Instant Gratification

I have a problem. It all began when I was 16 years old. My dad said I needed a credit card to “build my credit.” It made sense in my mind. However, it began a major shift in my process of consuming, earning, purchasing and generally getting the things I wanted in life. It was subtle at first, but over time my debt grew. It became a source of frustration quickly when I realized what I was paying in interest. I worked to pay off my debt only to run it up again.

It reminds me of losing weight. The more I tried to lose, the more I would gain. The harder I worked to pay off my debt, the more debt I seemed to accumulate. Cue debt consolidation. Cue cutting up my credit cards. The nature of buying with credit pervades our life to the point that we get, get, get, consume, buy, consume, without ever stopping to appreciate these things like we would if we had to wait and save up the money.

We feel like we appreciate them, but how long does that feeling last? I was thinking about this yesterday when someone told me about a book. I immediately went on amazon and purchased a copy which will come in the mail today. Wow! As if that is not fast enough, Amazon even allows me to start reading it immediately online. AMAZING! The problem? I don’t have time to read it immediately. I actually do not have time tomorrow either.

I also have a queue at home of at least 20 books that I have purchased this way, but have yet to find the time to read. This makes me sad, frustrated and stressed out. When will I find the time? When I hear about another book tomorrow, should I buy it? Obviously not, but the temptation will be there just the same.

If I was not able to charge my card for that book yesterday; if I had to use my very limited resources to get it, would I have bought it? Probably not. Not now anyway. Worse yet, I actually thought about going to look for it at the library, but that would require more time. Also, I would only have a few weeks to read it before the return date which sounds stressful given my other issue of overwhelm, so I bought it; a used copy at least…a couple dollars saved. Of course, if we are spending, can we ever really call it saving?!

I do not like living like this, yet the pull of instant gratification is so strong; like a drug. How do I initiate and survive withdrawal, change my habits, and go back to living like I did before that first credit card?! I know the answer. Stop using credit cards, but that seems so inconvenient. That book purchase yesterday seemed fairly innocuous. If it were a one-time thing that would be true, but I wonder how many thousands of dollars I have spent over the course of my life buying things I did not have the money or time for and THAT blows my mind.

If you too struggle with this “drug,” you probably want me to say I have the solution, but unfortunately, not yet. Consider this the opening dialogue. I am working on it though and like all my struggles, I have no intent to throw in the towel. I was watching a show yesterday on minimalism and though I heard it before, it finally hit me…minimalism is not so much about purging closets, houses or our minds; it is about guarding the gate of our actions to not continue this type of accumulation. That is the primary challenge…to stop being an “instant consumer.” To be continued…

With hope,

Nikola Rosa