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  • The Art of Money Getting by P. T. Barnum

  • Introduction In the United States, where we have more land

  • than people, it is not at all difficult for persons in good health to make money. In this

  • comparatively new field there are so many avenues of success open, so many vocations

  • which are not crowded, that any person of either sex who is willing, at least for the

  • time being, to engage in any respectable occupation that offers, may find lucrative employment.

  • Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only to set their minds upon it, and

  • adopt the proper means, as they do in regard to any other object which they wish to accomplish,

  • and the thing is easily done. But however easy it may be found to make money, I have

  • no doubt many of my hearers will agree it is the most difficult thing in the world to

  • keep it. The road to wealth is, as Dr. Franklin truly says, "as plain as the road to the mill."

  • It consists simply in expending less than we earn; that seems to be a very simple problem.

  • Mr. Micawber, one of those happy creations of the genial Dickens, puts the case in a

  • strong light when he says that to have annual income of twenty pounds per annum, and spend

  • twenty pounds and sixpence, is to be the most miserable of men; whereas, to have an income

  • of only twenty pounds, and spend but nineteen pounds and sixpence is to be the happiest

  • of mortals. Many of my readers may say, "we understand this: this is economy, and we know

  • economy is wealth; we know we can't eat our cake and keep it also." Yet I beg to say that

  • perhaps more cases of failure arise from mistakes on this point than almost any other. The fact

  • is, many people think they understand economy when they really do not.

  • True economy is misapprehended, and people go through life without properly comprehending

  • what that principle is. One says, "I have an income of so much, and here is my neighbor

  • who has the same; yet every year he gets something ahead and I fall short; why is it? I know

  • all about economy." He thinks he does, but he does not. There are men who think that

  • economy consists in saving cheese-parings and candle-ends, in cutting off two pence

  • from the laundress' bill and doing all sorts of little, mean, dirty things. Economy is

  • not meanness. The misfortune is, also, that this class of persons let their economy apply

  • in only one direction. They fancy they are so wonderfully economical in saving a half-penny

  • where they ought to spend twopence, that they think they can afford to squander in other

  • directions. A few years ago, before kerosene oil was discovered or thought of, one might

  • stop overnight at almost any farmer's house in the agricultural districts and get a very

  • good supper, but after supper he might attempt to read in the sitting-room, and would find

  • it impossible with the inefficient light of one candle. The hostess, seeing his dilemma,

  • would say: "It is rather difficult to read here evenings; the proverb says 'you must

  • have a ship at sea in order to be able to burn two candles at once;' we never have an

  • extra candle except on extra occasions." These extra occasions occur, perhaps, twice a year.

  • In this way the good woman saves five, six, or ten dollars in that time: but the information

  • which might be derived from having the extra light would, of course, far outweigh a ton

  • of candles. But the trouble does not end here. Feeling

  • that she is so economical in tallow candies, she thinks she can afford to go frequently

  • to the village and spend twenty or thirty dollars for ribbons and furbelows, many of

  • which are not necessary. This false connote may frequently be seen in men of business,

  • and in those instances it often runs to writing-paper. You find good businessmen who save all the

  • old envelopes and scraps, and would not tear a new sheet of paper, if they could avoid

  • it, for the world. This is all very well; they may in this way save five or ten dollars

  • a year, but being so economical (only in note paper), they think they can afford to waste

  • time; to have expensive parties, and to drive their carriages. This is an illustration of

  • Dr. Franklin's "saving at the spigot and wasting at the bung-hole;" "penny wise and pound foolish."

  • Punch in speaking of this "one idea" class of people says "they are like the man who

  • bought a penny herring for his family's dinner and then hired a coach and four to take it

  • home." I never knew a man to succeed by practising this kind of economy.

  • True economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go. 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 at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is attained.

