You may have heard that old saying that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s indifference. Sometimes two ideas seem to be at complete odds with each other when they’re actually two sides of the same coin. Sometimes people think there are only two options – you either love or hate something – without realizing that there are other, perhaps better, alternatives.
In the same way, when people think about personal finance, their minds tend to go to one of two extremes as the only paths to take when there’s actually a third.
On one end, there is the shopaholic who’s never found a sale she didn’t like. The spender has no idea what she owns or what she wants. She keeps spending because no matter how much she buys, she is always left wanting. The perfect sweater, the newest jeans, a pair of shoes for every outfit. Her house is full but she never feels satisfied; she is always looking for something else.
On the other is the miser who pinches every single penny. The scrooge saves as her life’s calling but still fears that whatever she saves won’t be enough. She cuts necessities to the bone and rejects anything fun or generous. She charges her dinner guests for food. She neglects friends in need. She finds excuses to avoid giving gifts. The scrooge’s house is empty and so is her life.
People often think the purpose of personal finance is to turn the spender into a saver. However, neither of these scenarios is ideal. The spender lives like there is no future and the saver lives like there is no present. Though the two extremes are different – they share a common trait that makes both these lives undesirable.
Neither have figured out when they have enough.
Knowing what is enough would enable the spender to see that she already owns enough clothes to last through several lifetimes. She has more cookery than Martha Stewart knows what to do with and her home was submitted to Hoarders International. New purchases just make her home more cluttered and her wallet lighter. She doesn’t need new purchases so much as to appreciate what she already has.
Knowing what is enough would enable the scrooge to find a reasonable savings goal for financial security rather than endlessly saving. Once the scrooge meets these goals, she could use some money to enjoy her life and to give back. Only then will the Scrooge finally be living a life of abundance rather than perpetual fear.
Those that have enough realize that money is merely a tool – it is not the end goal. Money should be used to make our lives easier and better. Our lives should neither be devoted to earning money nor enslaved to the debt caused by its lack. The ideal is not necessarily to have millions of dollars or millions of things but to feel that whatever we have, that we live abundantly with whatever sum of money we have. So the goal of personal finance is not to become a spender or a saver – the point is to find happiness in the life you live by finding enough.
The definition of enough will vary with each individual’s desires and circumstances. No one amount of money or one lifestyle can suit everyone. If you’re a spender, you can keep shopping and if you’re a saver, you can keep a suitable amount in a bank account. You don’t have to change your whole personality in order to meet a personal finance writer’s definition of success. Personal finance is just that – personal.
Do you know when you’ll have enough?