How Much is Enough? Six Tips for Knowing when to Stop

If You Don't Know what you Want You'll Never Have Enough

The question “how much is enough?” is at the very heart of a frugal life richly lived. It is the backbone of frugal abundance. We live in a culture that resists the concept of enough. For the inhabitants of the “developed world”, the answer we must give is that no amount is enough. The economy we have created depends on MORE, and just enough is considered an ill.

But sensible people trying to live a good and pleasant life know that this is hog wash. Too much clutter in our material possessions or our time leads to a frenzied life where we don’t fully use or enjoy the things we have. So what is the cure? Try these six simple tips to get back to a state of happy balance:

  1. Before you bring in ANYTHING new, look at what you already have and ask yourself what the purpose is. Do you already have something that will accomplish whatever it is you are trying to do? For example, if you want to make crepes, do you really need to buy a special pan? Or would the cast iron pan you have work just as well. This also applies to time—before you add something to your schedule STOP and ask yourself why.
  2. Do you know the real cost of the things you want to acquire? Don’t forget to add in the cost of maintenance, repair, and auxiliary doo dads that you will need to make it work. When it comes to your time, remember to include travel and preparation time. These are things you need to know before committing yourself. If you don’t think it through you may bite off more than you can chew and end up with TOO MUCH.
  3. Where are you going to put the new thing? If it doesn’t fit in your house it won’t fit in your life. The same goes for new activities. When are you going to do the new activity, including prep, practice, and travel if applicable? Things without places create clutter and eventually misery.
  4. How does the new thing fit into your value system? If you don’t know, don’t buy it till you find out. You only have so much time, money, and physical space. If you let in a bunch of stuff that does not serve your value system, it just becomes a distraction. It also drives out the things that are in harmony with your values, and therefore robs your life of meaning to one extent or another. For example, if your values include bonding with your loved ones with a real sit down dinner, adding a lot of early evening activities is actually a form of clutter and will soon become TOO MUCH.
  5. Have a plan for buying things and committing your time. If you put the big pieces in first, such as travel or buying a house then the smaller decisions become easier. If you know that forgoing a new outfit will get you closer to a trip you want to take it removes some of the sting of saying no to yourself. This also works when dealing with family members. If you all agree that going camping is important it will help when you have to nix the new sneakers. Well, maybe not every time, but it will certainly help.
  6. Now apply these guidelines to what you already have. Do you need to purge anything? Cancel anything? Get rid of any time commitments, memberships, or subscriptions? Does all that you have serve you and your values? Be honest, and then start making a pile for charity. And don’t be too quick to fill up the spaces that get opened up. Open space and breathing room are essential to a happy life and a sign that you have just the right amount.

Try these six tips to create a life that is the right size for you. Not all of them will be easy, but the results will be worth it.

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3 Responses

  1. This is a wonderful article of when is enough, enough. Over the past few years I have been downsizing from a large home to a much smaller home. It is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated that I have been taking care of. My family has gotten much smaller over the generations and I find myself the keeper of the family’s things from 3 generations back, beautiful heirlooms but more than we could use. Packing and moving all this stuff has shown me just how bogged down in stuff has taken so much of my time.

    I like the steps in this article, as an economy we are taught by marketers to go out and buy more, bigger, faster. We are bombarded with ads that tell us we are not enough if we don’t have the newest thing, this is not true, we are enough without the shiny new thing. This materialism is eating the resources of our planet up and our throw away society is filling our Earth with trash. There are many sides to enough is enough and I firmly believe we must change our point of view on buying more stuff so manufacturers stop making so much stuff. Thank you for the insightful article, it gives good steps to take to rethink if I need more.

  2. Great article brilliantly written. The other day I wanted to buy an ipad because my laptop was at the shop and I was away without my connection to the world! Then I added up what it would cost me this year to own it and the cost doubled. Add to that any interest if I used my credit card and you have a $2,500 purchase disguised as under $1000. And do I REALLY need an ipad or am I succumbing to the advertisements? I suspect the latter…

  3. Great article well written. Makes one think again about the “stuff” we let bog us down. For whatever reason we keep it or keep buying it there comes a time when lighter is better.

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