A young friend came to see me not long ago, and after a short period of a somewhat shy reserve he looked up with a beaming, happy face, and said, 'I'm going to be married.' It all sounds so simple, these few words, and yet what do they not mean in two young lives! I responded with a smile and the ordinary platitude of, ' I am very glad, and especially so for your mother's sake, for it will give her great pleasure.' As we talked on, I naturally came to the prosaic, elderly question, 'What have you got to live upon ?' His answer came short and straight enough. ' With what my father left me and my salary, I shall make up 1,600Z. a year, and the lady I am about to marry, I am told, is to have 200Z. of her own.'
That will do well enough,' I said, ' even if you have to live in London. The most pessimistic objector to early marriage can hardly say that love need fly out of the window on such an income as that. But, all the same, wealth is comparative,' for everything depends on position and what there is to keep up. The young man, being of the cautious, prudent type, asked,' And what do you think I ought to save yearly on such an income ?' I answered, 'From 200Z. to 3001. a year.' He, not differing, but yet interrogatively, replied, 'I wonder why? I shall have more later on. Why is it necessary to save at all, and not just fit my expenditure to my present income?' This opens so largeaquestionthat on my young friend's departure I asked myself why I think as I do about it.
There seems to me a point of resemblance between saving and the very different occupation of gambling. Why is it that gambling has always, in all countries and at all times, been condemned by wise and prudent people, and saving (that is to say, not living up to your income, but leaving a margin more or less wide, which you intend to add to your capital) been approved ? It cannot be only that in ten years or so you should be 2,000Z. or 3,000l. richer. The approval of the saving and the condemnation of the gambling are directed, I think, to the mental attitude of the gambler or the careful man, rather than to any practical result to them personally of their conduct. The saving recommended is in no sense the spirit of the miser who piles up wealth for which he has no use, but a cautious guarding of expenditure which provides for future children, against a rainy day, or enables a man later in life to better his house or his furniture, or to increase the enjoyment of his holidays. To adjust income and expenditure exactly is extremely difficult, and anyone who does not pitch his estimate of expenditure below his income is almost sure in practice to exceed it. Of course, it is much less important to save on a more or less assured income (for no income is absolutely assured) than it is to save on an income which is almost entirely derived from salary, and dependent on a man's life or health or the success of the business in which he is engaged. To save ever so little is very much better than keeping elaborate accounts. If, at the end of the year, the savings are there, no doubt remains that the expenditure has been, as regards essentials, well regulated though getting as much as can be got out of the money spent is quite a different matter from making both ends meet.It is, all the same, interesting and good to remember what can be done at a pinch, and how the upper working classes live in comfort on an income where thousands of impoverished gentry would simply starve on double the sum. The fundamental principle which governs the lives of the working classes is to ignore to-morrow- to live from hand to mouth and day to day. And it is on this point that gentility with a very small income is often perverted by not recognising the merits of the principle when circumstances make it a necessity. This seems to me worth considering, although I recommend the opposite principle as the one generally most admirable to practise with a larger income. The working man does his best for the moment, assumes that his children when reared will do likewise, and the rest he leaves to Providence, or chance, or whatever the unknown quantity may be called. The ' gentle' reared man, I say, cannot be happy unless he has a security against fate, not only for himself but for his family. It is a fine idea in many ways, but it can perhaps grow into an exaggeration. The serious handicap to the ' gentle' man is the education of his children. He must pay through the nose for it, or his children are apt to sink into a class to which they do not rightly belong and for which they are quite unfitted. The working man starts his children as he started himself, with nothing more than the education provided by the nation, and their own power to work.
The expenditure of an income of 1,800Z. a year will vary a great deal in detail according to whether it is spent in London or the country. I shall therefore consider the two separately, taking London first. Of course, the most important item is house-rent, and requirements and taste differ so widely that it seriously affects the whole income.
The old idea was that house-rent should absorb only a tenth of the income; but this in London is practically impossible - an eighth is nearer the;[average nowadays.
Even this will vary very much with circumstances - the requirements and wishes of both parties.The wife constantly holds to living within easy reach of her family and friends,and the husband's wisheswill be much affected by his kind of work.Saving of time in getting to work may be of great importance, necessitating the use of cabs.The house rent, which, on an income of 1,800 l., in most cases had better not exceed 200 l., including rates and taxes, may very easily mount up to 350 l.When this is the case it is well to commit the extravagance boldly, andsosecureahouse ina locality which is practically a certain let, if circumstances make this desirable, or if the expenditure of any one year has exceeded the average.There seems to be a very general impression that living in a better locality and a more central part of the West End is an actual economy; this may be the case if cabs are much used, but if the Underground or 'buses be the usual mode of locomotion, very little issaved except time, which in the case of the woman does not generally affect the income.At one period ofmy life, influencedno doubt by thegrowingso-called artistic fashion, I had a great dislike to the old two-roomed back and front house; but I am now inclined to think that on the whole, especially in small houses, it is the best plan of house building for London.It gives more room, more convenience, and more air than any of the modern houses, arranged on what is considered a superior system-viz., blocking up the middle of the house with staircase and landings, all more or less dark, and which divide all the rooms from oneanother.Corner housesare, inmy opinion, to be avoided, as they are always stuffy, a draught through being not easily obtained.Flats are not suited to young married couples.