March 21, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 19 - March 21st

I missed our readings over the past few days, but it was nice to concentrate on my getting my pantry and freezer organized and inventoried. Today’s readings covers a few different topics along with a lot of tips from her readers.

As I re-read these pages I have been wondering what Amy “new” advice Amy would give us for the year 2011. I know in one interview a few years ago she made a comment that if people would just follow the advice in the Tightwad Gazette during the good times, then they wouldn’t have to worry about the lean times. In fact, I am sure she that her quality of life or lifestyle is unchanged during these hard economic times.


A reader wrote in that her husband is not mechanical so she is left to fix things or have them fixed. The reader said that most companies have a 1-800 number that you can call for information and you can also contact them for replacement parts. My how things have changed, but this tip is still a good one. Now we can easily go on the internet to find all kinds of repair instructions. Last week my DH printed off instructions on how to tune up a bike and get it ready for the warm weather. He spent Saturday tuning up both of our bikes and saved us around $75.

The same goes for home repairs or appliance repairs. No longer do you need to buy or borrow a Home Repair or Improvement manual. We have done several repairs ourselves by looking up the how to’s on the internet. However, my DH and I do know our limitations so I would never repair something that I was uneasy about doing. Also, if you need replacement parts for something, you can now go to a company website and order what you need.


A reader of the newsletter wrote in that when she shampoos her hair she only lathers once and rinses. She doesn’t repeat as the bottle recommends and has never noticed a difference. I read somewhere that if you get your hair squeaky clean; you have actually stripped it of its natural oils which isn’t good. I started lathering only once over a year ago and I too have not noticed a difference. Also, I only wash my hair every other day. I started doing this last summer and my hair is used to it now. Most of the time my hair looks better on the second day, than on the day I wash it.

This same idea of lathering only once goes along with Amy’s principle of using fewer amounts of items until you notice a difference. You find that point where the product begins to not work as well and you stop. For example, your favorite laundry soap uses 1/3 cup per load. Reduce it about one tablespoon and see if the clothes are still getting clean. If they are, then go ahead and reduce it by another tablespoon and if the clothes are not getting as clean, then go back to using one tablespoon less laundry soap. You are still saving money and you have found the point where the savings in the soap equals the quality of getting the clothes clean.


Amy has the same problem with commercialism at Easter as at Christmas time. She made Easter baskets out of recycled items, but she didn’t give details. Amy would fill her children’s baskets with homemade goodies and with freebies from items she was able to get with coupons. I remember when I was in grade school, my mom made our Easter baskets out of milk cartons. She laid the cartons with the back on the table lengthwise. Then she cut open the other side to open up the carton lengthwise. She then covered the outside with a layer of cotton. The cotton went all around and up to the top of the lid. She then made bunny ears to attach to where you would have opened the carton, along with some eyes and a nose (out of construction paper.) I wish I had a picture to show you but the end result looked like a bunny that was lying down.

Another year at school we made large paper mache Easter baskets. We blew up a balloon, and then covered it with paper mache and when it was dry, we popped the balloon and the shell remained. It looked like an egg. We cut it in half – the top was the lid, and then we painted it.

Amy reminds everyone that you don’t have to buy the egg dye kits as you can make your own dye with a cup of boiling water, a teaspoon of vinegar and food coloring.


This story sent in by a reader told of how she and her husband went to great lengths to live on a very, very, low budget. They were newlyweds and they took desperate measures to live on a very small amount. The story took place in 1970 but it is relevant today and forever really. To give you an idea of what they lived on, $1.00 in 1970 would be worth $5.44 today.

They were newlyweds back in 1970. Their income was $258 a month ($1,403.52 today) and their rent was $145.00 ($788.80 today). This left $614.72 for them to live on.

They had a strict budget of $17.00 ($92.48 today) per week for groceries and if the total came to $17.01, then they had to put something back. I’m not sure where they lived, but the article did say her husband was in the Air Force, so I would guess that they lived in a large area where the cost of living was quite high. The husband worked at night and the wife would turn out all the lights and sit in the dark to save on electricity. They didn’t buy magazines, newspapers or clothes. The car was only used to get the husband to work and to buy food. They walked a lot.

Their apartment was furnished but they asked their Landlord if he would drop the rent if they provided their own furniture. He said yes and reduced the rent $95.00 ($516.80 today). They drove to her parent’s house (8 hour trip) to pick up her bed and a couple of chairs. To save money while they were gone, they emptied the fridge and freezer and turned it off, unplugged everything electric.

They used bath towels for a week, instead of throwing them in the wash each day as they had been used to doing. They lived in a tiny rundown apartment with no balcony. They strung lines over the bathtub to dry clothes and she even hand washed laundry to save on water and electricity.

If you have to there are all sorts of measures you can take if you are financially desperate.

I strongly agree that if you have to you can go to desperate lengths to save money. If you aren’t used to saving money in this way, it may take a while to get used to it. In other words, up until about 2007 we were living in a “Buying Bonanza” economy. When you are used to having money, it may take a while to get used to not having a lot of money and having to come up with drastic ways to cut back.


