Updated on 07.27.07

Review: The Complete Tightwad Gazette

Trent Hamm

Complete!My first exposure to the Tightwad Gazette was on the sitting table at a friend’s house. I actually remember them having several copies of the original newsletter, and I flipped through several issues of it, utterly amazed that there was this much that could be written on how to save money. Some of them seemed massively over the top, some of them seemed like common sense (my family did them), and others seemed like clever ideas, but they were all entertaining. It’s very similar to the impression I have of it today, actually.

Promoting thrift as a viable alternative lifestyle is the proud, loud subheading on the cover of the massive Complete Tightwad Gazette. Weighing in at a hefty 972 pages, this book is a compendium of the entire six year run of The Tightwad Gazette newsletter, a publication written and distributed quarterly between 1991 and 1996. The focus of all of the material is on frugal living in some form or another.

What’s inside? Virtually every article ever published in that newsletter, organized in an almost random fashion. The book is actually just a series of articles, almost like blog postings, from a seriously frugal individual. I would roughly estimate that the book contains about 1,200 short articles on specific topics of frugality. While the original newsletters aren’t reprinted verbatim, almost all of the vital information from each one is included in this tome.

A Deeper Look At The Complete Tightwad Gazette

The Complete Tightwad Gazette is a giant tome of short articles. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of a great blog on frugality, merely in printed form.

Instead of attempting to walk through every little bit of this tome, I tried to pull out fifteen ideas from the book that really inspired me to save some money. When I read through this slowly over the last several months, I took lots of notes (with page numbers) and then actually attempted to use many of them in my life – all twenty of these have found some success for me (I actually had about seventy in my notes that I marked with a star as being useful – I just started at the top and somewhat chose at random).

Start a price book (p. 33) Get a three ring binder and a small pile of sheets with three holes punched on them. At the top of each page, write an item you buy regularly (toilet paper, peanut butter, etc.). Then start going to different stores and writing down the prices on the brands that you buy. Spend a month or two trying different stores out and jotting the prices, then start planning shopping trips using that book, focusing on stocking up on the items that are cheapest at a particular store. Plus you can find out if store flyers are actually saving a lot of money versus the competition.

Buy cars near the end of the month (p. 39) Car dealers often have to fill a monthly sales quota, so go in at the end of the month and drive a very hard bargain. You might cut into their commission, but if it makes them reach their quota, it’s probably worth it to them.

Buy fewer Christmas presents for a child (p. 79) I strongly agree with this philosophy. My most memorable Christmases as a child were the ones where I received just one or two amazing gifts, not other years where my parents had more money and got me a pile. For instance, I would rather buy my daughter an iPod than six or seven gifts between $20 or $30 – she’ll forget those gifts quickly, but that one will be dear to her.

Make potholders out of old blue jeans (p. 121) I actually did this by hand (yes, a guy who enjoys sewing on occasion), stuffing it with some leftovers from one of my wife’s projects. Easy as pie, just cut out two pieces out of an old pair of jeans that would otherwise get tossed, sew them together, turn it inside out, stuff it, and sew the opening. Viola – an interesting pot holder for the kitchen and it was basically free. A denim potholder actually has a really nice “homey” feeling to it.

Deconstruct a recipe (p. 212) A delicious seafood casserole recipe appears here, but the real value is in looking carefully at the items and seeing how you can save money on each of them by buying store brands or making it yourself instead.

Make your own popsicles (p. 223) This is one summer treat that my son truly enjoys, and we’ve been making them out of our own healthy ingredients (applesauce, fruit juices, etc.). This article gave a lot of tips on how to make them. I found, after experimenting, that an ice cube tray with deep wells makes great popsicles.

Make your own salad dressings (p. 230) These recipes became the basis of a lot of food experimentation at home with my wife, and we discovered that even when we made a few disastrous batches, it was sstill cheaper than buying it in the store.

Make solar iced tea (p. 255) Just get a gallon jug of water (we use a gallon glass jar, actually), put six tea bags in it, and let it sit out in the sun for several hours (the longer it sits, the stronger the tea). My wife and I drink it unsweetened, but you can add sugar or lemon juice to taste after it’s done. It’s simple and a very cheap beverage.

