|by: Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth
A person without a home is like a ship without a haven. "O yes!" sneers one who has observed the family life of his acquaintances. "Anything but a home! Deliver me if my own must be like those of my friends."
WHY REAL HOMES ARE FEW
Many a young man fears he cannot afford to marry. He knows his earning capacity; he knows also that to keep up appearances and to meet the style of living the young woman demands, will require a larger income than he can hope to posses. There are few indeed who are willing to do without luxuries till they can afford them.
They count the cost too great to struggle till they secure a home where hearts count for more than outside glitter.
The science of doing without is unpopular in this age of the world. There are just two ways to live an independent life: one is to make money enough to cover your wants; the other is to limit the wants so but little is needed to cover them.
The wisest and wealthiest man that ever lived wrote some proverbs on thrift and good management. He was so rich that silver was unworthy a place on his table. He drank from a cup of gold. In fact, silver was not thought worthy to be taken into account in the inventory of his riches. But though he was a multimillionaire, these were some of his maxims:
"He that loveth pleasure [or sport] shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil [luxuries] shall not be rich."
"There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up."
"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. [That is, attend faithfully to business.] For riches are not forever."
"He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough."
"Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment."
"Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues [money gained by extortion and speculation] without right."
"Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of good cheer with strife."
Our forefathers had two proverbs upon which they built their fortunes. The first was, "A penny saved is a penny earned." The second was, "Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves."
A wealthy man said to his wife, "It isn't what you can do with, Maria; it's what you can do without."
A schoolgirl won first prize for a definition of thrift when she wrote, "Thrift is management of one's affairs in such a manner that the value of one's possessions is being constantly increased."
"I CAN'T AFFORD IT"
It is seldom that these words are heard. In fact, any effort to instill habits of economy and thrift is resented. The tide of extravagant spending has swept over the land, and no ebb has yet set in.
It is not only the rich who are extravagant. The price tag on any article desired is the last thing that concerns prospective buyers whether rich or poor.
Not so long ago a man and a woman entered a store on Fifth Avenue, New York, and asked to see chinchilla coats then on exhibition. These people did not seem wealthy, and the merchant hardly expected a sale. When the price was asked, the reply was,
"The price, madam, is fifteen thousand four hundred dollars," and -
"Wrap it up," exclaimed the woman's escort, for they were even then late to the theater to which they were going.
A dealer mentioned that "moderately priced" furs were in "fairly good" demand, and when asked the price of these "moderately priced" garments, replied, "Oh, three thousand or five thousand dollar ones."
A woman, shopping one day in Los Angeles, rode in a twelve thousand dollar limousine, to the largest and most popular shop in the city. After watching manikins dressed like queens for several hours, she was measured, fitted, and gave her order. Three dresses were purchased, which cost five thousand three hundred dollars; three capes for twelve thousand five hundred dollars; an Alaska seal motor coat, two thousand five hundred dollars; a baby lamb coat at nine thousand five hundred dollars; a chinchilla coat at thirty-five thousand dollars; a sable coat, seventh-five thousand dollars, - making a total of one hundred and twenty-two thousand dollars for fur coats. Added to these were a scarf and muff of crown sable at thirty-one thousand five hundred dollars. In the bill was eleven hundred dollars for perfumes, and eighteen hats (price not quoted), making a total of nearly two hundred thousand dollars spent for clothes by one woman in one day.
That very day, poor wretches were searching garbage cans for a morsel of food in European cities. Millions in Asia were eating leaves, thistles, and grass roots. Thousands were dying of starvation. Children were perishing in icy Poland for lack of clothing enough to keep them from freezing. What can be said of the selfishness of this wanton spending when such conditions exist?
To be economical we need not be stingy. We may save to give. There cannot be liberality without economy. Expending to benefit others, or saving that we may meet a need, is true thrift. Money, food, and clothing are not given us to be wasted or hoarded.
One expensive article bought demands others. Diamonds for which twelve and fifteen thousand dollars are asked are frequently sold, automobiles for which seventeen thousand dollars must be paid are popular.
Where the money comes from to meet such expensive buying would be a wonderful revelation.
RESULTS OF PRODIGAL SPENDING
Many a man has lost both money and character because of the demands made upon him by the woman he calls wife, who flits and flutters and flirts, and thinks only of her own foolish wishes and fancies. She married for dollars instead of the man, the object in getting married being to find some one who would furnish capital for her to spend.
