Thrift takes you up the ladder; Waste brings you down

By | February 18, 2016

I’m on a bit of a history lesson kick, watching Crash Course videos on Youtube and reading about the Great Depression. People who lived through the Great Depression understood the importance of thrift and not wasting what you had, so I’m constantly on the lookout for advice from that period.

Smitten. No cat has looked at me like that.

By chance, I stumbled across this pamphlet that I immediately fell deeply, madly, truly, effortlessly in love with. The U.S. Treasury Department sent it to teachers to explain thrift to their students in 1919 (right before the opulence of the Roaring 20’s and the following Great Depression, so I fear my dear pamphlet was not that successful).

But there are so many fantastic little nuggets of wisdom in this darling pamphlet that I felt compelled to share with you. Being the list-making fiend that I am, I made a list of all the things I loved about it.

How I love thee, Pamphlet. Let me count the ways

Thrift is NOT self-denial. It is merely postponing little pleasures now for greater ones in the future.

  • Yes! I don’t feel like I deny myself anything. I buy whatever I want; I just don’t want that much because I know the real costs of material indulgences and I’d much rather have freedom. 

Thrift is a habit, not a hardship.

  • The more you do it, the easier it gets. I’m always preaching that changing your habits is the hardest part and I try my darndest to give you tips on how to do that.

Thrift is shorthand for “Waste not, want not.”

  • “The Power of Thrift” sounds a lot better than “The Power of Wasting Not and Wanting Not.”

This is how I picture kids spending money on amusement.

Caution pupils against excluding all amusements or including an unreasonable number of them.

  • I know I rage against a lot of things on this blog, especially for my series “Habits draining your net worth”, but I do this mostly to light a fire under you. And because I enjoy raging. Think about your purchases and make sure the thing you want is worth the money and time you spend on it. I also know that in order to avoid burnout, you do need some joy and something to look forward to. Minimize, not eliminate and be thoughtful about the process.

A nation rises or falls with the personal practices of the individuals composing it.

  • This is part of the reason I started this blog. I have a tiny goal of wanting to change the world and this is one of the ways I’m trying to achieve that goal. We as a society are so incredibly wasteful and we’re slowly strangling the environment and passing the buck to future generations. I can be as thrifty as possible, but unless you are as well, I fear that we’re all screwed.

The cost of luxuries is not only what you now pay for them but what the same money invested would amount to 5, 10, 20 years later.

  • Yes! Opportunity costs, baby. Consider how much less 20-years-from-now-you would have with every purchase.

It is better to see your money grow than to watch it go.

  • Hehe. That rhymes. Money gives you a sense of power. Watching your money grow gives you a growing sense of power. Plus, I find it so fun to watch it grow while I do nothing!

Thrift takes you up the ladder; Waste brings you down.

  • This is my favorite line of this sweet pamphlet. Are you more successful than your parents? One way to ensure that you are better off in your life than your parents is thrift. One way to ensure you’re worse off than your parents is to squander. I know that’s a gross oversimplification, but I believe utterly and passionately in the amazing power of thrift. It’s the name of my website after all.

And some quotes in the pamphlet from some people I recognize and others I don’t, but I enjoyed nonetheless.

“To spend money for things which add to one’s power— mental, physical, moral, or economic— is thrift.” — T.N. Carver

  • I love the idea that spending money can amount to being thrifty.

“Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditure, nineteen, six; result happiness. Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditure, twenty pounds, ought and six— result misery.” —Charles Dickens

  • I don’t like Dickens with his old school English phrasing, but I like this quote.“Happiness consists in earning a little and spending a little less.” — Robert L. Stevenson.

  • If you’re saving, you’re making progress and I think progress is what gives human beings purpose. Purpose is key to happiness. This is, of course, my humble opinion. I’m glad Mr. Stevenson agrees with me.

“Compound interest is the foundation upon which the majority of fortunes are built. It works silently but incessantly— Sundays, weekdays, holidays. It works while yon sleep and while you play.” — T. X. MacGregor.

  • Yes! Compound interest, baby. Your money can work harder than you can. Don’t underestimate the value of time and compound interest.


“An intelligently managed bank account gives youth its start in life, middle age its competency, and old age its comfort and security” — Elbert Hubbard.

  • I like the name Elbert. I’m always confused by people who put off saving. What powers will future you have that current you lacks? You think it’s easy to be poor when you’re old?

12 thoughts on “Thrift takes you up the ladder; Waste brings you down

  1. KangSik, Seo

    I have been a poor student in the finance. I can be a good student from now on. Thanks.

  2. Adventures With Poopsie

    Wow, they gave this to teachers? I cannot imagine teachers being given something so valuable today. Isn’t the first thing any kind of Mustachian says is “why didn’t they teach me this in school?”

    Would the world be a better place if these things were taught by teachers at an early age?

  3. mike

    I enjoyed the RL Stevenson quote so I looked up some of his other quotes. Here’s another good one: The price we have to pay for money is sometimes liberty.

    Love the blog. Thanks.

  4. Anita

    This is my new favorite of your posts! I am planning to home school my son who will be starting 6th grade in the fall. I am going to include this in his curriculum. Thanks for posting!

  5. Vimal

    Great post! Especially ” Yes! Opportunity costs, baby. Consider how much less 20-years-from-now-you would have with every purchase.” This is my mantra when splurging on junk/stuff it’s not only $5 or $10 its what else you could do with that $5 and how it could grow to much more.


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