(by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1756)
As I spent some weeks last winter in visting my old acquaintance in the Jerseys, great complaints I heard for want of money, and that leave to make more paper bills could not be obtained. Friends and countrymen, my advice on this head shall cost you nothing; and if you will not be angry with me for giving it, I promise you not to be offended if you do not take it.
You spend yearly at least two hundred thousand pounds, it is said, in European, East Indian, and West Indian commodities. Suppose one-half of this expense to be in things absolutely necessary, the other half may be called superfluities, or, at best, conveniences, which, however, you might live without for one little year and not suffer exceedingly. Now, to save this half, observe these few directions:
- When you incline to have new clothes, look first well over the old ones, and see if you cannot shift with them another year, either by scouring, mending, or even patching if necessary. Remember, a patch on your coat and money in your pocket is better and more creditable than a writ on your back and no money to take it off.
- When you are inclined to buy chinaware, chintzes, India silks, or any other of their flimsy, slight manufactures, I would not be so bad with you as to insist on your absolutely resolving against it; all I advise is to put it off (as you do your repentance) till another year, and this, in some respects, may prevent an occasion of repentance.
- If you are now a drinker of punch, wine, or tea twice a day, for the ensuing year drink them but once a day. If you now drink them but once a day, do it but every other day. If you do it now but once a week, reduce the practice to once a fortnight. And if you do not exceed in quantity as you lessen the times, half your expense in these articles will be saved.
- When you incline to drink rum, fill the glass half with water.
Thus at the year’s end there will be a hundred thousand pounds more money in your country.
If paper money in ever so great a quantity could be made, no man could get any of it without giving something for it. But all he saves in this way will be his own for nothing, and his country actually so much richer. Then the merchants’ old and doubtful debts may be honestly paid off, and trading becomes surer thereafter, if not so extensive.