This old proverb was drilled into me at an early age along with that other golden oldie, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Thrift and economy was (and is) a virtue in and of itself. Thrift simply means spending your money intelligently, not throwing it around on things that didn’t last or add value to your life.
It wasn’t that you didn’t have the resources to expend, it was simply “bad form” to waste.
Conspicuous consumption, at least for its own sake, is strictly for Neanderthals. Evolved beings obtain their sense of self from deep within, from adherence to higher principles, from setting challenging goals and meeting them. It is enough to have done so; excessively displaying the achievement undermines the very statement that the achievement made. The greatness of the truly great is self evident. As the saying goes, anyone who feels the need to tell you she is a lady probably isn’t. Or at least is still very early in the aspirational process!
“Waste not, want not” takes on new meaning in an age of sustainability where the need to conserve natural resources takes on a new urgency. While recycling is great, the very process of recycling consumes tremendous resources. Truth be told, other than aluminum cans, recycling is an economically dicey proposition. Better solution: If the consumption (excessive packaging, bottled water vs. tap water, plastic bags, vanity products) never occurred in the first place, hey, the need to recycle would be greatly reduced.
Willful waste makes woeful want.
Waste not, want not. Thrift. Self-Discipline. Important values, in good times and bad.