  • 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. Here is

  • a recipe which I recommend: I have found it to work an excellent cure for extravagance,

  • and especially for mistaken economy: When you find that you have no surplus at the end

  • of the year, and yet have a good income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and

  • form them into a book and mark down every item of expenditure. Post it every day or

  • week in two columns, one headed "necessaries" or even "comforts", and the other headed "luxuries,"

  • and you will find that the latter column will be double, treble, and frequently ten times

  • greater than the former. The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most

  • of us can earn. Dr. Franklin says "it is the eyes of others and not our own eyes which

  • ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I should not care for fine clothes

  • or furniture." It is the fear of what Mrs. Grundy may say that keeps the noses of many

  • worthy families to the grindstone. In America many persons like to repeat "we are all free

  • and equal," but it is a great mistake in more senses than one.

  • That we are born "free and equal" is a glorious truth in one sense, yet we are not all born

  • equally rich, and we never shall be. One may say; "there is a man who has an income of

  • fifty thousand dollars per annum, while I have but one thousand dollars; I knew that

  • fellow when he was poor like myself; now he is rich and thinks he is better than I am;

  • I will show him that I am as good as he is; I will go and buy a horse and buggy; no, I

  • cannot do that, but I will go and hire one and ride this afternoon on the same road that

  • he does, and thus prove to him that I am as good as he is."

  • My friend, you need not take that trouble; you can easily prove that you are "as good

  • as he is;" you have only to behave as well as he does; but you cannot make anybody believe

  • that you are rich as he is. Besides, if you put on these "airs," add waste your time and

  • spend your money, your poor wife will be obliged to scrub her fingers off at home, and buy

  • her tea two ounces at a time, and everything else in proportion, in order that you may

  • keep up "appearances," and, after all, deceive nobody. On the other hand, Mrs. Smith may

  • say that her next-door neighbor married Johnson for his money, and "everybody says so." She

  • has a nice one-thousand dollar camel's hair shawl, and she will make Smith get her an

  • imitation one, and she will sit in a pew right next to her neighbor in church, in order to

  • prove that she is her equal. My good woman, you will not get ahead in the

  • world, if your vanity and envy thus take the lead. In this country, where we believe the

  • majority ought to rule, we ignore that principle in regard to fashion, and let a handful of

  • people, calling themselves the aristocracy, run up a false standard of perfection, and

  • in endeavoring to rise to that standard, we constantly keep ourselves poor; all the time

  • digging away for the sake of outside appearances. How much wiser to be a "law unto ourselves"

  • and say, "we will regulate our out-go by our income, and lay up something for a rainy day."

  • People ought to be as sensible on the subject of money-getting as on any other subject.

  • Like causes produces like effects. You cannot accumulate a fortune by taking the road that

  • leads to poverty. It needs no prophet to tell us that those who live fully up to their means,

  • without any thought of a reverse in this life, can never attain a pecuniary independence.

  • Men and women accustomed to gratify every whim and caprice, will find it hard, at first,

  • to cut down their various unnecessary expenses, and will feel it a great self-denial to live

  • in a smaller house than they have been accustomed to, with less expensive furniture, less company,

  • less costly clothing, fewer servants, a less number of balls, parties, theater-goings,

  • carriage-ridings, pleasure excursions, cigar-smokings, liquor-drinkings, and other extravagances;

  • but, after all, if they will try the plan of laying by a "nest-egg," or, in other words,

  • a small sum of money, at interest or judiciously invested in land, they will be surprised at

  • the pleasure to be derived from constantly adding to their little "pile," as well as

  • from all the economical habits which are engendered by this course.

  • The old suit of clothes, and the old bonnet and dress, will answer for another season;

  • the Croton or spring water taste better than champagne; a cold bath and a brisk walk will

  • prove more exhilarating than a ride in the finest coach; a social chat, an evening's

  • reading in the family circle, or an hour's play of "hunt the slipper" and "blind man's

  • buff" will be far more pleasant than a fifty or five hundred dollar party, when the reflection

  • on the difference in cost is indulged in by those who begin to know the pleasures of saving.

