items I need for the weekly meals. Get in and get out.
Make boundaries for yourself. This works well for large or small purchases. Give yourself permission to buy the item on a certain date in the future. Whether it is 24 hours or 24 days, delaying the purchase will relieve you of the feeling to buy it instantly, but also still allows you the option to imagine yourself owning it. When the time passes, if you still think the item is a need or a good fit in your life, get it. Just keep the receipt in case you need to make a return!
Practice. All of the ideas above require some self-control to implement and make a part of your life, and that will take practice. Don’t beat yourself up when you give in and make unneeded purchases, but do recognize the times you are able to withstand the temptation to buy items ‘just because.’ Recognize those times as ‘wins’, and the more you win, the stronger the habit will become of delaying gratification.
The bottom line is, getting past instant gratification takes self-control and practice, lots of it. It won’t happen overnight, I’ve been practicing for over three years now and I still have days where I end up coming home with items I didn’t really want or need. But, I’ve also become much better at returning things too. Don’t be afraid to return stuff you make it home with, and realize you didn’t want. Just leave them in the bag with your receipt and get a refund the next time you head to the store.
Eventually, you’ll recognize those things that are just quick fixes and filling your desire for instant gratification instead of a real need. Knowing really IS half the battle, so once you recognize that feeling of just wanting gratification through purchases, you will have a much easier time rejecting it and being fulfilled through other means.