Buy store brand foods (p. 320) Many store brands are actually just repackages of the name brand stuff. Why pay more for the company’s advertising budget? You’ve got me. This also confirms my suspicion about several items that appeared identical in store brand and name brand from my local grocery store.

Discuss cutting down on Christmas gift exchanges (p. 493) Many families (mine included) spend far too much at Christmastime on unnecessary gifts. A frank discussion about these (and this article provides tips) can often save everyone some serious cash.

Don’t change your car oil every 3,000 miles (p. 526) For starters, read your car’s manual – it might recommend longer intervals. You might also switch to a synthetic oil that requires less frequent changes.

Introduce frugality to your kids (p. 536) If you’ve introduced them to money, frugality is easy. If they want gummy fruit treats, show them how much cheaper real fruit is. If they want juice boxes, show them how much cheaper juice is in bulk even if you buy a reusable container to drink it out of. Not only does it teach the child how to think frugally, it can cut down on junk food, too.

Memorize a generic recipe (p. 625) Basically, the idea is that if you memorize the framework of a very basic recipe, you can reuse it with variations forever. The sample here is a casserole recipe that has infinite variations:

1 cup main ingredient
1 cup second ingredient
1-2 cups starchy ingredient
1 1/2 cups binder
1/4 cup “goodie”

Main ingredient: tuna, cubed chicken, turkey, ham, seafood, etc.
Second ingredient: thinly sliced celery, mushrooms, peas, chopped hard-boiled eggs, etc.
Starchy ingredient: thinly sliced potatoes, cooked noodles, cooked rice, etc.
Binder: cream sauce, sour cream, can of soup, etc.
“Goodie”: pimiento, olives, almonds, water chestnuts, etc.
Topping: cheese, bread crumbs, etc.

Using this, you can just buy whatever’s on sale to fit each slot. I’ll say that the chicken + mushrooms + rice + cream of chicken soup + cheese combo (no goodie) is fantastic, for instance.

Take up reading as a hobby (p. 862) Reading is about the cheapest hobby you can have, especially with libraries available to you. It’s actually far cheaper than television, even, and can provide both educational and entertainment rewards.

Don’t spend money to raise money (p. 868) If you’re trying to raise money for an organization, try doing things like having a white elephant auction (people bring stuff to be auctioned off that is just laying around the house) along with donated items from local businesses, a potluck dinner, a group yard sale, and so on. My high school class sold candy bars, which now seems kind of silly.

Buy or Don’t Buy?

The Complete Tightwad Gazette is spectacular from start to finish. Even if a few of the ideas are a bit dated or a few are corny, they’re always entertaining, and a large number of the ideas are very usable for saving money in your monthly budget. If you find yourself struggling to start cutting down on spending, or are interested in cutting your spending even more, this book is an incredibly worthwhile and entertaining read. Highly recommended, and the single best book on frugality I’ve read, bar none.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette is the thirty-seventh of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.

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  1. ck_dex says:

    Finding this book and “Your Money or Your Life” in my mid-20s changed my entire outlook on money and work. This book pushes creative frugality to the limits, and it’s really inspiring. For those readers without children, there IS a lot of space devoted to family entertainments and meal plans for large groups, but I learned a good deal none the less. I second your enthusiasm for this one!

  2. Margaret says:

    I read this years ago. I was referred somehow or other from a frugal website. It has some great ideas, but I really liked the frugal mindset behind it. Alas, I am not all the frugal, but I appreciate the philosophy of it, and it does sometimes help me to make better decisions. One phrase that has really stuck with me from the book is “black belt frugal”. That is where you are doing EVERY frugal thing possible. We’re talking depression era frugal living. I am more like yellow belt frugal. I guess I like the idea that being super frugal is an acheivement that takes a lot of work, like earning a black belt. It is attainable and available if circumstances ever required it. Also, when you have to be more frugal, it is more positive to think that you are being “black belt frugal” than that you are flat broke (I’ve never had to be black belt, but I’ve gotten up to blue and brown belt in the past).

    If you are a frugal sort of person, you will appreciate the ideas in this book. If you are not, you might read the book thinking it is all just too much, but it might just change your perspective on how much you HAVE to spend and open your eyes to a new, more affordable, way of life.

