Postage (Letter). This item is commonly classed with Stationery, and that is a natural grouping. Yet the fact remains that while the item Postage can hardly he varied much (since one does not, after all, fail to write to a friend because it costs two cents) that of Stationery may be kept modest or grow to very large proportions. Parcel post charges belong with Express.
In keeping account of postage exact dates are of no special value, and the easiest method is to disregard columns and run the account across the card, giving month once and then amount, adding each expenditure as it is made, so that the total is up to date.
Professional or Business Obligations. This item is not needed where all such expense is automatically charged to the professional or business account. Yet more people than one realizes at first have some expense of this kind to meet. Those who are their own employers charge such expense to their business or professional accounts, - or should do so - but those on salary or commission may often find it necessary or advisable to spend money for such purposes that will not be paid by the employing institution or firm.
There are many expenditures that fall under this head, most of them small. The largest is probably attendance at conventions or meetings, where the expense is not met by educational institution or business house. Next come the annual dues and contributions to trade, business or professional associations, and subscriptions to periodicals of the same kinds. Attendance at association or group dinners, the entertainment of professional associates who are not also personal friends, contributions to flowers for social occasions or even funerals of trade or professional associates - all these mount up. In large cities even carfares for attendance on committee and other meetings may come to a notable sum.
This heading is probably more valuable to the salaried people of the educational world than to any other single group.
Reading. This includes the daily paper, magazines, books, rent of books and library fines. Text-books are naturally charged under Education. This item is easy to control, as the cost of regular subscriptions is known in advance, and the purchase of new books can be lessened even to vanishing point. That the family plan should include the addition to the family library of some really worth-while books each year is obvious. Even the service of the fine public libraries of to-day cannot take the place of the books that are part of the family life. The books should be selected with the same care as the family friends, and if an uncongenial stranger is introduced - by gift, let us say - he should be given no place in the choice company. A shelf in store-room or attic is good enough accommodation, although the wisest way to dispose of him is to give him to some one who likes him - unless, of course, he should by chance be vicious. Many people respect a book as such, and give it room and consideration when a human being with the same qualities would not be an acceptable associate. Many choose carelessly a book that is worth reading once, but that is not worth a permanent place in the home.
Some charge magazines and fiction to Recreation, but it is simpler to have one heading for all additions to the general reading of the family, and a little study of the itemized list of expenditures at the end of the year will enable one to judge whether the reading matter added was the wisest choice. When Christmas and birthdays bring gifts of magazine subscriptions or worth-while books, if possible this should not mean cutting down the Reading budget, but only the purchase of further reading matter. For pleasure and profit all but the large-incomed families need more than they can assign to this heading.
Recreation. This heading needs little explanation. If there is one special form of recreation that calls for proportionately large expenditure, such as Music, Photography, Fishing, a subhead can easily be made, in order to keep careful account, so that the rest of Recreation gets its share. Tobacco needs such a card in many families. Comments under Vacation explain its relation to this heading, and under Entertainment attention is called to the proper charging one's own share of "Entertainment."
Savings. As is pointed out under Gifts (Church, charity, civic) this is one of the headings that profits most by the very existence of a budget. It is only too much the habit of those who are concerned as to the methods of expenditure of those of small income or moderate income to talk as though the people who do not save money are lacking morally because they do not desire to save. Such an accusation is ridiculous. The person or the family who would not like to have "money in the bank" or otherwise invested is so rare as to be negligible in discussion. Every one would like to have money "put by;" the difficulty is how to get it into that desirable position. Since the desires of any normal individual or family are always greater than their income can satisfy, there is only one way to effect saving, and that is to plan it deliberately.
Where the income is too small for the legitimate needs of the family, saving may become a vice instead of a virtue. Many an ambitious working man has saved the flesh off his children's bones or driven his wife to an early death by depriving her of the very necessities of life in order that he might watch his savings bank account grow. This book, however, is not meant for those who have not income enough to feed, clothe and house their families decently. As soon as one reaches the moderate income, the income that allows a margin of choice, then the question of Savings becomes of great importance.
Savings are for three purposes - the meeting of emergencies, accumulation for special purposes, and provision for old age, or the time when the earning power decreases or ceases. Savings for the first purpose are imperative. A major operation, a long illness, a costly journey to a family death bed or funeral, a period of unemployment - there should he a sum available sufficient to meet any of these. Otherwise debt is almost inevitable, and debt is both costly and discouraging. How much of the income must be saved for this purpose ? It is of course impossible to answer for any individual or family, but it is safe to say that unless one saves ten per cent of the income the margin is dangerously low. Many families of fair income are in such circumstances that they find saving ten per cent almost impossible; others with the same income but different circumstances find saving more easily possible.