“Annual income,” says Macawber, “twenty pounds; annual expenditure, nineteen six, result–happiness. Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditure, twenty pounds ought and six, result–misery.”
“Hunger, rags, cold, hard work, contempt, suspicion, unjust reproach, are disagreeable,” says Horace Greeley; “but debt is infinitely worse than them all.”
“If I had but fifty cents a week to live on,” said Greeley, “I’d buy a peck of corn and parch it before I’d owe any man a dollar.”
To find out uses for the persons or things which are now wasted in life is to be the glorious work of the men of the next generation, and that which will contribute most to their enrichment.
Economizing “in spots” or by freaks is no economy at all; it must be done by management.
Let us learn the meaning of economy. Economy is a high, humane office, a sacrament, when its aim is great; when it is the prudence of simple tastes, when it is practiced for freedom, or love or devotion. Much of the economy we see in houses is of a base origin, and is best kept out of sight. Parched corn eaten to-day that I may have roast fowl for my dinner on Sunday, is a baseness, but parched corn and a house with one apartment, that I may be free of all perturbations, that I may be serene and docile to what the mind shall speak, and girt and road-ready for the lowest mission of knowledge or good will, is frugality for gods and heroes.
Like many other boys P. T. Barnum picked up pennies driving oxen for his father, but unlike many other boys he would invest these earnings in knick-knacks which he would sell to others on every holiday, thus increasing his pennies to dollars.
The eccentric John Randolph once sprang from his seat in the House of Representatives, and exclaimed in his piercing voice, “Mr. Speaker, I have found it.” And then, in the stillness which followed this strange outburst, he added, “I have found the Philosopher’s stone: it is _Pay as you go_.”
In France, all classes, the men as well as the women, study the economy of cookery and practice it; and there, as many travelers affirm, the people live at one-third the expense of Englishmen or Americans. There they know how to make savory messes out of remnants that others would throw away. There they cook no more for each day than is required for that day. With them the art ranks with the fine arts, and a great cook is as much honored and respected as a sculptor or a painter. The consequence is, as ex-Secretary McCullough thinks, a French village of 1000 inhabitants could be supported luxuriously on the waste of one of our large American hotels, and he believes that the entire population of France could be supported on the food which is literally wasted in the United States. Professor Blot, who resided for some years in the United States, remarks, pathetically, that here, “where the markets rival the best markets of Europe, it is really a pity to live as many do live. There are thousands of families in moderately good circumstances who have never eaten a loaf of really good bread, nor tasted a well-cooked steak, nor sat down to a properly prepared meal.”
There are many who think that economy consists in saving cheese parings and candle ends, in cutting off two pence from the laundress’ bill, and doing all sorts of little, mean, dirty things. Economy is not meanness. The misfortune is also that this class of persons let their economy apply only in one direction. They fancy they are so wonderfully economical in saving a half-penny, where they ought to spend two-pence, that they think they can afford to squander in other directions. _Punch_, in speaking of this “one idea” class of people, says, “They are like a man who bought a penny herring for his family’s dinner, and then hired a coach and four to take it home.” I never knew a man to succeed by practicing this kind of economy. True economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go. Wear the old clothes a little longer, if necessary; dispense with the new pair of gloves, live on plainer food if need be. So that under all circumstances, unless some unforeseen accident occurs, there will be a margin in favor of the income. A penny here and a dollar there placed at interest go on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is obtained.
“I wish I could write all across the sky in letters of gold,” says Rev. William Marsh, “the one word, savings bank.”
Boston savings banks have $130,000,000 on deposit, mostly saved in driblets. Josiah Quincy used to say that the servant girls built most of the palaces on Beacon street.
“Nature uses a grinding economy,” says Emerson, “working up all that is wasted to-day into to-morrow’s creation; not a superfluous grain of sand for all the ostentation she makes of expense and public works. She flung us out in her plenty, but we cannot shed a hair or a paring of a nail but instantly she snatches at the shred and appropriates it to her general stock. Last summer’s flowers and foliage decayed in autumn only to enrich the earth this year for other forms of beauty. Nature will not even wait for our friends to see us, unless we die at home. The moment the breath has left the body she begins to take us to pieces, that the parts may be used again for other creations.”
“So apportion your wants that your means may exceed them,” says Bulwer. “With one hundred pounds a year I may need no man’s help; I may at least have ‘my crust of bread and liberty.’ But with £5000 a year I may dread a ring at my bell; I may have my tyrannical master in servants whose wages I cannot pay; my exile may be at the fiat of the first long-suffering man who enters a judgment against me; for the flesh that lies nearest my heart some Shylock may be dusting his scales and whetting his knife. Every man is needy who spends more than he has; no man is needy who spends less. I may so ill manage, that with £5000 a year I purchase the worst evils of poverty–terror and shame; I may so well manage my money, that with £100 a year I purchase the best blessings of wealth: safety and respect.”