Discover Your Fulfillment Curve to Avoid Overspending

Updated: December 24, 2020

“How many times do you travel in a year?” a friend asks.

“A lot, due to speaking invitations and conventions. But if you’re asking about vacation travel, then that would be 2-3 times a year,” I replied.

“Isn’t that few? You can afford to go on more,” he inquired.

“Because that’s the peak of my fulfillment curve when it comes to traveling for pure pleasure,” I answered.

“Fulfillment curve?” he asks.

“Yes, are you familiar with the term?”

“I have an idea. But what is it?”

“The fulfillment curve is a concept, which states that there’s a certain quantity for anything at which we can get the most satisfaction. More than that, the fulfillment then gradually decreases,” I explained.

The Fulfillment Curve

fulfillment-CURVE

Think about your favorite dessert. Then ask yourself, would you want to have that after every meal for one whole year?

I know the impulse would be to say “Yes” but honestly, do you think that would be a good idea?

My favorite dessert is McDonald’s caramel sundae. And since there’s always a McDonald’s nearby wherever I go, I can actually afford to have it as much as I want to.

However, I’ve discovered that my fulfillment curve peak for it is just once every 3 weeks. Anything more than that and the experience isn’t as satisfying, plus I start to feel guilty for eating such an “unhealthy” dessert.

As another example, I have a friend who loves reading books.

Years ago, he could only afford to buy a novel once a month, which he finishes reading in just a week. After that, he’d have to wait until his budget permits him another purchase.

Today, his salary allows him to buy as much as 5-7 books a month. That’s what he did for a few months, and doing so disrupted his reading habit.

Instead of starting and finishing a single novel, he’d read several books at once, jumping from one story to another when the plot gets boring.

A couple of months later, unopened novels began stacking on his bookshelf. And then he started to feel guilty for not having the time to read them.

Until one day, he decided not to buy any more books until he could finish everything. Slowly, his reading habit normalized and his guilt subsided.

This was the time when he discovered that his fulfillment curve peak is 3 books per month. So even if he could afford to buy more, he doesn’t because he knows that spending more won’t make him happier.

Work, Money, and Fulfillment

We work so we can earn money, which we can use to survive, experience comfort, and afford luxuries.

Work requires our time and energy – the two things we have that we give, in exchange for money.

Our time and energy are precious non-tangible assets, so it’s only right to use the money we earned from work on things that will give us the most fulfillment.

And as we’ve discovered today, buying more of the things we want doesn’t mean it will be more fulfilling.

The challenge for us is to determine that sweet spot where it is enough. The point where having more tips us towards overconsumption and less satisfaction.

So I hope you learned something good today in this post. I first came across the concept of the fulfillment curve in the book, “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, and Monique Tilford; I recommend reading this book for everyone.

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11 comments

  1. This is a great article and I experienced it with myself. I have a knack to buy bags, just like any woman who wants to show off that I can afford it. When I finally saved and bought a super high end bag, I stopped buying bags because I have reached my fulfillment curve, and it has been 3 years since I bought that bag, normally would buy a bag at least 4x a year. I think it comes with maturity and security as well, as I become more successful and earns more money, the lesser the need to show off because I deep inside I am very fulfilled, satisfied and grateful.
    Thank you for this great article.

  2. great article as usual Fitz! this one is a nugget of wisdom i’ve come across only quite recently, as I was sorting out a craving for the burger king swiss mushroom burger, (of all things!) and i didn’t know there was a name attached to it until your post. 🙂

  3. such an awakening article. you have the gift to educate people by giving us the basic knowledge anchored on the correct financial mindset – wisdom that couldn’t be learnt in a four-wall classroom.

  4. I have this small obsession of buying notebooks just because i could afford it and its fairly cheap. It reached a point that i have a lot of those but nothing to write on them. Now I realize I can only buy it whenever i need it. Anyway, the world will not run out of notebooks and I don’t need to hoard as much. This article sums up what I’ve been experiencing but cannot identify what it really is. Thank you.

  5. My thought is that collecting something that is physically small and that may grow in value would be a good hobby. My first area of collecting as a child was button hooks. Before shoelaces and modern Velcro, shoes were fastened over the foot with loops that were pulled over fixed buttons. A small hook with handle was used to accomplish this task. Many button hooks were utilitarian but a wide rage of beautifully made ornate button hooks were also produced and sold. It was great fun for me as child to peruse second hand shops on a regular basis with my family. It was always a wonderful day to find a new piece for the collection and add it to my display board. This was an inexpensive hobby as few were collecting button hooks when I was young. If only I had the display board today, it would likely be worth many, many times the small amount I had invested during my childhood. Also, I never laughed at several friends who were rather serious baseball card and postage stamp collectors. Over time, they have earned some serious coin with their collecting and trading.

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