I spent most of last week in and around Park City, Utah on a family vacation. I usually run in Portland, Oregon, where the elevation is about 230 feet (70 meters) above sea level. In Park City, the elevation is about 7000 feet (2134 meters) above sea level.
Among other things, the altitude adjustment makes for one tired runner. I felt like I had picked up a pack-a-day smoking habit just before setting out to run a 10k.
Aside from the only near-death experience I’ve ever had while trying to run a few miles, Utah was fun. I’m back home now before picking up the travel pace in about a week. Coming soon: NYC, South America, Saudi Arabia, and so on.
But First, Let’s Talk About Sufficiency
Ever since I published 279 Days, where I wrote briefly about how much money I make, I’ve had a number of good conversations about personal income with people from all kinds of backgrounds. As I said in the manifesto, the challenge with talking about money in specific terms is that it’s entirely relative. I have friends who earn more than a million dollars a year and friends who are currently unemployed, earning virtually nothing. The more important discussion, I think, is to consider what money can be used for.
Some people assume that choosing to be content with a limited income naturally limits my choices as well. The perception seems to be that I have given up more income to obtain a more simple life. In some cases, this is true – I’ve made more money in the past than I do now, and I regularly choose to pass on opportunities to increase my income so that I can focus on building my writing career. However, as true as that is, it’s not really the whole story.
To get the whole story, I have to say honestly that I don’t feel limited at all. Most of the time, I do what I want with very few limits.
I like the fact that I can take off on Southwest Airlines to see my family without counting vacation days and arranging time away from a job. (I still work every day no matter where I am, but since I like my work, that’s OK.)
At the end of the month, I’m embarking on my biggest trip of 2009. The journey will take me to four continents over a couple of weeks. I don’t have an unlimited budget, and there will likely be some airport-floor-sleeping somewhere along the way, but that’s part of the whole experience. If I didn’t want to go, I wouldn’t.
It’s not just the big things. Small things are important, too:
- I pay all of my bills the day they arrive.
- I visit the great Chipotle several times a week, where they know my name and start making my vegetarian burrito before I order.
- I usually exercise before dinner, but if I want to I can go for a run or to the gym at any time during the day
- I go to the coffee shop every afternoon and the Waffle Window every Sunday.
I could go on and on, and in my own personal notes, I have gone on and on to a very detailed level – because it’s important to know what sufficiency means.
What Sufficiency Means to Me
First, here a few definitions, courtesy of my good friend Dictionary.com.
1 – a sufficient number or amount
2 – adequate provision or supply, esp. of wealth
3 – adequate means to live in modest comfort
As I see it, sufficiency simply means enough. It means having everything you need and not lacking for anything.
Right now, that’s exactly how I feel – I’m not getting rich, but I really do have everything I need. It’s a pretty good feeling. I also know that there have been other times in life when I’ve had more money but felt less secure about it. This tells me while money is an important part of the answer, I also know that sufficiency is not all about money.
Give Me neither Poverty nor Riches
Is sufficiency all about giving up opportunities to have a higher income? No, not really. I think it’s all about making deliberate choices. Here is the difference as I see it:
Would I accept more money if it fell down from the sky? Yes, of course. Free money is good. However, would I walk very far to pick it up? No, probably not.
I haven’t taken any vows of poverty, and I believe that making money is generally a good thing. It’s just that I’m more interested in thinking about what happens with the money.
I also don’t have any illusions about poverty, even the relative kind of poverty we have in North America. I’ve been relatively poor before, and while I never truly lacked for anything, there were definitely some limitations on my choices.
Right now, being neither rich nor poor feels like a good place to be. I probably couldn’t go out and buy a castle, but I’m not limited in the life experiences I value. (I also believe that if I really wanted my own castle, I’d GTD it out and find a way to get one.)
Sufficiency, Scarcity, and Abundance
It’s important to think about sufficiency because if you don’t know what it looks like for you, you can easily fall into scarcity. The thing with scarcity is that you operate under the principle that resources are limited and that we can never truly have enough. We’d better work as hard as we can to ensure that we don’t lose out to someone else.
This is the default mode of operation for most of us. The challenge is to be self-aware and rise above it.
For me, the most important principle of personal finance is self-awareness. The values of frugality and generosity are also important to me, but I don’t think either can be consistently practiced without first being self-aware. Both frugality and generosity have to be related to a deeper value of clearly understanding how we think about money.
To become self-aware, it helps to know exactly what sufficiency looks like for you. How much money do you really need to a) meet your basic obligations, and b) do the things you want to do?
Once you have that amount, you have the walk-away number. That’s the number with which you can comfortably walk away from any commitment that is incompatible with who you are and what you really want. You can start to focus on building a life more than building a bank account. You learn to value experiences (things you do) more than possessions (things you own).
One of the best feelings in the world comes from the awareness that everything will be okay. If you have that feeling, you know exactly what I mean.
If you don’t have it, it’s not that difficult to get to it. It just involves a shift in thinking, a desire for change, and the courage to be different. Like a lot of unconventional choices, not everyone will relate. Some people won’t get it at all, others will get it but be unable to let go of deeply-held beliefs about scarcity, and a few will embrace sufficiency and experience a life of purposeful adventure.
I know which group I want to be in.
