The Power of Waiting

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Remember being a kid?  Remember how when something REALLY, TRULY AWESOME was looming in the near future, it was nearly impossible to contain our enthusiasm?  Waiting seemed unbearable!  Christmas morning, your birthday, a trip to Disney World – big events and big things that made you feel like you might explode if the special day didn’t arrive soon.

Actually, waiting for small things was no different.  A promised ice cream cone, a gumball out of the machine, a favorite dessert on the menu: You just couldn’t think of anything else and the wait was excruciating.

As an adult, are you any different?  Do you anxiously anticipate an awesome weekend plan?  A new “toy” you have your eye on?  While we think we are grown up and have learned a thing or two since childhood, in today’s world of instant gratification, it is difficult to practice discipline and the virtue of patience.

The old days

You’ve heard those stories about parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.  The stories about how they didn’t get everything and anything they wanted in life.  Those tortured tales of how they had to wait and save up money for something big or special.  Easily accessible credit to “buy now, pay later” was in short supply or non-existent, and contributed to the need to wait.

Previous generations didn’t always get all they wanted.   But when the time came, the things they wanted, awaited, and eventually got were cherished forever.  The commerce of precious and rare is a much more rewarding transaction.

The days of fast and easy credit everything

Today, we seldom have to wait for anything.  Want a new dining room table?  Pick one out, apply for “12 months same as cash” financing and away you go!  Need a new sweater for approaching cool weather but don’t have the spare cash?  Use your credit card: You tell yourself you’ll have the necessary cash to pay the bill in thirty days.

By the way, this phenomenon is not limited to the use of credit.  Can’t wait to get home for dinner because you are starving to death?  Stop at a convenience store for a snack.  Can’t wait the ten minutes it takes to pop popcorn the traditional way?  Just stick some popcorn in the microwave.

Our world of instant gratification has made waiting for pretty much anything a quaint, antiquated notion.

No waiting = no patience

If patience is a virtue, it’s in short supply these days.  I’m not immune. I have very little patience in many areas of my life.  While a person might be impatient by nature, people have become more prone to impatience because of our pervasive “get it now” mentality.

Need more proof of our daily dose of impatience?  When crossing a busy intersection in a city, do you press the button to signal your need to cross a single time?  And if your wait extends to, say, more than thirty seconds, do you give it another push just in case?  Do you toot your car horn when someone doesn’t hit the accelerator the minute the light turns green?  And who presses the elevator button more than once?

Patience is required for a successful financial life

I know you’re thinking, who cares if I’m impatient??  After all, movers and shakers in our society tend to be people unaccustomed to waiting around for things to happen.  But there’s one area in our lives where a lack of patience is definitely detrimental: our finances.

Anyone who has set a savings goal can tell you that patience is required.  If the amount you are able to save is small, it will definitely take time for obvious growth.  Too often, I’ve found, this is why people swear they can’t save money: it’s a problem in their head, not in their ability to save.  If they are setting aside twenty dollars a week, it will be five weeks before the balance hits three digits, and a whole year before it reaches four.  Because the result is so slow to arrive, people lose faith in the process.

The best approach is to set your savings target, automate it, review regularly to determine if you can increase the amount you are saving, and ignore your balance.  Trust that it is growing and ignore the speed (or lack thereof) of the growth.

Waiting is a powerful tool for spending, too

If you are prone to mindless spending, try implementing a waiting practice.  Stick with me on this one!  Establish some rules about waiting before you purchase things.  One mandate might be only shopping from a list.  Another might be no extras.  Perhaps try putting every purchase over a certain dollar amount on a list for thirty days before purchasing.

After you establish your rules, stick with them.  If you are a person with non-existent patience, make your waiting period short at first.  After you master that, extend the waiting time.

Children can also benefit from this skill, so introduce these practices early.  When my daughter asks for something, I tell her to “put it on your list.”  There is a decent chance the item will be forgotten, but if it makes it on her list, she has the opportunity to review her purchase ideas over time and prune the list as necessary.  Since her birthday is in July, this approach is it is convenient because she’s either making a birthday list, or a Christmas list.

Teaching children to wait for things is a valuable life skill.  They will survive having to wait for a treat or a toy or an experience.  The key is to work with children in an honest, forthright manner.  If you tell them to put it on their list merely as a stall tactic, it might backfire.  If they do, indeed, add items to a list and show you the list, take it seriously.

Of course, you can give input on what is on the list.  I will ask Rowan questions about her items and drill down into WHY she is so interested in them.  Often this results in her removing an item from her list, and sometimes it results in her doubling down on her interest.

 One of the SimpleMoney Power Habits

Mastering the power of waiting is one of the SimpleMoney Six Power Habits, which you can download for free here.

How can you practice waiting today?


Is waiting one of your superpowers?  Feel free to share your successes (and challenges!) below, or if you prefer, you can email me at  Or if you want to start a discussion with some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your ideas!


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