The Joy of Frugality

This was inspired by a post on Suvro Chatterjee’s blog about Warren Buffet. Warren Buffet is currently the richest man, having surpassed Bill Gates recently, but lives a pretty modest life. I’ve read before that many of the greatest mililonaires become wealthy by being very frugal (read: cheap), rather than actually making a lot of money. We tend to assume higher pay == greater wealth, but this is often untrue if we live an expensive lifestyle.

The Buddha, in his advice to a lay person named Sigala, the Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31), gives practical advice on the matter:

“What are the six channels for dissipating wealth which he [a noble disciple of the Buddha] does not pursue?

(a) “indulgence in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness;
(b) sauntering in streets at unseemly hours;
(c) frequenting theatrical shows;
(d) indulgence in gambling which causes heedlessness;
(e) association with evil companions;
(f) the habit of idleness.

Here, the Buddha is telling Sigala how to avoid blowing his money on foolish or disgraceful pursuits, and most pretty much speak for themselves. The important point here is that the Buddha didn’t emphasize making more money, or being a skinflint, but changing one’s lifestyle and habits to avoid wasteful pursuits.

Now this statement, while true, may sound like something of a killjoy. Afterall, people like to drink once in a while,* gamble a little,** and have a little fun, but there is a practical benefit to all this. I quote from the Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching, chapter 59:

Only through thrift can one be prepared;
Being prepared means having a heavy store of integrity;
With a heavy store of integrity, he can overcome anything;
Able to overcome anything, no one knows his limits;

This is called “sinking roots firm and deep, the Way of long life and lasting vision.”
–Trans. David Mair

So, if you feel like you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck, instead of trying to earn more money, just be more frugal. :)

* – Alcohol is technically a poison. Just thought I’d remind you. ;)

** – Gambling is fun until someone loses. It’s a great way to kill friendships over money, even over small bets.

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