1. Put out the word that you are looking for something. You’re not asking for a freebie, you are just telling people that you are looking to buy a specific item. “If you know someone who has one they might sell at a reasonable price, let me know.”

2. If someone has an item they are not using, stored away somewhere, let them know that you would be willing to buy it for a reasonable price.

3. When you put out the word be sure to speak to the best scrounger you know.

“New things depreciate rapidly with its first ownership. As you become familiar with the used stuff market, you’ll find a significant price range. Shop around and buy things at the low end.”


After using a steel wool pad, wrap it in plastic and pop it into the freezer until the next use. It will thaw quickly and won’t rust.


Here’s a great idea and I love it. A reader wrote in that once a week she has a meal exchange with a friend/neighbor. The friend /neighbor cooks for her on Tuesday and she cooks for the friend on Thursday. They make the main dish only and the recipient adds the salad or whatever. This way they both get one night off from cooking.


Both Amy and her husband were spendthrifts, but they both converted to Tightwads. “I have observed many tightwad spouses who have struggled for years, or even decades, to change their spendthrift partners without success.” Amy goes on to say that “Genuine change results from an inner willingness and cannot be imposed by others.” So if you are a Tightwad and want to convert your spendthrift spouse, Amy has some suggestions.

Here is the advice that Amy gave.

1. Establish a financial goal that you both can agree on. Without a goal, saving money has no meaning.

2. Gather evidence. Know how much money you have coming and where it is going. Yep, this means that you need to keep track of every penny you spend for a period of time.

3. Always confront your spouse at a “good time.” Do not confront in the heat of an argument.

4. When you discuss the problem stick, with the facts. Do not label or accuse. Don’t bring up a bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with finances.

5. Set the example. Your record of spending should show that you didn’t purchase anything non-essential.

6. Work on small changes instead of sweeping reforms. In other words, take baby steps.

7. Give your spouse some freedom. Agree to a small amount of money that your spouse can spend on anything he wants. Determine a sum of money that fits in your budget.

8. Show them. If you find a way to save money, show him. My husband didn’t catch on to reusing Ziploc sandwich bags until one day I told him that since the majority of the bags came back pretty clean, it would save money. I told him to bring them home and simply put them on the counter and I would take care of the rest. I made it easy for him. If he forgets and throws them away, I don’t get upset. I know that the majority of the time he remembers.

9. If your spouse is the least likely to accept information from you, then get him to think it is his idea. Use the phrase “What do you think about …..” Okay, I have a hard time with this one as my husband isn’t like this, but I know that a lot of people have a partner that doesn’t like to try anything new, unless it is their idea.

10. Be patient – don’t push too hard.


Readers wrote in after her first article and said that in order to understand a diehard spend thrift, you must understand how they think. Here are few of their responses:

1. They do not understand the concept of money. Period.

2. Like small children, they need instant gratification.

3. They are slow to realize that their money must be used to pay for life’s necessities.

4. They don’t understand that control over their money, in the long run, will give them more freedom and peace of mind.

5. Any attempt to make them responsible for money is perceived as punishment or an attempt to control their lives.

Coping Suggestions:

1. Accept the things you cannot change, and change the thinks you can. Know the difference between the two.

2. Agree that purchases over “X” amount must be discussed.

3. Post your income and outgo in a place where it can be seen, either weekly or monthly.

4. Take care of necessities first, before discretionary funds are distributed.

5. If you know a major expense is coming up, let them know well in advance there will be less discretionary spending.

6. Make it clear that a savings account is not a discretionary fund and must be paid like a bill.

I have never had this problem as my husband and I communicate about money. We are both on the same page. That is why I think that pre-marital counseling is so important so that this issue can be addressed. Although, when you are in that lovey, dovey courtship/engagement period, you may think that you can change the other person or you can work it out later.

I think a solution to this is to give an “allowance” to the spendthrift spouse and begin with a reasonable sum of money. As time goes on, you can sit down and talk about cutting back the amount a little bit. I would rather give someone a little more latitude in the beginning and then cut back some in order for them to get used to the idea of spending less. If you give them a stingy amount, they will feel totally deprived and unhappy and will ultimately go out and spend, spend, spend.

I feel insecure when our bank accounts are lower than I want them to be due to extra spending or unplanned expenses. Security is worth a lot to me and not just in the area of money. I feel secure in my marriage because I know my spouse loves me and I love him. However, if my spouse was wildly blowing money here and then and sabotaging any plans for saving up for a house or something else, I would immediately feel insecure and that insecurity in the area of money would lead to an insecurity in our marriage. No wonder they say that money problems are the biggest reason couple’s divorce.

Okay, enough of my preaching.

Tomorrow we will discuss pages 172 through 182. I hope you are enjoying this refresher course and synopsis of Amy Dacyczyn’s book the Tightwad Gazette I.

As always, comments are appreciated. Take care and we will continue tomorrow.

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