Image: Alaskan Dude
This is an excellent post and I believe it will help clarify the concept of “enough” for quite a few people. Americans spent the past 10-15 years forgetting when to say “enough”; and started measuring their self-worth by how much (newer, faster, sexier, better) stuff they could accumulate. We fell into the trap of equating “quality of life” with “quantity in life”. What we are learning now is that the quantity was illusory. I came to this realisation about 4 years ago and have since been getting myself out of the debt trap and learning to appreciate experience in the present, mindfulness, and relationships. My life is better for it. My wife has been a little more difficult to convince, but she’s finally coming around. I remember her saying, just 3 years ago, “Everyone else seems to be able to buy a huge new house; why can’t we?” Now she’s very grateful I talked her out of that idea. Americans are being forced to learn what enough is. The trick will be if they can learn to replace “quantity in life” with the experiences and relationships that will provide “quality of life.”
I think you hit the nail on the head. I’ve lived off eggs and water (eggs are cheap in the Midwest, so if you’re in LA thinking that sounds like luxury, think again) and to me, the best part of running my current business is the ability to walk away from any project that I don’t want to do (for any reason).
It helps not to have to worry about being able to pay bills, too, and being able to upgrade computers fairly regularly doesn’t hurt, either 🙂
But there is a definite freedom that comes tandem with being able to choose your work, choose your battles and being empowered to simply say ‘No’ and walk away. It’s invigorating.
I cannot agree with the principals behind this post more! I think too often we get stuck in the idea of “having money” without asking ourselves SPECIFICALLY what does “having money” look like for each of us? I think our IDEAS of money keep us shackled to jobs we hate and lives we yearn to be free from more than anything. Some simple investigating into what specifically we need to feel safe, abundant, and alive can radically shift how we think about money. It worked for me.
I really like your approach to this. I have similar aspirations myself.
I have a number in mind that I want to earn each month in net income. Hitting this goal will allow me to comfortably cover my current lifestyle and have a little left over to save for the future.
If I *had to* have a bigger house or fancier car, that number would go up and I would only be trading my freedom for those things. I’m at a point where I have enough and I just want to break free from the ‘day job’ and achieve the kind of freedom you are talking about.
The trick is finding that income without trading 40 hours of my life each week to my employer.
Absolutely Love This.
Just wanted to take a moment and appreciate, the world can use more appreciation 🙂
Respect to you Chris.
Yay! I look forward to these splashes of inspiration, *especially* on Monday mornings. The Waffle Window is six blocks away from my house. Works for me!
I love this post! This is so perfect. This weekend my husband and I had a giant estate sale to sell everything. All of our furniture, dishes, linens, decorations, games (the XBox and Guitar Hero went bye bye)… everything. We did this out of necessity. We sold our house (finally after 9 months of trying) in a short sale and chose to sell everything in the house so as to move ahead with no strings, nothing holding us back. The truth is, we couldn’t afford to ship our belongings or store all of them anywhere. That’s where the necessity came in. And if my husband hadn’t lost his high-income job a year ago we never would be in this situation. It’s been incredibly hard. But in many ways we’re glad it happened. We’re much happier now. For all the reasons you write.
You wrote: “One of the best feelings in the world is the realization that everything will be okay.” I completely agree. That’s the feeling we have. If we can survive this and be better for it, we can handle anything. And I’m feeling lighter and freer every day.
I’m so glad I found your blog through Twitter! I’ve been passing around the writing contest. And as soon as I get to it (hopefully later today) I will be adding a link to AONC on my blog.
“Sufficiency” is a very good word.
I remember back to how poor I was in my university days and I definitely don’t want to go back to those times.
Now I am really bored and restless with life because I can buy everything I want.
Happiness for me, is all about being sufficient. Too much of anything makes you lazy and unappreciative. My fondest memories are always of times when I was working hard towards something. It is the journey that is worthwhile, not the destination. Scarcity is rough, but I don’t like abundance either.
I enjoyed this article greatly. We so easily see people with the mindset that they are living in scarcity while they actually are sufficient. I have lived on the border of both worlds at more than one time in my life, and know that once you are aware of your needs/responsibilities (self-awareness) and stop focusing on all your wants/dreams, the world is a much better place to live in. Sometimes it takes some self discipline to live within your means by not running after every dream and impulse. More people need to have this understanding.
Great post. I’ve always been struggling with the idea of sufficiency. Probably because I always wanted different things at different points in my life. On the outside, one can say I went from poverty to abundance in a relatively short time. But in reality, on the inside, I never felt poor or rich, money has always been a simple state of mind for me. Regardless of that, somehow I felt in the trap of “quantity” over “quality.” In the past few years, I made more money than I ever cared for and bought various things because I could afford it and, at the time, thought I needed them for one reason or another. But then I woke up one day and realized that I forgot to live and neglected catering to my soul and dreams. Finding a balance and figuring out what and how much do I really need or want is still a mystery … right now.
This is a great post Chris and I think it ties in a lot of the topics you’ve talked about recently. Many marketers, especially on the internet, go chasing after dollars instead of focusing on the experience. You’ll hear from a lot of marketers that tell you how much more you could be making if you only did “this” or “that.”
It takes some time to find the income line where you can both feel good about your work and have a life you enjoy. A slight tip in either direction and you can get consumed by greed or of necessity.
Sure, I’d love to make a billion dollars, but not if it requires 60 hour workweeks and time away from my wife and my children. We can’t take it with us and there are more important things to be worried about. If I could live the life of a monk and still do what I enjoyed, that would be enough for me…now there’s an idea!
i’m on a 5 week road trip with 2 dogs/mate but read this…and yes this post hits the mark!! with our country and the worlds re-evaluating what exactly “sufficienct” means. WE all need to look within to determine its truth in our lives. for ALL changes must come first within to carry this momentum to make the bigger change around us.
funny thing is i bought your “unconventional guide to art and money” so i could read it and process and utilize it while i had this precious time on the road…with this post and your book(which i finished) i can honestly say, yes, i have some work to do but not nearly what i had pereived! thank you on many levels chris!