  • Thousands of men are kept poor, and tens of thousands are made so after they have acquired

  • quite sufficient to support them well through life, in consequence of laying their plans

  • of living on too broad a platform. Some families expend twenty thousand dollars per annum,

  • and some much more, and would scarcely know how to live on less, while others secure more

  • solid enjoyment frequently on a twentieth part of that amount. Prosperity is a more

  • severe ordeal than adversity, especially sudden prosperity. "Easy come, easy go," is an old

  • and true proverb. A spirit of pride and vanity, when permitted to have full sway, is the undying

  • canker-worm which gnaws the very vitals of a man's worldly possessions, let them be small

  • or great, hundreds, or millions. Many persons, as they begin to prosper, immediately expand

  • their ideas and commence expending for luxuries, until in a short time their expenses swallow

  • up their income, and they become ruined in their ridiculous attempts to keep up appearances,

  • and make a "sensation." I know a gentleman of fortune who says, that

  • when he first began to prosper, his wife would have a new and elegant sofa. "That sofa,"

  • he says, "cost me thirty thousand dollars!" When the sofa reached the house, it was found

  • necessary to get chairs to match; then side-boards, carpets and tables "to correspond" with them,

  • and so on through the entire stock of furniture; when at last it was found that the house itself

  • was quite too small and old-fashioned for the furniture, and a new one was built to

  • correspond with the new purchases; "thus," added my friend, "summing up an outlay of

  • thirty thousand dollars, caused by that single sofa, and saddling on me, in the shape of

  • servants, equipage, and the necessary expenses attendant upon keeping up a fine 'establishment,'

  • a yearly outlay of eleven thousand dollars, and a tight pinch at that: whereas, ten years

  • ago, we lived with much more real comfort, because with much less care, on as many hundreds.

  • The truth is," he continued, "that sofa would have brought me to inevitable bankruptcy,

  • had not a most unexampled title to prosperity kept me above it, and had I not checked the

  • natural desire to 'cut a dash'." The foundation of success in life is good

  • health: that is the substratum fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A person cannot

  • accumulate a fortune very well when he is sick. He has no ambition; no incentive; no

  • force. Of course, there are those who have bad health and cannot help it: you cannot

  • expect that such persons can accumulate wealth, but there are a great many in poor health

  • who need not be so. If, then, sound health is the foundation of

  • success and happiness in life, how important it is that we should study the laws of health,

  • which is but another expression for the laws of nature! The nearer we keep to the laws

  • of nature, the nearer we are to good health, and yet how many persons there are who pay

  • no attention to natural laws, but absolutely transgress them, even against their own natural

  • inclination. We ought to know that the "sin of ignorance" is never winked at in regard

  • to the violation of nature's laws; their infraction always brings the penalty. A child may thrust

  • its finger into the flames without knowing it will burn, and so suffers, repentance,

  • even, will not stop the smart. Many of our ancestors knew very little about the principle

  • of ventilation. They did not know much about oxygen, whatever other "gin" they might have

  • been acquainted with; and consequently they built their houses with little seven-by-nine

  • feet bedrooms, and these good old pious Puritans would lock themselves up in one of these cells,

  • say their prayers and go to bed. In the morning they would devoutly return thanks for the

  • "preservation of their lives," during the night, and nobody had better reason to be

  • thankful. Probably some big crack in the window, or in the door, let in a little fresh air,

  • and thus saved them. Many persons knowingly violate the laws of

  • nature against their better impulses, for the sake of fashion. For instance, there is

  • one thing that nothing living except a vile worm ever naturally loved, and that is tobacco;

  • yet how many persons there are who deliberately train an unnatural appetite, and overcome

  • this implanted aversion for tobacco, to such a degree that they get to love it. They have

  • got hold of a poisonous, filthy weed, or rather that takes a firm hold of them. Here are married

