Why Instant Gratification Is “Bad”: Long-term Gratification Brings More Satisfaction

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Why Instant Gratification Is “Bad”: Long-term Gratification Brings More Satisfaction

Do you want to be happy and satisfied in the long term? We all know that instant gratification is bad, but why exactly? Instant gratification is short-lived and often leaves us feeling unsatisfied.

Let me explain. Long-term gratification brings more satisfaction because you can appreciate the results of your hard work over time. For example, getting a promotion at work doesn’t happen overnight, but when you get there you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits for years to come. In contrast, if I give you an ice cream cone right now then it will probably make you happy at the moment but then quickly leave your stomach with no lasting satisfaction. Leaves you wanting for more of something later, right? Or worse, feeling guilty.

You deserve happiness! And not just the fleeting moments of joy that short-term gratification brings – real happiness that lasts for years on end! That’s what we’re here for – helping people find true fulfillment by finding their financial balance and living life according to their values so they can experience long-term gratifying success.

Habits are habits and that alone. They’re not your DNA. Habits can be changed. Mindset is the same, it takes practice and failure, but with time and patience, you grow into the person you want to be.

What Is Meant By Instant Or Short Term Gratification?

Subjectively, short-term gratification is anything that makes a person feel better now but not long term; in other words, short-term gratification feels good for the short run.

Making yourself feel better by eating an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies (comfort food) when you are depressed and just lost your job would be short-term gratification. Getting drunk to ease the pain of losing a loved one would also be short-term gratification.

There is no lumping short-term gratification under any specific category.  The only currency short-term gratification uses is what makes you happy right at this moment.

Why Do We Crave Instant Gratification?

We can’t always predict what will happen in the future so we rely on our short-term emotions/thoughts. If you’re hungry, then food now gives you short-term pleasure and makes you forget about your hunger for a while.

Part of the problem with instant gratification is people are not rational when they want something that’s going to give them short-term gratification (sex, drugs). They think they might be able to control themselves after a while but when they get into the action, their thoughts change and they continue doing whatever it is because they like it (addiction).

The short-term feeling is stronger than the long-term thought. Even though we know that short-term gratification will bring more pain in the future, it feels better to have some short-term relief from whatever is bothering you (you’re sad/angry) right now.

We always want short-term pleasure and not short-term cravings because no one likes short-term sacrifices, but everyone wants short-term pleasure because it feels good!

short term pleasures aka instant gratification. image of large river rock forming path in dark blue water

What Are Examples Of Instant Gratification?

Examples of short-term gratification include reaching for the check at a nice restaurant, driving a luxury car, and buying designer clothes. The short-term gratification may feel good at the moment but will bring you no long-term satisfaction

People eat ice cream, see a movie they like, or purchase something they really like when they save their money and then wait until later.

Some examples of instant gratification that can negatively impact your cash flow, savings goals, and much more are:

  • Credit Cards – Use them now but pay interest for years to come, each interest charge takes away from achieving financial freedom.
  • Impulse Purchases – just walk away.
  • Over-paying to fulfill immediate desire rather than waiting till it’s on sale or you have saved more.
  • Generous to a fault – over ‘gifting’ others. Relationships can be built much stronger in ways other than buying their admiration or love.
  • Living up to the Jones’ – Live within your own means, not what your friends and neighbors have.
  • Champagne taste on a beer budget – You want the pricey and trendy sneakers when in reality you need a pair of decent sneakers that won’t break your budget. Being broke is never in style.
  • Kitchen Re-model – did you really need that custom built-in espresso machine?
  • Party like it’s 1999 – Please do! Party like it was all those years ago and those prices, but not like you’ve already made it to the big time.

Great Tips Stop and Think: Ask Yourself These Questions Before Spending

The Problem With Instant Gratification And Why It Is Bad

Long-term gratification means enjoying a life where all desires are satisfied without breaking any rules. It’s also being able to save money for things that one really wants or to fit into their budget.

It’s living your best life and meeting goals and dreams. It’s not feeling the short-term stress of not having enough money to enjoy life but also knowing that you will eventually be able to as long as you keep saving.

Sure, it’s so much easier sometimes just to spend all your money and buy whatever you want now rather than save it for later because giving in to short-term gratification is a lot more fun right away, but short-term gratification is actually creating problems in the long term. It can slow you down, even stop you from reaching your ultimate goals.

