Living Within One’s Means

May 11th, 2010

Recently on a transatlantic flight, I read an article in Time Magazine that quoted a politician quoting Calvin Coolidge. “There is no dignity quite so impressive and no independence quite so important as living within your means.”

This resonates with me.

First, many of you know that I am trademarked as Queen of Bargains(R) and wrote a column in the Washington Times for 5 years on “living rich without being rich.”  Second, the economic makeover that the world is suffering without overt invitation is forcing a course correction that most people never anticipated.

Why is it dignified to live within one’s means? It seems to me that prudence in how one uses money, is just as important as being wise in using time, talent, energy, thought, sex, everything that is important to anyone.

What stopped me in my tracks was the emphasis on dignity. Dignity has seemed in short supply in the behavior of many in the US. The arts lost their dignity, perhaps in the 1960’s and people’s behavior mirrored the arts. Or did the arts mirror people’s behavior?

I remember the summer of 1968 when graffiti first appeared all over New York City’s subway cars.  Had the city lost its dignity?

When graffiti became “art”, we had truly hit bottom.

Dignity is not pride. Dignity is the ability of a person to be authentic and real with values. Pride involves hanging onto a perception of how someone wants to be perceived, true or not.

Living within one’s means enables you to spend and save and without needing a handout. If all I can afford is a one room apartment or tiny bungalow, and it is clean and orderly, I am dignified. If I eat simple meals and wear simple clothing, I can be dignified. If I grow my vegetables, walk to work, and enjoy contentment in pleasures that don’t cost money, I am dignified.

This is important. This is a lost art.

I once wrote, “Go to a historic home and learn how to live.”  (The Queen of Bargains (R) Little Instruction Book.) Finding pictures of these relics in a library counts. What do you see? Sparsely furnished rooms that we call minimalist now. Order reigns and there are no TV’s or electronic toys.

The wisdom bears repeating, “There is no dignity quite so impressive and no independence quite so important as living within your means.”

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