I would go further. “rich” means buying anything you want. You are rich, it seems to me, as I am. Neither of us has material possessions that will be featured in the Sunday supplement pages for people to drool over, but we can buy what we want, when we want to. That is being rich.
A great topic and one that you put forth with a lot of clarity and vision! The old cliche that money doesn’t buy happiness is so true and yet so many people keep buying material possessions to fill up that void inside. It is addictive and with all the commercials enticing us to keep upgrading our things it is hard to stop. But in order for us to be responsible citizens of this amazing planet of ours we do need to say when. Your post helps to define this and I thank you and hope that this message reaches a lot of people because it can make a real difference. Keep on the path, I love reading and following your travels both geographically and spiritually.
Thanks Chris Just when I was feeling down and out you came up with the magic word I’ve been looking for: Sufficiency. How much more peace in the world there would be if that was what we all sought.
Love the post, Chris, but not sure I agree with this: “If you don’t have it, it’s not that difficult to get to it. It just involves a shift in thinking, a desire for change, and the courage to be different.” I think for many people, it’s incredibly difficult to make the shift and find the courage. If courage were easy, we’d see more of it in action ;-). I’m grateful for people like you to show the way and keep cheering the rest of us on.
You nailed it perfectly Chris. We’ve all experienced triumph and tragedy. I learned the real life lessons from loss, or learning enough-ness for me. I’m old enough (63) to have won and lost many times (guess I try lots of different things), and can say out loud, live life based on what you want to be, do and have. Not what “society” wants for you. After all, “they” aren’t really thinking about us that much; “they” are busy dealing with the self, like the rest of us. Life is too precious, don’t be a passive passenger.
Great post. I’m going to have to read it once or twice more to really “get” it, but it’ll be worth doing.
“Enough” and the just right approach to finances is where it’s at, you’re right on target on this one!
I think that many of us are so blindly going for the next big thing, for what is around the corner, for the big pay off, etc., that we don’t stop to just look around at what we already have.
The grass is always greener on the other side, as the old saying goes. But what they don’t say is that your grass would be greener if you started paying attention to it!
“Give Me neither Poverty nor Riches”
This has been the theme of my meditations lately. If we seek a balanced life, then there should be balance in our financial expectations and desires.
Thanks for sharing,
I love that word. I actually have a mantra that I repeat before I go to sleep. “I am enough, and I have enough”. Years ago I made a choice and that was to work part time so that I could spend enough time with my children every day and give them enough attention and love. I still work part time, and do you know what, I have never wanted for anything in all that time. I have enough of everything. Enough money, enough stuff, but more than that enough time to do all the other things I want to do. I travel when I want, staying not in 5 star hotels, but in hotels that are good enough. I travel on budget airlines that are also good enough. I have time to paint and write and watch movies and talk to my kids.
My salary is not exorbitant, but enough for me to live on and to raise my children in the way I want. My losses have never been about stuff or money. My losses are felt when my spirit grieves. And when that happens, no amount of money in the world can alleviate it.
Brilliant post! Too many people equate sufficiency and “enough-ness” as a form of limitation and scarcity. As your words make clear, they can just as easily become a source of freedom.
The “walkway number”… a good number to know. Metrics of measure.. fun starts when you shift those a bit. What counts, what doesn’t… beautiful post.
I’ve been moving in this direction for a few years. I begin contracting in the IT arena in ’98, doubling my income at the time. But it was near the end of the tech bubble, and by 2001, I was out of work as many times in a year, as I worked. My wife and I make a good income for our family of five. One of those years, with my wife working consistently, I had the idea to start my own business. I’m shrinking a long story and jumping to the conclusion. The business didn’t work, and I went back to working and have since then. I’m making a good income, but in one of those years a thought was planted: “is money the only thing you work to obtain? Do I really need money in the broad sweeping quantities I perceive?” It’s a slow turn around but I’m asking my wife to sit down with me to consider this. Both of us are stressed to the max and have lived our 21 years together moving at the whim of everyone else. So in light of “having enough” and “sufficiency,” we will make adjustments. We will need to take control of our lives and room for enjoyment and loving life. Thanks for the insight.
You are giving voice to a critical issue in this country, and your choice of the word sufficiency sums it up brilliantly. Ironically, the country that was founded on the right to pursue happiness and the blessing of individual freedom, seems to have created a toxic form of self imposed slavery and misery. I work with clients on their marketing strategy, with this approach: Marketing is not about finding more people to buy more of your stuff. First and foremost it’s about doing what you love, and then connecting organically and naturally with the people who need what you do or what you create. When you connect your energy with theirs you create abundance all the way around. Abundance – sufficiency – it’s all in how you define what you need, what you want, what you love and they key – truly enjoying the entire process – not just the “stuff” you get at the end of the process. Thanks Chris.
As usual an interesting post and great food for thought to begin the week. I noticed you mentioned you’d be swinging through NYC in the near-future. Any plans to meet up with some of your readers?
Great article as usual. I have come to realize over the past few months that while it would be nice to be “rich”, money isn’t what drives me. Rather I want a source of income that allows me to live the life I want, or more specifically, one full of experiences. Thanks for proving that it can be done.
Awesome post. You said it better than I could have, but I have been thinking and talking about this idea for a while.
I love the idea of walk away number.
And I wholeheartedly agree that we are always taken care of, no matter what.
Wonderful post Chris.
You’ve got a healthy financial attitude.
If we redefine rich from the amount of $$ in the bank to the number of good friendships, moments of laughter and memorable experiences, then anyone can feel & be rich!
Chris, thank you for this brilliant post. And for articulating so clearly what sufficiency looks like.
