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Does delayed gratification = more appreciation?

I’m thinking about this question specifically in terms of buying things. Basically, do you appreciate purchases more when you’ve had to wait for them?

tree on a table.

For me, it’s a yes.

When I have to patiently wait to save up for something, or find something on sale/secondhand/free, then when I do finally get that thing, I really, really appreciate it.

And if I had enough money to buy whatever I want, whenever I want it, I think that would reduce my level of appreciation for those purchases.

For example, I saved up for years and years to be able to buy my minivan without a car loan.

why i Iove my minivan

I do remember being a little discouraged when I thought about how long it was going to take to save up, but I think those years of waiting made the purchase that much more fulfilling.

The way I did it is slower, but the slowness makes me appreciate it more!

Sometimes I think about what it might be wealthy enough to be able to go out to eat all the time, particularly at fancy restaurants. But I think that I probably appreciate the experience more when it happens precisely because I have to wait a while between experiences.


Or remember that hydrangea that I grew from a stick at my last house? (the stick was a few dollars at Aldi)

A baby hydrangea plant from Aldi, in a terracotta pot.

I appreciated that bush so much because it took so long for it to become lush and beautiful.

A hydrangea bush with blue flowers.

I also think that I derive satisfaction from the scrappiness required to slowly acquire things in a frugal way.

When I look around my bedroom which is furnished almost entirely with free/secondhand stuff, I feel a sense of achievement that I would probably not feel if I’d gone and bought everything new.

Kristen's bedroom.

For most of my life, I assumed my experience was universal.

But I had a friend some years ago who told me her take was the opposite of mine.

If she wanted something, she found the greatest satisfaction in being able to go out and buy it right away; if she had to wait, the whole experience lost some of its luster.

And I think that is so interesting! Even as I sit here typing this post, I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to experience life this way; my brain does not comprehend how delayed gratification could be anything but satisfying.

I am not a psychologist, so I am totally spit-balling in this next sentence:

I am thinking: if some of us are more naturally programmed to take some delight in delayed gratification while others are not, then it makes sense that there would be such disparities in how we humans handle money.

If this is true, then for me, frugal living is less of a struggle because it’s a natural fit.

hydrangeas in a pitcher.

I experience joy from the end result of delayed gratification, and because I know this, I’m able to say no to something in the moment because I know there will be an even better feeling down the road.

And that means I deserve less credit for frugal living as compared to someone like my friend!


sewing machine and cat.

I’m guessing that if this is a spectrum, readers of this blog will naturally be more toward the end that enjoys the fruit of delayed gratification.

People who live life this way are going to be more drawn to reading and thinking about frugality, so we are probably not a very representative slice of the population.

Ok, so, I really want to know what you think about this, especially if you are someone who experiences this differently from me! Tell me:

Does delayed gratification decrease or increase your ultimate satisfaction levels?

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Wendy G

Saturday 11th of May 2024

BOTH! and neither. I get gratification in providing for myself. Whether it has to be delayed or immediately. It is satisfaction of not depending on anyone else for my needs and wants. Independence.


Tuesday 7th of May 2024

I'm right there with you. I'm so much more pleased with my stuff, because it's all scavenged and repaired than anything I could order from Pottery Barn. Then again, it's no surprise that you and I would align on this.

P.S. I know it's terribly out of focus, but I appreciate the prominent display of "The Tightwad Gazette" in the background of one photo.


Monday 6th of May 2024

Weirdly there’s a chance that if you remarry you may not have to delay gratification because of an increase in income. I’ve had a few friends end up far wealthier after they remarried. They were shocked when life threw a divorce at them that they didn’t want and very fearful. They’re all happily married now and strangely all ended up better financially.


Monday 6th of May 2024

That is true; who knows what my future holds? But no matter what comes down the pike, I will have a good job that will allow me to support myself!


Monday 6th of May 2024

I think for me it depends. I can definitely appreciate delayed gratification, but I am also lazy and abhor unnecessary extra work. So if something is going to require an endless number of frustratingly pointless steps like fighting an insurance company, for example, I am very likely to prefer to throw money at a problem just to make it go away.

Kristin W

Monday 6th of May 2024

My answer definitely matches yours Kristen! The whole process gives me pleasure: looking forward to something waiting for a sale or searching for something second hand; the joy of knowing I got a good deal and then the final pleasure of enjoying that item once I have it. My husband has a very different feeling. I grew up frugal, but we were financially secure and my parents were frugal so we could travel. My husband grew up with some financial insecurity. Sometimes when he waits to purchase an item or I suggest that he look secondhand, that triggers his self worth, like he is not worth having the new/full price/immediate thing. As you can imagine, this is something we have to navigate often in our relationship! As to the satisfaction we each feel long term, I can definitely say I enjoy and appreciate items (and the back story of how they were aquired) months and years after they became mine but judging from my husband's behavior, he seems to move on to the next thing shortly after aquiring something ("aren't I worthy of having what I want?") It's definitely a completely different way of thinking!

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