A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned
Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 13, 2013
If someone tells you that a penny saved is a penny earned, then you’re being encouraged to become thrifty and to watch your budget. In other words, saving a penny is as good as earning a penny … or the dollar you didn’t spend, is the dollar you still have.
Back on July 3, 2006 the San Diego Union Tribune published an article by Jeff Donn of the Associated Press, on Edmond Knowles of Flomaton in Alabama. It would appear that Mr. Knowles had hoarded pennies as a hobby for almost 40 years. When it came time to cash his collection in at the bank, the bank refused to the pennies all at once and so he turned to a coin-counting company looking for publicity. The article stated:
In the biggest known penny cash-in ever, they sent an armored truck last year, loaded his pennies and then watched helplessly as it sank into the mud in his yard.
His years of collecting brought him about $1 a day – $13,084.59 in all.
A penny saved was a penny earned for Knowles, but he took away another lesson from the experience: “I don’t save pennies anymore. It’s too big a problem getting rid of them.”
A hundred or so years before that, pennies were making the news as evidenced by the April 9, 1900 edition of the Spokane Daily Chronicle. On page five, a number of items were published under the heading, “City In Brief” including the following:
Ben Franklin, the philosopher, said: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” One dollar deposited each week in the savings department of the Spokane & Eastern Trust Co. will in one year amount to $52.78; in five $286.11; in ten $634.88; in twenty, $1678.33; in thirty, $2980.21; in forty, $5063.34.
But did Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) really coin the expression? Or was it around long before he published his Poor Richard’s Almanack?
The fact of the matter is that the concept existed long before Ben Franklin published his version. One of the most popular versions was this one:
A penny saved is two pence clear. A pin a-day is a groat a-year. Save and have.
Another version of the idiom is found in English dramatist, Edward Ravenscroft’s “Canterbury Guests, Or, a Bargain Broken: A Comedy” published in 1695. This comedy, written in five acts and in prose, had a variation on the theme in Act II, scene iv.
This I did to prevent expences, for a penny sav’d, is a penny got.
In 1661, Thomas Fuller wrote and published, “The History of the Worthies of England: Volume 2.” In that book, the following passage is found:
John Yong was a monk in Ramsey Abbey at the dissolution thereof. Now, by the same proportion that a penny saved is a penny gained, the preserver of books is a mate for the compiled of them. Learned Leland looks on this Yong as a benefactor to posterity, in that he saved many Hebrew books of the noble library of Ramsey.
And an even earlier version is found in “Outlandish Proverbs” published in 1633 and compiled by George Hebert. In this instance, it read:
A penny spar’d is twice got.
In the end, if you wander all the way back to around 1535, to John Heywood’s book, “Of Gentleness And Nobility” you’ll find the spirit of the idiom there.