gratitude · minimalism · Personal Finance

When enough is not enough

One of my favorite bloggers Ms. Mintly posted a question in the comments of one of my previous posts asking: “how can there simultaneously never be enough money in our household but also so much more than others have?” I have been thinking a lot about this recently. The other day, I actually wondered if I am living paycheck to paycheck. Obviously I know that I am not in the way we typically describe it. First, I am choosing to work part-time which is a blessing! Our only debt is the mortgage which my whole paycheck is going to paying off early (and not living expenses). Clearly we have enough money!

However, our budget is always stretched to the limit and I am always counting down the days to the next paycheck. I wish this was a sign of effective budgeting but it isn’t. There is very little room if an extra expense pops up. We spend right down to our last dollar and sometimes more. I don’t believe we are living super extravagantly at all. While we don’t accumulate stuff, we value taking trips to see our family who live many states away from us. Our splurge items are activities for the kids, food (my husband and I are recovering foodies) and monthly house cleaning service. More often than not, our expenses have a way of working themselves out.

But why do I feel like I am poor and there is never enough money? I need to resolve these feelings and get to a place of gratitude and contentment. If I am to truly live a frugal, minimalism lifestyle, I need to address the lack of congruence between feeling like I don’t have enough money and the reality of our financial situation. I decided to try to explore the topic of the emotions of finances. The first book I chose to read is titled “Lost and Found” by Geneen Roth (mostly because she has a chapter called “Hyperventilating at Target”). In this book, Roth describes the events that let up to her losing her entire savings and how she emotionally recovered. Much of the book I could not relate to as she describes in endless detail the aversion she had towards focusing on money. Yeah, I don’t have that problem; actually I have the opposite problem. Despite how much I wanted to reach through the book and strangle her for her naivety, I made it through. There was one quote that has stuck with me:

Enough isn’t an amount; it’s a relationship to what you already have. Geneen Roth

I don’t have deep insight to share, but this quote seems to get to the core of my issue. There is something about my relationship with what I have that is faulty. Maybe I still have this unrealistic image of what our finances should be. Or maybe I have a lack gratitude for plenty in my life. I am going to continue exploring this topic and hopefully improve my relationship with all that I already have.

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, tips, recommendations on good books to read, I’d love hear about it!

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16 thoughts on “When enough is not enough

  1. Hmmm, this is a tricky one. I’ll use my own experiences because someone in their mid twenties without children and renting is clearly a vastly different situation to yours, so I don’t want to speak out of line.

    For me, I spent years learning about minimalism and embracing a minimalist life. Even though minimalism isn’t just about money, it’s had a huge impact on my relationship with money today. It’s recognising where the intersection is between the bare minimum we need, and when it brings us enough joy. I constantly prioritise what really matters to me, and weigh up the trades of money vs time vs quality vs joy. I recognise that these are all equal parts of the equation and we can’t have it all. A simple example:
    * Buying cheap food/items = leaves more money in my bank, easier to access at supermarkets and shopping centres, worse quality or unethical production, more convenient if I am busy but less joy if I am mindful of living gently on Earth.
    * Buying quality ethical food/items = less money in my bank, more time consuming and difficult if I’m stressed/busy, better quality and ethical production, more joy for doing something that’s in line with my values.
    I know this is breaking it down super simply, but I am constantly tossing up these elements and seeing where it sits with me. It’s not just on buying things. When I read that you work part time, have house cleaning, have take out, or splurge on the kids (no judgment), these would be the areas I would look at.

    One last personal example and I’ll get off my soapbox 😛
    I worked like a dog last year, and so I swapped money for time conveniences (like buying bakery food on the run instead of healthy breakfast/lunches), and used money to feel better about all the hard work I was doing (like drinking a lot because I needed to unwind). Because of my minimalism and frugality I banked a lot of my salary, allowing me to take a year off.
    Knowing all this, would I have done it again? To work like a dog for a year but be able to take a whole year off? Work hard, play hard? No. I made more money but I spent more money as a result and made other trade offs that I’m not happy with. Someone else who wasn’t as health conscious may have easily accepted those trade offs. If I were to enter the workforce again I would think long and hard about whether I choose part time or full time, and the nature of the work, because my wellbeing matters more to me. And if I have less money, then I would be happy doing what needed to be done to live on less, knowing that I prioritised my time/quality/joy. It’s a bit of a trick on the mind, making you feel that even when you are down to the last dollar, you happily made that choice.

