Recovering From Unemployment Part 2: Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification is just a fancy word for patience.

I don’t think that anyone is born with the immediate skill of patience; rather it is perseverance developed with experience and a true desire to mature and grow.   I certainly do not come by this skill easily, and tend to want what I want when I want it. (What?)  I am the main spender in the family as I do all grocery, clothing and heavy machinery shopping.  (Just kidding about that last one.)  And while my husband definitely cannot be trusted to walk into a store without “accidentally” buying a can of Pringles or something, the blame for our grocery budget busting definitely falls on me.  I am a marketer’s dream!  $3 tank tops?  Get one in each color!  That gum I tried but didn’t like is packaged in a new container?  Try it again!  10-pack of toilet cleaner?  I won’t have to buy any for a year!

You get the picture.

It took me a long time to realize that people on a tight budget don’t have money for any of those things.  It wasn’t until I sat down and put our finances on actual paper to see that we needed to get frugal, fast.  Being frugal isn’t something that has ever come naturally to me.  I’ve never been a saver and I’ve never been very wise with money…until now.  Unemployment has been very good for me in that aspect, and I can honestly say that I appreciate the years of financial struggle that aren’t quite over because they’re definitely helping me grow wiser in this area.

Here’s a few tips if you have found yourself in the position of not quite recognizing need from want:

  • Have you existed without this object in the past?  Then it’s a want.
  • Can you exist without this object for a week?  Then it’s a want.
  • Will it affect your health to go without this?  Then it’s a need.
  • Will it cause major contention between you and your spouse to go without?  Then it’s a need.
  • Do you feel like it would make you happy to have it?  It’s a want.
  • Does your kid tell you he/she will love you more to get it?  It’s a want.

It’s been a rough learning curve for me, honestly.  It didn’t happen overnight that I was able to go to Sam’s Club and only get what I needed and what made sense to buy in bulk.  (Toilet paper, yes.  Toilet bowl cleaner, no.)  And I still struggle to walk through any grocery store and not pick up something I don’t need…but I can do it.  Some expenses are easier to define.  When a family member needed some major dental work done, it was easy to see the need.  When my beloved 2000 Honda Odyssey died and needed a $1900 transmission rebuild, it was easy to see the want.  Obviously the dental work needed to be done.  And unfortunately, just as obviously the transmission did not need to be rebuilt.  I’m a stay-at-home mom, I don’t need my own car.  We’ve done the one-car family thing twice in the past, we can do it again.  If all goes as planned I will have saved enough to buy a newer model (hoping for 2007 or better) van in two years anyway, and I get really excited thinking about that!

Truly, this has been a good thing.  We’ve downsized not only the size of our house, but also the clutter, the unnecessary spending, and best of all that guilty feeling that accompanies the wanted item.  We’ve maximized our quality time together as a family since we don’t go out much anymore.  I’ve even minimized the time I spend doing laundry since I stopped adding multiple $3 tank tops to my closets!  I’ve also really learned the true meaning of being grateful, and while I still have to work on the skill of saying “No” to wants,  it’s easy to see when I look around me that I am blessed with all that I need.

In my next guest post, I’ll tell you some of the character-building things and ways to cut corners I’ve learned over our years of unemployment.  I think you’ll be able to see why I’m grateful for those years, as well!

In case you missed it, read part 1 here!

Featured Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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