If you want to test a young man and ascertain whether nature
made him for a king or a subject, give him a thousand dollars
and see what he will do with it. If he is born to conquer and
command, he will put it quietly away till he is ready to use it
as opportunity offers. If he is born to serve, he will
immediately begin to spend it in gratifying his ruling
The man who builds, and lacks wherewith to pay,
Provides a home from which to run away.
Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long thou
shalt sell thy necessaries.
For age and want save while you may:
No morning sun lasts a whole day.
Whatever be your talents, whatever be your prospects, never
speculate away on a chance of a palace that which you may need
as a provision against the workhouse.
“What do you do with all these books?” “Oh, that library is my ‘one cigar a day,'” was the response. “What do you mean?” “Mean! Just this: when you bothered me so about being a man, and learning to smoke, I’d just been reading about a young fellow who bought books with money that others would have spent in smoke, and I thought I’d try and do the same. You remember, I said I should allow myself one cigar a day.” “Yes.” “Well, I never smoked. I just put by the price of a five-cent cigar every day, and as the money accumulated I bought books–the books you see there.” “Do you mean to say that those books cost no more than that? Why there are dollars’ worth of them.” “Yes, I know there are. I had six years more of my apprenticeship to serve when you persuaded me to ‘be a man.’ I put by the money I have told you of, which of course at five cents a day amounted to $18.25 a year or $109.50 in six years. I keep those books by themselves, as a result of my apprenticeship cigar-money; and if you’d done as I did, you would by this time have saved many, many more dollars than that, and been in business besides.”
If a man will begin at the age of twenty and lay by twenty-six cents every working day, investing at 7 per cent. compound interest, he will have thirty-two thousand dollars when he is seventy years old. Twenty cents a day is no unusual expenditure for beer or cigars, yet in fifty years it would easily amount to twenty thousand dollars. Even a saving of one dollar a week from the date of one’s majority would give him one thousand dollars for each of the last ten of the allotted years of life. “What maintains one vice would bring up two children.”
Who does not feel honored by his relationship to Dr. Franklin, whether as a townsman or a countryman, or even as belonging to the same race? Who does not feel a sort of personal complacency in that frugality of his youth which laid the foundation for so much competence and generosity in his mature age; in that wise discrimination of his outlays, which held the culture of the soul in absolute supremacy over the pleasures of the sense; and in that consummate mastership of the great art of living, which has carried his practical wisdom into every cottage in Christendom, and made his name immortal? And yet, how few there are among us who would not disparage, nay, ridicule and contemn a young man who should follow Franklin’s example.
Washington examined the minutest expenditures of his family, even when President of the United States. He understood that without economy none can be rich, and with it none need be poor.
Napoleon examined his domestic bills himself, detected overcharges and errors.
Unfortunately Congress can pass no law that will remedy the vice of living beyond one’s means.
“We are ruined,” says Colton, “not by what we really want, but by what we think we do. Therefore never go abroad in search of your wants; if they be real wants, they will come home in search of you; for he that buys what he does not want will soon want what he cannot buy.”
“I hope that there will not be another sale,” exclaimed Horace Walpole, “for I have not an inch of room nor a farthing left.” A woman once bought an old door-plate with “Thompson” on it because she thought it might come in handy some time. The habit of buying what you don’t need because it is cheap encourages extravagance. “Many have been ruined by buying good pennyworths.”
Barnum tells the story of one of his acquaintances, whose wife would have a new and elegant sofa, which in the end cost him thirty thousand dollars. When the sofa reached the house it was found necessary to get chairs “to match,” then sideboards, carpets, and tables, “to correspond” with them, and so on through the entire stock of furniture, when at last it was found that the house itself was quite too small and old-fashioned for the furniture, and a new one was built “to correspond” with the sofa and _et ceteras_: “thus,” added my friend, “running up an outlay of $30,000 caused by that single sofa, and saddling on me in the shape of servants, equipage, and the necessary expenses attendant on keeping up a fine ‘establishment’ a yearly outlay of eleven thousand dollars, and a habit of extravagance which was a constant menace to my prosperity.”
Cicero said: “Not to have a mania for buying, is to possess a revenue.” Many are carried away by the habit of bargain-buying. “Here’s something wonderfully cheap; let’s buy it.” “Have you any use for it?” “No, not at present; but it is sure to come in useful, some time.”