A Saver’s Guide to Instant Gratification

Mainstream consumers think that saving is all about delayed gratification. Nest eggs are inert funds that exist solely for future use. Until savers actually spend their money, they receive nothing of current value.

But there’s a hidden intangible that regular savers get to enjoy every day. It basically boils down to a sense of steadily increasing optimism. This feeling delivers instant gratification to savers much in the same way that spending delivers instant gratification to spenders. I’ve been hooked by this feeling of optimism and so have many others.

For anyone who thinks that savers are big losers who defer gratification and never get to enjoy life, here’s an introductory guide to the saver’s high.

Non-Emergent Emergencies

When you save, you receive instant gratification because you don’t have to worry about inevitable financial catastrophes. Disasters in life abound. Your laptop stops working. Your ancient dishwasher dies. Your car suffers a fender bender. Without a store of savings, these events present major problems which often lead to more debt (usually involving high interest credit cards). With ample savings, however, emergencies are reduced to minor irritants. There’s something profoundly liberating about knowing that your next repair won’t send you deep into the red. For avid savers, this ever present sense of liberation radiates directly from their supposedly inert nest eggs. It’s part of what keeps them saving instead of spending.

Past as Prologue

When you save, you receive instant gratification because every day you get to watch your wealth grow. Non-savers are always stuck in second gear (and it hasn’t been their day, their week, their month, or even their year). Savers, on the other hand, settle comfortably into a lucrative overdrive.

Let’s look at this graphically: the blue line below represents the net worth of a saver; the red line represents the net worth of a non-saver. The vertical line down the middle of the graph represents the present moment in time. To the left is the past (shown by a solid line) and to the right is the future (shown by a dotted line).


Non-savers and savers both extrapolate. The past is prologue to a future that contains more of the same. Non-savers dread the continued muddle. Naturally, they become pessimists. In contrast, savers foresee abundant futures. This has a positive effect on their psyches. But don’t take my word for it. To see this optimism in action, visit some of the 100+ finance bloggers who track and regularly report their current net worth. None are pessimistic. My good friend J Money curates a growing list of these bloggers over at Rockstar Finance. Click here.

Daydream Believers

When you save, you receive instant gratification because you can look forward with confidence to future adventures. Your anticipation is heightened because it’s backed by the solid reality of actual dollars. Some examples:

  • A non-saver might dream about ordering warm crepes in the Latin Quarter of Paris. For a saver, the dream is more tangible because savings already exist that can actually pay for the trip (and if you go, may I suggest that you try your crepes with a delightful hazelnut spread?).
  • A non-saver might dream about kayaking to Maine coastal islands that bulge with wild blueberries and raspberries. But the saver’s dream is even more vivid because the wherewithal exists to hire the kayak and secure convenient lodging (ocean access included).
  • A non-saver who after decades of keeping up with the Joneses is chained to a desk might dream about finishing a 65 mile bicycle tour in a single day, but the saver who retired early has had ample time to stay fit (the older you get, the more effort it takes to keep in shape).

With savings, great adventures become pursuable options instead of unattainable pipedreams. Your choices don’t dwindle as you age, they actually grow (so long as you maintain good health). Savings thus provide a store of perpetual optimism.

We live in pessimistic times. Is it any wonder? Everywhere you see futures burdened by indebtedness. It’s tough to be optimistic when governments operate under massive deficits. It’s tough to be optimistic when mainstream consumers struggle against demanding creditors (the median US household owes $70,000). It’s tough to be optimistic when a bamboozled generation incurs $1.2 Trillion in student loans despite stagnant wages and dwindling jobs.

As dire as the macroeconomic outlook seems, you’re affected much more by your own personal financial microcosm. So consider making your microcosm the positive one of an avid saver. When you paddle against the current of pessimism and steer away from the mainstream’s love of debt, you gain access to a brilliant future—a future so bright, you gotta wear shades (so tap into those savings and buy yourself some cheap sunglasses).

*   *   *

Not far from where I kayak in Maine, there’s a small coffee shop. A sign on the wall reads:

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never come. Live for today.

As applied to your personal finances, this message is downright dimwitted. Why? Because the odds favor your continued presence on the planet. Granted, sometime before the next sunset an Acme safe might drop from the sky and crush you deep into the ground (the last sound you’ll hear is “beep, beep!”). But the chances are far greater that you’ll be around for tomorrow . . . and then another tomorrow . . . and then many tomorrows after that. So act accordingly. Save your money. Watch it grow. Give yourself the gift of liberating wealth—not the curse of crushing debt. When you save, you’re perpetually optimistic each and every day of your life. So how’s that for instant gratification?

Great photo by Jessicahtam

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27 Responses to A Saver’s Guide to Instant Gratification

  1. Free to Pursue September 3, 2014 at 10:01 AM #

    Geat post Noonan.