Benedict Arnold, it is said, became a traitor because his wife worshiped dress. Many men struggle to keep up appearances, to satisfy the demands made upon their income by wife and children, till they yield to temptations and fall. Wives become the murderers of their husbands. Their pride and selfishness pierce the heart like a dagger. Many a fancy article of dress is stained with blood. Pride ruins. It is the god to which millions bow, both rich and poor.
How can a man meet such a situation? Steal? He is filled with horror to think of it, but there seems to him sometimes no other way. He may decide to borrow. Then comes bankruptcy. If he tries doing without luxuries, he meets repining and reproaches, tears and bitter words. Heart and courage fail, and he becomes desperate.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WIFE
A story contributed to the San Francisco Examiner, before the great war, is worth careful study. It is of a man who was made a thief by evil associations.
She sat before me the other day - the wife of the Thief. She had come to ask mercy for her husband, who had been caught stealing.
And he was not the only man made a thief because of the lack of thrift and economy.
She was young and she was pretty, and her black eyes shone from under a hat of late design, and she wore a coat of fine cloth, and the shoes on her small feet were good, and the gloves on her little hands were not cheap.
"You see," said the wife of the Thief, "it's this way: I was away, and he got lonesome, and wanted me to come home; and he was out of work, and he got into bad company, and he is not strong-minded, and they made him think it was all right. And that's how he got into trouble - bad company - that's the whole thing. I hope you won't prosecute him."
"What was your husband's business?" said I to the wife of the Thief.
"What does he get a month?"
"Fifty dollars," said the Thief's wife.
"You make your own clothes?"
The Thief's wife swept her modish dress with the tail of her dark eye and laughed a little, like a mischievous child.
"Why? Me?" she said. "I can't sew."
"You do your own washing then?"
The Thief's wife looked down at her little white, useless hands. She looked as if she didn't know whether to laugh or frown. She chose to laugh.
"Why, no," she said. "I never did that kind of work."
"How do you get on with the cooking? You do that, of course."
The Thief's wife smiled this time; and what a dimple she had, to be sure!
"That ain't so hard," she said. "There's a delicatessen store, and I get everything, or almost everything, from there. I don't know how to cook."
Fifty dollars a month the Thief made, and his wife does not cook, can't sew, would not wash for anything, and she says he is in trouble because he got into bad company. I didn't say a word to the Thief's wife about the company.
I went in to see the Thief. He was locked up - as a thief should be. He sat on the edge of his cot, and he looked as if he had been crying, and he told me about the trouble.
"I lost my job," said the Thief, "and my wife went home on a visit. I had to give up the flat, and I couldn't pay my room rent, and I owed the laundry people, and the delicatessen man was after me, and I went into this flat you've heard about, and took what I could see."
"How did you lose your job?"
"I don't know," said the Thief. "They just let me out, that's all."
"Do you know who took your place?"
"Yes. A fellow that lives in the same house where our flat was."
The new bookkeeper's wife wasn't at all like the Thief's wife. I went to see her and found out. She isn't as good-looking as the Thief's wife, but she is sweet-faced and rosy, and her eyes are bright and true and loving, her hair is pretty, and her neat little house dress was well made and hung right.
She made it herself, she told me; makes all her own clothes - oh, yes, indeed! She could not afford to hire them made.
Her hats, too, she trims; and the laundry - well, the collars, she sends them, but the rest she does herself.
The delicatessen shop - is there one near by? She didn't know. She does all her own cooking. It is cheaper so, and better, and her husband does not like ready-cooked things.
I went to see the man who pays the bookkeeper's salary.
"Yes, we let him out," said he. "No, nothing definite against him, you might say; but he and his wife were picture-show fiends - went every night; and once I saw them there, and the wife was dressed better than my wife. I can't see where he got the money for that hat. He handled money for me sometimes, and I didn't think it was fair to put him under such a strain, so I got a different sort of man."
"A different sort of man?"
"Well, no, not exactly. I mean a man with a different sort of wife. It amounts to the same thing; don't you think so?"
