Freewheeling frugal

My mom and dad were frugal people — we lived in a very modest house for their incomes, we ate most of our meals at home, we wore clothes from Sears (until the kids could afford to pay for our own), and they saved, saved, saved, or invested well.

It trickled down to the three kids in different ways. My brother was a total “spender” until he met his wonderful wife, who keeps a much tighter rein on expeditures. My sister is often too busy to practice the kind of thrift that my parents did, but she’s still careful.

I am much like my dad in terms of spending money — and will drive a car until it’s on its very last legs. (You’ll get to meet Sunny soon — as she’s almost at 150,000 miles and her “legs” are getting mighty tired.) I am rather thrifty with anything I can control, and is why I’m sitting in a house who’s computerized thermostat is set for 62 degrees during the day, which explains the full-length fleece robe I’m wearing (with the hood up!) and the double layer of socks on my feet.

So, I felt an immediate kinship with Amy Dacyczyn, the author of The Tightwad Gazette.

These books are much-loved and well-worn, and have saved me tons of money over the years.

I found them back in my grad school days, when The Hubster and I were living off meager student loans in a crappy bungalo in Urbana-Champaign. Between these books and the Coupon Queen’s book (who’s tactics I’ve adopted as well), I managed to keep us fed and clothed during many a “lean” year.

There are three volumes of the Tightwad Gazette books, which are actually articles taken from the very successful newsletter Mrs. Dacyczyn (pronounced like “decision”) produced back in the 1990′s. You can also find a hardcover version of all three books combined into one over at for about $15.

But, in true tightwad fashion, you should check out your library to see if they have them. Not that I’d want to stiff Mrs. Dacyczyn her royalities, but you should see if they’re worth your expenditure before you make the purchase. (I love mine and couldn’t live without them on my bookshelf — I seriously re-read them about once a year to remind myself about the best tips.)

Now, some of her ideas are totally wackadoodle, and I don’t feel like they’d be a good return on my time investment to do myself, so I pick and choose those habits that I adopt and those I reject. But… that’s her whole point. She doesn’t do *all* of these things, but she *thinks* in this fashion. What she’s really doing is training others to *think* like a tightwad.

For example:

While this is a cute arts & crafts project, I’d never do it — I’d just snag some Peeps on sale and spend my time doing something else that would save me more.

But her “Price book” — that’s sheer brilliance IMHO, and is the basis for how I shop for groceries and save a bundle.

I also appreciate the way her tactics are smart about re-using and re-purposing everything. Her ideas have caused me more than once to stand at the trash can, wondering if I can find another use for this thing I’m about to throw out. True environmentalism at its most basic level.

Over at the PassPorter boards, there’s a lively discussion going on about packing lunches that made me realize how many things I’ve taken from Mrs. Dacyczyn to keep our meal expenditures low.

In fact, I currently have something bubbling on my stove (which I’ll share another day) that comes from her wisdom on how to use everything to its fullest, waste nothing, and still live well.

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5 Responses
  1. Elisa says:

    thank you for this. I’ll def check out this book.

    And btw, that is exactly how I pack a lunch! (help pls) lol

  2. Jill T. says:

    Oohhhh! I MUST get these books tomorrow night at the library. I missed the PP conversation on lunches, so I’m hopping over there shortly, but wanted to say THANK YOU for the book recommendation.

    Keep the great frugal ideas coming!

  3. Kristine says:

    Thanks Eileen! I just reserved these at the library. Cannot wait to check them out!

  4. Rachel says:

    Wheeee, Mainah Pride! I know about the Price Book, it’s a common tip in couponing sites—but I had no idear it was she who invented it, wow!

  5. Heidi says:

    I’ve read those before, but you’ve inspired me to check them out again (& maybe purchase my own 3-in-1 copy). Thanks, Eileen! I’ve gotta get back on the watch-it-daily wagon.