Wealth and Poverty Quotations


Truly, our greatest blessings are very cheap.

“Thomas Carlyle and His Works”

The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor.

“Resistance to Civil Government”

If you wish to give a man a sense of poverty, give him a thousand dollars. The next hundred dollars he gets will not be worth more than ten that he used to get. Have pity on him; withhold your gifts.

Journal, 20 January 1856

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.


Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.


In my experience I have found nothing so truly impoverishing as what is called wealth, i.e. the command of greater means than you had before possessed, though comparatively few and slight still, for you thus inevitably acquire a more expensive habit of living, and even the very same necessaries and comforts cost you more than they once did. Instead of gaining, you have lost some independence, and if your income should be suddenly lessened, you would find yourself poor, though possessed of the same means which once made you rich.

Journal, 20 January 1856

O how I laugh when I think of my vague, indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.

Thoreau to H. G. O. Blake, 6 December 1856

That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.

Journal, 11 March 1856

Let me see no other conflict but with prosperity.

Journal, 12 May 1850

I should like not to exchange any of my life for money.

Letter to H. G. O. Blake, 31 December 1856

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