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Walking the line between indulgence and delayed gratification

Are you the type of person who likes to save certain objects or experiences – such as expensive wine, rewards points, gift certificates, etc. – for a future occasion? According to research led by Suzanne Shu, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, you may wish to rethink that strategy. Giving in to some indulgences may actually offer you a better experience.

Shu’s extensive research around consumption vs. delayed gratification shows that when people identify something as “special,” they are more likely to save it for an imagined future occasion. Unfortunately, this approach can backfire: A special occasion may not materialize, consumable items may expire, small items are often misplaced, and clothes can be outgrown. And, sometimes, the experience of finally consuming what has been saved doesn’t live up to its anticipation.

If you’re game to try a new approach to enjoying your treasures, here are some ideas:

  • Create an occasion. Take a note from the playbook of wine journalists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, who encouraged their fans to celebrate Open That Bottle Night – an annual day upon which to indulge in a special wine.
  • Stop seeking perfection. Seek experiences that may bring you joy, even if they’re not your ideal. For example, instead of waiting to indulge your passion for live music until a band you love comes into town, try checking out some free local music.
  • Seize everyday opportunities. Tourists often enjoy more sights and experiences in a city than do the residents who live there. Imagine that you are visiting your hometown for a day. What activities would you be sure to do? Once you have some ideas in mind, schedule a time to enjoy them!

Interested in learning more? Read the full article from UCLA.

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