The Power of Delayed Gratification

The Power of Delayed Gratification

The Power of Delayed Gratification is the fifteenth part in the series: The 15 Day Guide to Becoming a Fabulous Frugalist. Delayed gratification is the ability to resist immediate reward for the larger reward that will be your later. It is part of what makes a frugalist successful

delayed gratification

When you are frugal by choice, delayed gratification is the underpinning of your frugal life. You happily forgo the latte’s, meals out, impulse purchases and buying everything new in favour of a larger, more enduring reward later in your life. What this reward is varies from person to person.

Perhaps you are wanting to establish an emergency fund, perhaps you are aiming for early retirement, maybe you are saving for a house deposit or a dream vacation. Whatever the reward is, it’s delayed gratification through frugality that got you there or is getting you there.

So why are some of us better at delayed gratification than others and can you improve your ability to delay gratification?

Let’s take a look…

The Marshmallow Experiment


In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a series of studies were conducted by Walter Mischel at  Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School known as The Marshmallow Experiment.

Children were brought, one by one, into a room where they were sat at a a small table. On the table was a plate with a marshmallow sitting on it. The children were told that they could either eat the marshmallow now or wait until the researcher returned (approximately 15 minutes later) when they would be given a second marshmallow (a larger reward) if they didn’t eat the first.

Of the 600 children who participated only about one third delayed gratification long enough to receive their second marshmallow.

Follow Up Studies

In follow up studies, the original participants of The Marshmallow Study were checked in on and it was found that there was a correlation between how successful the children were and the results of the original test.

It appeared that those with the ability to delay gratification were seen as more competent, had higher S.A.T. scores, earned more, coped better with frustration and stress, were less likely to be obese or use drugs.

The Rochester Studies

Researchers at Rochester University replicated the Marshmallow Experiment but with one significant difference. The children were split into two groups this time, the reliable and unreliable group.

The children in the unreliable group were given a container of crayons and promised a larger set if they waited. After a couple of minutes the researcher returned and said that a mistake had been made and there were no more art supplies. Then the children were given a small sticker and told to wait again and they would receive a larger one if they waited. Once again the researcher returned without the promised item.

The children in the reliable group were promised the same things and in both cases they received them.

The marshmallow experiment was then conducted and not surprisingly the results showed that the prior experiences of the children affected the outcomes. Only one child from the unreliable group could wait the full 15 minutes for the second marshmallow where as nine children from the reliable group waited the 15 minutes.

So what can you learn from this?

Improving your ability to delay gratification

The studies we have looked at make two things apparent. If you want to succeed at anything you will need to be disciplined and take action rather than always taking the easy way. And if you believe you will get the larger reward you are more likely to delay gratification.

Success in just about any life endeavor requires you to stay focused and work hard (delaying gratification) rather than doing something easier.

If you don’t feel as if you are very good at delaying gratification here are a few things that may assist you in retraining yourself.

  • Re-framing: picturing the desired thing as something else. So if you are trying to stop your daily purchase of lattes then try seeing the latte as a giant cup of fat rather than a treat.
  • Refocus your attention: think about something else in place of whatever the desired thing is.
  • Use a picture board: Remind yourself of your larger goal by looking at your board every day. Lets you see what you will achieve by waiting.
  • Setting small goals: setting goals that are easier to achieve convinces yourself that you can achieve the bigger goals.

Delayed gratification is one of the most effective traits of successful people. It is a skill worth learning to help you achieve anything in life and will definitely help you to succeed in your frugal journey.

delayed gratification

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