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
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."
"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
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
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 L5000 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 L5000 a
year I purchase the worst evils of poverty--terror and shame; I may so
well manage my money, that with L100 a year I purchase the best
blessings of wealth: safety and respect."