Saving Goals: “Pound Foolish and Penny Wise”

“Pound Foolish and Penny Wise”

I took my first trip abroad when I was 21 years to do a 10-week missions trip to help some long-term missionaries. A day or two into our trip, I noticed some small squares of plastic wrap stuck to the ceramic wall behind the kitchen sink. I thought maybe a draft had whisked those shreds of plastic wrap off the counter-top and they’d somehow stuck on the wall. Being a good young man, I dutifully took those pieces of used plastic wrap and put them where they belonged, in the trash. The next day as I assisted the missionary in washing the dishes, I noticed another strange thing. Along with dirty plates, forks with bent tines, and stained coffee cups, she carefully submerged a piece of dirty plastic wrap under the suds. Much to my chagrin, she carefully washed it, rinsed it, spread it out still damp and plastered it onto the ceramic wall behind the sink. Yep, this faithful nonprofit worker was recycling plastic wrap!

While that situation was a bit on the ridiculous side, it is true that many expat workers are extremely frugal. Sometimes they have to be. Sometimes they need to be earning more and sometimes a generous donor passes away or the almighty dollar takes a nose dive. I’ve come pretty close to recycling plastic wrap a couple of times too!

However, it is important that we don’t become “pound foolish and penny wise.” Have you heard that expression before? says it derives from British currency where one penny was one-hundredth of a British pound. It means to go to great lengths to save a bit of pocket change only to waste significant cash on something else. “Pound foolish and penny wise” is not putting aside money for retirement but pinching pennies at a discount grocery store. It is buying a used novel at auction on eBay, but not saving enough money to buy your daughter books for college. It is cutting coupons for antiperspirant but forgetting to save for…

  1. An Emergency (and Evacuation!) Fund
  2. Paying Off Debt
  3. Retirement
  4. Children’s College Education
  5. Purchase of a Home and…
  6. Winning Financial Freedom (which enables you to give with reckless generosity, provide for your family, and so on)

Empty Pockets

As this blogsite progresses and I have time to add to it, I hope we can begin to discuss how the various lists of what to save for and how much to save is different for expat nonprofit workers than for the average Joe. In several areas, we will need to save more and our saving vehicles (IRAs, HSAs, 529s, etc.) come with further constraints.

The trick is to start saving purposefully and aggressively today. It’s fine to cut a coupon or search for a promo code (I used two promo codes to buy the Vagabond Finances blogsite and to pay for its server!), but we can’t be caught “promo code wise but college debt poor.”

For more, check out:

Posts about Saving

Posts about College

Health Savings Accounts May Hurt You