A Lesson in Economy

In  the lesson “Economy” from The Village Reader (1841) we find this little story.

“If you please, mother, I will now tell you why I called Mrs. Marsh stingy; and I am sure, much as you like economy, you will think she carried it a little too far.” When she had detailed the occurrences of the morning, she added—” Now that seems a saving too small to be worth any one’s attention.”

 “That, my dear, is because you think of the ‘little matters’ alone, and not, as you should, in connection with the very serious consequences, which flow from daily and hourly neglecting such ‘little matters.’ One cent a day seems very little indeed; but I should like to have you tell me how much it would amount to in a year.”

 Elizabeth, after a momentary pause, answered, ” Three dollars and sixty-five cents; is it possible!”

 “Certainly, my dear. ‘Little matters,’ you see, by continual accumulation, amount to great matters in time. Drops make the ocean; minutes make the year.”

 “Well, mother, I believe I must allow that my opinion of Mrs. Marsh was too hastily formed.”

 “And not very decorously expressed—you will acknowledge that, too, my daughter, I hope.”

 “Yes, mother,” answered Elizabeth, with a crimson cheek. “But still I cannot think Mrs. Marsh was quite right; for when we went into the milliner’s shop, she de clined purchasing a bonnet for Laura, which she reall needs.”

 “Perhaps she wants it, but does not need it.”

 “Indeed, mother, the milliner said she needed one and Laura said so; and I said so. Now I am sure you think that parents ought to supply the wants of their children, if they can.”

 “Certainly, my dear, the real wants, but not the fancied wants. If I rightly remember, Laura’s bonnet is quite fresh and clean.”

 “Yes, but that is because she is so careful of every thing; she has worn it a long time.”

 “That is no reason why she should not continue to wear it, if it be unsoiled and unfaded.”

 “But it is so unfashionable, mother.”

 “Unfashionable! What magic is in the sound! No matter how comfortable, or pretty, or becoming any thing is, let but that word be breathed over it, and it passes at once into oblivion! But this is not to the purpose. I think Mrs. Marsh was quite right in judging for herself about what she could afford, or what was proper for her to purchase, instead of suffering herself to be led by others. She best knows her own resources, and the demands likely to be made upon them.

 “Mrs. Marsh is not rich. She has enough for the comforts of life—nothing for its costly decorations. Yet limited as her income is, she contrives by her excellent management to command all that is really valuable and useful; all that can actually add to the happiness of herself and family.

 “You can perceive, my dear, that if there be only money enough to purchase necessary and useful things, and part of it go for superfluities, there must be a deficiency of the others. You would not much like to see your friend Laura with a new bonnet, and an old, untidy pair of shoes; or with a pretty necklace and a faded dress. It would shock Mrs. Marsh’s taste, even more than yours. There is a beautiful fitness and propriety in her whole establishment, which shows her judgment and good sense.

 “She has the true economy to proportion her expenses to her income, while she makes it produce to her family all the happiness it is capable of producing; and she has the true wisdom to wish for those things only, which it is proper and right for her to have. If the occurrences and conversation of this morning prove a salutary lesson to you, if [sic]  will make Mrs. Marsh your model in the management [sic] your yearly allowance, I shall dare to hope that you will [sic[ time become as useful and estimable a woman.”

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Published in: on May 11, 2013 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. More people should probably learn that lesson! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


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