The Catholic Press – 15 August 1929
There are few things pleasanter than spending money, and yet how difficult it is to do so without a guilty consciousness of extravagance! Nearly everything that we have been taught since childhood, whether in the copybooks or by uncles anxious about our future, has been on the side of saving. ”Look after the pence,” says the proverb, “and the pounds will look after themselves.” And the other proverbs relating to money say the same thing. I do not remember a single proverb that states the plain truth—that money is meant to be spent.
As a result of this one-sided training, most of us feel more virtuous if we have saved five pounds than if we have spent five pounds. I certainly do; at least, I am sure I should if so improbable a miracle were to happen. Even those of us who cannot help spending money are convinced of the superior virtue of saving it. Like other people, we believe that “economy”—a word which means “household management”—really means spending as little money as possible.
The Swing of the Pendulum
On the other hand, there is a danger in saving money as well as in spending money. Each, carried too far, becomes a vice, and a world of misers is no more to be desired than a world of spendthrifts.
The ideal world, it seems to me, would be neither a world of spendthrifts nor a world of misers, but a world in which it was possible to spend money while saving it, and so to turn both spending and saving into agreeable virtues. You may deny that such a world is possible. If you do, you will be wrong. Such a world comes into existence at least twice a year in England—on the occasion of the summer sales and the winter sales at the shops.
The Glory of the Sale
What women understand much better than men is that it is possible to buy almost anything economically. You can save money by buying a motor car, or a pianola, or a house in the country. It is a form of thrift to buy a box of cigars, if you get it at a reduction. There are all sorts of ways of saving money besides saving money, and most of them are pleasanter and add more to the general happiness. Why, even the purchase of a pearl necklace may be a thrifty act if it happens to be a bargain.
And most human beings love a bargain. I know men who would buy a cow if it were a bargain, not because they want a cow, but for that curious thrill of triumph that one has when one has made a good bargain. I never enjoyed buying books quite so much as when a fire broke out in the principal bookshop in my native town, and the damaged stock was sold at bargain prices.
Day after day, the rest of the inhabitants of the town and myself fought our way in a melee through the door of the shop and found ourselves buying books passionately, voraciously, though most of us probably would not in the ordinary course of events have bought more than one book in a twelvemonth. I never bought so many books before or since, but they were bargains. They were also good books, and, if my friends were not such borrowers, I should have some valuable first editions of Stevenson and Kipling to-day. And not only was I saving money to an incredible extent, but I was incredibly happy at the same time.
Women at the sales, I am sure, are equally happy. I can enter into their feelings. For I, too, once lived in an Arcadia of saving.