  3. Red says:

    Buy fewer Christmas presents for a child (p. 79) I strongly agree with this philosophy. My most memorable Christmases as a child were the ones where I received just one or two amazing gifts, not other years where my parents had more money and got me a pile. For instance, I would rather buy my daughter an iPod than six or seven gifts between $20 or $30 – she’ll forget those gifts quickly, but that one will be dear to her.

    My girlfriend and I have an argument on this point. Her family would hold off on things that they planned on buying her anyway (socks, a desk, a new shower scrub) so that they could load the area under the tree with 10s of presents. She claims this was a great memory despite the fact that many of the ‘presents’ she would have received anyway.

    I tend to agree that fewer, more gratifying gifts, is the way to go.

  4. Sarah says:

    Just as an aside, sun tea can (and has) made people sick because the water doesn’t get hot enough to kill bacteria. That being said, I’m sure there are people who have drank it their whole lives and have never gotten sick, but I thought I’d just throw it out there.


  5. Sarah says:

    I’m not sure if somehow my comment was eaten, but sun tea can be dangerous as the water doesn’t get hot enough out in the sun to kill bacteria. That being said, I’m sure people have made sun tea all their lives and never got sick, but I’m just throwing it out there.


  6. PF says:

    I love this book. It does change the way you think about spending money and how to save money, i.e. frugality.

  7. Anne says:

    I read this book cover to cover. Some things are definitely outdated, but it remains a great resource on my shelf.

  8. Mitch says:

    Sarah, I think he holds HTML anchor elements for moderation to avoid link spammers.

  9. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    That’s correct, Mitch. I get more spam comments than you would ever believe…

  10. Mitch says:

    I think I could believe a pretty big number (say 10,000/day). I just wouldn’t be happy about it! A few of my fellow humans deeply disappoint me.

  11. Michel says:

    Most of the tips this book provides are in the “substitution” category, you know, using baking soda or vinegar instead of real products. This book is full of these ideas. Scrooge would envy this lady. But there was nothing doable for me in this book.

  12. Peggy says:

    Just one minor correction — the newsletter was monthly. (I was a subscriber for the last couple of years of its run and purchased all of the back issues at one point.)

    The book includes all of the major articles and almost all of the secondary ones. A few “fillers” and reader tips are not included, but overall this is a great volume.

  13. Frances says:

    I’m reading this right now! I brought it home from the library and have been working my way through it while I eat dinner alone. I find it more entertaining and useful than TV. :)

    One tip that I shared with my fiance (which we actually used when purchasing our mattress) was assigning a WOW factor to every potential expenditure. Dacyzyn’s example compared a $6,000 “10 WOW” vacation (luxury cruise) and a $200 “6 WOW” vacation (camping). In the end, considering the “cost per WOW” helped her family choose camping (and David and I choose the better mattress).

  14. SM says:

    Just a quick note – I found this book at my local library. So before you go out and buy it (which, if you’re reading here, you won’t), check there first.

  15. CHB says:

    Does anyone know where Amy Dacyzyn is now and what she’s doing? I read that she dropped out of the limelight to be with her family so she probably hates people like me asking this, but I’m just so curious, especially about how her kids live as young adults.

  16. Imelda says:

    Cheers! For one of my favorite books. The best thing about Daczyzn’s book is that it really gets you in the mood to save, and be creatively frugal.

  17. The chicken + mushroom + cheese + cream of chicken + rice casserole is good with a “goodie” of crushed potato chips (Lay’s, Ruffles, etc.) in regular or Sour Cream & Onion flavors. Just crush them and sprinkle them on top of the cheese. They add a nice crunchy texture to the casserole. My mom has made this (although I think she uses cream of mushroom instead of cream of chicken, and ditches the actual mushrooms) since I was a kid and it’s still one of my favorites.

  18. Kate says:

    My family stopped doing holiday presents for the adults last year. We used to do a draw for the adules where you got one name and had to buy one present for thaEveryone really likes the party and does not care so much about the presents. Each family still buys for the kids, but for the adults, this is what we do: everyone kicks in the $20 they would have spent on a present for one other adult, and it goes into a common pool

  19. Kate says:

    Sorry, my computer went wonky :) I hope this does not double post. I really wanted to share my family’s great holiday idea. We stopped doing holiday presents for the adults last year. We used to do a draw for the adults where you got one name and had to buy one present for that person. But then we decided that nobody really needs the presents and everyone is happy just to the party. Each family still buys for the kids, but for the adults, this is what we do: everyone kicks in the $20 they would have spent on a present for one other adult, and it goes into a common pool. We draw two names, and those people get to pick which charities we donate the pool to. Everyone feels really good about the new plan and nobody misses the presents.

