Over the weekend, Kevin and Nathaniel both sent me an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that tells the story of Jane M. Buri, an 84-year-old social worker who quietly amassed a $1.4 million fortune. How did she do it? She practiced the art of thrift. From the article:

In retrospect, friends say Buri’s savings made sense. They say she drove a 30-year-old car, watched an ancient TV, lived four decades in a house bought with cash in 1969, and just kept stacking charity donation envelopes in her sun room, until, once a year, she sent them all in.

They say she gave of herself and asked little in return. Nobody’s disputing that generosity. But it’s not the whole story. Because this isn’t about someone who selflessly saved so others could have. It’s about someone who saved because spending more just didn’t occur to her.

I love these sorts of stories, but when I share them, I invariably hear from readers who say they would hate to live the frugal lifestyle necessary to build so much wealth. Yet the article makes it clear that although Buri pinched pennies, she also spent on the things that were important to her:

Nor did she deny herself small indulgences. Some weeks, she ate out three meals a day, friends said. She traveled to Europe, and to the Rose Parade in California. She bought a baby grand piano.

There was nothing she wanted and didn’t buy, said [a] co-worker. “She was frugal because she didn’t need anything else,” she said. “She wanted that old car. She dressed the way she wanted to dress.”

It’s not having what you want that’s important — it’s wanting what you have.

In recent years, I’ve had the privilege to meet several people just like Buri (including my real millionaire next door, who has agreed to let me interview him). Their stories are always the same. They’ve amassed wealth on modest salaries by living lives of thrift, and by choosing to spend only on the things that make them happy.

[St. Louis Today: How social worker Jane M. Buri saved $1.4 million, then gave it all way]

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