  • men who run about spitting tobacco juice on the carpet and floors, and sometimes even

  • upon their wives besides. They do not kick their wives out of doors like drunken men,

  • but their wives, I have no doubt, often wish they were outside of the house. Another perilous

  • feature is that this artificial appetite, like jealousy, "grows by what it feeds on;"

  • when you love that which is unnatural, a stronger appetite is created for the hurtful thing

  • than the natural desire for what is harmless. There is an old proverb which says that "habit

  • is second nature," but an artificial habit is stronger than nature. Take for instance,

  • an old tobacco-chewer; his love for the "quid" is stronger than his love for any particular

  • kind of food. He can give up roast beef easier than give up the weed.

  • Young lads regret that they are not men; they would like to go to bed boys and wake up men;

  • and to accomplish this they copy the bad habits of their seniors. Little Tommy and Johnny

  • see their fathers or uncles smoke a pipe, and they say, "If I could only do that, I

  • would be a man too; uncle John has gone out and left his pipe of tobacco, let us try it."

  • They take a match and light it, and then puff away. "We will learn to smoke; do you like

  • it Johnny?" That lad dolefully replies: "Not very much; it tastes bitter;" by and by he

  • grows pale, but he persists and he soon offers up a sacrifice on the altar of fashion; but

  • the boys stick to it and persevere until at last they conquer their natural appetites

  • and become the victims of acquired tastes. I speak "by the book," for I have noticed

  • its effects on myself, having gone so far as to smoke ten or fifteen cigars a day; although

  • I have not used the weed during the last fourteen years, and never shall again. The more a man

  • smokes, the more he craves smoking; the last cigar smoked simply excites the desire for

  • another, and so on incessantly. Take the tobacco-chewer. In the morning, when

  • he gets up, he puts a quid in his mouth and keeps it there all day, never taking it out

  • except to exchange it for a fresh one, or when he is going to eat; oh! yes, at intervals

  • during the day and evening, many a chewer takes out the quid and holds it in his hand

  • long enough to take a drink, and then pop it goes back again. This simply proves that

  • the appetite for rum is even stronger than that for tobacco. When the tobacco-chewer

  • goes to your country seat and you show him your grapery and fruit house, and the beauties

  • of your garden, when you offer him some fresh, ripe fruit, and say, "My friend, I have got

  • here the most delicious apples, and pears, and peaches, and apricots; I have imported

  • them from Spain, France and Italyjust see those luscious grapes; there is nothing more

  • delicious nor more healthy than ripe fruit, so help yourself; I want to see you delight

  • yourself with these things;" he will roll the dear quid under his tongue and answer,

  • "No, I thank you, I have got tobacco in my mouth." His palate has become narcotized by

  • the noxious weed, and he has lost, in a great measure, the delicate and enviable taste for

  • fruits. This shows what expensive, useless and injurious habits men will get into. I

  • speak from experience. I have smoked until I trembled like an aspen leaf, the blood rushed

  • to my head, and I had a palpitation of the heart which I thought was heart disease, till

  • I was almost killed with fright. When I consulted my physician, he said "break off tobacco using."

  • I was not only injuring my health and spending a great deal of money, but I was setting a

  • bad example. I obeyed his counsel. No young man in the world ever looked so beautiful,

  • as he thought he did, behind a fifteen cent cigar or a meerschaum!

  • These remarks apply with tenfold force to the use of intoxicating drinks. To make money,

  • requires a clear brain. A man has got to see that two and two make four; he must lay all

  • his plans with reflection and forethought, and closely examine all the details and the

  • ins and outs of business. As no man can succeed in business unless he has a brain to enable

  • him to lay his plans, and reason to guide him in their execution, so, no matter how

  • bountifully a man may be blessed with intelligence, if the brain is muddled, and his judgment

  • warped by intoxicating drinks, it is impossible for him to carry on business successfully.

  • How many good opportunities have passed, never to return, while a man was sipping a "social