  20. Hi Trent, you’re right this is the best ever book on frugality. If you just adopt the Price Book element it will save you thousands over a lifetime of grocery shopping.

  21. Nicki says:

    I bought this book years ago and still go through it regularly – there is just so much information and so many ideas that I find it too much to take in at once. In one article, Amy Dacyczyn says that for her being economical is also being ecological – this has always stuck with me. When I went through the list in the article above, reading was on the list as a cheap hobby which I completely agree with. The problem for me is that I live overseas and there are no English lending libraries and new books are usually around 10 euros each. I can go to local second hand stores but when looking for something specific, I started buying from ebay and amazon marketplace (where the postal charges are pretty expensive) and found betterworld.com. The books (at least for me) are very inexpensive (including postal charges), the money goes towards a good cause, and the shipping is meant to be carbon free. When I am done with the book, if I don’t intend to keep it as part of a series or a favorite, I sell it onwards. Just a suggestion for others who do not have easy access to a lending library but who love to read like me.

  22. Kate says:

    I first read the Tightwad Gazette when I borrowed it from the library. I thought it was worth owning so I now own a copy. One thing that I follow that has saved us a lot of money over the yeers is the Pantry Principle for meal planning (pages 474-476). The premise is that you sotck your pantry with things you normally use when they are at their cheapest price, then you make meals based on what is in your pantry, what needs to be used, etc. An amazing idea is the Snowball Principle (pages 148-149) where the author shows how just a little extra money ($100) wisely deplayed can turn into an amount many times that amount (or can just be blown).

  23. PJA says:

    About Amy? I read an interview with her that being frugal + running the gazette got them to a point where she doesn’t need to work for additional money. so, last I heard (about five years ago), she doesn’t. Nice!

  24. Robin says:

    I love this book! I bought it a year or so ago, and I leave it out in the living room and read it whenever I’m bored. I must have read it through 2 or 3 times but I always find something new to think about when I pick it up.

    I really enjoy the granola recipe she dives. Also, her idea of an “hourly wage” is impressive. Example: husband and I saw a dirty microsuede couch near the dumpster in our apartment complex. We needed a couch, so we dragged to our porch. He spent a couple hours vacuuming it, I spent a couple hours with rubbin alcohol on it. It now looks almost new and is probably worth $200 or so. So we effectively made $50/hour tax free! As college students, that’s pretty good.

    (Side note: before reading The Tightwad Gazette, I NEVER would’ve looked twice at the couch. Thanks to Amy for that insight too.)

  25. Rob in Madrid says:

    While the book may have some great ideas I hate the title. When someone says so and so is a real tightwad what image comes to mind. Some who wears old out of date clothes, who brings coffee in a glass jar cause thier too cheap to buy one from vending machine. they eat food that’s gone off becuase it would be wastefull to throw it out. Someone who buys thier Christmas gifts from the Sally Ann. Tightwad no thanks.In my opinion being called a tightwad is not a compliment

    On the other hand had they called it the frugal mans guide to good living, well that would catch my eye.

  26. clara says:

    Ron in Madrid – that was why Amy chose what in America was a catchy, fun title for what she hoped would be a fun and inspiring approach to frugality. She even wrote about the title in an early article. She wanted to promote thrift as fun, not skinflinty. The Frugalperson’s Newspaper didn’t strike her as fun.

  27. Jennifer says:

    I love to read. I usually never buy books though, always borrow them from the library. This book was so good that I would borrow it a few times a year so I finally decided that this was one worth owning. It is very entertaining and FULL of great money saving ideas. Amy is my frugal idol. A must read for anyone starting to get their finances in order and wanting to learn how to spend less.

  28. Misty says:

    Nikki, just a little note to let you know about a program I just found out about. You can e-mail American universities and “borrow” e-books just like regular books. This may be simpler than searching for books in second hand stores and you’ll get to read new releases before they are old news.

  29. Macinac says:

    Skipping to the bottom here, without having read all of the comments: Be careful about sun tea. Warm water standing for several hours is the perfect medium for growing bacteria.

