When you find that you have no surplus at the end of the year, and yet have a good income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and form them into a book and mark down every item of expenditure. Post it every day or week in two columns, one headed “necessaries” or even “comforts”, and the other headed “luxuries,” and you will find that the latter column will be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the former.
The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most of us can earn. It is the eyes of others and not our own eyes which ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself l should not care for fine clothes or furniture.” In America many persons like to repeat “we are all free and equal,” but it is a great mistake in more senses than one. That we are born “free and equal” is a glorious truth in one sense, yet we are not all born equally rich, and we never shall be.
One may say; “there is a man who has an income of fifty thousand dollars per annum, while I have but one thousand dollars; I knew that fellow when he was poor like myself; now he is rich and thinks he is better than I am; I will show him that I am as good as he is; I will go and buy a horse and buggy; no, I cannot do that, but I will go and hire one and ride this afternoon on the same road that he does, and thus prove to him that I am as good as he is.”
My friend, you need not take that trouble; you can easily prove that you are “as good as he is;” you have only to behave as well as he does; but you cannot make anybody believe that you are rich as he is. Besides, if you put on these “airs,” add waste your time and spend your money, your poor wife will be obliged to scrub her fingers off at home, and buy her tea two ounces at a time, and everything else in proportion, in order that you may keep up “appearances,” and, after all, deceive nobody. On the other hand, Mrs. Smith may say that her next-door neighbor married Johnson for his money, and “everybody says so.” She has a nice one-thousand dollar camel’s hair shawl, and she will make Smith get her an imitation one, and she will sit in a pew right next to her neighbor in church, in order to prove that she is her equal.
My good woman, you will not get ahead in the world, if your vanity and envy thus take the lead. In this country, where we believe the majority ought to rule, we ignore that principle in regard to fashion, and let a handful of people, calling themselves the aristocracy, run up a false standard of perfection, and in endeavoring to rise to that standard, we constantly keep ourselves poor; all the time digging away for the sake of outside appearances. How much wiser to be a “law unto ourselves” and say, “we will regulate our out-go by our income, and lay up something for a rainy day.” People ought to be as sensible on the subject of money-getting as on any other subject. Like causes produces like effects. You cannot accumulate a fortune by taking the road that leads to poverty. It needs no prophet to tell us that those who live fully up to their means, without any thought of a reverse in this life, can never attain a pecuniary independence.