    Sorry for the essay! I hope this gives you some food for thought 🙂 please disregard anything that’s out of line or if it’s just not relevant.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Love the essay and thanks for your thoughts and experiences. I think you are on to something with the trick of the mind. I love the concept of minimalism and its definitely a goal of mine to embrace it within my lifestyle. I think I’ve managed to get past the perpetual need for acquiring things and have realized that time/quality/joy/love are better to focus on. I want to say I am making choices with my money that reflect that. For example, yes I could save $120 a month by cleaning my house myself, but I am choosing to free up that time to spend on thing I love doing by outsourcing that (plus I’m supporting a friend’s business).

      Overall i think my spending matches my values (except for food. Food is way out of control, I need to really improve that) but somehow I am not content with it. Like the mind trick hasn’t worked on me yet. For example, I know I could ease up on my debt repayment and have more money for whatever. But that doesn’t match the importance I place on being debt free. So I know I’m making the right choices but somehow I’m not content with it. I’m just thinking out loud here. 🙂 You’ve inspired me to look into deeper into the practice of minimalism, perhaps that will help! Thanks again for commenting. You’ve given me quite a few things to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Have you considered moving? This would be a huge life change, but if you and your husband’s top financial goal is to pay off the mortgage ASAP then maybe you should consider selling and buying something that will comfortably allow you to pay off the mortgage in 5-10 years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I haven’t really given selling the house much thought mostly because I haven’t felt the numbers would not work out in our favor. I think we could comfortably pay off our current mortgage in 10 years. I’m just the crazy person that’s pushing for 5-6. Part of me feels like if I ease up on the savings plan, well just use the funds for things like food and activities for the kids. I know it will be worth it in the long run, but I wish I could stop hating it in the short term. Lol

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for the shout-out!

    I am totally commiserating here – I think that you’re right that it’s about mindset. That’s not easy to change, though, and I personally want to “have it all.” I want to have no debt AND be able to spend money on some little things (or, you know, big things, like a house!) AND be able to save more money for retirement AND get a more fuel-efficient car AND… the list goes on.

    It’s hard for me to stay focused on the most important goal (for us), which is becoming debt-free, when I want so many of the other things. The wanting waxes and wanes, though, and some days are certainly easier than others.

    I’ve got no solution – just empathy!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And, and, and! The story of my life! It helps to see that others are dealing with these emotions as well. I have noticed too that my wants come and go. Currently I’m stuck in the wanting it all and ignoring common sense. Lol hopefully it will pass soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “But why do I feel like I am poor and there is never enough money”
    This line hit me hard, because that was me for a long time and now that I’ve knocked a big goal out it’s starting up again. Jess’s ‘essay’ hit on some key things that have worked for me previously and I’m hoping to use to Jedi mind trick myself again

    In your response you mentioned:
    For example, I know I could ease up on my debt repayment and have more money for whatever. But that doesn’t match the importance I place on being debt free. So I know I’m making the right choices but somehow I’m not content with it.

    For me, I found that I had to re-order my values to match my life. Shockingly it turned out that being debt free was actually #3 out of 4. It was not what I expected and was a bit disappointed in myself. Acknowledging that helped me find a balance and let me be content with my new choices.

    I’m currently doing some exercises to better articulate my values again so hopefully I’ll find a light at the end of the tunnel soon.

    I hope the comments help you find the best path for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank for your response and insight. It’s helpful to hear that others are struggling with similar issues and are coming up with possible solutions! I am very curious about the exercises you are doing to access your values. Perhaps I have a similar misalignment between what I think my values are and what they actually are. The incongruence might be at the root of this issue.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I did the VIA character strength survey to start and Part 2 of Debt free forever by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. but ML and I are doing a workbook that my bank was giving out for teenagers…I’ll do a post soon as it’s too much to share in a comment but I’ll link to you

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I can totally relate to this sentiment. For me, I think it comes from my focus on the financial goals I’ve set. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I have “enough” until I am debt-free, then –eventually–financially independent! (Even then, I’ll probably still feel like I could use a little more cushion in the bank account). So even though I’m also not living paycheck to paycheck, I’m definitely not resting easy in my current financial situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I sort of struggle with something similar. Even though we make a decent income it never seems enough. We did live in an expensive city but we also live frugally. I think where the struggle for me lies is that even though we are making really great headway, we are also really far behind (in my mind) to where I want our net worth to be. This causes me to want to save like crazy to bridge the gap. Not good. Thanks to Mr.MMC though he is teaching me to loosen the purse strings. I don’t know what I would do without him.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I was having a huge problem, living in the mullygrubs. I make a small amount, under a thousand a month on disability. BUT, I found when I started thanking God DAILY for all my blessings, my attitude started changing. I still make the same amount, but now I feel more content.

    Liked by 1 person

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