  30. Macinac says:

    I have two modes of frugality. One is the level I am forced to use with my family so they won’t kick me out. The other is a fantasy level in which I spend no money at all. In mode two I imagine getting everything free, although I have to compromise even in the fantasy because I haven’t quite solved all the issues. One requirement is to have a car (which obviously takes money!), but this makes many of the other things possible. For example I can sleep in it, keep my minimal clothing there, and get around to the places where I find the other necessities. Entertainment is at the public library, college campuses (plays, concerts), and town events. Drinking water and toilets are easy to find in many places. Free food can be found, but not reliably where I live, so this is unresolved at the moment. Clothing is quite cheap at rummage sales, and free at the sale close – besides which I only use a few pieces and they last a long time.
    Baths are easy in summer but more of a challenge in winter. Doing laundry is not quite free since I need detergent: otherwise, getting the water is not a problem and I do the wash and rinse in a bucket. If I was single I would extend this exercise to getting dates. I think that would be doable since I would be clean, educated, and middle class. We would go to a free outdoor summer concert!

  31. Helen says:

    I found the ‘pot holder’ thing kind of odd – hardly a moneysaver when I buy maybe one a year! But extrapolating from that: re-use fabric to make stuff – potholders, washcloths, rags, cat toys, library bags, fruit&veggie bags (netting ones intead of disposable plastic) etc – a great way to be frugal and green.

    Six teabags to a gallon – I think it would be cheaper to boil the water and use two teabags.

    Sounds like a fun read – sometimes it’s great just to read stuff, even if it’s vaguely familiar, that is on your wavelength – for encouragement.

  32. thelma says:

    i know for a fact that the sun tea can go bad. it will smell bad.so i say don’t do it, and even in eating out, you can get bad tea, i have several times and other people say this too.

  33. amy S says:

    Having water sitting in the sun isnt going to grow bacteria. Its sun tea people! Sheeesh. On a good hot day, 2 bags of tea in a gallon of water only takes about 1-2 hours.

  34. brandi says:

    I actually checked out the second one from the library, and it was awesome.

    The BEST TIP I got was to use 1 TBSP soy flour as a substitution for an egg in goods that are going to be baked: cookies, cakes, cornbread, etc. With eggs almost $2/dozen in GA, this worked out to be $.44/dozen using the soy flour.

    LOVE this book. Check it out before buying, if possible!

  35. Rebecca says:

    I have ALL THREE Amy Daczyczyn books and they are great although, every once in a while, they are a little too frugal on a suggestion–imo. In this recession and what’s to come, we will be ready for what comes with God plus ideas like these. Of course, if you want to get your own copies the frugal way, you would go the used bookstore in your town or the used book section of barnes and noble . com or something similar.

  36. jana says:

    i am ot sure misty is going ti find this, but maybe someone lse knows?? i mean the “You can e-mail American universities and “borrow” e-books just like regular books” comment. i am very interested as i am european. any idea how to do it?

  37. Judy says:

    The Tightwad Gazette brings back many memories of my single-parent years. I subscribed to the newsletter and found many useful ideas. The price book bombed for me, however. When I went to my first store with a notebook and started writing down prices, I was approached by the manager wanting to know what I was doing! I told her I was writing down prices and was that a crime? She backed off, but I noticed two clerks following me around the store. It upset me so much that I left and didn’t do the price book after all. I didn’t save the TG newsletters but I got the complete volume from the library last week. The print was very small and I’m glad I didn’t buy it. One thing that struck me today that I didn’t notice back then was what Amy wrote about school fund-raisers. I always hated them since the first time I bought a pound cake from the neighbor’s child, who was selling them for band. It was vastly overpriced, very small, and decidedly stale! When my own children asked to sell wrapping paper, candy bars, etc., I wouldn’t allow it. I donated some money, as Amy suggested, and that was it. I’m sure the teachers hated me but I was determined not to allow my kids to emotionally blackmail people by selling trash. Another thing I read was one parent’s concern about school trips. Her daughter took many such trips in high school, always needing money for meals, and it was adding up. Amy had some good suggestions. One thing I’d like to add is church mission trips. I’d be run out of town for suggesting it, but they are nothing but a waste of time and money. Why travel hundreds and thousands of miles to help people when those in your own home town need help as well? I know this sounds awful. But with two children going on a very expensive youth mission trip each summer, I had a very hard time coming up with the money. My parents paid some of it, but I bore the brunt. The youth group did fund-raisers throughout the year for these trips, but the proceeds were never enough to fully fund each child. Some children were unable to go at all. I’ll get off my soap box now.

