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Should you Save More or Earn More?

Is depriving yourself of joy a good thing?

I shall never forget one of my most profound life’s lessons. It came, as many light bulb moments do, unexpectedly over a glass of wine. But what a glass!! A friend married a widower some years after the death of his first wife. His children were grown up and had left home. They invited us to dinner and served our wine. Two of the glasses were exquisite crystal, one in a deep shade of red and one in blue. The other people had wine in ordinary glasses. I commented on the fact and out came a story that held the seed of a life decision that has served me well: The husband and his brother were each given a set of 12 of these hand-cut glasses upon the occasions of their weddings, by their parents who had saved these 24 treasures when they had to flee their homes in Poland during the anti-Jewish pogroms. The first wife of our host had never used them for fear of breaking one. However, every time they moved house or when they were taken out of the display to be dusted, one would break. Now only two were left and the second wife decided to use them with respect but without fear and guilt. The host’s brother and his wife had used theirs regularly and often, and still had 7 unbroken ones left.

Poverty Consciousness

The fear of not having enough is often found to be unjustified. I still think about the Peter Jander painting I did not buy, but could have, as the worry about being too extravagant had turned out to be groundless. My family wanted for nothing after all; I had made a plan to earn more anyway.

There is a line in Charles Dickens uttered by (I think) old Mister Micawber who always had “penury difficulties” where he recalls the pleasure the purchase of a pretty bonnet for his wife had brought her. It is too, too counterproductive to skimp and save, and it sucks the energy and joy out of the day.


Isn’t it better to work creatively around what one earns, find ways of earning more, and enjoy the rewards? Isn’t it better by far to feel energised by a weekend by the sea? Don’t you feel as if you can stride across continents and sing on top of the world when you wear those gorgeous suede boots? I feel as if I can move mountains when I get something I want: I may not need that lovely pillar-box red gas heater. I could sit with a hot water bottle on my lap. But the comfort the heater brings builds courage for the next day’s work, allows me to give my all in my work, warms the creative juices, not only the toes.

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