Our Brother Benjamin Franklin was a well-known financial success. He and his wife were very adept at saving money and only spending when necessary. Some called him miserly—as a matter-of-fact, if I remember correctly, Brother Franklin proudly claimed the label himself. In his biography, Benjamin Franklin writes that they maintained their property, used the same furniture for years and years, and the one time they splurged (on a tea set) they felt it was a justified reward for their frugality. He claimed that their house was sparsely furnished, and only contained the necessities. Nevertheless, the man was a prime example of how being frugal can lead to success.
Now, I believe that a person should do all that they can to enjoy life and the idea of being miserly leaves a sour taste in my mouth. You cannot, after all, take anything monetary with you when you go to meet your maker. What is the point of having all of that wealth, if you’re going to sit on it?
What is Freemason Frugality?
As I am want to do in these articles, I present you with the dictionary definition for Frugality (or more appropriately: Frugal).
1: careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to: using money or supplies in a very careful way
2: simple and plain
Now, let’s dissect this definition and see if we can’t explain Freemason Frugality better. “Careful about spending money…” would denote an awareness where spending is occurring; not just sitting greedily upon a pile of money like Scrooge. In Freemasonry, we are often asked to donate to a cause both in time and money. Within our fraternity there are plenty of opportunities to spend; we need to determine where best that money is used. Awareness is how we are careful. We vote on the expenses, and through our committees and dais seats, we’re then able to spend the Lodge’s money carefully.
“…Using things when you do not need to…” refers to non-monetary resources, which can also be used to determine wealth. Let’s look at the temple building for example, as this is one of our most significant resources. We have heating, water, electricity; these can be controlled. We also have grounds care, wear and tear of furniture, carpet, and other fixtures. Again, expenses we can control. When our Temple Association Board meets to discuss the care and maintenance of this resource, it is their responsibility to be frugal. In doing so, funds can be put to better use within charities and community events.
“Simple and plain.” Perhaps the most esoteric part of the definition as it refers to the non-physical resources we as Freemasons have. In particular, I refer to our tenets and landmarks, our image and reputation. How do we “use” these resources with frugality? There could be many an article written on just this subject alone, but I’ll try to keep it brief.
We are Freemasons. We are Freemasons in Utah (a location that is decidedly not that favorable about the fraternity due to the history between the prominent religion and our order). We are a misunderstood organization, and when you get into the minutia of things across the world, we aren’t always in line as brothers. For example, our lodge (Damascus #10) is excited for every new member no matter creed or race provided the man meets the general qualifications for entry. I have heard that some Lodges still perform segregation and that some still judge a man based off of their religion. These actions are un-Masonic, and those who practice the Craft in these ways are being spend-thrift with our Order’s resources.
Keep in mind our tenets and landmarks through our daily dealings remembering that we represent the Lodge, and Freemasonry, with every statement and action we take, with every social media post and public comment we make, and with how we dress and the language we use.
Thought this charge is simply put and plainly stated, it requires effort and conscious thought to carry out. How we carry ourselves is a great resource not to be squandered.
What other ways can you think of to be frugal as a Freemason?