What is enough?

March 30, 2010 · 22 comments

Are you a good judge of when something qualifies as enough? You know what I’m talking about. It’s the line between crappy and excessive. For example, say you are in the market for some new headphones. Well you could go to Rite Aid and buy yourself a $2 pair of cheapy headphones, but the quality of them will probably be less than adequate. Then again you could shell out $400 for some crazy awesome earbuds, but if you aren’t a huge music buff you probably wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate them. See the dilemma? Two dollar headphones are not enough, and $400 headphones are too much. How do you know where to draw the line? Is it the $10 pair, $40, or $200 pair?

If you’re like me you find yourself making the “enough” decision in many aspects of your life. Here are a few areas where I’ve battled with this.

Rent:

Holy poop, San Diego rent can be expensive. When I graduated college, I was forced to move off campus and had to start renting a place of my own. I ended up paying $700/month to share a bedroom with an old friend in a nice part of San Diego. After about two months of it, I had enough. I knew I could find cheaper rent, but still enjoy where I lived. Luckily, I found a two bedroom apartment in a not-quite-as-nice-but-still-nice part of town for $1175. That means my roommate and I both pay $587.50 per month. We have lived in said apartment for 2.5 years now. By slightly downgrading my housing, I have saved over $3,700 dollars in rent. That’s $3,700 I never would have been able to see again had I stayed at the first place.

Food:

We all are probably guilty of frequenting the restaurants a little more than we would like to admit. Before I was living on a budget, I was dropping about $300-$400 on dining out and another $100-$200 on groceries each month. Since I didn’t track my spending I had no clue I was dropping so much cash on food. Yeah I know, I’m an idiot. Once I started using Quicken, I was able to track my money. I about peed my pants when I realized I was spending $500/month on food. I quickly shaped up and downgraded my dining habits. I’ve managed to lower my dining/grocery budget to about $250 per month. Changing my eating habits has been a huge financial blessing.

Technology:

I am a gadget whore. I love electronics. I don’t care what it is, if it uses electricity I want it. I’ve really had to learn to control my desire to blow all my money on toys. For about a year and a half, I really, really, really wanted a digital SLR. After being a good/patient Ninja I got one this last Xmas. I knew I didn’t want to get the cheapest SLR on the marketĀ  as it would lack many of the features that I felt were necessary. But at the same time, I didn’t want to be frivolous and get a $4,000 professional grade camera that I wouldn’t even know how to use. I ended up with the Canon XSi, and I’m in love. It was the perfect camera for what I wanted. It was “enough”. (Here’s a picture of Girl Ninja and I, taken with my camera)

If you are anything like me, you have tried to cheat the system and operate outside of the “enough” parameters. That is a bad choice. This is when you end up with a guitar you bought for super cheap, but never play because it sounds like a dying cat each time you strum the strings. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, you felt like going big so you bought a top of the line mountain bike, only to let it collect dust in the garage because you don’t ride it as much as you thought you would. You have to figure out what enough means before you go and make the purchase, not after.

I am currently in the process of trying to figure out what “enough” will mean for my life with Girl Ninja. Should we live in an apartment complex with amenities, even though it will cost more? What kind of cell phone plan should we get? Do I really need to hold on to my iPhone? Blah, all the planning and contemplating is stressin’ me out.

What are some areas of your life, where you have been trying to figure out the perfect balance between not enough, and too much? Is it a car payment? Home decorations? Debt repayment? Do you always make the decision on your own, or do you generally consult your peers/spouse/family?

{ 22 comments }

1 Aiza

One of the myriad questions I'm faced with right now. It's the one I need to answer so I can make an even bigger decision:

"Is my current well-paying job ($60K is a considerable amount right after college) worth the sheer amount of stress and travel (100%) worth it?"

I did a quick estimate about how much I spend on food and STRESS-relief activities and gadgets (feel free to use your imagination here) monthly. Almost $2-3K a month and that's a lot coming from what I take home monthly. With that question looming over me, your question, Ninja, strikes to the bone. I had a long talk with one of the higher ups I consider a friend and she frankly told me that our company offers a generous severance plan and I qualify for unemployment for a year.

I do have debt (I was one of those bold-faced chickens that laid out my debt for the world to see with an anonymous tag) and financial goals I want to hit for 2010. So, if I take the route of the vagabond job-hunter, I'm wondering what I could give up too.

2 @blairmacgregor

So this is a good example that hits home for me because I actually DID buy that pair of expensive headphones. :) At the time, I was taking a bus from New Jersey every day into New York City and listening to loud, obnoxious people by days end was not what I wanted to deal with. Now certainly I didn't NEED them; but for my situation, producing a quiet, tension-free ride was a worthwhile investment & money well spent.

On the flip side, I watch very little television. I watch a little bit of sports, some business news and that's about it, Any other video content, I usually consume online. I've had the same TV for…I don't know, probably eight or nine years and have zero desire to upgrade to a new flat screen, etc. even though I now have the money to do it. Sure, if I had a nice chunk of disposable income maybe I would; but this is a case where for me, the old TV is "enough" while I'm trying to cut costs and build my business.

-B

3 duddes02

I also don't spend alot on rent ($635 in Manhattan) but I choose to live with roommates to save the money.

I also don't spend alot on groceries-I just buy whatever is on sale and deal with it. I can pick up cheap fruit and vegetables near my apartment.

I do spend $$$ on hair and skin products. I drop alot of money on face creams and conditioners and all sorts of things that promise to make me look younger or have soft shiny hair.

It's my guilty pleasure and make me soo happy (and my skin IS extra soft, haha)

p.s. You and girl ninja and perfectly cute!