Bad company - that's what got the poor, weak-chinned Thief into trouble. There's no doubt about that. The worst kind of company. A silly, vain, selfish, lazy, wasteful wife. The foolish girl who marries a poor man and then will not wash, will not iron, will not cook, and will not sew! Bad company indeed! Poor, silly Thief! Bad company, indeed!
He is out of jail now, is the Thief. We asked the judge to be lenient with him, as it was a first offense.
I wonder if it will be his last. - Annie Laurie.
THE PASSING OF SIMPLICITY
The change from the simple life of the past to the complicated existence of modern times is astonishing. Our pleasures are costly. Common men now live like princes of former days.
Pleasures have increased while real joy has declined. There are plenty of things, - expensive things, too; but when they are possessed, they soon grow old and must be replaced by newer and more costly articles.
One hundred years ago the wife of Dr. Lyman Beecher had the first carpet made in the village where they lived. After it had been tacked to the floor, a deacon called to visit Dr. Beecher.
"Walk in, deacon, walk in," Dr. Beecher called out cheerily.
"Why, I can't help stepping on it," was the response after surveying the new carpet. Then he asked,
"Do you think you can have all that, and heaven too?"
But now, whether heaven is attained or not, the extravagant and senseless furnishing and spending goes on. Things - more and more things - are in the saddle. Life is spent in acquiring and caring for possessions, which add nothing to the comfort and pleasure of life.
True, simplicity is advocated, but it is an expensive simplicity that does not lessen expense. We must have "dull mahogany." "soft-toned pictures," "rich rugs," "expensive porch furniture," "lovely lines in living rooms," "distinction in dining rooms," "delicate draperies," "personality in bedrooms." Such simplicity spells elegance, and an added drain on the family resources.
When mother went away to school, if she had one best dress for Sabbath, two for week days according to season, with one or two of thin material for warm weather, she was thought to be well supplied. The material for her clothes was selected not for its sheen, its daintiness, or transparency. But daughter must have reception gowns, evening dresses, and sport suits, besides many others for common wear, all selected with reference to style instead of service.
When graduation year arrives, the dresses to be worn are studied and discussed for months before the final day. Then comes the purchase and making; and one might suppose the girl was to be presented at a royal court. Class entertainments and functions of all sorts call for clothes and still more clothes, causing perplexity and great expense to father and mother. Almost any occasion demands new dresses, new accessories; and thus children and young people for habits of useless and extravagant spending, which are still continued when they have homes of their own. Few indeed are those who have the wisdom or the courage to mark out a method of spending for themselves without regard to the decrees of custom or fashion.
"Very few men know how to use money properly," says Orison Swett Marden. "They can earn it, lavish it, hoard it, waste it; but to deal with it wisely as a means to an end, is an education difficult of acquirement."
One wealthy man wrote this sage advice:
"True economy consists in always making the income exceed the outgo. Wear the old clothes a little longer if necessary; dispense with the new pair of gloves; mend the old dress; live on plainer food, if need be; so that, under all circumstances, unless some unforeseen accident occurs, there will be a margin in favor of the income. A penny here, and a dollar there, placed on interest, go on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is obtained. It requires some training, perhaps, to accomplish this economy; but when once used to it, you will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending."
But money is given to be used. He who economizes to hoard becomes miserly. Many men of wealth are liberal givers.
"I will give twenty-five dollars to the city mission," said a man to a minister whom he met on the street. The minister wondered why one who was known to be very saving should be so liberal.
"Wait a minute," called back the giver. "I have the twenty-five dollars with me, and I will give it now instead of sending it. It will save a postage stamp."
He had learned that to save even the cost of a stamp enabled him to give liberally.
In the household and in business, little savings amount to more than one would suppose. One housekeeper throws dry bread, cold potatoes, and other left-overs into the garbage can. The prudent wife never wastes a morsel of food. The remnants are combined into palatable dishes, and home expenses are reduced by such small economies. Garments are mended before they are past mending. Lights are not left burning when not needed. Fires are regulated so fuel is not wasted. Tools and utensils are cared for and kept in order. Help is not employed that can be dispensed with.
"Be it ever so humble," is a sentiment that does not appeal to the modern home. Individuals and nations would be better if they would love the home more and its furnishings less. There would be more happy homes if there were more thrift and economy.
This article is chapter 23 of the book "The Real Home" and is in the public domain
Site copyright© 2002-2023, Surf-in-the-Spirit. All rights reserved.