Making and Saving Money Ben Franklin’s Way

In Today's Day, We Can Still Learn From Benjamin Franklin

We all know Benjamin Franklin for his famous quotations, as an inventor, a writer, a businessman, an environmentalist, a diplomat, a statesman, and his participation in the Declaration of Independence, just to list a few things he accomplished in his lifetime. Franklin had a philosophy about most things in life including money.

He wrote numerous publications trying to give life lessons to the common man. One of his most famous writings is "Poor Richard's Almanac", which he published from 1732 until 1757. It is filled with words of wisdom. As with everything Franklin did, his foresight from colonial times holds true even today. Poor Richard’s Almanac and his numerous other writings had to do with living a good moral, and honest life, through diligence and hard work. Following his wise words can help everyone lead a more financially secure life.

We know many of Ben Franklin’s sayings, and may not even know they came from Poor Richard’s Almanac:

  • "God helps those who help themselves."
  • "Never leave that till tomorrow, which you can do today."
  • "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."


Franklin Wanted to Help the Common Man Flourish

Franklin wanted to help the common man achieve wealth and he spread his wisdom through his writings. He wanted to teach people to save money, and shared his wisdom with these words; "If you would be wealthy, think of saving, as well as of getting. away, then, with your expensive follies, and you will not have then so much reason to complain of hard times." Benjamin Franklin's picture has graced the $100 bill since 1928, to honor his contribution to our monetary system and his insightful and brilliant advice that has withstood time like a classic novel.

Franklin wrote many essays and letters including "The Way to Wealth"His writings include “Advice to a Young Worker”, and “The Path of Virtue”. Ben Franklin had many ideas on how to lead a life of prosperity.

What is Your Answer to This Question?

Fugio Penny

Franklin Believed in Being a Diligent Worker

Franklin had a lot to say about money because he dealt with it on very different levels than most of us ever would get the opportunity to. Back in colonial times, the colonies printed their own money in order to separate themselves from England. When Franklin moved to Philadelphia in 1723, it was the first year Pennsylvania issued their own paper money. Over the years, Franklin printed money for many of the colonies using a special technique to prevent counterfeiting. He used his writings as a proponent of using paper money in his 1729 essay “A Modest Enquiry in to the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency”. He was influential in the design of the first penny known as Fugio penny.

He was an astute observer of what was happening with the colonies and voiced his ideas for changes to the fiscal system that was in place. He debated with other colonists and handled monetary conflicts with Britain. Near the end of his life, Franklin became proactive and influential in the early set up of the banking system we have today. Because of his observations, knowledge, and commonsense approach to money, the wisdom Franklin imparts from his writings is as applicable today as it was when he wrote it for colonial time

Franklin held to the philosophy that the way to prosperity is by working hard. In his printing of "Poor Richard’s Almanac" he had many quotes about his philosophy of money.

Franklin Grew Up Very Poor

Franklin acquired most of his wealth through his printing. He started printing a gazette newspaper in 1729 . From 1733-1758 he printed Poor Richard’s Almanack under a pen name, which had a theme of being industrious and being thrifty. In total he printed approximately 400 books, newspapers, pamphlets and other printed materials where he professed his knowledge to the common man. He wanted to instill virtues and good habits in all people so they could achieve satisfaction in their lives. He worked on improving his own character on a daily basis.

Benjamin Franklin started his life from an austere beginning. We know him as an inventor, but he made enough money from his printing, that he never patented any of his inventions. In fact, in 1737, he invented the craft of printing nature imprints using casts from leaves on a copper plate printing press. This became the image on the back of New Jersey’s paper money at the time. Franklin intentionally designed the currency this way to make it difficult to counterfeit the bills. He wanted everyone to be able to benefit from his discoveries. He lived a modest, and somewhat frugal life. He retired from his businesses at about the age of 42. He was modest about his affluence and always remembered his impoverished youth.

Franklin Taught the Common Man Through His Famous Quotes

One of his best known publishing works was "Poor Richard’s Almanac", which he printed on a weekly basis for 25 years, filled with quotes that we still use today. He used his humor and astute observation of human nature to teach people about his ideas to live a quality life and to be of good character. After knowing these facts about Ben Franklin, it is probably a good idea to follow his advice to learn and earn your way to prosperity. Here are some of Ben Franklin’s most well renowned writings about money:

  • One of Franklin’s many writings include “Necessary Hints to Those that Would Be Rich”, written in 1736. Some famous quotes are wise advice that can be applied today “The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money” Centuries have not changed what money does to man, as can be see in Franklin’s writing “at this time, when the general complaint is that money is scarce, it will be an act of kindness to inform the money less how they may reinforce their pockets. I will acquaint them with the true secret of money-catching, the certain way to fill empty purses, and how to keep them always full ” Franklin goes on to tell his readers that through hard work and honesty they will have what they need and they should spend less than they make. If people did this, he said, they will “never cry again with the empty bellyache, neither will creditors insult thee, nor want oppress, nor hunger bite, nor nakedness freeze thee” He encouraged people to embrace his words to live a happy, and free life. Being independent of debt, he said, would make anyone feel proud of themselves. It wouldn’t matter who was wealthy or more fortunate than you, being industrious from morning until evening, would make anyone feel like a man.


