Buy later, pay now: How mindfulness can make you wealthy

If you can savor the process of acquiring things, you can become wealthy, but if you want everything now, you’ll never have enough.

The longer I go, the more I start to believe that practicing intention and mindfulness is truly how we can all become wealthy. We need to savor the process and not rush it. We need to enjoy the steps along the way.

I talked about this a little while ago when I called for a new “Slow Shipping” movement. Like the Slow Food Movement before it, this would be a call to make shipping times for online purchases slower, not faster, so we can savor the process of acquiring our stuff, and not just move onto the next thing. I truly think we would enjoy our stuff more if we had time to really anticipate it.

(Which is why, if you haven’t cancelled Amazon Prime recently, why don’t you start the year off right and do that now? You’ll save money, won’t be tied to the Amazon empire, and if you need something shipped quickly, it’s still an option.)

When you start to look at mindfulness as a mechanism for financial wellness, a lot of things start to fall into place.

The problem with buy now, pay later

I’ve already talked about the prevalence of “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) schemes, as popularized by companies like Affirm and Klarna, but now purveyed by mostly everyone.

There’s obviously a clear appeal here. When you’re buying something for $100, and you see an option to pay only $25, it sounds tempting, doesn’t it? And yes, you know that you’ll have to pay $25 three more times, but that’s Future You’s problem.

The problem with this should be clear when you run the tape forward just a bit in time. Those purchases add up, and soon, you’re not just paying $25 now, but $25 for all of the purchases you did a month or two ago. If you’re not planning carefully for these payments, you may not have the money for them when the bill comes.

And if you’re using Buy Now, Pay Later, you probably aren’t planning carefully. After all, if you were, you wouldn’t need (or want) to use this kind of service.

Shockingly, the media is now reporting that people are getting into trouble with using Buy Now, Pay Later services.

[S]uch loans may be encouraging younger and lower-income Americans to take on too much debt, according to consumer groups and some lawmakers. And because such loans aren’t routinely reported to credit bureaus or captured in public data, they could also represent a hidden source of risk to the financial system.

This whole wanting-it-now leading to coming up short financially is something we see over and over again.

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The car loan versus the car

When it’s time to get a different car, most people will look for affordable loan terms. Why? Because they don’t have enough money to buy a car.

So people buy the car now, putting themselves on the hook for paying it later. Which sounds great in theory, but now you’re paying fees for this privilege. Car loans aren’t cheap, especially these days,

In my opinion, everyone—myself included—should be saving up for their next car starting right now. The time to save up for a car is not after you buy it, it’s before.

But that would require some serious mindfulness, and the ability to wait to buy something until you can pay for it.

Now, I’ve paid cash for a car in the past, so I know how seriously awesome it feels. But even if it wouldn’t feel any different to you, it still a good idea to get into the idea.

Savoring the journey

Telling people that they should just “wait” or “be patient” or other self-sacrificing directives is the shortest way to get people to tune out. (Which is why I never say that people should just “spend less money”.)

But structurally, this is in effect what I’m advocating for here. So how do I not make this sound like I’m telling you to floss your teeth more?

Simple: I’m asking you to consider learning to savor the process of acquiring things. Savor the journey. Savor the wait.

When you go on a vacation somewhere, you can’t tell me that the weeks and months leading up to it aren’t enjoyable in some way. You’re planning, you’re prepping, you’re daydreaming. You’re in effect “on” the trip in some way, even though you haven’t left home yet. The enjoyment truly lasts longer.

And I’ve had the opposite too, where I booked a trip too soon to really look forward to it. It was great, but not as great, in a strange way.

We need to start doing this with our stuff.

How sweet would it be to have a picture of our desired car up on our wall, counting down the months until we had enough money to buy it?

How fun could it be to count the days before things happen, to think about what you’re about to do or get, rather than to just get it immediately and then go on to the next thing?

Savoring the process can give you the pleasure and enjoyment you need to be motivated to stay patient and not buy things before you’re ready.

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Because when you buy later but pay now, there are no fees, no APRs to worry about. You’ll have more money to do what you want.

And that can make you wealthy.

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