DEBT AND THE EMERGENCY FUND.
'We are creatures of habit. We succeed or we fail as we acquire good habits or bad ones; and we acquire good habits as easily as bad ones.. That is a fact. MOST PEOPLE do not believe this. Only THOSE who FIND rr OUT succeed in life."—Hannorr SPENCER.
A man in debt, however it has come about, has borrowed money. He does not owe the tailor a suit of clothes, nor the grocer a list of supplies; he owes the actual money in volved in the transactions. They have really extended the money to him as a loan.
While the best advice about debt is Punch's famous dictum—Don't! it is often impossible to avoid it in a measure. So customary has it become, for example, to carry certain fixed charges on "monthly account," that merchants regard monthly payments, if promptly made, as equivalent to cash. If a strictly cash busi ness is impossible, debt should proceed no further than the regular monthly account.
Probably the number of families that, by forethought, adhere to the rule of prompt monthly payments and no debts, is compara tively small. When they become entangled with bills they cannot pay, with the loan shark and the like, the high cost of living comes in for another hearty denunciation. It is a handy excuse, but it is not always valid. Much debt is contracted that has nothing to do with the cost of living as made necessary by eco nomical family administration.
Recent efforts in New York, and elsewhere, to legislate the loan shark out of business, brought forth many pitiful cases of borrow ing that were apparently made necessary by dire circumstances. The way, of course, to avoid such conditions, is to prepare for them. One who has paid a loan shark ninety dol lars for a loan of thirty, is certainly to be sympathized with ; but even he may look back to days before he found himself so hard pressed, and recall not a few instances of expenditures that he must repent in the days of trouble.
It should be sufficient to say: Do not bring debt upon yourself. Yet it is hard, if not quite impossible, for one to realize in the days when Want does not pinch, that a little care then will keep one from the misfortune of the usurer's game. Once again, it must be
repeated that the whole philosophy of money is : Spend less than you earn. Better the restriction of frugal economy for years, than a few months of being pursued by a pitiless creditor.
It has, indeed, been well said that he who does not spend all he earns is a capitalist.
All advice that may be given about possible future debt is summed up in the words : Al ways be preparing for it. Unexpected ex penditures fall upon all of us. It is on the occasion of their arrival that we realize their meaning. Many a family encounters what seems, and virtually is, a catastrophe when obligations come and there has been no an ticipation.
It should be the aim of every householder to build up an Emergency account. He may not need it for years, but if the need comes and there is nothing in hand, one wishes that he had stinted himself unmercifully to be pre pared for what has happened. A small ac count paid up regularly as insurance against the unexpected is an absolute family neces sity. Put aside a few cents or a dollar a week, any sum you can, but do it with regu larity. Keep it in a safe place. Even a year may go by and no call be made upon it, but when it does come, have this home made acci dent policy ready to help. You will never know the independence and comfort there are in it, until you have been caught without it.
Loan shark borrowing is seldom resorted to except in extreme measures. Borrowing "between friends," as "man to man," and so on, is common. A man who borrows among his friends, gradually extending the circle of his indebtedness, may have been born a gen tleman, but he is rapidly losing the charac teristics of one. Even if a man becomes so skillful in doing it that it gives him no con cern, he should have enough sense to realize that his habit is the common talk of his ac quaintances.