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The Sum Of Trifles: Or, "A Penny Saved Is A Penny Gained"
by [?]

“Well, let us see. Your wages per day come to one dollar thirty-three cents and one-third. This sum multiplied by twelve, the number of days lost in the year, gives sixteen dollars. Half a dollar spent a day for twelve days makes six dollars, and six dollars added to sixteen amount to twenty-two. Now, have I not calculated it fairly?”

“I believe you have,” replied Johnson, in an altered tone. “But I never could have believed it.”

“Add to this, thirteen dollars a year that you pay for oysters, and you have–“

“Not so fast, if you please. I spend no such sum as you name, in oysters.”

“Let us try our multiplication again,” coolly remarked the friend. “Twenty-five cents a week multiplied into fifty-two weeks, gives exactly thirteen dollars. Isn’t it so?”

“Humph! I believe you are right. But I never would have thought of it.”

“Add this thirteen dollars to the twenty-two it costs you for twelve holidays in the year, and this again to the price of your beer and tobacco, and you will have just sixty-one dollars a year that might be saved. A little more careful examination into your expenses, would, no doubt, detect the sum of fourteen dollars that might be as well saved as not, which added to the sixty-one dollars, will make seventy-five dollars a year uselessly spent, the exact sum I am able to put into the Savings’ Bank.”

Johnson was both surprised and mortified, at being thus convinced of actually spending nearly one-fifth of his entire earnings in self-gratification of one kind or another. He promised both himself and his friend, that he would at once reform matters, and try to get a little a-head, as he had a growing family that would soon be much more expensive than it was at present.

Some months afterward, the friend who had spoken so freely to Johnson, met him coming out of a tavern, and in the act of putting tobacco in his mouth. The latter looked a little confused, but said with as much indifference as he could assume:

“You see I am at my old tricks again?”

“Yes, and I am truly sorry for it. I was in hopes you were going to practice a thorough system of economy, in order to get beforehand.”

“I did try, but it’s no use. As to giving up tobacco, that is out of the question. I can’t do it. Nor could you, if you had ever formed the bad habit of chewing or smoking.”

“We can do almost any thing, if we try hard enough, Johnson. We fail, because we give up trying. My tobacco and cigars used to cost me just twice what yours cost you, and yet I made a resolution to abandon the use of the vile weed altogether, and what is better, have kept my resolution. So, you see, the thing can be done. All that is wanted, is sufficient firmness and perseverance. I used to like a glass of ale, too, and a plate of oysters, but I saw that the expense was rather a serious matter, and that the indulgence did not do me a particle of good. So I gave them up, also; and if you try hard enough, you can do it, too.”

“I don’t know–perhaps I might; but somehow or other, it strikes me that seventy or eighty dollars a year, laid by in the Savings’ Bank, is rather a dear saving, if made at the expense of every comfort a poor man has. What good is the money going to do?”

“A strange question, that, to ask, Johnson. I will tell you what good it is going to do me. I intend saving every cent I can possibly lay by, until I get five hundred dollars; and then I mean to set up my trade for myself, and become a master-workman. After that, I hope to get along a little faster, and be able to send my children, who will be pretty well advanced by the time, to better schools. I shall also be able, I hope, to get help for my wife, who will need assistance in the house.”