In my book, Wealth Virtues,I write a great deal on the value of understanding “wants” versus “needs.” That understanding is timeless, yet so many individuals and collectively, governments, fail at understanding this simple concept.
As it is but one day past the 234th birthday of America, I present this writing from Benjamin Franklin, one of the great Founding Fathers of the United States, for 150 year old advice that is still relevant today.
Advice on Saving Money in Hard Times, 1756
Poor Richard Improved: Being an Almanack . . . for the Year of our Lord 1756
– Benjamin Franklin
As I spent some Weeks last Winter in visiting my old Acquaintance in the Jerseys, great Complaints I heard for Want of Money, and that Leave to make more Paper Bills could not be obtained. Friends and Countrymen, my Advice on this Head shall cost you nothing, and if you will not be angry with me for giving it, I promise you not to be offended if you do not take it.
You spend yearly at least Two Hundred Thousand Pounds, ’tis said, in European, East-Indian, and West-Indian Commodities: Supposing one Half of this Expense to be in Things absolutely necessary, the other Half may be call’d Superfluities, or at best, Conveniences, which however you might live without for one little Year, and not suffer exceedingly. Now to save this Half, observe these few Directions.
1. When you incline to have new Clothes, look first well over the old Ones, and see if you cannot shift with them another Year, either by Scouring, Mending, or even Patching if necessary. . . .
2. When you incline to buy China Ware, Chintzes, India Silks, or any other of their flimsey slight Manufac- turers, I would not be so hard with you, as to insist on your absolutely resolving against it; all I advise, is, to put it off (as you do your Repentance) till another Year; and this, in some Respects, may prevent an Occasion of Repentance.
3. If you are now a Drinker of Punch, Wine or Tea, twice a Day; for the ensuing Year drink them but once a Day. If you now drink them but once a Day, do it but every other Day. If you do it now but once a Week, reduce the Practice to once a Fortnight. And if you do not exceed in Quantity as you lessen the Times, half your Expense in these Articles will be saved.
4thly and lastly, When you incline to drink Rum, fill the Glass half with Water.
Thus at the Year’s End, there will be An Hundred Thousand Pounds more Money in your Country.