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.

For more on this topic check out these links:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/09/23/frugality-in-a-consumption-crazed-society/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/08/30/false-economy/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/11/01/time-and-money/

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Time and Money

We’ve all heard that time is money. This simplistic saying doesn’t come close to capturing the complex relationship between these two things, one of them a resource that flows through our lives, and the other the medium through which our life is lived. For the truth is, time is what our life is made of. It is made of moments strung together one after the other. If the happy moments predominate we have a happy life. If it is unhappy moments that predominate, the life is unhappy. Time is much more valuable than money. It is delivered to us, measured and unstoppable. The same amount is given simultaneously to every living thing. We may enjoy divergent lengths to our lives, but no one gets to move ahead at a different rate.

Time and Money

Money is something we trade some of those moments to obtain. Every creature on this planet has to work to survive. The other species get their needs met directly. The predator uses energy to catch the prey. If successful he eats. Humans have created a symbol of energy to use as a means of exchange. We sell our time for a medium of exchange. Even in our modern world we recognize many things in our lives as being more important than the mere means of exchange. Love, family, wisdom, spiritual connection, friendship, creativity, and many more values are held above money. Yet, we have to eat. And therefore to earn our bread.

A good life is created by a balance between the exchange of energy for money and the use of the money to spend the time in happy moments. That is how we create meaning. The book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez have a very useful method to determine what you are really giving up when you take a job, in other words your actual wage.

The corollary to the saying that time is money is that money buys happiness. The accurate saying would be that poverty creates misery. Beyond a certain level of comfort, selling time for money is a bad deal. If you somehow get very lucky and manage to bring in more money than that without any further expenditure of energy, say by inventing something, consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, think very carefully before getting swept into the fifty hour work week. Think very hard about what really matters, and whether more money or more time will help you get it.

I highly recommend this book; it will change how you think:

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Money-Life-Transforming-Relationship/dp/0143115766/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288672630&sr=1-1

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