Popcorn Economics!

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The other day I read an unusual article by C. Jay Engel about how humans and their money interact. The analogy he used to illustrate the point was popcorn. Here’s my paraphrased version of the story:

Morrie and Mary love to watch movies at home and eat popcorn. They pop up a big batch, toss it into a bowl, and share it as they watch the movie. Morrie and Mary love each other, but strangely, with just one bowl of the limited popcorn, they become ever so slightly competitive. Morrie wants to be sure he gets his “half” of the popcorn, so he eats his part quickly to be sure that Mary doesn’t accidently get more than her fair share. Otherwise Morrie would be cheated out of his full portion. Now if the popcorn supply were unlimited, there would be no problem. But it isn’t. Each feels compelled to get what he/she deserves before it runs out. So they eat compulsively, and usually end up with indigestion. There is another solution: Two bowls. Morrie and Mary agree that the limited popcorn is evenly divided between the two bowls, and each has a bowl. Ahhh…now here’s the interesting part: All of a sudden Morrie doesn’t have to hurry to be sure he gets his fair share. In fact, he can relax and even set the popcorn aside to eat later. Or, he might wait till Mary runs out of her popcorn and trade it for her leftover slice of pizza in the refrig.

So here’s the deal: Each person in a marriage needs a personal “popcorn bowl.” You need to agree on the amount of limited funds going into each popcorn bowl. Once that’s agreed on, then each can relax and not worry about getting the short end of the stick. By not having to spend the money in a hurry to ensure your fair share, you might even feel free to set some aside and build it up to buy something you really want. The other won’t be upset, because you paid for it with “your” popcorn.

People living solo also benefit from a designated popcorn bowl. Separate a portion just for you…even if it’s just a few dollars a month. That makes it easier not to spend compulsively because you’re afraid you’ll miss out.

Money is a funny thing. It triggers a desire to make sure we’re not left out or behind. Popcorn bowls are an easy way to help diffuse some of that! --Lois Russell

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