Thanks to this week’s Money Hack’s Carnival, I got to read Dreaming of Ferraris post, “Defining Enough.” She’s currently reading Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I’m not familiar with the book, but I like what she says inspired her. She says that the book is teaching her that “we can only be happy if our entire lives are aligned with our values and we don’t have too much, we simply have enough.” That reminds me one of my favorite lines of Virginia Woolf from To the Lighthouse: “‘The ecstasy burst in her eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind and she felt, It is enough! It is enough!” Woolf’s ability to acknowledge when enough is truly enough is part of her elegance as a writer.
Of course, we all live in a culture where we are constantly reminded that enough is never enough. I don’t need to re-hash all the constant messages of consumption we are barraged with, but I’ll give one simple example: Target. Now, I am a girl who loves her Target. I have a great relationship with Issac Mizrahi. His adorable little black ballet flats with the hot pink lining are currently my footwear of choice. On more than one occasion, I have stood in the home improvement or cooking or electronic aisle and completely re-envisioned my life. Usually the thought process is something like this: “with this tastefully Asian-inspired purple towel and bathmat and scented candle, my dingy apartment bathroom with its 1970s tile and rusty sink will be transformed into a spa-like oasis of calm.”
So, yes, I love my Target. Friends of mine recently took pictures of themselves in front of a Target ad on Times Square just because it reminded them of my love of all things Target. But, do I ever have a Woolfian moment of “it is enough” ecstasy when shopping there? No. Perhaps this is because even with a full cart, I walk out with a teeny-tiny fraction of what is for sale in a standard Target.
The vast amount of choices in Target fool any ability of my inner voice has to say, “This is enough. I don’t need any more items from Target.” Several years ago, I tallied up expenses and realized that I was spending $300 a month in Target. When I first moved to Ohio, I charged a good $800 for “necessities” for my new apartment, like curtains, paper towels, a vacuum cleaner. Each on its own was a perfectly reasonable choice, usually not even the most expensive of the array of options they had for say, a coffee maker. But, like those snowflakes we’re all collecting, they added up. I felt like I was being thrifty and walking out with only a few purchases compared to what I could have bought, but it all added up. That monthly $300 turns into $3,600 in one year, $36,000 in ten years.
My current budget allows $90 a month for Target. Last month, I wrote out a list BEFORE I walked into the store and only bought what was on the list. Know what? I only spent $30. Before I walked into Target, $30 worth of purchases would be enough. But if I had left myself open for “inspiration” like I usually do? I’m sure I could have walked out with much more.
So, my new thing (you know I love a new thing) is to consider what is enough before I enter Target, not while I’m there. For example, this month, out in the real world, I only need cat litter, cleaning wipes, and seeds for my garden. That is enough. So, that is all I’m going to buy. That way, I’ll have more time, energy, and money to devote to the truly beautiful moments in life: the sunlight bouncing of a field of shimmering grasses, sitting down to dinner by candlelight, my future husband’s laugh. All the moments of daily life that are full of “waves of pure delight.” That really is enough.