One of my favorite, if not favorite, chapters of Walden is Economy. If you don't have time to read Walden, read at least the first chapter, Economy.
If you don't have time to read Economy (I understand it is a long chapter), here are a few excerpts worth contemplation:
"Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he cannot afford to sustain the manliest relations to men; his labor would be depreciated in the market. He has no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance — which his growth requires — who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly."
"Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate."
"It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof."
"Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost."
"But man's capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been tried. Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, 'be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?'"
"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind."
"None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty."
"When he has obtained those things which are necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain the superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, his vacation from humbler toil having commenced."
"I have always endeavored to acquire strict business habits; they are indispensable to every man."
"No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience."
"Often if an accident happens to a gentleman's legs, they can be mended; but if a similar accident happens to the legs of his pantaloons,(11) there is no help for it; for he considers, not what is truly respectable, but what is respected."
"In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high."
"It would be well, perhaps, if we were to spend more of our days and nights without any obstruction between us and the celestial bodies, if the poet did not speak so much from under a roof, or the saint dwell there so long. Birds do not sing in caves, nor do doves cherish their innocence in dovecots.(3)"
"In the savage state every family owns a shelter as good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think that I speak within bounds when I say that, though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than one half the families own a shelter."
"If it is asserted that civilization is a real advance in the condition of man — and I think that it is, though only the wise improve their advantages — it must be shown that it has produced better dwellings without making them more costly; and the cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."
"Perhaps it will be found that just in proportion as some have been placed in outward circumstances above the savage, others have been degraded below him. The luxury of one class is counterbalanced by the indigence of another. On the one side is the palace, on the other are the almshouse and 'silent poor.'"