Instant Gratification And Short Term Satisfaction

Instant gratification can feel good in the short term but does not bring long-term satisfaction. In short: it doesn’t get you where you want to go.

“It’s now, it’s fun, and I’m enjoying myself — that’s what matters.” This could be a typical thought of someone who wants instant gratification. Their focus is on short-term pleasure rather than how well short-term choices work out in the future. When they achieve short-term happiness easily, they don’t think about long-term consequences or problems their choices could create down the road.

A common example is overspending on unnecessary items instead of saving money for retirement or buying something more important (a house, a car) later on…when you have the money available.

That short-term pleasure can also be tied to short-term happiness, relaxation, or stress relief…whatever short-term goal you seek by seeking instant gratification. The problem is that short-term goals do not bring long-term satisfaction and can often lead to negative problems down the road.

Instant gratification is based on short-term solutions instead of long-term ones. Even more important: those short-term goals are usually material possessions you don’t really need — an expensive watch, a new car, a big house with the fancy furniture example. All of these items will break or become old so quickly compared to other things we consider more important.

Are you starting to see the problem with immediate gratification yet?

How Short Term Gratification Can Derail Your Budget 

A short-term goal can really derail your budget if you don’t plan and consider short-term versus long-term satisfaction. You might feel more short-term satisfaction of buying expensive items now with money that could be used in the future for something much more important like a house or retirement account.

An expensive car, luxury watch, designer clothes, etc. These are all short-term purchases that have no real long-term value to them. They also can lead to an increased need to make more money so you can buy even more things (because they are all very short-term solutions).

The bigger problem is not just the short-term thinking itself but what comes after to keep up with those short-term goals. These urges you fulfill are increasing stress levels and pressure from outside sources to make more money.

How short-term goals affect your relationships down the road can also have a big negative impact on your life because short-term solutions don’t address long-term problems and are often not easy to deal with.

What if you buy an expensive car, but then you find out that along with this short-term goal, you’re going to need even more short-term sacrifices to afford it? This is short-term thinking at its core — not looking ahead and seeing what sacrifices may be required farther down the road.

Short Term Goals And Your Long Term Budget

All of these short-term purchases put pressure on your budget whether or not you set up a formal budget plan…even if you simply write down short-term goals and short-term sacrifices to make them happen.

The problem is that short-term solutions won’t work for long-term goals because short-term thinking leads to short-term sacrifice (instead of a long-term solution). You give up social life, vacations, and time with family instead just so you can make short-term goals happen.

This doesn’t mean you can never have anything nice ever! It just means you have to balance your short-term happiness/goals with the important things in life…health, love, etc. We all need some material possessions in our lives but it’s the amount we focus on or go overboard with that makes all the difference.

Even when your budget never balances out, short-term thinking can force you to buy things that you don’t really need — leading to sacrifices to make short-term goals happen.

image of a chair and table crafted from branches and wood overlooking water

How Can Long-term Gratification Be More Satisfying?

It’s hard to resist the urge for instant gratification, but delaying that is a skill you need in life. It will help allow people to think more about how they spend their money and what they want to do with it-whether that means saving up or seeing something through.

The concept of delayed satisfaction (patience) is based on waiting before buying something. Investing in your future goals now will provide you with enough money for those dreams. It means realizing better results by putting your money to work for you instead of you working for it. Meaning you are in control of your finances, your choices.

While learning delayed gratification can be challenging, it’s always worth the wait.

What Is Delayed Or Long Term Gratification?

Long-term financial gratification is the satisfaction that comes from achieving a life goal.

Long-term gratification means enjoying a life where all desires are satisfied without breaking any rules. It’s also being able to save money for things that one really wants or to fit into their budget. It’s living your best life and meeting goals and dreams. It’s not feeling the short-term stress of not having enough money to enjoy life but also knowing that you will eventually be able to as long as you keep saving.

Sure, it’s so much easier sometimes just to spend all your money and buy whatever you want now rather than save it for later because giving in to short-term gratification is a lot more fun right away, but short-term gratification is actually bad in the long term. It can slow you down, even stop you from reaching your ultimate goals.

“Instant gratification feels so good at the moment, but brings no long term satisfaction,” according to Psychology Today.

What Are The Benefits To Long Term Or Delayed Gratification?

