Gratified, instantly

October 25, 2006

Instant gratification has been the bane of my recent existence. From bikes to cars to food and toys, I’ve been able to jack the balance on my credit cards to five figures without blinking.

And I’m not unlike other Americans. Regardless of the economy or our income, many of us get a certain thrill from seeing, touching and buying things immediately.

Take the current-day “convenience” store. It’s not a convenience to stroll into one of these money sucking boxes. You could wander in just to pick up a lottery ticket and cigarettes for your mother (don’t get me started on other vices) and suddenly you go into overload.

“Do I need three candy bars for a buck? Milk is only $4 a gallon – we always need milk. Look at the stuff on the counter – I must need this crap if it’s so close to the register.”

$82 later you leave with a rose wrapped in cellophane, nine candy bars, an eyeglass fixing kit, a pen that gives you lottery numbers, some ginko tablets, a gallon of milk and the aforementioned lottery tickets and butts.

And the convenience store isn’t the worst venue. Try tailing me into a Target or Wal-Mart.

These stores have persistent sales and such a wide variety of stuff that if you pause to ask yourself if you need something, you’ll end up responding affirmative and buying the whole inventory.

Suddenly your thoughts are almost a scream urging you to move, move, move before the items are gone FOREVER.

“Wow. Look at all the batteries. Everything needs batteries, I better fill the cart!”

“A 2000-ounce container of hand cr?(r)me. GREAT. My hands are always getting dry. So what if it’s some brand I’ve never tried?”

“Haven’t really heard of these artists, but the CD’s are only a buck apiece. I better get ten!”

Oooooooh, DVDs only $6? Are you kidding me? I need these.

Well, recently I did something very mature. Don’t be afraid – maturity isn’t verboten. My mature move was actually paying off a few credit cards. And I did this far earlier than I ever thought possible.

I guess the flipside of that statement is that I jacked the limits and purchases on these cards far higher than I ever thought possible too. But instead of a waiting around for PowerBall to hit, I realized that the places I want to visit (France in July – and I mean for the ENTIRE MONTH OF JULY, Seattle, Vegas, Moab, Scotland and Toronto) I’d best have far fewer debts hanging over my head.
It was similar to the epiphany new parents have when they realize the universe is now all about their new child. Well, it’s slightly different in that there are far fewer diapers and less drool, but otherwise the same

I looked at how I was living and just took a deep breath. I could continue to eat sushi four nights a week and buy lunch out every day. I could waste gas, use electricity and jabber on my cell phone incessantly. And I could lavish gifts on myself as if I were somehow deserving of 2GB flash drives and a new digital camera every four seconds.

Or I could grow up a little.

I’m still going to enjoy plays and haunted car washes and Six Flags and trips to Florida and even needless window tinting. But I’m going to ensure that most of these trips and purchases aren’t just knee-jerk moves to give me an quick high.

And knowing that I have the ability to do this is instantly gratifying.
More to come…