When a book stands the test of time and doesn’t become obsolete quickly, it is often referred to as an evergreen book. The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn is such a book (ISBN: 0-375-75225-0).
Amy Dacyczyn began publishing a newsletter from 1990-1996 called the “Frugal Gazette.” I remember being a subscriber to this newsletter during the time I was deep in debt. I always looked forward to reading the newsletter packed full of cost-cutting ideas which came via the traditional mail service then.
I also remember going to the library to get the published books which compiled all of the newsletter ideas into one place. Since then, I decided to purchase The Complete Tightwad Gazette (used of course) which compiles all of her publications. This 959 page book retails for $19.99 but I bought it on Half.com for $9.95. It is so full of ideas that I find myself referring to it often.
Amy Daczyczn starts the book with the following introduction:
“A Word of Caution. Tightwads are by nature unconventional. We push the normal limits to make things last longer. We reuse things in unusual ways. We experiment constantly to find new, cheaper ways to do almost everything.”
You can find an answer to almost any household repair question you may encounter. Some ideas that really struck a chord with me include:
1. Replace the heating unit in the water heater instead of getting a brand new water heater. The holding tank still works.
2. Saving money on your mortgage
3. Recipes for homemade dog biscuits
4. How to sell your home yourself and save thousands in commissions
I have been accused of being a tightwad by friends and family. I just smile because they have never read The Complete Tightwad Gazette. If they had, they would know that I’m FAR from being a tightwad.
There is no arguing that Amy Dacyczyn and her family have found financial security by mastering the art of frugality. She admits to being a compulsive tightwad.
“Over the years our average income has been less than $30,000 (including my husband’s Navy salary and all the allowances, plus by spotty freelance income). In less than seven years we saved $49,000, made significant purchases (vehicles, appliances, furniture) of the $38,000, and were complete debt-free! That is an annual savings/investment rate of over $12,500 per year, or 43% of our gross income.”
Oh, yeah, did I mention they have six kids!?! Wow! I have a lot of respect for her ability to do what she has done with their modest income. She puts my frugal lifestyle to shame. Amy Dacyczyn is the Queen Dollar Stretcher in my mind, and she has done an amazing job.
It’s not impossible to be happy and live on a small income but it’s a conscious choice that you need to make. Is tightwaddery a lifestyle for you?
For me, I’m not a big enough cheapskate to be as tight-fisted with my money and time as the tightwads described in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. However, I take the ideas that do work within my lifestyle and implement them.
I definitely make tradeoffs in my life and try to save 20% of my income, which seems pathetic next to the 43% the Amy Dacyczyn seems to sock away. On the other hand, I’m not ready to make the drastic changes in my lifestyle to reach the tightwad level.
However, if I eat nearly every meal at home, or bring food from home with me when I’m going to be away, I treat myself to a dinner out with friends. Admittedly, my friends and I try to always find a buy-one-meal-get-one-free coupon, but to me, this makes things more fun. Once we find a coupon and pick a day to go, we really look forward to the experience.
Another example of my cost-cutting efforts is that my neighbors and I really try not to buy anymore household tools or gadgets and instead share them with each other. I would much rather spend the money on something else than hardware!
The message from this fantastic book is not to live a life of scrimping if it doesn’t make you happy. You decide how much of a tightwad you want to be. The spectrum is very wide and it’s up to you to strike a balance.