Learn the Importance of Thrift
- Steve Diggs Personal Finance and Life-Skills Coach
- 2012 3 Feb
I hesitate to mention this one. Not because it isn’t important—but because I can sense that many of you are already rolling your eyes and saying, “Which century does that guy come from?” Admittedly, I’m approaching the time of life when I can comb my hair with a towel and my teeth are the shade of a camel, but I unapologetically stick to my guns on this old-fashioned (and nearly forgotten) principle.
When you boil it down to basics, there are two ways to have more money. (Actually, I suppose there is a third, but it involves using a mask and gun—probably not a good plan.) Seriously though, I still remember a meeting with our business’s accounting firm many years ago. I suppose the monthly numbers hadn’t been great and probably without thinking, I stupidly asked my accountant, “What do we need to do?” Before I could retrieve that idiotic question, my accountant said, “Earn more or spend less.”
It’s still true. That’s how the people who get ahead—get ahead. But, today, thrift is a forgotten art. Maybe it’s because we’re too many generations removed from the Great Depression when people didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. We think it’s bad today when we can’t afford a new Apple computer. In the 1930s, people were just trying to afford an apple for dinner!
My father grew up in the Great Depression, and after World War II, he and my mother married. After a few years as a teacher, my dad became convinced that he needed to do his own thing. So he began an insurance firm that became very successful. My father always dressed in a coat and tie. We lived in a modern house with all the niceties of life, but I can still remember my father picking up pennies when he walked down a sidewalk. (On a related note, I was told that someone has calculated that it would be a waste for Bill Gates to stop and pick up a $100 bill, because the $100 would be worth less than the few seconds it would take him to retrieve it!)
Practically applied, thrift means we watch our money carefully. Remember, if you don’t care enough about your money to keep an eye on it, someone else who wants it more than you do will watch it (and take it away)! This means we must aggressively look for ways to cut our cost of living. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of being thoughtful: turning off lights when we leave the room, setting the thermostat lower and wearing a jacket, planning our errands so we avoid needless driving, and so forth.
But more and more in our self-indulgent, got-to-look-cool culture, this will require that we depart from the pack. It means doing stuff our friends won’t do. It means refilling our water bottle from a filtered tap at home rather than spending two dollars for one of those hip brands at the store. It means reusing our cups. (Did you know that if your bring your own cup, many convenience marts will let you refill it for up to 50 percent less than the cost of buying a new cup?) It means clipping coupons. It means buying our kids’ clothes at the next-to-new shops. (They’ll outgrow them before they outwear them anyway.) It means selecting a car for transportation rather than to impress people you don’t know!
This isn’t a bad way to live life. Many families have learned that it’s fun to gather the kids and brainstorm ways to cut costs and save money. And, besides, what a great legacy to leave!
Steve Diggs has presented the No Debt No Sweat! Money Management and ReTooled & ReFueled Essential Life-Skills Seminars over 500 times at churches, colleges, conferences and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve at www.NDNS.org, www.RetooledAndRefueled.com or www.SteveDiggs.com or call 615-834-3063. Today, as the author of seven books Steve is a TV commentator and fulltime speaker. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four grown children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.