The money-saving philosophy I've used since college has helped me buy the things I truly want

gg-foto / ImagesThe author is not pictured.
  • When Anna Baluch started earning money after college, she realised how much cash she was spending daily.
  • She decided to focus on saving for her longer-term goals using delayed gratification.
  • Seven years later, her philosophy of delayed gratification has helped her do everything from save for retirement to pay off her mortgage.

After I graduated from college and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, to begin my first job in online marketing, the way I made small and large purchases changed. I was finally off my parents’ payroll and working hard for my money.

In high school and college, I had that “you only live once” mentality and would do whatever felt good at the moment. If I wanted a Starbucks Frappuccino, I’d simply get in my car, go to the drive-thru, and buy one without any hesitation.

But I realised that I’d rather save my hard-earned money for the future so I could buy a house, retire, and stay out of debt. I cut back on impulse Starbucks buys, Target runs, and trips to the mall. I’d be lying if I said this was easy.

I had to find other ways to entertain myself and enjoy life. Rather than spending my moolah on stuff I didn’t really need, I went for walks outside with friends, made homemade pizza rather than ordering in, volunteered, and started writing on the side.

The more I saw my savings account grow, the more motivated I was to keep going. I loved seeing my hard work pay off. Six years later, this idea of delayed gratification allowed my husband and me to pay off the mortgage for our house in Ohio in 16 months and gave us an incredible sense of freedom.

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In my opinion, delayed gratification – putting off what we want now to get something bigger and better later on – is the key to financial success. Seven years after graduating from college, I’m still using it to buy the things that matter most to me.

I like to keep my savings in an Ally savings account, as it offers 2.2% interest and you can’t get much better than that! Also, since I’m self-employed, I save for retirement in a Merrill Lynch SEP IRA.

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A few months ago, I realised my house was in dire need of a new driveway; mine was long past its prime, had large cracks, and frustrated me every time I stepped outside my front door. Instead of taking out a loan to replace it, my husband and I spent several months saving $US17,000 – our driveway is very long, so it was pricey! – to pay for this project in cash.

Was it difficult to wait a bit before we could replace our driveway? Yes! While we were saving, I wanted to buy some new clothes, go out to dinner, get my nails done, and stop at Dunkin’ Doughnuts for a daily dose of coffee.

However, delayed gratification let us enjoy a beautiful, new concrete driveway without owing anyone anything. The same strategy has also allowed us to get a new car, increase our retirement savings, go on vacation, and make other improvements to our home without making payments for the next few years.

I will admit that learning and practicing delayed gratification is no walk in the park. Here are the strategies I use to keep my goal in mind:

  • Compile a list of long-term financial goals, and keep it in sight. Place the list on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, or anywhere else where you’ll see them daily. I like to keep mine in a frame on my dresser.
  • Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if it’s something you really want or need. Consider waiting 24 hours to see how you feel. You may find that a day later, it’s no longer something you wish to spend money on. This worked for me the other day when I wanted to buy a new hair-care product after reading reviews – a day later, I realised it wasn’t something I really wanted.
  • Ask someone older what they wish they’d done differently at your age. They may say they wish they’d saved more for retirement, started college savings accounts for their children, or lived below their means. That may inspire you to incorporate delayed gratification in your life. I spoke to my father-in-law, who made it clear he wished he would have started saving for retirement earlier in life.

To me, delayed gratification doesn’t feel like a sacrifice because I know it can help me achieve my long-term financial goals and provide me with incredible peace of mind. Since I’ve practiced it for about seven years now, it’s become second nature.

Fortunately, my husband is on the same page, so we work together to delay gratification as a team and celebrate big whenever we find it has paid off.

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