Thrift adds value to character

By Younas Chaudhary

When I was a young boy, I grew up in a remote part of Pakistan with no savings and our family lived a “hand to mouth” existence. My father was a land-rich, but a cash-poor farmer and in those days, farmers rarely obtained loans from the banks. So, you can imagine that I learned thrift the hard way at a very early age.

I had only 2 shirts growing up. One was worn at home and the other was   worn on special occasions. I had only one pair of pajamas and just one pair of shoes that my parents bought for me.  However, some of my friends either wore cheap handmade slippers or walked barefoot.

During my youth, we rarely ate meat at home. Sometimes, my mother would cut a pound of meat into small pieces and add lots of vegetables. She wanted to make sure that the amount of food looked like there was sufficient quantity to feed our hungry stomachs and it was most likely that she wanted to teach us the value of thrift. In traditional Pakistani culture at that time, the man of the house, namely my father, took a major share of the meat and the remaining four of us, including my mother, ate what was left.

A bottle of Coke was a luxury for us. Coke was purchased only on special occasions when we had guests at home. If any portion of the Coke was left, my younger sister and I would share a few sips of what was left over.  

We were thrifty in all that we did and were never allowed to leave any food on our plates. My heart breaks when I see millions of tons of food wasted every day in the Western World.

When I immigrated to Canada in the seventies, thrift came along as a habit and it became second nature to me. I remember getting my first paycheck, a whopping $265. I was making $3.31 an hour as a welder’s helper. This was a huge amount when I converted it into Pakistani rupees (You can read more about it and my other experiences as an immigrant in my book “From Dirt Roads to Black Gold.”)

During my early years in Canada, I would spend hours converting Canadian dollars into Pakistani rupees, often scrawling it on a piece of paper. I was making more money in a week than my father made in a year as a farmer back home!

Despite better lives in Canada, both I and my wife, Bushra, learned early on that we had to live on a budget within our income at that time. So, when we went to the grocery store once a week, we always took a list of items to buy and we stuck to it.  We did not add anything extra that would increase our expenses. We were reminded of Ben Franklin’s famous quote: “Beware of little expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship.”

Bushra and I would buy the shank meat, the cheapest cut of meat in those days, and we cooked it following my mother’s thrifty recipe- more vegetables and less meat. At home, Bushra always cooked healthy food at a fraction of the cost of eating out and thrift became a habit. Our “takeout” was a homemade pizza at 20 cents for the dough and 75 cents for the low-grade ground beef.

Two of our kids were born in Canada and they were my wife’s pride and joy. Bushra would put in layaway her kids expensive clothes and would pay $5 to $10 each month until they were paid in full. Then she would dress her kids, like a king & queen.

Once I began my “side hustle” as a used car salesman, I made it a point never to incur debt. I always reinvested what I made into the small business.

Today, as millions of people are stuck at home during the current pandemic, what worries me the most is that 4 in 10 people in this wonderful country, have hardly $400 in their savings account! This is quite sad for me.

How can we call ourselves the richest nation in the world when 40% of us, do not even have a few hundred dollars in our savings account and many of us are living on a “paycheck to paycheck” basis? I feel, it is the result of our current, careless lifestyle.

Today’s parents must bear the blame for not teaching thriftiness to their children. By their actions and deeds, they have demonstrated a sheer lack of thriftiness and this has continued through generations. When people can make a healthy dinner at home for a few dollars why are so many people using credit cards to buy their meals and regularly use services like, mobile eat, while they have no savings of their own? I cannot understand the logic and I believe people are making poor financial decisions.  

A lack of fiscal discipline and the absence of thrift is ruining our society. I do not feel sorry for people who complain that they do not have enough, ask for more, and more, and do not try to live within their means and do not teach good values to their children as demonstrated by their own actions and deeds.

Our major businesses have also resorted to overspending and it is very evident as you see billion-dollar companies going broke so quickly because of waste and overspending.

My philosophy about thrift is very simple. If you are making $100, do not spend $200, just because you can get credit from the loan sharks around you or you are able to scam it from others. Instead, work hard, be consistent, work smart, try to make another $100 doing a “side hustle” and save that for the future.

A long time ago, the Roman philosopher Seneca said: “Thrift comes too late when you find it at the bottom of your purse”. Right now, we all have hit the bottom and those who were thrifty have something in their purses!

Today with the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic around the world and lockdowns, America is changing daily in front of our very eyes. Unfortunately, very few are paying attention to it.

Wake up…. America, smell the coffee!

Find out more about me in my best -selling book “From dirt roads to black gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.

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