Waiting is the best part: how anticipation can save you money

Instead of buying something right when you want it, Hamm suggests delaying your gratification. The result is more money in your pocket and a greater appreciation of the products you have.

Tim Wimborne/Reuters/File
People queue outside an Apple store as they wait to buy an iPhone 5, in central Sydney in this September 2012 file photo. You may be better off financially if you wait a bit before you buy that product you want, Hamm writes.

Several years ago, if I wanted something, I usually just went out and bought it. If I wanted to go on a trip, I just went on that trip.

As long as I had the money in hand (or the credit on my credit card), whatever it was that I wanted quickly became mine, in short order.

Today, I still buy things that I want to buy, and I still travel if I want to travel. The difference is that I don’t do it immediately.

There are a lot of reasons for this change, but the biggest is that anticipation is often the best part

Several years ago, when I’d buy something, I’d immediately have the item to enjoy. I’d read it or play it or eat it – and then, before long, it would be over. The meal would be consumed. The book would be finished. The video game would be beaten. The new gadget would be an ordinary part of my life. The trip would be over.

And then there would be something new to desire.

Today, I’ll decide to buy something, but I’ll do it under the assumption that I won’t buy it for a while.

I’ll wait until Friday to go out for lunch with some of the other writers I know.

I’ll wait until I’m finished with the two books on my bookshelf before buying that new one.

I’ll wait until November to go visit my family in Texas.

I’ll wait until the day before our New Years party to pick up that board game that would be perfect for the gang to play.

A few things happen because of that wait.

First, the anticipation is simply enjoyable. It gives me many things to look forward to in the future and it makes the oncoming months seem very promising and exciting.

Second, the anticipation also holds my focus. When I consider spending my money on something else, it’s easy to remind myself of the things I’m going to have in the near future. Why splurge on a book when I have those on the bookshelf and I’ve already given myself permission to pick up another one when those are finished? I can just eat leftovers today because I’ll enjoy lunch out with the other writers in a few days.

Because of that, I spend less money. Without that anticipation, it would be much easier for me to just drop my money on something without thinking about it too much. The anticipation increases my mindfulness.

Enjoy the anticipation. It pays off in the long run.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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