Duties of the Young Wife #4: Home Economics

We continue with our Duties of the Young Wife: the things that a young woman should do immediately upon becoming a wife. We will assume that this Young Wife is a stay-at-home wife who does not yet have children.

Another major duty of the Young Wife is “home economics,” or what might also be called: frugality. In other words, she should accomplish her other duties, to as high a standard as she can attain, while also staying within the budget established by her husband. In consultation with his wife, a husband should establish a budget for these recurring expenses. This budget might be small, or it might be extravagant. Some husbands may wish to maintain a position in society that requires a display of opulence. This may include a gigantic residence with many rooms, all of which must be tastefully decorated; perhaps a vacation home or even two, maintained to the same standards; and this extends even to the opulence of his wife’s clothing, for example. The wife should accomplish the goals that have been assigned to her, while staying within her budget.

In general, a wife should aim to accomplish her basic tasks without using much money. This leaves some surplus, which the husband can then use more freely, perhaps at his wife’s wishes. A wife says: “I would really like to have this or do that” which is not in the regular budget. But, since the regular budget is modest, the husband has plenty of money left over to fulfill his wife’s wishes, which he enjoys doing.

This is contrary to a common pattern among women today, which is to pressure and extort their husbands to spend as much as possible on their wives; or to burden the family with extraneous expenses such as credit card bills. This pattern must be rejected.

A Young Wife should go the other way. She should say, to her husband: That is too much; it is not necessary; I don’t need it; the smaller one is fine with me. Typically, the husband then says: Take it anyway; don’t worry about it; spend some money on yourself; it’s a present.

Frugality is especially important today, when a wife who stays home must live comfortably on only her husband’s income, even while the norms and examples of her peers often include two-income families. Basically, she will have to do things differently; usually, more cheaply.

The best frugality is frugality that is inherent. For example, bicycles are inherently much cheaper than automobiles. A two-bedroom condo is inherently cheaper than a four-bedroom freestanding house. A day at the beach is inherently cheaper than a day at an amusement park. Homeschooling is inherently cheaper than private schools. Rather than trying to do more with less, it is usually best to do less, do it well, and have plenty left over.

Sometimes, a husband might need a little encouragement to see the benefit of dropping his minimalist bachelor ways, and spending more money. “Of course that scruffy bachelor thing is good enough — but why not have this thing which is much better, and which is so easily obtainable?” This might be in the form of a better house, or a better education for the children. It might be in the form of better cutlery: for some reason, young men seem to have a thing for kitchen knives of execrable quality. Sometimes, a wife has a sense of social ambition that is a virtue rather than, as is often the case, a vice. But even here, the family’s finances should not be imperiled.

Many of the most important and valuable things do not cost much money. A wife who cooks well can actually save money. You don’t go out to restaurants much when you discover that the best food in town is in your own kitchen. A well-decorated house and a pretty garden reduces the urge to visit hotels and resorts. A rich home life of books and conversation reduces the need for external amusements. A Young Wife can make a home of splendor and beauty without spending very much money. It is mostly a matter of discipline, effort and imagination.

Some women have made frugality into a sport. We see the extreme couponers; or those women who exult in what they can find at yard sales and on eBay; or women who can take a fifty-pound sack of potatoes ($16), a twenty-five pound bag of organic beans ($60), a fifty-pound bag of organic wheat flour ($36), and some herbs and spices ($20), and make a whole month’s worth of tasty food; or women who raise their families in houses of less than 500 square feet — and end up on national television as a result. One of my wife’s friends once appeared in magazines for her exotic fashions; later, she amused herself by assembling outfits from donated clothing that cost her less than $5. “Home economics” does not have to be all scrimping and restriction, but rather, an interesting field of endeavor itself.

Published by proprietor

Happily married, with children.

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