Do you have “enough”? Are you working extra hard to buy extra stuff that you don’t actually need? How many hours of your working day go towards unnecessary expenses? Could you work less hours if you required less stuff? Wanted less stuff? Had less stuff?
These are questions I continually ask myself as I get a little older. When I was in my 20’s, I wanted everything – a new car every few years, nice electronics, drinks and dinners out all week long, every new CD that came out, etc – and I had the credit card debt to show for it. Thus, I had to stay at jobs I might not have liked very much; I had no choice in the matter. Someone had to pay for that lifestyle I was trying to live! But over the years, I have slowly changed my way of thinking from “gotta get more” to “I think I may have enough”…and it has allowed me to make quite the drastic change in my relationship with money. I went from working 50-60 hours a week for someone else to working 25 hours a week for myself…with no change in my quality of life.
I am a big fan of reading books about simple living and putting the advice they give into action. One of my all-time favorite books is Your Money Or Your Life, which really changed my thoughts about how much we all have to work just to pay for the “extras” in life that we could, in fact, do without. As I get older, I am realizing that I don’t like working that much to pay for stuff I don’t need – so I stopped doing it. I “need” less, thus I can work less. It’s really a simple equation. We all create our own lifestyle, we all get ourselves into debt, and we all can choose just how much time we are willing to trade for “stuff”. I am doing my best to get off that train.
But another book I am almost finished with now is called Radical Simplicity, which I mentioned the other day. In this book, there is a section that references Your Money Or Your Life, and points out 4 qualities and 6 realities of “Enoughness” as follows…
Four Qualities of Enoughness
1. Purpose – Less distracted by things, our higher purpose can rise above the background noise of society.
2. Accountability to Earth, society, our family, and ourselves – We can decide not to let consumer addiction ruin our life, our marriage, or the planet.
3. An internal yardstick – This means that we nurture a profound understanding of how much is enough, independent of our country of origin and aligned with our values of what is fair and sustainable.
4. Financial Integrity – Being responsible for the implications of the money that flows through our life; our spending is aligned with our values.
These above 4 qualities, according to the author, can lead to the …
Six Realities of Enoughness
1. Peace of Mind – With your financial house in order, fear and anxiety of not having enough fades. You can explore your personal path, with space to grow.
2. Out of Debt – And never to return.
3. Savings – With savings, you will feel secure that you can handle any emergency that arises.
4. Skills – With extra time and savings, you will have time to develop new skills and hobbies.
5. Community – With more of yourself available, you get involved.
6. Income – Having located an “enoughness” point independent of societal pressures, obtaining sufficient income now becomes, in the words of Thoreau, “a pastime, not a hardship”.
Whether you choose to follow it or not, there are some important lessons in these two books. In real life, there are only a few things that any of us actually need – shelter, food, clothes, and some sort of transportation. Everything else is extra. I am not saying that we need to do without if we don’t want to, I am just saying that thinking about how much that “extra” stuff costs me in working hours changed the way I looked at earning and spending money. We still go out to eat, we still do some traveling, we still spend some money on entertainment. But we could be spending a lot more on those things and much, much more – but I refuse to trade that much more work just to pay for things I don’t really need or want anymore. If I had to swtich my life around and again spend 60 hours a week at a job, away from my family, just to pay for extra toys or expensive things that didn’t bring that much value to my life, I just couldn’t do it. It’s not the way I do things anymore, as I now value any and all free time I have to go hiking, biking, do some work in the yard, complete some woodworking, or take a nap in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. My time is more valuable to me than “stuff” – and that’s how I know I have enough. As they say, you cannot take it with you!
So…how do you (or did you) know when you have enough?
photo on homepage by Sarah Jane