Monday, April 7, 2008

The Enough Project

I've been doing a lot of reading lately.  I love to read, it's one of my favorite activities.  What's interesting is how my taste in books has changed over the years.  

I still enjoy novels and light reading, but more and more I find myself drawn to more serious topics, like those covered in finance books, biographies, and social commentary.  I've become more engaged in the world around me over the years, and it's impacted my reading list.

In addition to an excellent biography of Winston Churchill that I'm enjoying immensely, I recently started re-reading Your Money Or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicky Robin.  I've read it before, several times.  For some reason, I feel compelled to re-read it every year or two.

It's message is profound.  Central to the idea of the book - downshifting to provide a better quality of life - is the idea of finding the point where you have enough.  

Enough what, you ask?  Enough of everything.  Enough money, enough house, enough possessions....enough.  Dominguez and Robin call it the fulfillment curve.  The point where what you have is sufficient to make you happy, and anything after that is just more stuff to own, maintain, and pay for.   As a society, we've lost sight of enough.  But I'm on a mission to find enough for my husband and I.   

I picked up Your Money or Your Life again because I was thinking about how the last few years have been marked by acquisition.  We've acquired a house, and are in the process of acquiring furnishings and renovation materials.  We've acquired a lot of other things, including intangibles like travel.  Is that an acquisition?  I think so, even though you can't put it in a moving box.

This trend will probably continue for a few more years, as we start our family, and continue to furnish and renovate our home.  But at some point, I expect - and am working towards - slowing our rate of consumption significantly.  This is done in part by making investment purchases - a bed frame that will last us 50 years, good, reliable cars that we pay off quickly,tools for our renovation projects, gardening tools that will be reused year after year, and a home that will hold and increase it's value over time.  We are also putting money into sustainable living measures, such as our garden, fruit trees, and the local food economy, all of which we hope to benefit from for many years to come.  

We spend a fair amount of money, especially since we've bought our home, but in striking comparison to most Americans, we eat out only a couple times a month, and spend little on purchases with a one-time, or limited use - what Amy Dacyczyn refers to as 'disposable purchases'.  

Once we've finished furnishing our home, and completing the major renovations that we have planned, I see a point - even with children - where we'll be putting a lot less into both investment and disposable purchases.  And this is a key part of our 10 year plan.  Our goal is to find the point where we've hit our enough target, and to stay there.  

The one fear I have is that when we hit our current enough target, a future enough target will have supplanted it.  This is the insidious trap of modern culture.  But even though I worry about that some,  I don't think we'll change our target too much.  Because we invest in things that are worth keeping, and that we love.  

My enough project is to find the enough target for us over the next few years.  It's still a few rugs and tools away, but I can visualize a day when we're there.  I don't think we'll ever not acquire things, but I think our rate of acquisition will slow to replacing, rather than adding. Which would be quite an accomplishment indeed.

If you have found your enough point, I'd love to hear from you.  What is it?  How did you get there?  

When is enough, enough?


bluntmoney said...

I think I'm getting there. I still feel like I have "too much" in some areas, but at the same time there are a few more things that I'd like to get/replace. (Like replacing old towels, a desk I dislike, and getting an entertainment center.)

It really feels noticeably better in the areas where things are at the "enough" point though. It's just such a good feeling.

Your Money or Your Life is one of my favorite books, too.

Amy said...

We have too much. Sometimes, I just want to box everything up and give it away... we're working on having less 'stuff' and more 'experiences'.

I'll have to read that book!!