Impulsive spending. This may be the one thing that blows up people’s financial life more than anything else. You see something or something pops in you head that triggers a response of needing that thing right now. We have all fallen victim, some more than others. Whenever you find yourself in this situation, it is important to know how to deal with the urge to spend, especially if it isn’t something you truly need. That is why I try to follow the 72 hour rule to help curb impulsive spending.
What is the 72 Hour Rule?
The idea behind the 72 hour rule is simple: when you get that urge to buy something that you didn’t realize you needed until that moment, stop and wait a period of time (typically 24072 hours) to see if you still actually want it after the moment of impulse passes.
Unfortunately, while the idea is simple in theory, for many, it is incredibly difficult to implement. We live in a society focused on instant gratification, whether they can afford it or not. Sites like Amazon make it incredibly easy to click a button and purchase something and receive it within two days.
So why is it important to utilize the 72 hour rule?
Because you can be better than everyone else. The fact that you reach out and read blogs like this one shows that you want to improve your financial life and one of the best ways to do that is to learn to delay gratification.
The Marshmallow Study
In the 1960’s, Stanford researchers conducted a study that many believe revealed one of the most important characteristics in being successful in life.
Nicknamed “The Marshmallow Study”, researchers offered hundreds of kids (mainly age 4-5) a marshmallow, placed on the table in front of them. They were told that if they were able to wait 15 minutes before eating it, they would be rewarded a second. However, if they were unable to wait 15 minutes before eating it, they would not receive the second.
As you can expect, some kids inhaled the marshmallow as soon as the researcher left the room. Others did just about everything possible, from smelling it to jumping up and down, to keep themselves from eating it.
The interesting part of the study came years later during follow up studies with the grown up kids. Researchers found that the kids who were able to delay gratification and waited for that second marshmallow ended up with better social skills, higher SAT scores, lower likelihood of obesity, and even better responses to stress.
Why it is Important to Delay Gratification?
The ability to delay gratification is incredibly important to our overall lives as was discovered from the Marshmallow Study and it is just as important to our financial lives. The ability to delay gratification leads to less debt, less stuff, and less desire to keep up with Jones’ around you. We free up our time and abilities to accomplish great things in our lives; whether it is traveling the world, spending more time with our families, or working on something you are truly passionate about.
Step back and think about the purchases you’ve made over the last year, or even look at your order history on Amazon. How many of these items are you still using? Were any of them purchased on an impulse and barely used within a short time of receiving them? If not, you are in the minority of Americans. If so, the 72 Hour Rule may be a benefit to you to help increase your ability to delay gratification. If you find yourself purchasing something on an impulse, stop and think if you truly need it. Wait 24-72 hours to make sure you truly want the item. I will guess that more times than not, you will find you never truly wanted it in the first place.
Instead of needing something in the moment, pause and see if you still need it after you have time to think more about it or you give yourself time to save up for it. Delaying gratification is not the silver bullet to creating a better life. But it can help get you there quicker.
Do you use something the 72 Hour Rule to cut back impulse spending? What are other ways for people to learn to delay gratification?