Of Money and Mangoes: When A Case of Excess Is A Little Fruity

We love feeding people. Well, that is we love having friends, family, neighbours and colleagues over for copious amounts of food. It’s always good, healthy, tasty food, but let’s just say we end up with days of leftovers. 

Enter the Mangoes

Our latest event was a brunch over the long weekend. We had an awesome spread: cheeses, eggs & cured meats; salads and fresh veggies & dip; coffee, tea & juice; and fruit…including mangoes. Yes. We bought mangoes, a case of them.

The Case for the Case

Why the heck would we buy a case? Because buying a case of twelve was as cheap as buying three (what we actually needed) and who can resist a four-for-one deal? Logical…if you love mangoes.

I prepared five mangoes for that morning. Our guests ate the equivalent of two. Yup. That left ten ripe mangoes for this average Canadian woman to consume...quickly.

So it went a little like this:

  • Day 1: three mangoes - they were good, but I felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity remaining
  • Day 2: three mangoes - they were ok and I was happy to be through over half what was left
  • Day 3: two mangoes - not so good, ate them but didn’t enjoy them
  • Day 4: ugh, two very ripe mangoes - getting pretty sick of them…just one more day
  • Day 5: one very very ripe mango  - barely made it. (Thanks to Mr. F2P for eating the last one…even if it was out of pity.)

Too sweet, too much, too…everything.

Once we’ve eaten our fill of pancakes, more pancakes are not rewarding, hence we stop trying to procure and consume them. But not so, it seems, with money.
— Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness

Eating all these mangoes gave me some time to reflect. It made me think of scarcity versus excess. Normally, I quite like mangoes. They’re sweet and to me taste like a mix of peach, lime, cantaloupe and banana. Well, I didn’t like these mangoes quite so much.

What a waste, really.

While there is no convincing evidence that reducing consumption provides a panacea for increasing happiness, a growing body of research suggests that altering consumption patterns can provide a route to getting more happiness for less money…seemingly trivial changes can make a big difference.
— Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, Happy Money (2013), p. 36.

If we’d just purchased the three mangoes, the experience would have been better than what actually happened. Our guests would have eaten two and there would have been one left over, which I would have gladly eaten at the peak of perfection either that day or the next. Yum! Instead, we bought four times too many and I ended up feeling overwhelmed by the quantity, wanting to use it up as quickly as possible to get it over with without wasting food.

Collectibles Aren’t Quite So Delectable

If we have too much of anything, it becomes a distraction. It starts feeling like an obligation of sorts. We have to:

  • Eat it
  • Drink it
  • Wear it
  • Use it
  • Finish it
  • Maintain it
  • Store it
  • Give it away/throw it out

It’s as though the burden of stuff changes the way we behave because we feel we should do something to justify the purchase…like eat mangoes for five days. It's a self-fulfilling imposition: a purchase made on a whim becomes a responsibility.

Not Too Little, Not Too Much, Just Right

If we buy just the right amount of something, we enjoy it much more than when we buy too little or too much. It’s like the popular story of Goldie Locks and the Three bears: just like having your porridge made just right, there’s a sweet spot to consumption where we’re maximizing utility and getting the most enjoyment out of what we consume. 

By spending and consuming wisely, we make money a relatively minor part of our lives…Because we consume things sparingly, thoughtfully, and fully, things do not consume us.
— Jeff Yeager, The Cheapskate Next Door (2003), p. 4.

Add to that a dash of anticipation and a little delayed gratification thrown in and we have a no-fail recipe for relishing everything we consume, from clothes & accessories to food to entertainment to home furnishings to anything else you can think of.

As for me and mangoes? It’ll be a while…

Image credit/copyright: Aduldej & phasinphoto/freedigitalphotos.net

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