from McClure's Magazine
The Ginger Jar
by Ellis Parker Butler
Just about twenty years ago a poet I know got married. Like a lot of other poets he earned very little from his poetry, so he had a job downtown in the city, and that did not pay him much either. It was rather hard sledding for the poet and his wife and there was only one way, they found, in which they could manage to get out of debt. They began the very unpoetical job of keeping an account book, entering every item under the head of "food" or "carfare" or "clothes" or whatever it might be. This did not bring in any more money, but it quickly showed where too much was being spent. Every week, looking over the book, the poet and his wife would see where they might save a little the next week, so that more could be paid on their small debt.
Wasted money is most often wasted because no account is kept of how it is spent. American pockets have no buttons. The average honest American pocket might as well be built upside-down, so that the money could spill out as fast as it is put in. The poet's account book buttoned his pocket against the small, unnecessary expenditures that run into dollars, and then into tens of dollars, shockingly fast.
This particular poet and his wife had a jar on the mantel in their dining room that they called the "ginger jar." It was not an actual ginger jar, which is a jar preserved ginger comes in, but they called it that after a ginger jar in the story of "Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine." Every Saturday night, after the accounts had been entered, all that remained was put in the "ginger jar," and one day the poet wrote these verses about the ginger jar:
Now, this is the song of the ginger jar
That stands on our mantelpiece,
And in it all our riches are --
Good luck to them, may they increase!
All of our riches, and two brass pins,
And a pencil to keep the account;
For we figure it up when the week begins,
And duly apply each amount,
"This for the gas man, and this for the rent,
And this for the man who brings ice;
For papers, each morning and evening two cents,
And so much for sugar and spice;
And this for the laundry and so much for me
To ride down each day on the car,
And so much for sundries, and now I can see
The bottom of our ginger jar."
An empty ginger jar, or an empty pocket, is not such a serious matter if the money has been used in a sane and systematic manner. If a rightful share has gone into a savings bank or to pay bothersome old indebtedness the empty pocket is a triumphant pocket. On the other hand, the most miserable feeling any man or woman can have is that the family money is vanishing each week and each month, and year after year, with nothing to show for it. The husband becomes a hopeless hack and the wife a hopeless drudge.
In ninety per cent of the American homes both husband and wife want to save money and improve their station in life, and would do it if they knew how, but their money seems to vanish. "I don't know how to account for it," the wife says, "but the money just seems to go!" "I'll swear I don't know where all the money I earn goes," says the husband hopelessly. Right there, in those two statements, are the reasons so many families fail to "get ahead"; the wife "don't know how to account for it" and the husband "don't know where the money goes." With the right kind of expense book the wife would know how to account for the money, and the husband would know where the money went. If a man thinks he is spending ten dollars a month for unnecessary things and by keeping an account finds he is actually spending thirty dollars uselessly he has something definite to grasp. He knows what to do about it. If a woman "guesses" her household food expenses to be eleven dollars a week and an account book shows her they are eighteen dollars, she is going to know whether she can save something there or not.
Team work in the home means sane economy and something saved each month, with better living. You can't, however, expect any man or woman to save unless the place where the saving may be made can be seen. An account book is the greatest help toward saving and wealth. You know that every board of directors has laid before it every month -- and sometimes every week -- a schedule of expenses. It sees that office expenses are so much, factory expenses so much, sales expenses so much, and it knows where to order expenses reduced. Just so, a household expense book shows where expenses can be cut and where, perhaps, more should be spent. It shows just where a reasonable economy will permit the family to put a little more money in the bank.
Isn't it true, Mr. Man or Mrs. Lady, that whenever you get a bit frightened about your wastefulness you begin keeping an account of your expenditures in some fashion or other?
Now, to be useful an account book of expenses must be one that is easily kept. It has to be something so simple and easy to enter things in that it takes little time -- almost, no time at all.
I am not in the habit of writing advertisements and I would not be writing this one if I did not think many people would be grateful because of it. I believe, for one thing, that it is the duty of every American today to save every cent he can. We must buy Liberty Bonds and Thrift Stamps and War Saving Stamps and save money to pay our war taxes, and for other war-winning purposes. I don't have to say: "If I kept an expense account I would know where to save," because I do keep an expense account, but I want to say this -- I stopped keeping my expense account in my self-originated way and discarded that way the day I came into possession of Woolson's Economy Expense Book.
I have written a great number of stories lately urging people to save and suggesting methods of keeping ahead in the world, and I have sold the stories to magazines and have been paid for them. Magazines don't buy stories that mention articles that are for sale or I would have written a story about Woolson's Economy Expense Book. I am writing this as an advertisement because I hope a great many people will use Woolson's Economy Expense Book, as I am using it, and find it an aid to saving, as I am finding it.
A professional bookkeeper or accountant would not need this book because he could plan a book for himself, but I believe he would be the first to buy this book because he would appreciate its handiness. That is the thing that most of all commends the book to me, and I have been a bookkeeper. The book is so simple and so wise that it tells you itself how to keep it. That is, above all else, what an account book for the home must do.
We are not a stingy nation and I don't want this nation to be stingy. This Woolson's Economy Expense Book will not make anyone stingy. It will not make misers. If some of our few misers would use this book and saw how little was jotted down in the column "Gifts, Charity, etc.," during any year there might be fewer misers. The book merely shows the reasonable man or woman what becomes of the money spent, where savings may properly be made, and where more or less extravagance can be trimmed down.
Everyone says: "If anybody can show me where I can save money I'd be only too glad to save it." Nobody can show you that but yourself. You can only show it to yourself in one way, by showing what your various expenses are. You can only know what your expenses are by keeping an account of them. The average man and woman can only keep an account of expenses by having a book so simple and so complete that it is no trouble to keep it entered up from day to day, or from week to week. I think this Woolson's Economy Expense Book is just that simple and that complete. That is why I have been willing to write this advertisement.
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We want every man or woman who believes that money should be spent intelligently to have an opportunity to examine Woolson's Economy Expense Book. There is no need to add further description to what Mr. Butler has said.
Income taxes must be paid next June. This book will help you plan to meet your tax and reduce it to a minimum. For it will supply you with a record of certain disbursements, such as taxes, interest, charities, etc., which may be deducted from your income.
Right now when interest in thrift is so keen the publisher desires to place several hundred thousand copies of Woolson's Economy Expense Book with the people of this country. Accordingly they will send a copy to anybody interested, absolutely on approval for five days' examination. Send no money ($2.00) unless you prefer to do so. Merely write or fill out the coupon and the book will be sent you for five days' examination. If it is satisfactory remit $2.00.