Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Five, Q1

Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing.

Personal notes:

  • Burn our credit cards! (or just don’t use them this week);
  • Our family bleeds money on one off purchases;
  • Make a donation;
  • Go monk for the week;
  • The best way to pursue affluence and independence is to pay down debts.

By the Chase on the corner there is an old man. His age is indecipherable but his look is tired. Deep bags hang under his eyes. A spaghetti lip falls from his face. Green, oversized fatigues swallow his battered body. Hunched forward he brokenly whispers “socks” as one calloused hand holds out a package of tube-socks. His face carries no expression. I’m scared of this man.

The man on the corner overwhelms me because he is discarded: no future, all alone, broken. I dread that fate. It’s a sad, dreary image. All week I couldn’t shake the notion that we’re worried about buying too much stuff while he’s worried about living.

Did my family buy too much stuff? Were we successfully frugal? That depends. We sat down, walked through our spending habits and realized it’s just too easy to spend. Everything is available at the click of a button. To fight impulse, we created a “spend” day. All one-off purchases waited until Saturday. Forced to mull it over, we found success: no take-out, no Amazon, no “stuff.” That was the easy part.

Could we reign in all purchases? No. The two small girls in our house eat like a varsity football team. At the grocery store I winced as small numbers added up to an ever-larger total. All that eating led to a $500 pediatric dental visit this week. Oh, and another unforeseen expense, my wife had to pay for a mandatory $800 exam. Talk about poor timing.

While the timing was poor, I have to remember that we are not. We are in a position where we save to build a better life, not to stave off disaster. When I hand that man on the corner a few dollars, it’s a powerful reminder. Yes, life is expensive and sometimes overwhelming but sitting here in a warm house listening to the girls laughing and playing downstairs, I know that I am a rich man.

One thought on “Frugality”

  1. Received an email from a friend who’s taken a vow of poverty for 1 whole year. She’s currently 8 months in. I find that both amazing and impressive.

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