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Book(s): The Tightwad Gazette I, II, III

May 1, 2009
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I’m behind on my book reports! Been busy. Also, been reading these fascinating and helpful books straight through.

I bought the first book (for $1 at a thrift store — how perfect!) quite a few years ago and read it straight through, unable to stop with the amazing tightwaddy tips. Same thing this time around — I had to read all three books straight through, completely fascinated.

More than just tips, however, Amy Dacyczyn joyfully promotes a way of life — one of freedom from debt, guilt, money-related stress. As she says, “Deprivation is doing without. Tightwaddery is doing it without money, but you are not doing without.” I love that quote. The fundamental difference between deprivation and tightwaddery is creativity. For instance, rather than sitting around feeling bad that you can’t afford shiny new clothes (or that you simply don’t want to spend the money on them) — instead, get creative! Search for fun finds at garage sales, thrift shops, hold clothing swaps, etc. It’s all about creative problem-solving (which I love!).

It doesn’t matter what your financial goals are: whether it’s to get out of debt, save for a house, make the monthly paycheck last longer, or if you simply value living frugally, these books are amazing warehouses of little tips that add up.

She makes the point over and over that it’s not just the one-big money-saving tip. It’s tens, hundreds of little things that save a few cents here, a few dollars there. It all adds up.

Some of the best tips I got were:

1. A grocery price-book (or simply keeping track of grocery store prices). Rather than buying all your groceries at one store, make a ‘price book’ recording the lowest price of frequently-bought items from all your local stores. Once you’ve figured out the lowest price for each item, you can rotate your shopping weekly and only pay the lowest price. If you buy all your groceries at one store, you end up paying higher prices because grocery stores lower some prices and inflate others. If you only pay the lowest price each time, your grocery bill becomes significantly lower. Better yet, keep track of when sales occur and stock up when the lowest price occurs. This alone can save hundred of dollars a year. I’ve started doing this informally and it really does make a difference. As soon as I find a good notebook (the right size to take to grocery stores in my purse), I’ll be doing this more formally.

2. Rather than always looking for “good deals” — look for ways that you can easily do without, and not make a purchase at all. Simplify everything you can.

3. On the flip side, when you find a truly good deal on something you know you will use, it’s worth it to stockpile (soap, socks, whatever).

I’ve been trying to make a game of seeing how cheaply we can live without noticing a difference. I’ve been doing it ever since January and I can honestly say that I really haven’t noticed a difference. The only place I’ve noticed anything is in my bank account (yay!). Terri says she feels the same — our meals continue to be healthy and yummy, we are clean and presentable, and we really don’t need anything. It becomes a game to see how cheaply I can decorate the bathroom, how long we can go without buying books (hooray for the library!). Amy goes to the lengths of calculating savings for every action — I don’t usually do that, but I did stick a (free) calculator in my purse so I can make good decisions at, say, the grocery store.

Dacyczyn has been criticized for being too extreme. I disagree. She had a goal, and she found a way to achieve it (buy a large New England farmhouse on 7 acres on her husband’s $30,000/year salary). She and her large family live in financial freedom and want for nothing. She also makes the point that if you enjoy working, or if you happen to make plenty of money for your lifestyle, you don’t need to be as extreme. However, every little bit helps, no matter what your situation is.

I found these books incredibly fun, inspiring, useful and instructive. As soon as I can find the other two at a garage sale or thrift store, I’ll complete my collection. In the meantime, I’m glad my library has them! I’m sure Amy would approve.

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