4 seenonflickr

Is that the pier at Ocean Beach? My partner-in-crime and I were in San Diego for a holiday last summer, we loved it!!!

(As evidenced by the fact that I took a million bazillion pictures of it – http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfc/sets/72157622116

5 PunchDebt

it sure is. Keen observation

6 seenonflickr

I don't know that I would have known if you hadn't mentioned San Diego earlier in the post. :)

7 MissAlpha

Love the picture. That should go on the wedding invitations. Just sayin'

8 Abigail

But only with the black squares still in place. It'll add an air of mystery!

9 Angie

I think DH and I are still trying to find that balance, which for us means not always going for the junky stuff just because it's cheaper.
My only real comment to this post is that you need to start thinking about your pronouns. You say, "I am currently in the process of trying to figure out…" but it should be "WE are in the process…" As you enter into this marriage and life together, you can't be figuring this out on your own. Based on what you've written in the past, I know you are already thinking this way, but as you write and think, it never hurts to remember that these pronouns are important. :)

10 PunchDebt

that's a great point. I know that I mean "we" when I'm talking about Girl Ninja and myself, but I need to make sure I am writing and saying it…not just thinking it. Thanks for pointing that out.

11 BRB

I have this issue with kitchen appliances. I got a kitchen aid mixer a couple of Christmases ago, but haven't used it a ton. Recently I bought a food processor, but I had a nagging thought that I wouldn't use it very much after the mixer incident. I'm happy to report it is my favorite new appliance and I use it all of the time so it wasn't a waste of money!

12 SDgirl

Great picture!

I live in an apartment with my boyfriend in Mission Beach…he used to live there by himself but when we decided to move in together, we stayed at that apartment. It is soo small, no amenities whatsoever, and every time I come home, all I want to do is leave. We have finally found a new apartment this past month and begin our move tomorrow. This new place has closets (a luxury we did not have before:), parking spots, is spacious, has a pool, a dishwasher, on-site (not in-unit) laundry, etc. I can't even tell you how excited I am. We are paying a little less than $300 more total, but I can't tell you how miserable restricting yourself can make you feel sometimes. Of course it all depends on your way of living, what you can deal with, etc…we'll see beginning tomorrow how much this affects the quality of my life, but I'm sensing it's going to be great.

13 eemusings

Definitely housing – striking a balance in terms of price and amenities/location!

Also, food – getting the balance between beans and mince, and "nicer food", and the same with eating out – fast food vs. restaurants.

14 Investing Newbie

I now know how you look like without eyes!

I'm not really *paying* for anything, so there really isn't too much I can contribute to this conversation. When I have daydreamed about buying an investment property, I've tried to strike the right balance between a great deal and just too expensive. A lot of internet research usually solves that problem.

15 Executioner

I didn't think it was possible to photograph a ninja and live to post it on the internet. I guess there is an exception to be made when the ninja takes a photograph of himself or herself?

16 Abigail

I think it can be hard to strike a balance in the housing situation. It's easy to get carried away with all the extras you can get — always at a premium.

For example, Tim really wanted a place with a hot tub and insisted it was important even when I made fun of him for wanting a hot tub in friggin AZ! Guess how many times he's used it? That'd be zero. (To be fair, we did get a great deal on this place, so it was the right choice anyway.)

I think the best way to figure that out is for you and girl ninja to make a list of what's important to you in an apartment/complex. Do you care if you live in a small building or one with a zillion tenants; can you handle the laundry room being in the basement or does it need to be on every floor — or in the apartment itself; do you need a big kitchen; do you need a big bathroom; etc etc.

If you figure that stuff out, it'll be a lot easier to rank the apartments you do find. otherwise, you go for a tour and end up dazzled by everything. And suddenly you're in a complex that's, like, $200-400 more a month but it has a cool rock garden or waterfall or something in the lobby — not too far from the billiards tables and hot tubs. That's all cool stuff, but rarely worth the additional costs to live in those places.

17 Larry

<Should we live in an apartment complex with amenities, even though it will cost more?>

Where you live matters enormously to your personal happiness. It's not just amenities and price that count, but what's included in the lease, whether you can break the lease if needed, the square footage, layout, closet space, proximity to the stores you'll need regularly and your jobs, proximity to main roads, safety of the area, noise, maintenance, landscaping, laundry, overall cleanliness of the complex, whether pets are allowed, heat/AC, and no doubt other things. One thing I've learned is that if you go for a 2-story garden apartment, go for the top floor! But if you find a place you think you like, I would suggest talking to people who live there and getting a feel for how they like the place or not. Also come back a couple of times at various times of the day/evening, and check out the immediate area.

18 Larry

<Do you always make the decision on your own, or do you generally consult your peers/spouse/family?>

Depends on the item. I will always check Consumer Reports, but for a big purchase such as a computer, TV, or a good camera, I'll want to talk to people who know PCs, TVs, or cameras because they may see things I don't.

19 LeanLifeCoach

I've used the term Best Cost. It's not the cheapest or the most expensive, it's not the highest quality or the lowest, its the right product for the need at the best price that can be reasonably found.

20 Sandy L

Debt payoff is mine. I lean towards socking every extra penny towards debt and my husband likes a bigger buffer of cash (not unlike you ninja).

21 David

You look like Daniel Tosh (comedian, and host of show Tosh.0)

22 StackingCash

I regret no getting to this article sooner because it hits home for me, how much is enough for anything? Right now, we eat out too much and where we eat is kinda pricey. We can easily afford it but I find it quite wasteful. Also, I hate paying for TV but the wife wants it. We are finally going to get up to speed when it comes to surfing the net on cell phones but I don't like the costs involved. We are more established than you are and still have trouble finding balance. It's late…not too coherent right now…gnite :)

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