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Finding Enough Before it Becomes Too Much

The more you consume, the less content you are.

If you don’t believe me, think back to the last time you ate just a bit too much of your favourite ice cream.

For me, that’s Jeni’s salty caramel.

There are few things in life better than that first spoonful.

Except, that is, for the second bite, and then the third and the fourth.


But somewhere along the way — at right about the last five spoonfuls in the pint for me — it starts to taste not so good.

In fact, at that point, I didn’t even want it anymore.

I usually just finish it out of a sene of obligation. 

And then comes the stomachache. 

The phenomenon of liking something less and less, the more and more you do it, or have it, actually has a name.

And it’s as close to a law as we get in economics.

It’s called the law of diminishing marginal returns

The law of diminishing marginal returns is one of those fancy academic concepts with a definition a mile long.

But strip away the econ professor mumbo jumbo, and you’ll find something you’ve already experienced.

Maybe it was spinning in circles on a tire swing too many times as a child.

Or watching one too many episodes of that new Netflix series.

I bet many of us have scrolled through Facebook until our eyes burned, our brains went numb, and we suddenly wished we could have that lost hour back.

The point is, pleasure fades

In fact, at a certain point, pleasure and more become inversely related, and “more” becomes the name of the place where you wind up when you don’t know when to quit.

There’s even a spot before more, and we’re going to call that spot “enough.” 46548850_l

We all know where enough is — it’s where you’re content.

It’s just as true for high-priced items as low-priced ones, but let’s stick with the financially cheap (but calorically expensive) frozen treats.

Enough is probably not at the bottom of the pint for you.

Maybe it’s a quarter of the way through, or halfway through the second scoop in the sundae.

Wherever it is, learn to recognize it, and stop there.

The best way I know to do this is to keep an eye out for the signs

“I can’t stop” means “enough” is coming up soon.

“I’m bored” means the time to stop is now.

“Ouch, my stomach” is how you know you missed your exit.

Start paying attention as you consume.

Practice anticipating that point of contentment before you reach it, so you’ll still have time to wind down.

If you don’t, you’re bound to end up with a stomachache, along with everyone else who went too far.

Editors note: This article was originally published a number of years ago and has been republished for the benefit of our many new readers.

About Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and a columnist for the New York Times, Morningstar magazine and Yahoo Finance. He is author of 2 books, The Behavior Gap & The One-Page Financial Plan. Carl lives with his family in Park City, Utah. You can find his work and sign up for his newsletter (which has an international audience) at
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