Waiting for the meeting at Austin’s Central Library

As it turns out, the discussion about temperance wasn’t as outdated as it seemed. Or boring!

With five months behind us, the Ben Franklin Circle meeting in Austin continues to work to surprising conclusions. We started with temperance but have now made an inquiry of justice, order, moderation and cleanliness. I facilitate the discussion but often find myself surprised by all the places we go when we connect with one another on Ben Franklin’s big ideas about a well-lived life.

Our most recent meeting focused on frugality. We were on the verge of the summer with all the buzz that brings to the table. Big trips planned. A new hobby to try while it’s nice outside. Old hobbies that need to be dusted off and invested in again. And yet we had 8 people show up on a weeknight to talk about Ben Franklin’s quip:

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; ie. Waste nothing.

The conversation moved quickly from generational differences to cultural comparisons. It looked pretty bleak at times. One participant played the part of cost analysis and insisted that no one really cared about anything but the bottom line. How much does something cost and how much of it can I get for myself without paying as much as the next guy? Another participant suggested that we live in an age of plenty where no one really has to be as frugal as their grandparents once were. We all waxed nostalgic over different traditions of generosity and charity.

Answering the question about being cheap vs. being frugal seemed easy. Not everything is about cost. When we shift the conversation to value and aligning our choices to what we know matters most, we start to see our choices differently.

There’s no virtue in saving a fortune if there’s no values guiding what you do.

Our next meeting at Austin’s Central Library is July 12th. We’ll be talking about tranquility. Join us if you can or do us a favor and send your Austin friends our way.

[Read more about the larger project of Ben Franklin Circles (meting across the country) and our first discussion about temperance here.]