  38. Steve says:

    To Judy about the price book incident in the store:

    Wow. I can’t believe a store manager was that rude to you! As a retail worker, too, I’m having trouble imagining what possible benefit he or she saw to asking you that, and what threat he or she saw. But … sometimes people can be weird.

    I’m not sure what I would say in that situation as a customer, but depending on how I felt about them approaching me, I might smile at them and say casually “I want to remember how much (tomato sauce) costs” or “I’m looking for a really good price on (item).” What are they going to say “Sorry, we don’t have really good prices–I think you should shop elsewhere???”.

    You didn’t say whether you had a shopping cart or basket with you. But if you didn’t, having one would make it extra difficult for them to approach you in that manner.


  39. Angela says:


    I know why the manager was so rude to you at the store when you were carrying around your notebook because I had a similar experience.

    Several years ago, I was shopping at a major discount store for food for, of all things since you’ve mentioned it, a missions trip. Our church group was traveling about 450 miles away to an isolated church on an Indian reservation. We were taking some campers and tents, etc. I was responsible for cooking the food. I needed to have a menu and a cost analysis to help determine the price of the trip for each participant.

    I went to this discount store with a detailed notebook and spent a long time in the aisles writing down prices and comparing costs so that I could keep the price as low as “poss” (as my brother in England says).

    While I was engaged in this, an employee – in fact, a manager – approached me with a very nasty look on her face and asked me in a suspicious tone of voice what I was doing. I must have looked horribly shocked at her rudeness because she quickly changed her manner. I explained what I was doing and asked her why she was asking me. She said that she thought I was “comping” – doing comparable prices for a competitive store.

    It left a very bad taste in my mouth for that store! I continued my business there – I had to – but I cut back on my own purchases at that store thereafter! I still remember the unpleasant shock that I received when I walk down that particular aisle, now some 12 years later!

    So, if you’re going to take a notebook into a store and be seen busily writing down prices, be prepared for the suspicious employee who thinks that he’s saving his store from a rival store’s “comping” expedition.

  40. Angela says:

    I like the potholder idea made out of denim. Hadn’t thought to use old jeans for a potholder but of course the thick fabric would be perfect. In particular, I envision a potholder using some of the “architectural details” of the jeans – like a back pocket or the waist band with loops, etc. A loop from the waistband or the buttonhole on the waistband might be incorporated as a means to hang the potholder. Might be good as a gift for housewarming, white elephant gift parties, Christmas gift exchanges, etc.

    ——Speaking of “white elephant” gift parties, I haven’t seen one of these done since I was a child growing up in the South. These were done occasionally by members of my church as an inexpensive means of entertainment.

    In case you’re not familiar, each individual brings a mystery gift containing a white elephant-type item. (I’m not sure but I think the term “white elephant” was originally employed to describe an item that isn’t very useful, something that no one really wants but can’t bring themselves to throw away, maybe kind of tacky, like a knick-knack shaped like a white elephant.)

    The point was to bring something that had little or no value that you selected from your own home and that would bring some laughs when opened.

    Everybody was intent on having fun. There were little expectations of getting a gift that you really wanted. Nobody really had extra income for such things. Gifts were handed out vicariously. There were some funny moments when people opened up gifts that they were completely unsuited for. I guess part of the fun was in knowing the others at the party well enough to see the humor in mis-matched gifts. The rest of the party was spent eating home-made cakes & pies and sitting around visiting while the kids ran around playing

    The only rule was that the item should be clean and not broken or worn out, etc.

    Oh well! We didn’t have so much TV and other forms of entertainment then and we truly looked forward to getting together since it was a major form of entertainment, particularly in the South, where hospitality and entertaining in the home were so much a part of the culture.

    Maybe it’ll catch on again since tough economic times force families to stay closer to home.

  41. Ellen says:

    I discovered TG in 1993 when my husband and I were broke and just out of college with a mountain of debt. We never would have survived those years without it. I learned many ways to save money that I still use today, and despite the fact that our financial situation is greatly improved, I still pull my 3-book series off the shelf once or twice a year as a reminder of how we should continue to live.