I’ve shaped my life around the kernel of freedom and elegance: I say yes to that which is both necessary and sufficient to support my heart and my values, and no to everything else. It makes most decisions very simple. 🙂
I decided some time ago that money is like sex or oxygen. If you haven’t got enough, then it’s very important indeed. Once you’ve got enough, it’s not important at all. Thank heavens, money isn’t terribly important in our house, partly because we never got sucked into buying flashy things we couldn’t afford to impress the neighbours.
I love the idea of calculating your “walk-away number”. I also like the idea of reducing the walk-away number by clearing debts and thinking twice about what you really want. After all, you can pay too much for money.
Although I enjoyed the entire post, the last 3 paragraphs (for me) is what drives it home. I may not have alot figured out in my life or know exactly what direction I’m headed, but what keeps me confident (and sane) is the knowing that everything will work itself out and be okay. After realizing this many years ago, it has allowed me the courage to pick up and move to wherever I fancy, whenever I feel like it. Never feeling the need to secure a job, a home or any of those pesky details that try and keep most from doing such. And each time I do so, I’m only reassured again that, in the end, everything will be okay (and actually better than before). I’ve tried explaining the feeling to friends/family/anyone who’ll listen, but as you’ve said most have a hard time believing or understanding. And I think that is the hardest part. I just can’t seem to grasp what it is that so many people are afraid of. Is it scarcity? Thanks for keeping us thinking and inspired…
“Sufficiency” does a great job of distinguishing excess greed and living beyond our means from balancing income and true needs.
This would be a great concept for couples to use in clarifying their attitudes toward finances.
Great post! You did an excellent job explaining a concept and internal debate that had been growing within me for several months. I resigned from a corporate executive position last month because it did not allow me to have sufficient time and energy for other activities outside of work, even though the income was well more than sufficient. Thanks for putting into words what many of us have experienced. Now when we get the crazy looks, we can refer our questioners to your post!
Hi Chris and fellow readers,
The post is always great and the comments both entertaining and useful.
It is nice to buy whatever you need and not want everything you don’t need. George Carlin had a comedy routine about stuff,that I think of every time I walk into my overflowing garage. Mostly memorabilia we just can’t throw away. Saving stuff is an addiction.
With the Internet anyone can learn to make any amount of money they want to and design it to fit any lifestyle. I plan to be a multi-millionaire and give most of it away to make the world safer and happier.
In the mean time I teach others to have the entrepreneurial mindset to prepare for job loses and do good with their money.
This post couldn’t come at a better time for me. I agree totally with what you are saying here. Everyone I speak to seems to think that to life comfortably you need a big salary with a retirement plan all set up for you. In my mind, as long as the bills are paid, you have a little money to save each month, and you are doing what YOU WANT it’s all good.
I just had a “lightbulb” moment. You know when everything just all of a sudden becomes clear?
My husband and I have the big house and also a business that is striving in these hard times, but….
We also have 5 children that don’t get to see our happier selves…
We have been tossing up for the last 12 months to make “the” huge move (from Newcastle to Tasmania)… but keep thinking about how hard it would be on the kids.. but in the long run, I think they may be happier. Happy parents = Happy home.
So much more going through this mind at the moment, but can I just say… Thankyou!
I loved this, thank you!
Giulietta wrote: If we redefine rich from the amount of $$ in the bank to the number of good friendships, moments of laughter and memorable experiences, then anyone can feel & be rich!
to this I add if we also have a sufficient amount of money to enable us to be, do, have what we need/want, then we truly are rich. And that means that many of us are already very rich indeed. And if we don’t feel that way, yes, the answer is in our minds and our hearts. We just have to look, observe, change the thought if necessary, and then watch what happens. (Well, I say ‘just’, but of course if it was as easy as all that, it would be happening everywhere!).
Anyway, great post, great comments and food for thought, much of which I had already thought, but this is perfectly expressed. Thanks Chris.
Did you go running up in the mountains while you were in Park City? Or just in town? There are some great running trails in both places. But yes, the altitude does take some getting used to. I don’t even notice it anymore… but when I first moved to PC, it was a killer!
Keep up the good work Chris!
I love this post-thanks!
This is exactly the way I’ve chosen to live my life, and it is always so helpful for me to hear other people say, “You know what? It’s totally fine to be happy with enough. You don’t always have to be pushing yourself or life for more.”
Chris, thank you! A beautiful post. It’s not how much money we have, it’s how we use it – and our time. I can surely have more money by working a ‘real job’ that I used to have, but then I’d be spending 40+ hours on something I sort of like doing. Is the money worth it?
P.S. Utah’s so beautiful, I’d love to spend more time there (and not only because my boyfriend’s from Provo 🙂 I’m hooked on the Utahan landscapes. I also did some running there, but in the Zion National Park and on a slightly lower altitude, so it wasn’t too bad.
Great words and how so true.
Agreed, the current/recent GFC is driver for many to shift their positions, however, there are words you write which resonate no matter what the current global financial situation.
A year ago, my wife and I did a life swap where she returned to work after a prolonged maternity leave and I am became a stay-at-home-dad to our young tribe of four. This change entailed a cut in our family income by more than half – I was in a typical work situation of being employed for a 40 hour week but working at least 60 hours and while the money was good our family life was not a happy place.
So out of necessity we adjusted our lives to the lower income – and while initially it was not easy, such are the trappings of ‘thinking’ you have money-wealth, we have now adjusted well.
Early this year, my wife’s contract ended and we have been both out of work, and since then both of us have been looking for new (part-time) jobs so we have a TRUE life-work balance (nb: NOT the skewed work-life balance).
And are we happy? Absolutely.
