I have had a rather interesting experience the last few months, and one which will continue at least through the month of March. That experience is one of having barely more than enough money to cover all my obligatory expenses. There have been plenty of stretches of time where I’ve had, really, plenty of extra money and plenty of times where I haven’t had enough to get by and had to depend on others to help me over a slump. But coming up just straight even is different altogether.
The simple fact is that, given that I have enough cash lying around, I tend to spend a lot of time on leisure. If have the money I’ll go out the pubs, treat people, buy books, travel, etc. If I have less than enough money, I am also forced to be active outside my household, usually by doing extra work and things of that nature. However, simply having enough creates a different form of habitual sociality altogether. When I simply have enough money, and thus can’t go out and spend any, but don’t have a need to discover alternative ways of bringing more money in to make ends meet, I am left to simply be among the people that I live with. I eat at home, I talk with others, I read more, I exercise more.
Now, I certainly don’t want to glorify having enough as some sort of ideal. Indeed, the fact that simply having enough feels so different for me from having excess is a bit troubling and perhaps reveals the ways in which simply having more money exercises power over my life. I also think that one of the essential elements to the Christian life is learning how the rightly be poor. I don’t know what that means but I think we all need to learn that.
However, simply having enough has felt uniquely good and liberating in some key ways. When you simply have enough money to get by the way you look at money changes. It ceases to be something that enables the satiation of frivolous desires, and simply becomes a tool to continue living. Rather than being bound up with an economy of desire, money is simply reduced to means of fostering life. When, out of necessity, one ceases to think of money as something to spend to acquire things one simply wants, some element of the power of money is broken, or at least challenged. In other words, I think there’s something to be said for just having enough. Even if that is ultimately just a step on the way to learning how to have less, at least its something.