“How to save the old that’s worth saving, whether in landscape, houses, manners, institutions, or human types, is one of our greatest problems, and the one that we bother least about” (John Galsworthy).
WHEN ABRAHAM LINCOLN SAID, “WE SHALL NOBLY SAVE OR MEANLY LOSE THE LAST, BEST HOPE OF EARTH,” HE TOUCHED ON THE IMPORTANT QUESTION OF “SAVING.” Some things need to be saved, and doing so is not always easy, as in the case of the Union about which Lincoln was speaking. But before we get to the difficulty of saving things, there is this question: do we have the wisdom to see what are the worthy things that need to be preserved?
To start with, we need to be the kind of people who save some of our money. “Any fool can waste, any fool can muddle, but it takes something of a man to save, and the more he saves the more of a man does it make of him” (Rudyard Kipling). The concept of thrift — not spending all our money — may be old-fashioned, but it’s still a valuable idea. In fact, the failure of so many to save anything for future needs is creating a national disaster that is only waiting to happen.
But it’s not just money that we need to be thrifty about. Many other things deserve to be “saved” rather than “spent.” But since life is an unending process of adding some things to our lives and subtracting others, the challenge is to know when to add and when to subtract. What do we keep, and what do we throw away? Saving everything would be just as foolish as spending everything. “If one spends what he should prudently save, that certainly is to be deplored. But if one saves what he should prudently spend, that is not necessarily to be commended” (Owen D. Young). So the practice of saving requires not only self-discipline; it requires good judgment.
These traits have to do with our character. If you and I are presently “spending” things we should be “saving,” the answer is not to look for some quick-fix techniques. We’ll have to work on our inner character, because frankly, saving takes character. But saving also builds character. Because it’s hard to do, doing it makes us stronger.
“The habit of saving is itself an education; it fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought, and so broadens the mind” (T. T. Munger).