The quality of our family life now is great. Plus not being tied to the office has given me the time and space to follow my creative pursuits which never had a chance in our previous life.
Sufficiency is a great word.
Thanks for the great post Chris.
Brilliant post, Chris. As a former actor/singer/dancer (read: starving artist), then a Certified Financial Planner (read: big income and financial prowess) to my current career as a Professional Hobo and full-time traveler, I have learned time and again that money does not directly (or even indirectly) equate to happiness.
It’s what you DO with your money that gives you the go.
Like many other who have already commented, I love the “walk away number” concept. It makes everything so easy and clear.
I know what you mean to have the feeling of “everything will be ok”. I also agree with asiriusgeek that for those who don’t have that (yet), it might not be that easy to change their perspectives without having some tools. One helpful thing to do is to look at what their believes are around money, work, life, everything and find out how they came up with those ideas. I have read that we form opinions about those things by age 7, by the way how the adults around us have presented the world to us. It makes me think – you must have been raised by people who have healthy positive outlook on the world. Partly thanks to them, we get to enjoy and appreciate the inspiration you are giving us. So thank you & those who were around during your childhood!!
Thanks Chris!! This article really hit the spot. So very true and so very eloquently said.
Excellent perspective. Your words are all the more inspiring because they come from experience rather than theory.
I agree with other comments that making this change in our perspective can be difficult. As others noted it sometimes takes a big curve ball from the universe that forces us to examine what’s we’re doing.
It’s possible to deliberately decide to live life on our own terms. If the intention behind that decision comes from our highest level of consciousness rather than from a resisted experience then the universe will align with our decision.
In time, we will experience sufficiency in all areas of our life and know that we are truly powerful creators with no limits. Thank you for sounding this call into the world.
Your notions of personal finance are how I have been running my life as a freelancer for the last five years. I keep my “needs” low in order to have the money and time to do what I want, go where I want and have it all happen when I want.
Most people have little to no idea of what “enough” is. And it can be quite difficult at times to maintain the focus on your own inner vision when we live in a culture that bombards us 24/7 with ideas for what we should want. And with that blind consumerism as the dominant paradigm, it makes an outcast of anyone who opts not to buy into it.
For most people “enough” is a little more than they have. And they end up miserable. As Charles Dickens so eloquently stated “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
Ahh Chris! This is exactly what I am dealing with at the moment. Digital Nomad living is all about sufficiency as I am learning. Finding the balance of money vs. experience. How much do I need to travel the East coast of Australia for two months working in my current passions? As I have discussed with several other travelers doing the same thing…you work as much as you need to in order to finance your dreams…no more no less. People will do just about anything to soak in more of the world…it’s truly inspiring! Thanks for the continued motivation. I am learning so much everyday as I embark on this journey and can’t tell you how nice it is to relate with someone doing the same. Cheers from Melbourne!
Great post, and it’s great to see so many people commenting on it and tweeting about it. It’s been a great relief to me just stepping off the great merry-go-round of money, money, money.
Your “walk away number” reminds me of the concept of a “live with number” for compensation – meaning if I’m going to take a job, there is a number that I can live with and below which I cannot go without losing my self-respect, risking my ability to meet my financial obligations and choices, and developing a resentment toward the boss who “made” me take that salary. Sure, I have a “want to have number” that is much higher. In this economy, however, it’s really smart to have a “live with number” when one is seeking work.
I look forward to further posts of yours.
SUFFICIENCY! Boy, do I ever know that word. I am a single mother of three teen boys who eat like no one I know! We have now reached sufficiency (in my mind anyway) on my income of around $20K! Mind you, I live in a place where the ‘state’ is generous to people like me (we have a Child Tax Credit). But let me tell you that before sufficiency, I used to experience what I call ‘grocery envy’ where I wished I could buy fruit out of season for my growing boys, fresh vegetables, etc… without having to worry if I had enough money to pay for it all. I am there now! So, my children know about sufficiency enough that they are grateful for what they do have, and not envious because others have more. This 20% of the population consuming 80% of the earth’s ressources needs to be addressed. People need to know about and practice sufficiency every day. Things that I consider WANTS other people consider NEEDS. There is a huge difference. I tell my boys when we prepare a list for groceries that ‘apples’ are needs, but ‘cinnamon buns’ are wants, a new car is ‘wants’ but a car, for me to go to work, is ‘needs’ so I never buy a new car anymore, and gas efficiency is ‘needs’. Vacations for us is ‘wants’ but doing things together like a live concert or something, that’s ‘needs’. So your SUFFICIENCY…it’s perfect. That, was a NEEDS! So thanks, I wanted something just like that.
Sufficiency is indeed an important concept that not many people grasp.
I read the book, “Your Money or Your Life” and have practiced recording all my expenses. It’s amazing to see where the money flows and I realise that most of my lifestyle expenses are to support my daughter and spouse who works part-time.
While that leaves less money for me to spend on “stuff”, I become less worried about money because I have a clearer idea if every dollar spent is worth it in terms of well-being for my family and loved ones. “Stuff” only satisfies one to a certain extent, after a while, you’ll want more of it just to get the endorphins going.
Be well and prosper!
Love your work Chris.
A relative just won 1st division lotto two weeks ago ($2M).
Yes I’ve been given a (little) bit, but I didn’t care either way.
I don’t live for money – I have and amazing girlfriend, my health, I ride me bicycle daily, I wake up at 5am most days and I enjoy my coffee.
I have everything I need in my life already.
Hi Chris… great post!
How do you remind yourself of your sufficiency/’enough-ness’ when a temptation for more creeps up on you?
