The radio ad for an ab sculpting company caught my ear, not because of the inches it promised to whittle from my waist in a few easy sessions, but for its tagline, which said I “deserved” the stomach of my dreams.
Ha! I’m pretty sure I deserve the flabby tummy I have. It’s been carefully crafted by childbirth, potato chips and my German heritage.
I shook my head at the concept that just because I want a trim waist and six-pack abs I should have it.
And then I realized this is the attitude that causes so many people financial distress.
“I’ve been working so hard, I deserve to splurge on a new outfit.”
“My friends all have fancy phones. I deserve one, too.”
“I deserve the finer things in life.”
There’s very little in life any one of us deserves. Dignity? Yes. Dolce and Gabbana? No.
But we’re living in a culture that tells us that if we want something, we should have it, that we deserve it.
It’s a lie, told to drive consumerism.
You don’t deserve your wants. You deserve what you earn, what you’ve worked to achieve.
It’s a foreign concept to those with a sense of entitlement, who think they’re somehow innately worthy of their wants and have been given free rein to pursue them thanks to easily accessed credit.
It’s a pursuit that ends in debt and unhappiness.
This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t obtain your wants. It means you need to plan, budget and work for them first.
You have to earn them.
My oldest brother introduced me to a concept at an early age, two words he said would make all the difference in my life if I could grasp them: Delayed gratification.
Work hard now. Enjoy the fruits of it later.
It’s something I’m now trying to teach my 5-year-old daughter.
Recently, she saw a stuffed My Little Pony doll she just “had to have.” I put it in my cart and told her she could have it, but she’d have to work for it first.
Over the next few weeks, she did several cleaning tasks around the house, above and beyond her regular chores. I gave her 50 cents for each one.
Once she had $5, we traded the money for Pinkie Pie. It’s now her most treasured fuzzy friend, her bedtime companion.
Of course, she later accused me of stealing her money, but with time, I hope we’re building a foundation for financial success.
I hope when she’s grown, the only thing she’ll say she deserves is to feel financially secure, and that she’ll follow the straight though difficult road to achieve it.
What does financial security feel like? It’s having your toxic debt paid off, an emergency fund stashed, and monthly expenses that are less than your income. It’s having a plan for your future, and taking the steps to get there.
It’s a road that requires patience and perseverance, the core attributes of delayed gratification.
They’re qualities that will take you far and make your dollar go farther.
Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two and reporter for The Forum. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org