11 July 2010

On saving money

I am reading and loving A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith right now. It was originally published in 1943, but I had never even heard of it until a couple of years ago. It truly is delightful. I loved the part when the main character's Austrian-immigrant grandmother is telling her daughter (the main character's mother) about how to save and set aside money:
You must do it thus: You go to the green grocer's and ask how much are carrots the bunch. The man will say three cents.Then look about until you see another bunch, not so fresh, not so large. You will say: May I have this damaged bunch for two cents? Speak strongly and it shall be yours for two cents. That is a saved penny that you put in the star bank. It is winter, say. You bought a bushel of coal for twenty-five cents. It is cold. You would start a fire in the stove. But wait! Wait one hour more. Suffer the cold for an hour. Put a shawl around you. Say, I am cold because I am saving to buy land. That hour will save you three cents' worth of coal. That is three cents for the bank. When you are alone at night, do not light the lamp. Sit in the darkness and dream awhile. Reckon out how much oil you saved and put its value in pennies in the bank. The money will grow. Someday there will be fifty dollars and somewhere on this long island is a piece of land that you may buy for that money.
A few years ago I saw a man on television talking about how to save money. He talked a lot about a "cappuccino fund" or something of the sort. His point was not that you should never be allowed a cappuccino, but that if you are having one every single day, you are losing a lot of money. He also made the point that not everybody's cappuccino fund involves cappuccinos. It has made me often wonder what my "cappuccino fund" includes. Obviously, it isn't cappuccinos, but there are certainly things in my life that I could live without. This particular passage made me think about some of my current non-necessities, because these folks lived in tenement housing in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. They were poor. They were barely getting by, but they managed to save money by making sacrifices.

It's made me wonder about my line of frugality. I'm not quite sure where I draw the line between, "This is a practical and worthwhile sacrifice so that I can have what I want in the future," and "This is just a ridiculous way to make me rather unhappy for the present time." I do know that saving money involves sacrifices, and generally for us those sacrifices are rather small and very worth it.


michael ann said...


your comment made my day :] i miss you too, i'm really sad we didn't get to come play games with you one more time before we left utahrr.


that is so. terribly. exciting! i really need to stay in better blog contact with you :]

(the mr michael also says "horrray!")

James said...

This is a great post to put things in perspective. Sometimes we stress about going without cell phones, cable or internet, try going less heat or light.

Its true that you can always save. Eric is a good example of that.