    It’s right on the money. What we savers get is a daily dose of “isn’t life grand?”. No financial setback can change that feeling because we can handle just about any unexpected expense. That level of freedom feels priceless. It’s so powerful that material desires pale in comparison to the present, and future, security that savings represent. If anything, wanting that feeling sometimes makes me think of having even less than we have right now (Would that be called lifestyle “deflation”?).

    Thank you for sharing the analogy in a way that seems approachable to all.
    Free to Pursue recently posted…What Bungee Jumping Taught Me About VisualizationMy Profile

  2. Simon September 3, 2014 at 12:27 PM #

    I certainly like your optimism and dose of humor…well written 🙂 You raise some poignant observations…savers do have that aura of self-confidence and belief in the future. There is a hidden confidence that comes with knowing you can effortlessly handle anything financial thrown your way…not so much if you are in debt…and the figures are down right astonishing…a whooping $70,000 in debt as the median!?
    Simon recently posted…Finding the Best Leader of the PackMy Profile

  3. No More Waffles September 3, 2014 at 12:44 PM #

    Ha, I touched upon instant gratification too in my latest post!
    Great write-up, Noonan! I truly love your style and insightful views.

    Instant gratification has so much appeal because of the rush of owning something new and exciting, but I’ve learned that you don’t need to spend money or buy stuff to get that feeling. Seeing my savings rate being over 50% every night gives me a great feeling too. I expect that my first dividend income will give me that exact same excited feeling, especially when those dividends allow me to buy new shares.

    I choose the freedom of savings over buying stuff to keep me happy anyday!
    No More Waffles recently posted…A Letter from the Bank on Financial FreedomMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose September 3, 2014 at 2:58 PM #

      WTG NMW! Let’s fill the world with silly savers (what’s wrong with that i’d like to know). 🙂

  4. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy.com September 3, 2014 at 7:09 PM #

    Haha love the graph! Very well constructed!

    Jay @ ThinkingWealthy.com recently posted…What Can Kid’s Movies (Particularly The Mighty Ducks) Teach Us?My Profile

    • A Noonan Moose September 3, 2014 at 7:27 PM #

      Thanks Jay! The original graph is going up on the refrigerator (which hereafter will be known as the Frugal Fridge!) 🙂

  5. The Gman September 4, 2014 at 9:51 AM #

    This article is “DBA”. Dead On Balls Accurate.

    • A Noonan Moose September 4, 2014 at 9:54 AM #

      Thanks Gman!

  6. Kipp September 4, 2014 at 10:24 AM #

    Very good article. It honestly is satisfying to see your balances grow. Much more satisfying than a cup of coffee to me at least. It is more of that inner peace sort of thing that stays with you and doesn’t disappear the moment the coffee is gone.
    Kipp recently posted…Net Worth Update – AugustMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose September 4, 2014 at 10:28 AM #

      And since saving is decaffeinated it makes you less jittery! 😉 Thanks for stopping by Kipp!

  7. Mrs. SSC September 4, 2014 at 10:47 AM #

    Great article! So true. I never thought about it in terms of optimism/pessimism – but in our house, we never worry about stuff breaking, or having the money to pay the bills, or afford a vacation, since we know we’ve got the money saved to buy whatever (within reason, of course!). Being savers, I’m guessing we even fight less about money then the average couple.

    I bet you can even extrapolate on this article and start proclaiming – Saver’s have lower blood pressure! Increase your savings and decrease your cortisol! Start saving now, improve your health and live longer!
    Mrs. SSC recently posted…Bad Decisions Part 2: Easy credit, hard paymentsMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose September 4, 2014 at 11:02 AM #

      Sounds like a great idea for an experiment! (But i’d hate to be in the control group.) Thanks for the comment Mrs. SSC!

  8. debs @ debtdebs September 8, 2014 at 5:42 PM #

    No more rose coloured glasses but cheap sunglasses for me, Noonan! Looking right at that bright optimism.
    debs @ debtdebs recently posted…Reasons I’m Happy I’m Not Going to FinConMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose September 8, 2014 at 5:50 PM #

      Keep right at it DD! You’re an inspiration!

  9. jack mabry September 26, 2014 at 11:01 PM #

    For me, the greatest joy of saving is always having the money to pay off an incoming bill as soon as I receive it. I don’t think about, I just pay it, and forget about it. What a joy!

    • A Noonan Moose September 27, 2014 at 7:29 AM #

      So true! Thanks for commenting!

  10. CheapMom September 29, 2014 at 6:37 PM #

    What a great read. I agree that saving today saves you worries tomorrow.
    CheapMom recently posted…Be Confident Managing Your Money With These Three Simple RulesMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose September 29, 2014 at 6:43 PM #

      Thanks for stopping in CM!


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