A Review of Amy Dacyczyn’s THE TIGHTWAD GAZETTE
Fans of frugal living have all heard of Amy Dacyczyn, right? She is a legend amongst the thrifty set and I love this woman.
From 1991 to 1996 she published a newsletter about frugal living called The Tightwad Gazette. It included articles written by Amy and her team plus letters and tips from subscribers.
When readers posed a question she couldn’t answer she consulted experts, for example, on car care: regular oil changes are worth the money; buy a new set of tires NOW before you need them, at today’s prices.
The newsletters have been compiled into three thick volumes of about 300 pages each. And you can bet your thrifty dollar I borrowed them from the library, my fellow frugality fiends!
Amy’s approach to saving money is about being creative and resourceful. Its about standing up for your principles no matter what other people are doing. At the same time, she doesn’t believe anyone should feel deprived. She advocates living well and enjoying the things we enjoy but not pissing our money away on unnecessary things or spending too much on the things we need.
Frugality can be applied to every aspect of our lives, no matter how small or unimportant. E.G. The Tightwad Gazette’s breakdown of the cost for a family of four using cloth napkins vs. paper at each meal: $3.50/year for cloth vs. $17.52/year for paper (in 1990’s prices).
There are practical tips for saving money on just about everything, including:
- Canning, freezing, preserving
- How to make whitewash paint
- How to get stuff for free
- How to make your own: cleaning products, denture cleaner, toothpaste, gift wrap
- Reusing: plastic mustard jar for cake decorating; bread tabs to mark electrical cords; old sweaters become mittens
- Homemade first aid care
- Buying second-hand: clothes, household goods, toys, shoes for kids
- Cheap and creative solutions for kids birthday parties & entertainment
- Detailed comparisons of heating with oil vs. wood; the cost of gas appliances vs. electric
Relationships are important. Amy and her husband, parents of six, are a success at frugal living because they work as a team. She shares some of the mistakes she and her husband made so we can learn from them, including tips on how to save on mortgages.
One of the keys to Amy’s success is time management. Since frugal activities can be time consuming, its crucial to make mindful choices about time management the same way we make mindful choices about purchases. In her daily routine she has eliminated things like applying makeup, creating fancy meals, commuting to work, chauffeuring her kids, daytime TV, and using professional services like hair stylists to avoid driving time. Amy understands that some of her choices work for others and some don’t.
Conscious choices lead to success: decide what is valuable to you and what is not. Amy points out the parallel between people who don’t have enough money and don’t have enough time: people who spend a lot of money on non-essentials usually devote a lot of their time to non-essential activities.
REAL LIFE STORIES
Amy received letters from readers who followed the principles and found they really do work. “They tell of conquering mountains of debt, buying a home when it had once seemed impossible, passing on important frugal values to their kids, and even turning back from the brink of divorce to a happy marriage.” (Vol 3, p. vii.)
ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLES AS A THREAT
In some of her TV appearances the audience reaction was one of anger towards her lifestyle. These are my words, not Amy’s…When faced with the truth that they don’t make conscious choices and are, in fact, sheep being led by the media, some people freak out. On the other hand, some people learn from it, grow, and end up feeling happier.
The Tightwad Gazette frugal philosophy summed up:
1) make mindful choices about what you buy and how you spend your time
2) teamwork creates success
3) stick to your guns
If you are the type of person, as Amy says, who prefers “the luxury of freedom from a job to the luxury of material things.” Then this is the book for you.
I love this video of Amy. Here she encourages people to live frugally during good times and not just during recessions so we’re able to ride out the hard times better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUFyD-FTf-E
What do you say? Is being frugal more fun than being rich?
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