May 19, 2011

Enough is Enough!

I have been thinking lately on what it means to have "enough." I feel very bored when I am out shopping because I feel like I have hit the point where I have "enough." All of my needs are taken care of and many or most of my wants have been met. I'll find myself looking in a shop and thinking that an item might be nice to have but I'll think more about it and figure that I already have something similar, will not really have a place to put it or that it's cool but I don't need it to be happy. Sure, I like the occasional new toy but I've really been considering the total price of a new item before I get it. Does the price justify the amount of joy I will get from owning an item? For example, my Kindle was expensive but I use it constantly and get copious amount of joy from it but sometimes I will see a cake pan or some other thing that I like and see that it is only a few dollars then realize that the joy the cake pan will bring me really wouldn't be worth the few dollars. As Lydia Maria Child says in her 1835 home manual "Nothing is cheap that we do not want." I could not have said it better. 

My mom and I were watching the show "Extreme Couponing" in which people systematically collect coupons to drastically reduce the prices of the things they buy in supermarkets. At first, I was interested in the show. I am a very frugal person and thought we would be seeing frugal shoppers. Instead we saw greedy people, many who were taking advantage of cashiers, stores and companies.  These people did not just buy 10 identical items that they might need in the future, but hundreds! One woman bought a whole basket full of headache medicine. That is more medicine than 10 families could use in a lifetime! Many other purchases were just as puzzling. If you reasonably do the math, these people were buying more than their families would ever need in 20 years. Many items would expire before a year or two anyway.
Many of them had "stashes" of stockpiled goods. I do believe that stockpiling is a good thing, but the degree to which they did this was appalling. Many of them had stockpiles so large that rooms of their houses were unusable and one little girl even had her bedroom holding a collection of salad dressing. One family's stockpile was insured for thousands of dollars, (which to me defeats the purpose of getting the items on sale.)

Many of them bought things that they did not need because they were "free." One lady bought a bunch of large bags of cat food and another a large collection of diapers. The first lady did not have a cat and the second said that she might have a baby someday. Almost all of the people on the show mentioned that they donate some of the stuff to charities. I believe everyone should donate to charities, but I do not believe in ripping off someone in order to donate something to someone else.  One woman is under investigation for coupon fraud.

One lady said that she started couponing because she couldn't feed her children. That struck me as mismanagement as they lived in a rather expensive house. I believe whole-heartily in living within your means. Some of these people spent upwards of 30 hours a week on clipping coupons and pay lots of money for coupon services. The husband and children of one wife on the show admitted that she didn't spend much time with them as she was always couponing. If these items were really invaluable to these families, they should be willing to pay a price for them. It's very nice to get things that you want or need inexpensively but what of the things that they don't want or need? It was nice to get my Kindle free as a birthday present, but if it broke, I would be willing to pay $500 for a new one if I had to: it is that valuable to me. I think their joy comes from "beating the system" and not from their ability to care for their families which is unfortunate.

I believe the people on this show put an unhealthy focus on something that is not important and ignore things that are important. Every person has a different level of comfort of what "enough" is. To me enough is comfortable plus a little. I try to keep moderation in mind. There are a lot of people who work constantly and live beyond their means. I am not one of those people who work a lot now in order to ensure happiness in the future. Happiness is not a destination.    


  1. First off, I really hate coupons. Even as a youngster I thought they were a waste of time. Why not just save everyone the time and hassle and just discount the product without forcing people to cut and file? In this way it would be a money saver for the store as well, for they won't have to design the stupid things and pay to have them printed.
    Second, these awful reality shows are another way the mass media can portray Americans and idiot lowlifes in a bad light, even though the greater majority of us are not like that. You will never see a show on the positives of Americans. There is even a show on Canadian TV showing how stupid Americans are.
    Anyhow, thank you for allowing me the time and space to rant!

  2. :D I agree that the price should just be lowered. I also agree that out TV shows really do portray us in a bad light. When you ask a foreigner to "do an American impression" it is normally not pleasant but is exactly what they see in our media.

  3. I agree that people should live within their means. I also agree that you should be realistic. I mean, if you're driving across town to get something a dollar cheaper, then you're not saving at all. . .

  4. "There is even a show on Canadian TV showing how stupid Americans are." - Ken, I would not be so worried about that in particular. Our Canadian teacher said something to the effect that Canadians have a long tradition of making fun of everybody, themselves first...

    Right now I'm living in a state when I'm saving money for a summer journey and not having an abundance of it (although not quite too little of it either), and I find it's actually rather fun. It forces me to reconsider things I want and put them into perspective. Something I've needed for some time, I'm afraid. It brings me back to the basics, and that's a good thing.
    (Speaking of basics, I'm afraid now I need some very basic sleep. It should make me happy.)

  5. Great post Stephanie! I have heard of these shows, but never watched. Sounds definately not worth watching. Thanks for checking it out for us.Yes I agree living within your means is a must! I don't understand why especially Americans go into debt to get things that don't really in the long run last. Why not invest your time and money in something that does such as your family, instead of possessions. Save for the future! Or better yet save for a house, if you are in an apartment and don't buy the pre-packaged food items and make your own from scratch. I never used to think this way as a teen, but now I am finding that saving money and spending wisely is the way to go! If you don't really need it then don't buy it. Or if its more than 5 dollars and its a piece of clothing at a thrift store I tend to shy away. :) I have started to definately think oh I can use some fabric at home to sew something similar or oh I really don't need that blouse, etc.

    Anyways I could say lots more about this subject! But I will not type anymore. :) Great thoughts Stephanie!
    God bless!

  6. I've been working on from-scratch food. It really is cheaper in the long run. It seems cheaper to buy already made meals but if the ingredients are bought in bulk and your meals are planned it is both cheaper and healthier. Thanks, Rebecca.


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