Thomas Jefferson’s Wise Advice

August 14, 2008

I found Thomas Jefferson’s “A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life,” in a book titled Our Sacred Honor*. This is some great advice.

1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.
2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3. Never spend your money before you have it.
4. Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.
6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
10. When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

I LOVE number 4: Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap. How many of us know people who do buy stuff they really don’t need just because it’s cheap?

Unfortunately, Jefferson didn’t adhere to number 3, as he died deeply in debt.

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14 responses to Thomas Jefferson’s Wise Advice

  1. I love old quotes like these from our founding fathers. I did a post a while back on 30 money quotes from Poor Richards Almanac which was published by Benjamin Franklin from 1732–1758 and is full of useful advice.

  2. Great post! I love how this advice from the “olden days” still very much applies today.

  3. Wow, that is an incredible set of ideas to follow. I am not one to post or print out motivational quotes but this set truly would take care of many problems people have, I may have to make an exception.

  4. Perhaps with reference to #3, as with the greatest of us so with the least… It is easier to say than to do.

  5. Perhaps Mr. Jefferson might have added another adage: “don’t pork the help”. He seems to have failed in that regard. But, then again, he did set the bar pretty low for our current politicians.



  6. PS: If you hold a $2 bill up to the light, you’ll see that T. Jefferson is winking at you (just a joke). It’s no mistake that B. Franklin was chosen for the world’s most popular currency, the $100 bill. As the DEA has noted, the “Franklin” has more trace residue of cocaine than any other currency in the World. Franklins are also popular with “shady ladies” the World over. Franklin was as well, as his exploits in France might attest.

    US politicians do have a history of randiness. I guess it’s part of our notion of “founding fathers” (John Edwards take note, you are just keeping alive the blood-line of randiness).

    Tee Hee.

  7. #8 is so true. We spend so much time worrying and 95% of it never comes true.

  8. #4 is right on and hard to pass up. I remember a few months ago, donating some items at Goodwill and walking buy a bin of items all priced under a dollar. I had to look! Walked out with $10 of fishing tackle. Do I fish, yeah, 10 years ago I did :)

  9. Now, does no. 8 more or less mean “always look at the bright side”? Sometimes old American musings are worded a little bit unusually.

  10. i meant no. 9

  11. #8 reminds me of what my dad has told me so many times, “Most things that could go wrong, don’t”. And, that is something that we can be thankful for.

  12. Why aren’t all of these ideas taught in high school financial classes!?

    I like #8 as well…reminds me of Mark Twain’s quote “I’ve been through a lot of terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”. :o)

    I’ve been a worrier my entire life, which often robs me of the pleasure of “NOW”. Recently I’ve been using some cognitive exercises that have definitely helped reduce my anxiety, particularly over finances. Now I’m able to see more opportunies and feel better.

    And in my 47 years, I can confidently state that most things that can go wrong, don’t, and the things that do go wrong are things that you never saw coming.

    All of those quotes by Jefferson are terrific!

  13. 4. Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.

    If you can arbitrage it, why not buy it?

  14. Bozo said:

    It’s no mistake that B. Franklin was chosen for the world’s most popular currency, the $100 bill.

    By what measure is the $100 the world’s most popular currency?

    My mother was a Bozoette at school.