‘Tis a Gift to Be Frugal
Good old Ben also praised frugality:
In short, the Way to Wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two Words, INDUSTRY and FRUGALITY: i.e. Waste neither Time nor Money, but make the best Use of both. He that gets all he can honestly, and saves all he gets (necessary Expences excepted) will certainly become RICH: If that Being who governs the World, to whom all should look for a Blessing on their honest Endeavors, doth not in his wise Providence otherwise determine.You’ll give your children a great advantage by training them to be frugal. The word “frugal” has negative connotations for some people, but even 200 years ago, smart people like Benjamin Franklin knew that being frugal is an asset. Let’s clarify what frugal means: being careful with expenditures, not buying things you don’t really need, and taking care of what you do have. It doesn’t mean being cheap; in fact, people who only buy cheap goods usually end up spending more time and money replacing those cheap goods when they fall apart. A frugal person can recognize quality, and knows that a quality item lasts much longer than its “cheap” counterpart. (See “Teaching Children to Recognize and Appreciate Quality” on page 364.)
To be frugal is to be thrifty. Thrift was once considered a positive attribute, falling out of favor when America became a society of consumers in the mid-20th century. But there are still frugal people around; their thriftiness helped some of them become rich.
Billionaire investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton and his wife began married life by living very frugally. They cut expenses as low as possible, bought used furniture (items no one else bid on) at auctions, and only ate at restaurants when they could eat dinner for 50 cents (this was during the 1930s). They did these things in order to stick to their goal of saving 50% of their income. In The Templeton Plan, co-author James Ellison explains,
The fact is, however, that John Templeton was not poor even then. He had a good income and a solid investment portfolio that was steadily growing. Some acquaintances might have regarded his approach to money, housing and the conveniences of life as somewhat eccentric, if not socially unacceptable. After all, the circles that Templeton, the investment counselor, frequented were characterized by big money, big houses, big cars, and big consumer spending in general. But Templeton was not one to live by society’s more superficial values. He followed his own inner dictates and his developing religious beliefs. footnoteTempleton was not the only wealthy person whose fortune was due in part to thrift. In his ground-breaking books based on his study of American millionaires, Dr. Thomas J. Stanley wrote that despite the stereotype of the free-spending, luxurious millionaire lifestyle we see portrayed in movies and television shows, many millionaires are actually very careful about how they spend money. They also use strategies such as clipping coupons, refinishing and repairing possessions instead of buying everything new, and buying in bulk. In The Millionaire Mind, Dr. Stanley noted:
And so a radical philosophy of thrift became a deeply rooted part of Templeton’s way of life. He became convinced that success was closely connected to saving, a belief that he has never stopped practicing.
People in my audiences often ask why a millionaire would clip coupons. It’s not just to save fifty cents today—it’s how much can be saved and invested over a lifetime. The typical affluent family in America spends over $200 a week for food and household supplies. That’s more than $10,000 per year. During an adult lifetime in current dollars, it translates to between $400,000 and $600,000. If you cut off just 5 percent of this amount, between $20,000 and $30,000, and invest it in a top-ranked equity fund, given the rate of return during the past few years the amount earned would have been $500,000. (96)I’m not suggesting that all or even many of our children will become wealthy by being frugal (though if you teach your child to be frugal and he grows up to be a millionaire, he’ll handle the money better than most would). But the frugal millionaires Stanley studied illustrate the wisdom of being frugal and investing the money saved by being that way.
Teaching frugality to our children will benefit them once they’re grown up and making their way in the global economy. They’ll learn to live simply, thus experiencing less financial stress in the future. In a world where they’ll often be between jobs, frugality could make the difference between financial stability and financial trouble. As writer Charles Jaffe once said, “It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits.”