Honesty and Conscientiousness Will Help Your Future Business

Never Keep Borrowed Money an Hour Beyond the Time You Promised

  • In another published writing “Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One: To my Friend A. B.“ As you have desired it of me, I write the following Hints, which have been of Service to me, and may, if observed, be so to you.” It is in this letter, Franklin writes his famous quote “time is money.” He also tells his reader, “credit is money” and that “money can beget money”. He tells the would be businessman “ The more money you have, the more it produces so that his profits will rise faster. “He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation.” He told him to remember “The good paymaster is lord of another man's purse. He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his friends can spare.” He encouraged the young man to be diligent and thrifty and to pay his debts promptly. “Nothing contributes more to the raising of a young man in the world than punctuality and justice in all his dealings; therefore never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you promised, lest a disappointment shut up your friend's purse for ever.”


Be a Diligent and Be Thrifty
Be a Diligent and Be Thrifty

Industry and Frugality is the Way to Wealth

He encouraged people to work hard and be productive “The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or nine at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but, if he sees you at a billiard-table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at work, he sends for his money the next day; demands it, before he can receive it, in a lump.” And told him that honesty and conscientiousness in paying money back, will also help him get credit if he needs it in the future. He encouraged keeping accurate records of their expenditures and their income. Franklin advocated avoiding debt, by watching your money, to be aware that small expenses can add up to large amounts, and if it is saved, it can go toward one’s future. “In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them everything. He that gets all he can honestly, and saves all he gets (necessary expenses excepted), will certainly become rich “


Suggested Reading

More of Ben Franklin's Writings

  • He wrote in a “Plan for Saving One Hundred Thousand Pounds” in Poor Richards’s Almanac in 1756, about people complaining about needing more money.”Supposing one half of this expense to be in things absolutely necessary, the other half may be called superfluities, or, at best, conveniences, which, however, you might live without for one little year, and not suffer exceedingly. Now, to save this half, observe these few directions.” He believed in being frugal with clothes and china, by trying to refrain from buying new, and getting another year’s use. He believed another way to save money was cutting down on drinking. “If you are now a drinker of punch, wine, or tea, twice a day, for the ensuing year drink them but once a day. If you now drink them but once a day, do it but every other day. If you do it now but once a week, reduce the practice to once a fortnight. And, if you do not exceed in quantity as you lessen the times, half your expense in these articles will be saved.” Ben Franklin goes on to explain many aspects of saving money, and at the end of the year, a person should look at their gains and losses and “regulate thy future industry or thy common expenses.”.

    But aside from the monetary evaluation, Ben Franklin wanted people to look within themselves to do a morality check, to improve themselves, “see what improvements thou hast made in the conduct of life, what vice subdued, what virtue acquired; how much better, and how much wiser, as well as how much richer, thou art grown ? “ Franklin wanted people to know money has no meaning if the person has not morals. “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?”


How to be prosperous, virtuous, and moral
How to be prosperous, virtuous, and moral

"The Way to Wealth" was Ben Franklin's How to Guide

Ben Franklin wrote an essay called “The Way to Wealth” in 1757, as a preface to the 25th year Poor Richard’s Almanac was printed. It is only 30 pages long and can be read within a half an hour, yet it is filled with timeless wisdom. Franklin wrote it as a how to guide toward flourishing financially and living a good life, and tips for self improvement. It is in this essay, Franklin set out his "maxims" or rules of conduct. Through the popularity of "Poor Richard's Almanac, Franklin created an instructive pamphlet on how to be prosperous, virtuous and moral. “The Way to Wealth” became so popular, at the time, it was reproduced in newspapers throughout the colonies, reprinted in England and translated for the french in France. Franklin enjoyed that his work was so well received. He tried to teach people that taxes are a burden, but so is being of poor character and having bad habits. “We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly” He wanted people to be self motivated “ God helps them that help themselves”.He extolled the virtues of efficiency and productivity. “But dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of “ Again he tells his readers to be hard working "The sleeping fox catches no poultry, and that There will be sleeping enough in the grave” He encouraged diligence and encouraged being efficient. He knew time is valuable and wasting time is an extravagance. “Lost time is never found again; and what we call time enough, always proves little enough.” Laziness makes things harder, and being productive makes things easier. “He that riseth late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night; while laziness travels so slowly, that poverty soon overtakes him“ “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” He wanted people to be self motivated instead of only wishing for things to be better. “Industry need not wish, and he that lives upon hopes will die fasting.”” There are no gains without pains” He wanted people to learn and excel at what they were doing "He that hath a trade hath an estate ; and he that hath a calling, hath an office of profit and honor but then the trade must be worked at”.”If we are industrious, we shall never starve” “Industry pays debts, while despair increaseth them.” “Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry. Then plough deep while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.”” Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows,” He discouraged procrastination “Never leave that till tomorrow, which you can do today.” “Be ashamed to catch yourself idle, when there is so much to be done for yourself, your family, your country, and your king.” “Little strokes fell great oaks.” Franklin believed in taking leisure time, but that too should be for “something useful" . He tried to teach people that if you want leisure,”since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour.” A diligent person will gain leisure time, but a lazy person never will. “A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.” People who work hard will be respected, and have the comforts they need in life. “Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee” “He that by the plough would thrive” Being frugal will make someone more successful. And diligent work will certainly keep a man and his family from starving.


