Why It’s Good to Be Frugal… But Not Cheap

We’ve gotten ourselves in quite a predicament.

You see, Mrs. Manward likes old windmills. We reckon that’s what happens when you grow up on a big ol’ Midwest cattle ranch.

We agree that there’s something about their weathered, creaky spin that yearns to tell a tale. They’re the icons of a simpler time.

We’ve long had our eye on a beautiful windmill at a farm just down the road from us.

It stands tall like a metalclad lighthouse, begging folks to take a look.

“I’m working,” it seems to whisper with each push of the breeze. “I’m still working.”

We once joked to Mrs. Manward that if the farm was ever put up for sale, we’d buy it for her just for the windmill.

We’ll never say such a thing again… because guess where we spent our weekend?

The world’s most expensive windmill has hit the market.


The property is gorgeous. We imagine we’d make a pretty penny charging young brides to live out their wedding fantasies saying their vowels along the winding creek.

But the house, well, farmers don’t spend much time indoors.

There’s not much there.

We’d have to give up a lot… and perhaps we should.

It’s a good reason for us to continue our series on Franklin’s virtues.

We’ve covered four of the wise old-timer’s 13 virtues so far. That means it’s on to No. 5: Frugality.

“Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself,” Franklin wrote, “that is, waste nothing.”

If the farm becomes our new home… the home would certainly give us a reason to waste nothing – not a single square inch.

This is one of our favorite virtues because it’s so darn contrarian.

Modern society is quite wasteful.

If it breaks… we buy new.

If it looks old… toss it in the trash.

If it isn’t the latest generation… what good is it?

We get notes all the time from folks that don’t have enough cash to invest. Or they say there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done.

We say see virtue No. 5.

We bet they have all they need.

You see, frugality isn’t just about being cheap with our money.

In fact, some say being stingy is a vice. We wouldn’t disagree.

You see, just like so much of what we do, the idea has its nuances.

Feeling Good vs. Doing Good

We must read Franklin’s words carefully. He doesn’t tell us to be cheap or spend no money.

Far from it.

No, he tells us to have at it… spend all we want. Just be sure that what we spend does “good to others or yourself.”

Those are powerful words.

Spend money on a new car to get to work… good to go.

Spend money on a fancy new car just to impress Tim across the street… shame, shame.

Spend time surfing the web looking for the next hot stock… good on you.

Spend time surfing the web looking for the next hot girl… we’re sorry to hear it.

The lesson is clear. We must spend our time, our money and our attention on things that do good for us or others.

If it does us no good – if it only makes us feel good – then move on.

Walking the Line

There’s a careful balance in this idea… especially when the advice is coming from a guy that’s made a career out of investing and making small sums of money into big sums of money.

If we’re not careful, we’ll look like a hypocrite.

That’s why it’s important that you know what’s good for you.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting more money. Wealth, after all, is the conduit to our Liberty. (Franklin, as today’s Rooster’s Crow shows, died quite wealthy and quite free.)

But you must know why you want that money and what good you’ll do with it once you get it.

And what’s crazy is we’ve found that once this sort of plan is in place, accumulating large sums of money becomes that much easier.

It’s because we begin to cut out everything that’s wasteful.

That windmill spinning on top of the hill is a fine example.

It’s not flashy. In fact, the blades are showing the scars of a lifetime in the elements. Blizzard winds… hail… and blazing heat have born a patina that’s as honest as it is ugly.

But the old thing turns with the wind and pumps water to the old homestead.

Sure, it could be replaced with an electric pump that will hum quietly through the fiercest of gales… but that wouldn’t do a whole lot of good.

Mrs. Manward, after all, doesn’t have a love of pumps.

As we ponder the for-sale sign in front of the old farm, we must consider the good the land could do.

Freedom… self-sufficiency… feeding our neighbors.

All good.

But then again… there’s not much closet space.

We may need to test our frugality.

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