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Mayonnaise Jar of Life Related to Personal Finance

28 September 2012

I recently had the chance of reading a story again, called the Mayonnaise Jar of Life, and it got me thinking on how this can be related to personal finance.

Realistically, our spending can get our of hand at any age, especially when we are young. When we are young, we want to do everything, regardless of the cost, and it can (and will likely) come back to haunt us in the future.

What is the Mayonnaise Jar of Life story?

Well you may have to bear with me, because this story isn’t actually meant for personal finance, but I plan on making a spin on it.

I am sure a lot of people have heard of the mayonnaise jar of life story; you haven’t? No problem here it is:

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ” I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things in life. Your family, your children, your health, your beliefs, your friends, and your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.

The sand is everything else, the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the garbage disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

It is a long story, but as you can see the point is that it addresses the important things in life, and of course there is no harm having a cup of coffee with a friend.

What is my spin on the story?

Well the fact is, although the story relates to taking care of the important things in life, how about we relate it to our finances.

The golf balls are the important purchases – the ones we have to make, tuition payments, rent, etc. Set those priorities first, well ahead of the pebbles – luxuries, and very much ahead of the sand – random spur of the moment spending.

Ultimately, you will be able to avoid getting in unnecessary debt by keeping this in mind. I am not saying it is not possible to get into debt with the basic necessities you need to have, but at least it won’t be for purchases you will regret in the future.

If you are able to do that, then you will find your spending to ease down, and not only enjoy life, but still find time to have a cup of coffee with a friend.



About the Author


My favorite weapon of choice is the samurai sword. I use it to cut my chicken during dinner, cut my hair and periodically carve my name into stone when I am bored. I love meditating on top of a 15ft high pole and eating those sushi’s with smoked salmon on top. I love everything there is about Canada and everything financially related to Canadians. I write deily posts from Canadian Banks to Credit Card information.

Comments (2 )

Money Beagle Wrote:

I love that story. I wish I had a professor in college that would have done that, I’m sure the impact would still be long lasting :)

Great spin of the story. Indeed there are little stuff that only satisfy whims yet it becomes irresistible after awhile when your system gets used to it.

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