Chris, loved your connection of finance w/self-awareness and the need to ponder what “enough” means to you. The world needs more encouragement to think this way… how cool it would be to see people consuming/experiencing just the things that enriched their lives… we’d see such individuality, creativity, contentment, pure happiness vs struggling to keep up with whomever you feel you need to keep up with……exhausting.
*shuffles in the back of the choir singing “well done”*
My late father-in-law also put it very nicely – if you have paid your bills, fed yourself and your family, replenished and repaired what needed tending to and you still have a few dollars (well, Danish kroner actually…) at the end of the month, you have sufficient.
Probably the only thing I’d add to that is putting a little aside for unexpected bigger things happening and a sving for old age. But yeah, you certainly don’t need to heap it up!
Last year, my (now previous) employer ‘corrected’ my income 20% upwards, and the first thing I thought was:”ah, that’s one day of five, I can now switch to 32hours/week with the same income!”. Because the amount of money I earn was “enough”.
The fact that my daughter was born a year ago (she turned one last weekend) pushed the switch to 32 hour/week.
Great post I am in this position myself at the moment and am living on the quote from (weirdly enough) Will Smith:
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like”
Rocking post Chris (I do wish I was more of a surfer/rocker to break out the superlatives). Your writing is always inspiring and refreshing. How different the world would be if we all learned to live for sufficiency.
Sufficiency is a big theme in our house. Mainly because I came from a farm family where you provide a great number of things for yourself.
For a number of years now we have grown our own garden and fruits during the summer and it has helped a great deal carrying us through the rougher times.
Other things in our life have adapted to the *sufficiency* way of thinking..some because there was no other choice at the time (lack of money) and some were because it was the smarter thing to do.
Right now is one of those hard times for us, but simplicity, hard work, unique thinking, and self-sufficiency will get us through.
Thanks for a great post!
“Sufficiency” = “Good Enough”
At what point does ‘what you have’ become ‘good enough?’ There is so much more to life than the continual pursuit of just a little bit more.
Be it a better paying job, bigger house, nicer cars or whatever – life does not consist of the things that are in it. Nice things are not bad or evil, but neither are they the substance that makes life.
Once you can get by the trinkets, not only does life get better, but you can appreciate the trinkets for what they truly are.
I have a ‘good enough’ job. I have a ‘good enough’ house. I just bought a ‘good enough’ truck (which will last me 10+ years). But I have a wonderful family and freedom to live life as it was meant to be.
“Good Enough” = “GREAT!”
You have definitely benefitted and gained perspective from your travels. I do not doubt that your journeys have given you a front row seat to poverty and hunger as well as riches and abundance.
I think we should all strive for—especially in the U.S.—the benefit of “perspective”. Perspective shapes our somewhat myopic view of ourselves, our country, and our world. People like you who write about experiences and not about theory engage us on a different level and widen our range of focus.
Thanks for offering a different perspective and for providing insight into how you feel about money, freedom, and flexibility. This topic is not just important for us adults, but it’s something we should be teaching our children.
You are very fortunate to be working on something bigger than yourself.
Keep up the great work!
Chris, THANK YOU for this post. I had been operating in scarcity and calling it sufficiency. Thank you for helping me see the difference.
Great post! A very wise man once said, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Learning to be content is a cornerstone secret to a happy life. It is that ah-ha moment where one recognizes the joy of a truly fulfilled life. Funny thing is, it rarely happens to a life full of things. I’ve had it all, the huge house, multiple cars, big boat, plane, etc., etc., but none of it made me happy. As a matter of fact, I discovered that things start to “own” you and control your life. I’ve sold it all but one truck and a small camper and travel full time. Now we’re living life simply and have never been happier!!
Wow! I love this article. I love it because it really underscores the intersection between personal finance and personal awareness. What does it truly mean to have wealth? What are the implications of wealth? I have been at a crossroads for the past year in this area. Sufficiency is something that very few writers comment upon. Most blogs are about the acquisition of wealth but not about what acquisition means. Thank you. This has given me a great jumping point.
This is such a great reminder for a solopreneur looking at money-based decisions.
It reminded me of a woman I heard talk at the Be The Change conference in London called Lynne Twist.
She wrote a book called the Soul Of Money and talks about how we’ve lost the ‘enough’ muscle.
Just googled her site and she blogs.
Won’t post the link – don’t want to be caught in the spam filter.
Keep up the great work.
Chris, as usual… right on. When my wife and I first moved to Los Angeles, we barely scraped by. Lived in a one bedroom apartment. Had no refrigerator, just a cooler. We had to buy ice every two days and if we forgot, the quart of milk would go bad very quickly! We called it our portable refrigerator because we could bring it with us wherever we went!
When we did save a bit of money, the first thing we did, rather than buy a refrigerator, was to buy two bikes, so we could bike at the beach (Our friends and family thought we were irresponsible… we liked that!).
At one time, we were down to $5… we went to Yum Yum donuts, bought some donut holes and split a chocolate milk. That was our meal for the day. We were by most standards, considered poor, but we absolutely enjoyed life to the fullest. Those were great days! We had so much fun. It was awesome.
But like so many of us, we fell into conformity. Landed “responsible” jobs, eventually bought a house (yes with a refrigerator), two cars, etc… and soon we realized we were taking less trips to the beach to ride our bikes, less time to explore, and we stopped visiting Yum Yum donuts. I
t’s been two years since I’ve taken a vacation because I felt it was never the right time to take one. Didn’t want to leave the company hanging. I mean, how could they go on without me!! (sarcasm) And my reward? I was laid off for my efforts… a week before Christmas. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I now am working out of my house. Doing a bit of this and that and helping others… and loving it! Now we’re in Orlando and although there are no Yum Yum Donuts… Dunkin is pretty good as well! We go to parks with the family. Take bike rides again, and even bring a cooler sometimes. I’m still a work in progress, but the joy of living a sufficient life has turned it into an abundant life. And it’s not about the dollar signs! Great post!!
