Ways to Save Money

Buy It Later: 5 Incredible Ways Procrastination Helps You Save Money

August 18, 2014
by Steve Gillman
Contributor

Back when Windows Vista came out, I considered getting a new computer. Instead I waited . . . and waited. I listened to people complaining about Vista, and I never did make my purchase until Windows 7 hit the market. In the meantime, computer prices had dropped, so I saved myself both money and trouble.

Procrastination can be a great way to spend less, and it’s so much easier than other strategies.

Yes, it’s seen as a bad habit, but most of us are so good at procrastinating. So why not use that skill to improve your financial position? It’s easier than you’d think. Go to the movies next week instead of today. Tell that car salesman you’re going to wait a few months.

You might think it’s all the same in the end, but over time you’ll spend a lot less money and be happier if you procrastinate properly. Here are five reasons why this works so well, based on scientific research into the power of saying, “Eh, maybe next week.”

1. You’ll Change Your Mind

We all get excited and want to buy things right away, but what if we waited? Denis Darpy, of Paris Dauphine University, summarized the results of his consumer procrastination study as follows: “Procrastination predicts if a consumer will effectively buy or not.” Yes, scientists thought it was necessary to prove that the more you wait, the less likely you are to go ahead and make that purchase. Now you know.

Good salespeople have always known that if a customer leaves the store to “think about it,” the sale will rarely happen. So why not get in the habit of waiting to buy things, especially when you’re excited about a purchase? You’ll still end up buying all the important things you need, but there will be plenty of times when you change your mind and hold onto your cash.

2. You’ll Find a Lower Price

Your procrastination could just delay an inevitable purchase, and there’s an advantage in that (see number 5, below). But you also might find a better price while you wait. Even on things you should normally buy as soon as possible, you can sometimes save money by waiting. For example, the flight search website Kayak.com has a price forecast tool that shows you whether the price of a given flight is dropping or going up (look for the “price trend” box in their flight search results).

Just about any item’s price might drop while you’re waiting. One of the most common situations is with tech products — early adopters usually pay the most for a new gadget. A little extra time also allows you to look around for a better place to buy something. Then there are the sales that you might miss by buying now. Black Friday is coming (eventually), so why not procrastinate for a while?

3. Waiting Is Healthy

Waiting can be psychologically healthy, according to a study done at Angelo State University. Researchers looked at delayed gratification and life satisfaction and concluded that “People who are able to delay gratification experience less regret than those who cannot, and are more content with their lives.” While procrastination is not always the same as delayed gratification, in purchase decisions it is often exactly that.

Yes, this is the “science” of common sense once again. You’ll rarely regret it when you wait to buy something, and you’ll go broke trying to have everything right now.

Being broke because you keep buying things you don’t need probably doesn’t lead to a happy life. That last part is this writer’s opinion, but perhaps there will soon be a scientific study titled, “The correlation between being broke and experiencing lower life satisfaction.”

4. You’ll Find Something Better

There are few things in life that you need exactly when you see them. If you wait, you might discover that you never really needed whatever it is you were going to buy — we’ve covered that.

But you also might find something else, something that’s more appropriate, costs less and is more useful. In other words, a bit of time and thought can lead to wiser purchases.

5. You’ll Save Money by Buying Less Frequently

We started with research suggesting you might change your mind if you waited to make a purchase. But even with things you need to buy regularly, there’s an advantage in procrastinating. For example, if you use your appliances for a few more years instead of buying new ones, you’ll buy fewer of them in your lifetime. Reduce the frequency of any regular purchases and bank the savings.

For scientific evidence of this, I read the research paper titled “Consumer Durables and the Optimality of Usually Doing Nothing.” Between the quadratic equations and complicated formulas, I found this gem in the introduction:

It is quite possible that the best policy for a rational, optimizing agent [that’s you] is to do nothing for long periods of time.

Doing nothing? That doesn’t sound so bad. Procrastination is definitely one of the easiest ways to save money.

Your Turn: Have you ever used procrastination to save money?

by Steve Gillman
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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