  42. Lori says:

    This series of books was so ahead of their time. Sometimes I wish they were continuing, playing an active role in countering the rampant consumerism and corporate “box store” control of our culture and society that has plagued us since … I believe … the evolution of industrialization and technology into our daily lives. I am happy to report that a growing, grassroots movement is emerging to say NO to it and make more practical, less wasteful, and frugal lifestyles a norm (which would indeed have people opening and maintaining savings accounts again). I recommend the following more current resources for further reference and scrutiny: “Not Buying It …” By Judith Levine (book), “What Would Jesus Buy?” (DVD)- the great Morgan Spurlock-produced documentary on anti-consumerism activist “Reverend Billy;” and, of course, “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin (all can be found at Amazon.com) There are also many other resources/websites on the issue if you look around. Taking a pro-active charge in your personal lifestyle (which includes your spending habits), is the only way you will rise above debt madness of any sort. There’s no need for you to be “needing” what you truly don’t need. Just the basics, and a few resources you don’t have to pay full price for, will do.

  43. kELLY says:

    I LOVE this book! I refer to it on a regular basis.

    I would LOVE for Amy to revise it for the new century. When she wrote the book there was no eBay, or internet or Dollar stores.

    I think in today’s society with the advances in technology, it’s MUCH easier to be frugal with all these resources at our disposal

  44. Shannon says:

    This was a helpful article. There are so many ways to be frugal and it is fun to hear ways I havent thought of before.

  45. friend says:

    Sun tea lovers, try this (I heard it on NPR, and it works for me): Put a couple of tea bags in a glass jar with COLD tap water & put it in the fridge overnight. Remove the bags in the morning. It takes longer than sun tea, but it works great, and you can vary the flavor with varieties of herbal tea. Leave the bags in longer or add another couple of bags if the result is too weak for your taste. This has helped me quit buying iced tea in cute single-serving bottles for $1.39!

  46. Aggie says:

    The other awesome book is “Cheaper and Better” by Nancy Burns (?? I think that’s her name). It’s a giant recipe book of tightwad things. It has all the salad dressing recipies, the gourmet spice blends.. even the organic shampoos.

    I have used it for years, collecting second copies when I see them on thrift store shelves so I can pass it around.

  47. Gillian says:

    Sun Tea??
    Why not make Green Iced Tea all year round instead?
    Combine 3 green tea bags + 2 mint tea bags
    1 jug of BOILING water

    Cover for 20 or so minutes then squeeze out bags.

    Add 1/3 cup of honey + 6 slices of fresh lemon
    Wait for the mixture to become lukewarm before placing in the fridge. Or not.

  48. pete says:

    I read Amy D’s Tightwad gazette borrowed from the library back in 2002 when my 2nd child was due in a couple of months and my wife (who was getting ready to be out of work when the infant arrived) I had a net worth of -$350,000. I had just had back surgery after I herniated a disk lifting a heavy tank and lost the use of my right leg – I wasn’t sure whether I could ever work again. Things looked bleak; our debts seemed insurmountable and our future looked fairly shabby. Reading Amy D’s books (mostly culled from her newsletters over the previous decade) gave me the inspiration to go on living. I developed an obsession over all things frugal and read dozens (perhaps hundreds) of books on frugality and simple living.

    I always placed Amy D at the very top of the heap whenever it came to all things frugal, mainly because hers was the first book of its kind I picked up and because of the emotional connection I made with her writing when I was in such desperate straits. For a time about 5 years ago I frantically tried to find out what happened to her as it seemed she dropped off the face of the earth. I wrote her but had all my letters came back with “return to sender” stamps on them. I was worried that she had died or something!! So I am so glad you were able to track her down and get an interview out of her!!

    I’m so curious – what does she look like? I was not one of the fortunate ones back in the 1990s who was able to see her on the morning TV shows. I could never picture what she really looked like and my wife & I used to constantly debate what she looked like based on her own drawings of herself in her newsletters. My wife kept saying she must be really plain-looking, while I insisted she must be a fairly good-looking woman.

  49. Janet says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I lived off this book when I was raising my children as a low-income single parent.