Franklin Tried to Teach the Common Man

Franklin Published Over 400 Publications

He warned of small expenditures “ A small leak will sink a great ship” Even back then, he cautioned people if they “Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long thou shalt sell thy necessaries. And again, At a great pennyworth pause a while.” He even covered inheritances “ Perhaps they have had a small estate left them, which they knew not the getting of; they think, it is day, and will never be night; that a little to be spent out of so much is not worth minding; but Always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom” “When the well is dry, they know the worth of water”. Franklin tried to discourage going into debt “If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some; for he that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing” He thought is was crazy to go into debt for non necessities. “ But, ah! think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.” If you cannot pay at the time, you will be ashamed to see your creditor; you will be in fear when you speak to him; you will make poor, pitiful, sneaking excuses, and, by degrees, come to lose your veracity, and sink into base, downright lying; for The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt. He believed “Your creditor has authority, at his pleasure, to deprive you of your liberty, by confining you in gaol till you shall be able to pay him.” You might not think of the true cost when you are only looking at the bargain price, but “Creditors have better memories than debtors” “The day comes round before you are aware, and the demand is made before you are prepared to satisfy it or, if you bear your debt in mind, the term, which at first seemed so long, will, as it lessens, appear extremely short.” He encouraged people to save while they could, “No morning sun lasts a whole day”. Income is precarious, but expenses are certain. “Rather go to bed supper less, than rise in debt.” ”Get what you can, and what you get hold” Franklin wanted his wisdom to followed, but he knew fools will never learn. “Thus the old gentleman ended his harangue. The people heard it, and approved the doctrine; and immediately practised the contrary, just as if it had been a common sermon; for the auction opened, and they began to buy extravagantly.” Ben Franklin ended the essay with these words “However, I resolved to be the better for the echo of it; and, though I had at first determined to buy stuff for a new coat, I went away resolved to wear my old one a little longer. Reader, if thou wilt do the same, thy profit will be as great as mine. I am, as ever, thine to serve thee,”

  • In April 1768, Ben Franklin wrote “On the Laboring Poor”. It is here, he wanted the rich to have more compassion for the poor. He believed that the rich were enabling the poor by carrying out programs that did not promote industriousness.

  • The Art of Making Money, printed in 1791, was written with Franklin’s humor to give lessons in being honest, diligent, and frugal.

Ben Franklin  worked at improving himself in order to attain his wealth
Ben Franklin worked at improving himself in order to attain his wealth

Having Good Moral Character Was Important to Being Prosperous

Franklin himself was motivated to do well. At the age of 22, he struggled and failed at many businesses. He became determined to improve himself, persevere, and be more self sacrificing. At the age of 27, he started Poor Richard’s Almanac and became an immediate success, and with each successive issue, he gained more and more readers. Ben Franklin knew a great deal about money, he even advised the colonists about the economics of using paper money. Franklin understood that people need money, but valued being moral and of good character to be more important than achieving wealth. He tried to teach early Americans that true freedom comes from being debt free, honest, and industrious. Through his writings, Ben Franklin left a "how to" legacy about being prosperous, and what makes the good character of a man. Benjamin Franklin wrote about what he knew, lived his life as an example to others, and held high standards for himself and for us all. Perhaps we should learn more from his timeless writings, and teach our children reading, writing, and wisdoms. Perhaps "Poor Richard's Almanac" should be required reading for college students. And maybe the rest of us can still learn from the timeless words of Ben Franklin. In pursuit of material goods, we can lose sight of our moral and social responsibility to ourselves and our fellow man. As Ben Franklin said "do well by doing good". A little more diligence, a little less borrowing, a little more charity, and a reminding perspective from Ben, might just make the difference for us all.

Way to Wealth

Ben Franklin On Finances

Comments 3 comments

Nera Woods profile image

Nera Woods 5 years ago

Indeed, Franklin's life, ways and principles are great examples for us to follow. Fitting for today's times when the recession was caused by excessive prices and borrowing in the housing industry.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

What a wonderful hub! Franklin is a true American hero. I also heard that he copied what he considered good writing as a young man to better learn how to write. Not sure if that is true.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Great hub which should be published as a pamphlet an distributed to schools. Thank you

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