Uncommon Cents: Financial swear words worth saying

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This article concerns a set of related concepts behind three swear words. “F—.” No, no, not that one.  They are naughty financial words, unspoken in polite conversation and considered gauche in principle, if not strongly counter-cultural. They are “thriftiness,” “frugality” and “savings.”

We have socially evolved (perhaps devolved) from an economy of need to an economy of desire. Our so-called “needs” have become as manufactured as the objects we buy, separated from a natural necessity. Those manufactured, manipulated needs drive us by herd instinct to buy more and more stuff, regardless of what we need now or in the long run. In turn, this manufactured need promotes debt as a good thing until the debtor overextends by one more dollar. It’s the economy of desire that brings the three swear words to our attention.

To be thrifty is by definition to act with “wise economy in the management of money or other assets.” It comes from an Old Norse word meaning “to thrive.” To save means to “avoid spending money in the present to keep or accumulate it for the future.” It also means to “rescue from harm.” To be frugal means “to avoid living with waste.” It comes from a Latin word which means “useful” or “temperate.”

You can instantly see why these terms are swear words in our world right now, and why they are often unheard, unused and ignored. They make us question our values, spending habits and personal future.  They may be ugly, but if you do not want to be part of the herd, then make the words part of your life planning, financial or otherwise.

Here is one further definition. The word economy” comes from Greek.  “Oikonomia” means “household management.”  Since 2008, we have seen how the world’s self-appointed masters of the household have managed our global home. You and I can do better and prosper sooner if we prepare ourselves by adopting frugality and thriftiness, as well as saving.

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