Excellent post!!! I love this way of thinking! My husband and I have been working 24 hour weeks for 9 years now. We sold the big house and cars, and welcomed free days and nights for travelling, enjoying ourselves, and living!!! Wahoo!!!! We’re incredibly lucky and fortunate!!!
So often, Chris, you nail your topic perfectly. I’m really enjoying your site!
I found your site from Get Rich Slowly, first time reader and commenter. I love to find thought provoking sites that challenge the way I think about things and you have done that. I’ll be a frequent reader if all of your posts are of this quality.
Brilliant, articulate and powerful stuff Chris. Gave me lots to think about. I know which group I want to be in, too.
I like your attitude. Many of us forget to enjoy the great things we have in our lives. I’ve been trying to cultivate this mentality. Right now my wife is pregnant and we have a wonderful house with a dog that forces me to take a relaxing walk every evening. I’m a lucky man.
My job isn’t the greatest, but I’m working like a mad man on making my blog a success i.e. bringing the Art of Nonconformity into my career.
Excellent post Chris! I love the concept of that the ultimate goal is sufficiency, as is having just enough. I think how you describe not having to count vacation days, being able to hop on a plane to visit your parents, and especially working everyday because you love it not because you have to… is the ideal. Your words are so inspiring, and exactly what I am working on living up to! Cheers!
I was actually discussing this with a friend the other day (both sitting in a coffee shop while friends + family were working of course). What do you define as enough?
If you need $700 a week to travel the world and to meet your basic financial needs at home then you have a goal. Making $800 a week would provide a buffer for savings or increases. $850 a week would allow the opportunity to invest and live an abundant life.
Without a goal though, it is difficult to know what you would be content with. As humans we tend to want more and have more, but often it is not needed. Finding the balance that produces happiness is the key.
Keep up the great work Chris!
Excellent post! A timely reminder for me. Thank you.
Something Similar to what you said in the end there rings true for me:
“One of the best feelings in the world comes from the awareness that everything will be okay. If you have that feeling, you know exactly what I mean.”
For me it’s more: One of the best feelings in the world comes from the awareness that everything is okay right now.
When I am that last thought I guess sufficiency transcends all because everything is fine just the way it is.
My husband and I lost our set of “consumerist blinders” about a year ago, and have been scraping our way out of the hole ever since.
One day we realized that all the expensive restaurant dinners and an overly-large house were just attempts to pay ourselves off from selling our souls on a daily basis. Our twin pot bellies and mortgage payment look, to us, like exactly what they are: boat anchors.
I love that you have strong opinions Chris, yet don’t proselytize. Once we know who we are and what’s important, and we feel secure in that, there is no need to convert others.
That you live so transparently is a testament to your peace of mind and security. In recognizing that in others, we can find that in ourselves. How **incredibly helpful** in a chaotic, fear-driven world.
After all the ups and downs of material security I’ve experienced in my life, I know I can be happy with very little stuff. Deep inside I know everything will be ok, and now I can offer that vibration to others who come across my path. It was a very unconventional life that led me to this place!
Only recently came upon your site – good reading.
I seldom post comments, because so little writing on the Internet deserves a response, but I’ve enjoyed your style and ideas – awesome stuff.
Particularly liked this thought: “You learn to value experiences (things you do) more than possessions (things you own).”
Couldn’t agree more. I too gave up a life of fast cars and high-living for a more frugal lifestyle. The added benefit is the sense of calm this brings. And when the mind is calm, consciousness expands. When consciousness expands, world-changing ideas are the result.
I look forward to reading more.
Great post, very insightful and true to marching to the beat of your own drum..i know which group I want to be in too 😉
Chris, as usual, you nail it! In our community (our church), we push the idea of simplicity for our group in an attempt to break their worship at the altar of Consumerism (the true god of the USA, at least since the 1950s). I love your loose reference to Proverbs 30:7-9:
“Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
If more of us gained your insight, cut the ties with the ruinous idea of “more” and learned contentment by shutting off the lies of Madison Avenue marketing, we’d be a happier people.
Particularly liked this thought: “You learn to value experiences (things you do) more than possessions (things you own).”
While this is a noble thought- I would like to add that owning art is FAR different than owning an IPhone, or a computer or another kind of the latest gadget that always needs updating.
Art puts you in touch with EXPERIENCE of a person trying to make visible the invisible. In other words, Art makes mankind’s thoughts and dreams visible.
So, while you may jettson a lot of “stuff” hold on to ART- because that “thing” will nourish your soul through good times and bad and help you to focus- not become absorbed in faster, newer, younger. It just “is”.
What a wonderful way to remind us to be “mindful” and “present”
March on Chris! The beauty of the world’s soul awaits you and we await your responses.
In my mind sufficiency goes hand in hand with success, as without a personal definition of the latter you’ll never be able to describe what “enough” means to you. Here’s a great definition of success that I thought I’d pass along:
“To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Money is just like air, ubiquitous and free for the taking. A good, deep breath of fresh money feels good and invigorates one.
But if you hold your breath too long, you die. You must exhale stale money to make room for fresh, new money. People who do not exhale fully suffer what is called emphysema; they go about weak and miserable. People who hold on to money too long also go about weak and miserable.
Yoga teaches us how to breathe: deep exhalation to the very last dregs, then slow, grateful, savoring inhalation. So it should be done with money, too.
When the lungs are injected with more air than they can hold they burst. Enough air and money is Abundance. More is dangerous.
