When I was a little kid, my dad explained the power of prayer to me. He said, “When you ask God for something you really, really want, He’ll give you one of three answers: yes, no, or wait.”
And kids? That’s when I became an atheist.
Just kidding. I didn’t apostatize until I was about nineteen, and the decision to leave religion forever had nothing to do with my dad’s words of wisdom.
But at the time my dad told me this story, I was pretty fucking disgruntled. “Wait”? Dafuq kind of answer was “wait” from an all-knowing, benevolent, magical guidance counselor in the sky? “Wait” was not in my eight-year-old vocabulary and I was damned if I was going to be patient for anything.
But with the perspective and wisdom of years, I now have good reason to embrace this concept of waiting, of being patient for the things I want.
My dad thought he was teaching me about faith and adult-level patience and serenity and shit. But what he really taught me about was far more interesting:
Anticipation increases enjoyment and reason
Saving money, by its very definition, is a practice in waiting. You earn money, you don’t spend it, and over time it adds up. Patience builds your savings. But it also builds something else: happiness.
Studies show that waiting for something can actually make you enjoy it more. The anticipation is part of the fun, and when you eventually get to indulge in the experience, the pay-off is so much sweeter for having been delayed.
The same principle is why foreplay is such an important part of sexy times. (For those who don’t yet know, be advised: foreplay is an important part of sexy times.) It’s why smelling a delicious meal cooking is so gratifying and why kids get so excited waiting for Christmas morning.
It’s why setting up a slow-burning prank involving your brother, a rubber snake, and a gallon of frozen lard is so deliciously thrilling. Not that I’d know anything about that.
Apply this theory to your spending habits. If you really want to buy a thing or experience, it might be worth it to wait awhile rather than rushing out to purchase it. Being patient will build anticipation, and you’ll be more excited to receive the object of your desire than if you’d instantly gratified your wants.
But waiting has other benefits besides increased enjoyment. Your patience could be rewarded with better decision-making skills.
Research shows that delaying a choice generally helps us make better decisions. That’s why “sleeping on it” is such a time-honored method of figuring shit out.
Think about this in terms of your money. If you wait before making a purchase, the extra time will allow you to thoroughly think through the purchase, using your full capacity for logic, reason, and planning. And given that time, you may change your mind. You may decide against spending your money at all.
So you have nothing to lose by patiently waiting to buy something, and you could potentially gain money and fun!
The thirty-day rule
The next time you want something—a video game, concert tickets, rims for your sweet ride, a signed limited edition Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie poster—write it down on the calendar… thirty days from now.
“Whoa now! Hold the phone, Piggy,” you’re saying, “That’s completely ridiculous!”
You’re right. How could I be so daft? Allow me to rephrase.
Type it into your iCal or Google Calendar on a date thirty days from now.
Then just wait. Don’t buy the thing. Feel free to look at the thing. Feel free to take the thing for a test drive, search for coupons with which to buy the thing, tell your bosom bros you want to buy the thing. BUT—and this is very important—DO NOT BUY THE THING FOR THIRTY DAYS.
At the end of the thirty days, when you see that thing you want show up in your calendar alerts, ask yourself: “Do I still want this thing?”
And if you do? Great! Buy the thing. You’ve been lusting after it for a month and you still want it just as bad now as you did when you first felt the urge to buy it. That must mean it’s real hella important to you and it’s going to add all kinds of joy to your life.
But if you find yourself at the end of a month merely going “meh”… don’t buy the fucking thing. Save your money instead. Waiting has tarnished its luster, revealing it for what it truly is: just a thing you don’t particularly need or want or have a use for.
Now aren’t you glad you didn’t waste money on that creepy Teletubbies high school AU art print a month ago?
The three-question test
The thirty-day rule doesn’t work for every purchase. Sometimes you just don’t have time for that shit.
But it’s still worthwhile to be patient for even a little while. Press the pause button. Be patient, if only in the moment. Take a breath and ask yourself three questions:
- Do I really need it?
- Do I really love it?
- Is it a really great deal?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, you may buy the thing! Clearly it’s going to improve your life in at least two ways, so hell yes you should buy it.
But if you only answered yes to one of the three questions? Or if you answered no to all of them? Keep your money in your wallet, peaches. It’s got more important things to do.