The Fulfillment Curve: Balancing Happiness and Spending


You’ve been toiling on and on, hoping to finally come to a point when you don’t have to worry about where to find money for your needs anymore. After all, it is extremely tiring to have to think about how to pay the bills on time, how to pay your kids’ tuition fees, or how to eliminate that list of debts that just keeps getting longer and longer.


It’s not exactly a happy place to be in.


Now let’s say you took a few risks and lucked out, eventually having more money than you ever dreamed about. Now, you have your assistant calling you every 15 minutes, reminding you about some meeting you have to attend.


You receive one text message after another from your wife, telling you that you’re an hour late for your own daughter’s birthday party.


All this happens while you stare at your desk, looking at the pile of paperwork you have to go through. Sure, you are now able to buy yourself and your family anything in a snap. But you don’t really have the time to do any shopping anymore.


It’s not a happy place to be in either.


This is where the big question comes in. If you’re unhappy without money, and still unhappy now that you have money, is there really a direct correlation between money and fulfillment?


The Fulfillment Curve


Is there really a perfect balance? Can you really do financially well and be happy at the same time?


Introducing the Fulfillment Curve:

Fulfillment Curve

Image Credit: Investment Moats


Basically, the Fulfillment Curve shows us in graphical form what we’ve always known for years – that it’s not okay to have too little, but it’s not good to have too much as well.


Real Life Application


See that point where you have just ENOUGH? That’s the exact spot that you would want to be in. It’s that point where you have just enough money to provide for your needs and some of your wants, but not too much that you would have to work day in and day out just to sustain the lifestyle.


Here’s an easier way of looking at it:

Fulfillment vs Money Spent

Image Credit: The Simple Dollar


See those numbers there?


This is where those numbers place you in terms of your choice of smartphones:

  1. You love smartphones but do not have one.

  2. You have a smartphone, but it’s a cheap one and you got it second hand. The most functional part of it are the basic call and text features – if its battery life lasts long enough.

  3. You have a smartphone that’s fairly priced and brand new, but considering the apps that you want, its low memory may not be able to accommodate them all. You’ll have to be contented in downloading a couple of apps at a time, deleting these apps when you get tired of them to make way for others.

  4. You have the perfect smartphone for your needs. It has the right mobile and data plan that covers the average number of important calls you usually make, and has enough data allowance for all your downloads and streaming needs. The memory is also perfect – there’s enough room for all the apps you need, with all the apps being regularly used.

  5. You have a smartphone that has a higher memory allowance that what you really need. This prompts you to keep downloading new apps, which is okay, but most of the apps you now have on your phone, you barely touch. The additional downloads are also adding a little bit to your spending, but it’s still manageable.

  6. You have a phone with high memory, filled to the brim with apps. Its specs are also pretty cool, so you do all your streaming there, you barely touch your TV or laptop. All this takes its toll on your bills.

  7. You have a top-of-the-line phone, which you are paying for every month. Your credit card bills are piling up, and you have a bunch of apps you have yet to use. Your data usage has also gone crazy as you feel the need to make the most of all your phone’s cool features. The worst part is, you fail to do a lot of the more important work you need to do because you are constantly distracted by all the games you want to play and the videos you want to stream.


Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?


Strategies to Use


How do you adjust your spending while still getting enough of what you want and need?


Here are a few tips that would help you stay within that “Enough” zone.

  • Apply the Fulfillment Curve in everything

The Fulfillment Curve does not just apply to smartphones, houses, or cars. It applies even to the smallest of things, like the food you buy everyday to the clothes you store in your closet. Only when you have mastered applying the concept to your every move will you be able to balance fulfillment and spending – no exceptions, no regrets.

  • Be sensitive to your guilt

When that nagging voice at the back of your head starts telling you that something is too much (even if another part of your brain argues that it’s just a couple of dollars on top of your usual spending), then take the time out to think about whatever you’re buying. There is a huge chance that you already know that it’s not a practical choice, and that you’re only trying to justify something that could push you beyond the “Enough” zone and over the overspending part of the scale.

  • Find areas where your fulfillment peaks at minimal cost

There will always be a few areas where you peak on the fulfillment scale without spending too much. Make sure you remember those areas. For example, you may find that an entire day spent at the park playing Frisbee with the kids is a lot less expensive than going to that theme park across town, and it’s also something that allows both you and the kids to enjoy immensely.

  • Find small repetitive purchases that could be going beyond your peak

Don’t just concentrate on the huge spending. Look at those small, repetitive ones that could have some major impact on your overall spending without you noticing it. That coffee you get from the corner café every morning, for example. You may find that brewing your own coffee at home and putting it into a Thermos bottle is a lot less expensive, with the coffee tasting just as good.

  • Set aside some quiet time and try to dog deep into what really makes you happy

Sometimes, people fail to find that fulfillment they are looking for because they don’t even know what they want out of life. Spend a day or two on your own and make a list of things that make you happy. Forget about temporary happiness. Think of things that really stayed with you, the things that truly gave you long-term fulfillment. From here, it would be easier to decide on what’s worth investing on, and what would only count as a whim.


Remember that although the Fulfillment Curve is just a guide and should not necessarily be the sole basis of every buying decision, it is still a pretty reliable way to balance your finances and your happiness. Share the model with the rest of your family as well, as this could be the key that would change the way your financial future looks.

  Special thanks to She’s Next for the main image.

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