Walden By Henry David Thoreau Chapter 1 - Economy

By surveying, carpentry, and day-labor of various other kinds in the village in the meanwhile, for I have as many trades as fingers, I had earned $13.34. The expense of food for eight months, namely, from July 4th to March 1st, the time when these estimates were made, though I lived there more than two years — not counting potatoes, a little green corn, and some peas, which I had raised, nor considering the value of what was on hand at the last date — was

    

Rice, $1.73½  
Molasses, 1.73 Cheapest form of the saccharine.
Rye meal,    1.04¾  
Indian meal,    0.99¾ Cheaper than rye.
Pork, 0.22  
Flour, 0.88 Costs more than Indian meal,

    both money and trouble.

}

    }

    }

    }

    }

    }All

    }experi-

    }ments

    }which

    }failed.

    }

    }

    }

    }

    }

Sugar, 0.80    
Lard, 0.65    
Apples, 0.25    
Dried apple, 0.22    
Sweet potatoes, 0.10    
One pumpkin, 0.06    
One watermelon, 0.02    
Salt, 0.03    

Yes, I did eat $8.74, all told; but I should not thus unblushingly publish my guilt, if I did not know that most of my readers were equally guilty with myself, and that their deeds would look no better in print. The next year I sometimes caught a mess of fish for my dinner, and once I went so far as to slaughter a woodchuck which ravaged my bean-field — effect his transmigration, as a Tartar would say — and devour him, partly for experiment's sake; but though it afforded me a momentary enjoyment, notwithstanding a musky flavor, I saw that the longest use would not make that a good practice, however it might seem to have your woodchucks ready dressed by the village butcher.

Clothing and some incidental expenses within the same dates, though little can be inferred from this item, amounted to

     $8.40¾
Oil and some household utensils, 2.00

So that all the pecuniary outgoes, excepting for washing and mending, which for the most part were done out of the house, and their bills have not yet been received — and these are all and more than all the ways by which money necessarily goes out in this part of the world — were

House, $28.12½
Farm one year,   14.72½
Food eight months,  8.74
Clothing, &c., eight months,      8.40¾
Oil, &c., eight months,   2.00
    _______
In all,   $61.99¾

I address myself now to those of my readers who have a living to get. And to meet this I have for farm produce sold

    $23.44
Earned by day-labor,    13.34
    _______
In all,  $36.78,

which subtracted from the sum of the outgoes leaves a balance of $25.21 3/4 on the one side — this being very nearly the means with which I started, and the measure of expenses to be incurred — and on the other, beside the leisure and independence and health thus secured, a comfortable house for me as long as I choose to occupy it.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

In the conversation between the Hermit and the Poet, the Poet invites the Hermit to




Quiz