Frugal Living 

Two Secrets To Saving Money (Hint: Instant Gratification!)

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It’s been said that we Americans live in a world of instant gratification. We want the coolest gadgets and gizmos, the best food, the best cars, the best everything… right this very second. We are impulse, we are impatient, and most important of all, we are able to fund our impulsiveness and impatience with lots and lots of spending.

You know who else knows this? Stores. There’s a very good and profitable reason why there are tabloids and candy bars at the checkout aisles (one of the reasons why self-checkout kiosks haven’t become more ubiquitous is because you can’t sell someone high margin items like magazines and candy if they’re busy checking themselves out… plus the machines always break for some reason). Anywhere you go, you’ll likely see some small little item by the register like a trinket or a small votive candle or whatever. You’re impulsive and stores know it.

You know who else knows this? Salespeople. If you ever get a quote from someone to do work on your house, you’ll always get a special one day deal. You’ll always get an “awesome deal” that will only be good for the next three days. If you go into a store with salespeople, say furniture, you’ll always be offered six or twelve months of 0% financing if you buy today. One day offer!

Advertisers scare you by showing a burglar breaking into your home and then flashing a number for a security system company. They show you beer and snack commercials during football season and they show you pizza delivery commercials late in the evening. They know that they can take advantage of your need for instant gratification to bypass your normal decision making patterns. They’re smart… but you’re smarter.

Remove the allure of instant gratification and you can save yourself big money.

You don’t need that tabloid and your stomach doesn’t need that Three Musketeers bar. You shouldn’t take that contractor’s awesome one day deal because you can probably do better shopping around. Finally, furniture will always have 0% financing. Always. So, remove instant gratification from your life and you can save yourself money; here are two reasons why:

Shopping Around

If you resign yourself to always get at least three quotes on something before you buy it, you’ll save yourself money even if you do nothing else. While this seems obvious for things like high dollar contracting work where there are plenty of differentiated suppliers, it works even for commodity type things like DVDs and books. There are two reasons why this is effective:

  • You save money by finding the lowest cost among three similar vendors.
  • By not buying immediately and waiting to see the price in at least two other places, you may re-evaluate how badly you need that item or the work. You could decide it’s not what you want.

Is Time A Factor?

Sometimes time is a factor and you need to buy something immediately, such as airline tickets. However, if time is not a factor, consider waiting for the sales to come to you. There are plenty of bargain airline ticket places that will send you their latest fare sales, just wait for a good deal before pulling the trigger on tickets if there isn’t a specific event you’re going to. This same rule applies for items. has rotating deals on all classes of items, just wait until your item goes on sale before you buy it.

So, the next time you want to buy something, take a step back and try to find three alternative stores (or three alternative items that may be cheaper but serve the same function) and think if time is a factor. These two alone will save you a bunch of money you can better spend on a trip to Europe! (just wait for the deals!)

{ 5 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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5 Responses to “Two Secrets To Saving Money (Hint: Instant Gratification!)”

  1. Great points. Retailers and salespeople STUDY the consumer. There are companies that do nothing but watch your eyes, what you pick up, where you look on the shelf, what signage you notice.

    The best bet is to STUDY them right back and make only those decisions that have the best impact on your financial life.

  2. Adfecto says:

    This is so true. It is the worst for me when it comes to food. I can spend 45 minutes cooking a quality meal at home or 5 minutes in the drive-thru. I also get snagged into buying an appetizer with the allure of immediate gratification only to take half of my meal as left overs.

    If we are willing to sleep on our purchases for a night or two we probably will make the right call, but when all it takes is a signature to walk out the door with a new toy it is almost too easy. Leave the plastic at home, stay out of the store unless you have a shopping list (and will stick to it), and never make a major purchase (for me anything over $50) without a waiting period.

    I don’t have much of a problem with errant purchases, but I still need to find a solution to the immediate food issue.

  3. You know who else knows this? ME!
    haha … seriously though, Instant Gratification can work to your favor too. For instance, whenever I have a craving like this, I do one of the following about 80% of the time:

    1) I xfer the money I for some reason HAVE to spend into my Roth IRA asap! This way, I get the satisfaction of “spending” money, i’m doing GOOD with it, and best of all I just can’t “take it back”. I used to do this with my Savings acct, but didn’t work so well 🙂
    2) I dip into my “fun money” and splurge. This is money that i’ve earned on Craigslist, ebay, etc, and it’s specifically used for times like this! AND, it helps me to re-evaluate the purchase as I pretty much know what I sold in order to pick up this new widget.

  4. Matt says:

    When you realize that you don’t NEED to busy something and you’re just thinking impulsively you can prevent unneeded spending. Its nice to have some money for the splurge/impulse buys but keeping that down will probably mean the difference between living above your means and living below them.

    Great post!

  5. I was sucked in the other day by these very tactics.

    My local newsagent had a promotion next to the checkout offering 2 Chocolate Oranges for the price of one.

    I have very strong willpower normally, but I’m afraid when it comes to Chocolate Oranges, one of my favourites, I fell for it hook, line and sinker and quickly grabbed two boxes….. but they were worth it 🙂

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