Yesterday my dad needed a ride home from the airport. I was able, without seeking anyone’s permission, to meet my dad at the airport in the middle of the day, be the first in my family to greet him and spend a great afternoon with him. A year ago, while employed for someone else and making a heck of a lot more money than I am making now, I would have had to check and recheck my available vacation days and go to my power hungry HR maniac to “get permission” to leave the office a few hours early.
I find sufficiency in peace and grace. I am sufficient with a little (or a lot less for now) in my pocket because I am full of the love of my friends and family. I might walk a little farther than Chris would to pick up money that fell from the sky, but not if I’d have to leave my family for long to do it.
Couldn’t agree more. This past May I quit my 9-5 (well, I’d only been there 9 months) and went back to being self-employed (currently 3 different income streams). I made less than $900 each month since then (and that’s Canadian dollars) but I’m currently in Stockholm Sweden, availing myself of my family’s hospitality but also earning money. I’ve had a great summer getting back to the things that are important to me. Working full-time at a job that I didn’t really enjoy ended up sucking so much out of me. Most of my friends can’t understand how I can be happy even though I don’t have the security of a job. The funny thing is, those same people do have job security and are generally miserable.
This is my favorite all-time AONC post. I like to read it every so often because I need to remind myself that it’s important to put this concept above “budget” or “savings” or “salary” or whatever else.
One of the best things about it is that it’s adaptable to everyone who reads it; everyone has their own personal level of sufficiency. You can quit your job, you don’t have to quit your job…. we can all figure it out for ourselves.
You are right Chris. I remember reading it from the seven habits book – the term is called “abundance mentality” – an attitude of life that shows that there are more resources and opportunities around you to share with others.
Too often times, people operate in scarcity mentality while they forget to prioritize what things are truly important to them.
I think the ideas are aligned to what you are trying to convey.
I see sufficiency as abundance as opposed to scarcity. Abundance is when you get up in the morning and you see the abundance in nature from plants, and animals to rain and sun. In my own life I have relatively little money but I feel abundant. I eat when I want and I eat what I want. I travel when I want and where I want. I live the life I want to because I don’t work for others. I have what I need and what I want, I am abundant.
Thanks Chris for the post. It definitely feels better to have abundance mentality all the time. It is a decision, but can be a hard decision to make depending on circumstances. All in all, this post is a great reminder.
What a great post. Certainly inspiring! I know that it takes a lot to sometimes put money in perspective and what the “American Dream” really is.
***Wow man this blog is amazing. I never really understood the sense of community people felt on the net before until I saw this and it was so specific to the model of my life!!***
I have never been happier than in the last 6 months. And I have been brokety broke broke.
Here are my pillars of work-life balance.
*Being able to stop work and watch The Nanny at 3.30 every day.
*Taking wine to a friend’s house who was doing graphic design for me and claiming it on tax.
*Being able to say ‘nup brain’s not happening today, I’ll clean the house instead’
Ha. Work life balance is so specific to the individual.
Why on earth WOULD we care about the media’s idea of happiness?! Maybe this information age will change that to a degree 🙂
Your thoughts are similar to my own, Chris… I’m thrilled to have found a website that so closely matches my own principles. The science backs up what you say, too. Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard said (in an interview with the NYT):
“…we know from studies … that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object.”
If you decide you do want a castle, there are some affordable fixer-uppers here in Germany. 🙂
I am just getting to the point in my life that I can understand this post. I always knew it was there but the older I get the more I realize that it is not all about the money. I think we have developed this mindset in our culture that we need to make more money just because. Many people have not decided to make money for a purpose.
Geraldine, Stephanie and Chris…good stuff, thanks for sharing. Life is too short to not spend better time with those we love, and to live without what we don’t really need. I seem to need a lot and am still working on that because I think I just missed out on a couple of years of sharing more with my 10 year old son. Wish me luck.
Great article! ‘Spot on’ wisdom. Thanks again Chris. I find what you say very refreshing and truly helpful. Cheers.
There are huge shifts in perception between the states of survival and sufficiency – I was stuck in “survival” for so long, I forgot what opportunity looks like. Every path led to a closed door, worry and shame and guilt weighing down every “career” choice I tried to make.
I put “career” in quotes because I’m using the common meaning of it, to have a job and earn a salary and save for retirement.
But my career is actually about being myself, and realizing my dreams. It took a long time for me to figure that out, and one aspect of my own perception shift was due to 279 Days. It made me realize that making so much $$ in accordance with “accepted wisdom” is so much bullocks, and all I really need to do is be self sufficient.
So thank you for that, and thanks for reinforcing it with this post.
Chris- I’ve come to your writing recently, through Jane Freidman. I am enjoying your book and the posts I’ve read so far. I, too, came to the same conclusions and live my life joyfully experiencing. Suffiency, yes, I’ve found this concept true and viable. You are an excellent writer and I truly appreciate your insight and your ability to communicate – which is evidence that your efforts in developing your craft are well spent. Very encouraging!
This post pretty much explains the transformation I experienced this past year which has enabled me to start the process of breaking away from my current job (which, despite some awesome perks and pay, is robbing me of my life most of the time).
Despite our painful breakup, I was blessed with a short relationship with a man who showed me what it meant to live a life of sufficiency. Sure, we dined and went out here and there. But we never spent a lot of money. Breakfast and dinner were home-cooked, shared together at our simple dining tables. We spent a lot of time with friends, or time just wandering around the city. What was remarkable was that I found more joy in those simple, inexpensive activities with him than I had ever found at any fancy spa, expensive/trendy restaurant or luxurious vacation. Through him, I started to discover what it was that I really wanted out of life, what it was that made me content. And it didn’t cost what I thought it would.
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