How to (mostly) get rid of the desire for instant gratification

It is not the purpose of the ad or commercial to make the reader or listener say, ‘My what a clever ad.’ It is the purpose of advertising to make the reader say, ‘I believe I’ll buy one when I’m shopping tomorrow’.
~Morris Hite

I found something out the other day. I’ve pretty much lost my desire for instant gratification. If I think of something, I don’t “want” it, but I “would like” it. At some point. Eventually. And it goes quietly onto a mental list along with the other things I’m opportunistically shopping for.

I went to Alaska. My father gives me some money and sets me loose in downtown Anchorage, which at that time included a weekend market festival. I bought a hoodie, a shirt for my roommate, and a bumper sticker. By the end of my entire trip, I’d added two postcards, a second shirt and another bumper sticker to that list. I discovered that all I really cared for in the souvenir department was clothing, bumper stickers, and shit to decorate with.

I’ve lost my desire to just buy something because it simply catches my eye. The postcards were the most impulsive things I bought the entire trip. I knew I’d get bumper stickers and a shirt for my roommate. I’d been thinking about getting a new hoodie (one that doesn’t get worn at work) for a while, and some of my t-shirts are getting to the end of their functional lifespan (if my mother ever sees my Two Lumps shirt, she’ll probably drag me to the nearest clothing store by my almost non-existent hair).

I don’t ever fulfill instant gratification. I don’t allow myself to. My disposable income ends up stockpiled away, not spent. I have things I’d rather spend that money on (eventually). I’ll sacrifice being able to buy CDs, books, and god knows what else in order to achieve those ends.

I’m also reminded of the time my mother gave me money for my birthday and my first thought was to squirrel it away with the rest of my savings. I had to force myself to spend it, and then spent a day and a half trying to figure out what to buy with it. I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted.

I don’t think the need for instant gratification is as deeply embedded in us as we think it is. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it’s a combination of several factors, including “training” from a young age by marketing specialists, excessive advertising, and the need to keep up with our personal Joneses coupled with a seed of natural tendencies and for some, insecurity.

As for the doomsday “the economy will crash down around our heads if everyone does this” scenario: it’s stupid. Retarded, even. For one, it would require a substantial portion of the population to do this, and let’s face it…many won’t. And as we’ve discovered in the past few years, our economy wasn’t that stable to begin with. And I’m still hearing murmurings of further economic problems ahead, and no amount of personal spending will help with those.

I’d much rather have financial security than the ability to buy bullshit on a whim, thanks.


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