Delaying instant gratification can help you reach your goals. Usually, people associate delayed gratification with being able to resist a small and more immediate reward to receive a larger or more lasting reward later.

How Long Term Gratification Brings More Satisfaction?

Mastering the art of delayed gratification is difficult, no doubt about that. The good news is you’ve done it before as a child. Remember having to study and do homework on a subject that seemed to boggle the mind?

What if you never went to school? learned basic math? Or how to read and spell? The (now, looking back) simple act of going to school, passing the required exams, mandatory attendance. Applying self-control to not get up and go to recess when you danged well felt like it?

Yup, all those were examples of how you have not only learned but more importantly, earned your skills for long-term gratification! Bet you didn’t see that one coming!

This is just a reminder that yes, you are capable of putting aside temptation. All of which will make you a happier, healthier, and more productive person

What Instant Gratification Does To Your Brain

You might be intrigued by this part if you are an instant satisfaction addict. Truth is, to grow and have control over not only your finances, but your total life, you need to understand what your actions mean and why they occur.

Instant gratification is short-term and short-sighted, while long-term gratification brings more satisfaction. This means that short-term happiness is actually short-term misery when it comes to your brain’s need for stimulation.

This article explains that the “natural high” of a compulsion or addiction feels good in the short term, but if you think about the true source of the pleasure you’ll find there’s no real satisfaction because it doesn’t last.

There’s a chemical reason for this: Stimulation triggers a release of dopamine in your body. This is associated with the part of your brain that receives pleasure and rewards. These chemicals are what make you feel satisfied after eating too much food.

This short-term euphoria is a tease. It only lasts so long and is short-lived. That’s why constant stimulation is required for you to feel good, which means that short-term gratification really just brings short-term misery. You need to constantly feed that beast if you continue this cycle.

What this means is that your life will be lacking in satisfaction if you only think short-term. You’ll have a lot of short-term pleasure but no lifelong happiness because the short-term high never lasts.

image is quote “If you really want to grow great, you need to avoid costly pleasures and preserve your future treasures.” —Israelmore Ayivor

What Part Of The Brain Is Responsible For Immediate Gratification?

Delaying gratification is the same as controlling the impulse for immediate gratification, which requires cognitive control. The ventral striatum, located in the midbrain, is the part of the limbic system that is the reward center[28] as well as a pleasure center.[29] 

~ Wikipedia
human brain impact on satisfaction, gratification.  image profile view of human head with illustration of human brain in hues of blue

How Instant Gratification Is Bad For Mental Health

Did you know that over-reliance on instant gratification can contribute to destructive financial, social, and health? When we rely too much on our impulses rather than thinking things through carefully before making a decision, it’s easy for the habit of being impulsive to seep into other areas. And while this may not seem like such a big deal at first glance – after all who doesn’t want some good old-fashioned fun now and then!

But when your impulse is anything but harmless–when it’s toxic enough or repeated often enough—you might be surprised by how quickly even seemingly harmless decisions expand in ways that negatively affect us for a longer time than the gratifying feeling lasted.

We need to be more aware of our circumstances; occasions that trigger this type of impulsive decision making.

How Do I Stop Craving Instant Gratification?

  • Make note of your urges. Even consider a spending diary.
  • Hit the Pause Button. Wait 24 hours, reassess.
  • Make only fully aware and informed choices
  • Learn from your ‘trends’ Are you an emotional shopper? When you’re feeling happy? sad?
  • Write down things you can do that are just as pleasurable and rewarding without the long-term financial, emotional, or health consequences.

One of my favorite ways to achieve both Instant and delayed gratification is in this article on Creating Financial Success with a Vision BoardVision Boards for Financial Freedom.


It is easier to understand how instant gratification can be bad when you understand how long-term gratification can bring greater financial stability and satisfaction to your life! You’re not alone, this is a national problem. Craving feel-good moments have long fueled our decisions. While feeling good is a positive thing, it’s not always o.k. when it harms your future.

Quote from Zig Zigler: Be Careful Not To Compromise What You Want Most For What You Want Now

Hannah R

Hi, my name is Hannah and I'm the founder of Barefoot Budgeting. This site is dedicated to one thing... helping you! Whether it is making a budget, saving money using DIY projects, or even saving by helping you with my favorite recipes I will cover it all! If it helps you save money in your life I want to help!

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