I recently finished reading Thrift: A Cyclopedia by David Blankenhorn. I hadn’t intended to review the book on this site, or even to discuss it much. It’s simply not the sort of book that the average reader would enjoy. (I loved it.)

Thrift: A Cyclopedia contains 300 pages of quotes and images exploring the nature of thrift. A typical chapter offers a short biography of a thrift advocate (Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, movie director Frank Capra) followed by quotes from that person’s work. As I say, the book’s target audience is narrow: thrift geeks like me. (I wouldn’t be surprised if I were the only person to have purchased a copy from Amazon.)

Although I still don’t intend to review the book here, I was excited when the publisher contacted me last week to ask if I would promote their efforts to restore National Thrift Week. “Absolutely!” I said. This year (and every year?), National Thrift Week runs from January 17th to January 24th, so for the next several days, much of the content at Get Rich Slowly will focus on the virtues of thrift.

Here’s an abbreviated history of National Thrift Week:

In 1916, with the First World War looming imminently on the horizon, the leaders of America’s major civic organizations launched an ambitious education campaign designed to ready the American public for a wartime economy…

The activities of National Thrift Week were guided by several specific principles and behaviors and each was given its own day. Hence, Americans joined together every January in celebrating:

  • Have a Bank Account Day
  • Invest Safely Day
  • Carry Life Insurance Day
  • Keep a Budget Day
  • Pay Bills Promptly Day
  • Own Your Home Day
  • Share with Others Day

Then, as today, critics often maligned thrift as simple hoarding, but these principles demonstrate how the founders envisioned Thrift Week as so much more — they saw it not as a way to encourage miserly behavior, but instead to cultivate responsible consumerism and civic progress. Rather than self-denial, the goal was self-control…

National Thrift Week fizzled out in 1966, after being passed from one sponsor to another. Around that same time, thrift as a national virtue seems to have faded from the collective public consciousness as well…

“Pay Bills Promptly Day.” I love it!

If you have ideas for articles about thrift, please drop me a line. Meanwhile, pop on over to the Bring Back Thrift Week site to enter their thrift contest. Simply submit a thrifty idea in 50 words or less and you could win a $100 U.S. savings bond!

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