03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Balanced Life -- Buy Needful Things


I'm working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone's project will look different, but it's the rare person who can't benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday's post will help you think about your own happiness project.

I'm an under-buyer (as opposed to an over-buyer). That means I have trouble prodding myself to buy things, even things I absolutely need, like contact-lens solution. When I do buy, I buy as little as possible (even though this means I have to buy again before long). I often procrastinate about buying essential seasonal items, like mittens, until late into the season. I use things for too long, past the point at which they're used up or worn out. Sure, a pair of old khakis is nice, but at some point, I really do need a new toothbrush.

As an under-buyer, I've developed some resolutions to help me buy, and the most important of these resolutions is Buy needful things. I force myself to stop at the drugstore to pick up the supplies I need. I prod myself to buy three tubes of toothpaste, not just one. I ask myself if we have an emergency supply of cereal and light bulbs. I ask myself, "Do I need this?" and if I do, I buy it (or at least I'm supposed to buy it) without saying, "I'll pick this up another time."

As Samuel Johnson wrote, "To live in perpetual want of little things is a state, not indeed of torture, but of constant vexation." It's no fun to be in a household that's constantly running out of toilet paper.

Over-buyers, of course, have the opposite problem. They spend too much time and money buying things that they don't really need. "We can use that." "This might come in handy." "That would make a good gift...for someone."

For over-buyers, the resolution to "Buy needful things" is also useful, because it reminds them to ask, "Do I really need this? Right now? Or do I just think I might need it?"

To find out if you're an under-buyer or an over-buyer, take this quiz.

How about you? Do you have to push yourself to make purchases -- or to hold yourself back?

* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month's focus is Energy. Last week's resolution was to "Get more sleep." Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

This week's resolution is to Get more exercise. Start small! Be realistic!

If you want to read more about this resolution, check out...

Nine tips for staying motivated to exercise.

Quiz: Are you a likely exercise drop-out?

Eleven tips for sticking to a schedule of regular exercise.

If you're new, here's information on the 2010 Happiness Challenge (or watch the intro video). It's never too late to start! You're not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For more ideas, check out the Happiness Project site on Woman's Day.

* I was interested to read this article on Gimundo, Evolution may favor survival of the kindest.

* When I write, I have two imaginary characters in my head. One is the hostile reader, who attacks and criticizes me; the other is the ideal reader, who understands everything I'm trying to express. Since The Happiness Project came out last week, I've been fortunate enough to have several reviewers from the second camp, like this review from Terry Hong in the Christian Science Monitor. As a writer, it's thrilling to see a reaction like this.