    I lent the book my daughter as she is a now a new parent herself, and she and her husband face the same challenges to make ends meet. Watching my daughter get all excited about saving money, religiously following her price book, is a sight to behold. She reminds me all over again that the easiest way to make money is to stop the leak in the bottom of the bucket.

    Besides, if I shop along side her I am bound so save at least ten dollars a trip.

  50. amber says:

    I loved this book when it first came out. I subscribed to the TG monthly snailmail (before internet) newsletter when I was a young parent and we were going from 2 incomes to one. I loved it! I too have often wondered how Amy and her family are doing…

  51. Beverly says:

    Ah, the Tightwad Gazette–I checked it out of the library in the ’90s, and loved it.

    I’m a child of children of the Depression, so there wasn’t too much in it that I didn’t already know, but it was a hoot to read. The bread-crumb cookies were something I’d not run into before, and something I thought was really creepy, but then, I don’t eat cookies anyway.

    The pricebook was something I’d only read about before briefly, but she reinforced how useful it could be. I keep one now.

    All in all, a useful book–there will be something you’ve not considered before.

  52. karen says:

    Have been wondering what happened to amy dacysyn since way back. My Mom & I went in together on this & shared the book & all the newletters. We loved it & we were already for years doing almost everything. We did not learn to many new things here for a frugal family who worked fulltime & farmed too on an almost totally self-sufficient farm. We did like the recipes alot. Many of the suggestions for Christmas giving our entire extended family had always done, i.e. draw names for the adults & another pile for the kids. Then, as myself & my cousins married & had kids, we then stopped drawing in the adults & just had the kids draw. I grew up thinking that everyone drew names. I also grew up thinking that everyone had msot of their clothes handmade, everyone knew how to garden/can/prepare fresh killed meat,etc. Of course, when I went off to college, found out differently, but I have used the knowledge wisely & when I get back to my NC farm/home in about 2 yrs. I’ll start it all over, again. Stuck in urban FL for some time, yet.

  53. Allison says:

    I am an early GenX person. I now have a 17-year old. A UC Berkeley grad living in the Bay Area, I married early and felt compelled to put my first child before the then-chic acquisition of BMW. Of course, no one in my circle has really had a family or an old-fashioned career job – rather dot com layoffs etc. Amy D and her monthly Gazette mailing transformed my life – I held up her ability to spend only $50 per month on groceries as a beacon. I was so glad that she compiled all into one book. I already had a huge binder of the newsletters. It is transformational to feel the wisdom and satisfaction of doing more with less. I sent her a letter about what I considered the Zen of tightwad – thus evoking her “Blackbelt metaphor”.

    I still think of those mid-90’s years as ones that exemplify the best of the human experience.
    I don’t think we need go so far as the price book, though.

    Further, here we all are. Now, with the amazing President Obama and our collapsed economy thanks to the vampiric Bush/Cheney agenda — we must literally transform ourselves at the national level. Amy D is needed now more than ever. Wherever you are, Amy, you should be in the Cabinet — showing us all a way to survive downturn and make it a silver lining.

    We will all show up for this challenge and be the better for it. Life lived simply is life lived well.

  54. Isabelle says:

    I LOVE this book. Taken at surface level, there is a lot that is not directly applicable here in the UK – a bit like Erin’s tips on Jane4girls. However, in most of the tips there is the germ of an idea that I can use, and do use to save cash.

    It is also funny, often lol. ‘Going to bed to save on heating is not frugal if it ends up in twins!’ I know of people who have read it and found nothing to help them, I think that it depends on how one reads it. I find it inspires me to look harder on what and how I spend. On the back of it I have created my own frugal life, with a UK twist.

  55. aminbeb says:

    Thanks for sharing this post.I would love to read more of your thoughts in future. Anyway I’m into quality management, so visit my site.

  56. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  57. dlm says:

    Google Amy Dacyczyn for interviews, YouTube video and FrugalforLife interview and photo – see images and video tabs

  58. Little More Skeptical says:

    Judy, thank you. I too am growing alarmed at the growing number of nieces and nephews asking for money to fund their $5,000 “mission” trips to far-flung places, when the urban town they live 60 miles away from has a growing homeless problem. If they would just call it a “field” trip or a youth group trip, it would be less disturbing, but they’re not exactly digging wells, building schools or working in clinics. From now on, I’ll donate to the local soup kitchen instead. Their parents can (rightfully) foot the bill themselves.

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