Sail without a chart and you never know where the ship is taking you.
The preceding chapter should have made it clear that every man must devise his own system of appropriation, adapting it as closely as he can to his peculiar circumstances. And it should be no less clear that a necessary fac tor in every effort at appropriation is an ac curate record of expenditure, covering a pe riod long enough to show what the habits are that create expenses. This brings us to the subject of keeping accounts.
In our love for freedom we are inclined to think that all restriction is servitude. We immediately rebel against any systematic act that results in revealing us to ourselves. But true freedom is the child, not of carelessness but of forethought and just self-government.
No man can find true pleasure in life who refuses to care for the physical body. The very possession of the body makes it incum bent on us to seek freedom by first giving it the due amount of care that makes freedom possible. This is equally true of money. To possess whatever portion of freedom we can have through money, we must devote care ful thought to it. Unwatched financial oper ations, however small, like the uncared for body, soon cause trouble.
What is the ultimate object of keeping ac counts? Primarily, it makes the humblest wage earner a good business man, in that it per mits him to see at a glance what he takes in, what he gives out, and also, what he receives for what he gives out.
No elaborate form of bookkeeping is neces sary to keep accounts accurately. The prime necessity is to ascertain where the money goes. Few men know that. When questioned, they forget the countless little things that have, in the course of time, established themselves as habits to be paid for. Get a pocket account book for a few cents, and devote some months, or a year, to recording the history of every penny. If you rebel at this practice it is probably because you are cowardly; you are afraid to see yourself in the mirror of your own financial transactions. Or, you may rebel at the trouble. But why a man who prides himself on Sunday on being made in the Di vine image, should think it beneath his dig nity to know what he has done with the money for which he gives his thought and strength on the other six days, is not clear.
It is worth while to dismiss this, and simi lar objections, and to get down to business. An accurate record of small and great ex penses, day by day, for a year, is no child's play. It requires character to do it right, and it develops the character of one who does it. If you have a feeling of revulsion at see ing on paper in your own handwriting, the recurrence of five or ten cents every day for beer, or ten, twenty, or thirty cents for cigars or cigarettes, it is worth analyzing.
Why do you feel that way about it? It will not be long before you find that accurate daily accounts are not only an in teresting record, but that they soon become a potent corrective. If you are really inter ested in fortune building you will soon dis cover, in watching small expenditures, that the majority of men never come to possess a modest fortune because they drop it by the wayside. The world to-day is full of receptacles to catch coins for others. These coins accumulate into vast sums. If any one of us could contrive a mechanism that would as regularly catch our stray coins for us, we should rapidly find ourselves beyond the reach of poverty.
Exactly this kind of a machine can be made by the two processes of careful appropriation and accurate keeping of accounts. One of the first results of keeping accounts is that it puts us on guard against habits of appar ently trifling expenditures that are small day by day, but enormous when carried on for a period of years. Another result, equally potent, comes from pride of accomplishment. The moment one succeeds in guarding his money, the saving account begins to grow. With its growth comes a rightful pride of possession, and a growing conviction that one is becoming master of the situation. If evil days fall, there is provision; or, in other words, by daily economy one soon secures an amount of protection that, when neces sary, covers weeks and months.