March 23, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 21 - March 23

Amy Dacyczyn is one of the most creative women that I have ever known. I really like the way she thinks the majority of the time. She’s not one to run to the grocery store when she runs out of a key ingredient. She will either find a substitute (sometimes this is quite an experiment) or she does without. When you think about, Amy puts into practice lessons learned from the Great Depression.

The Tightwad Gazette I is her first book and the one that we are reading and discussing right now. All of the following ideas come from her book and they are not mine. However, I have made some comments and they are underlined.

Be sure to leave a comment especially if you have tried something from this book that you have never done before.

Well, let’s get started with today’s reading.


A reporter wrote an article on Amy and he said that he doubted that once her children hit the teenage years that she would be able to continue her tightwad ways.

As to food and how much a teenager can increase a food bill, Amy counteracts this by avoiding purchasing any junk food and they rely on their garden produce and other healthy foods for their meals. Therefore, she is now already limiting their options to cheaper and healthier food which should continue

Because Amy and her husband live in a rural area with few close neighbors, the pressures are far less than in an affluent community. If their children see something they want when they are in a store, Amy asks if they have money. Usually they have none. But that isn’t because they haven’t had opportunities to earn money.

In their household they pay their children 25 cents to do a chore – usually a 10 minute job, instead of getting an allowance. They start this process when their children reach the age of 5. Amy does expect her children to do certain daily chores, without getting paid. The 25 cent chores are above and beyond type of chores. When their children get older they can get jobs in a nearby community, but there will still be chores to be done at their homestead.

Amy said that even if she pays her children for doing chores and they spend the money on something that Amy would consider worthless, at least the children will understand the value of money.

Amy advises that if your children want an expensive pair of shoes, then you should provide them with the money that you were willing to spend and they should come up with the balance.

When we purchased a cell phone for our youngest son, he wanted a more expensive phone. We told him that we were only willing to pay for the basic model and if he wanted something beyond that, he would have to come up with the difference. He thought about it and decided that he would be willing to give up some of his hard earned money for a better phone. That was fine with me. Also, I think he took a little better care of that phone since he had paid for the majority of it.

I know that in the You Tube video I posted HERE, Amy does talk about one of her daughters carrying on Amy’s tightwad ways, so I would guess that all of her children have continued tight wadding in some form or another.


The Water Heater Timer – The timer is set to turn the water heater on at certain times of the day, such as during the morning and during the evening. Amy reported a monthly electric savings of between $10 and $15 at the time.

The Battery Recharger – Rechargeable batteries equal between 65 to 150 regular batteries. The initial cost for rechargeable batteries is a lot more than disposables, but you definitely get your money’s worth by recharging batteries.

The Fuzz Away – This is the gadget that removes the “pills” especially common to synthetic fabrics. It is kind of like a shaver for knit fabrics.

Now it begs to ask this question, what do you think today’s good gadgets would be? My guess is the majority of the people would pick some kind of electronic gadget ranging between an IPod, cell phone, IPad, Kindle to a laptop computer.


Amy “investigates” the practice of the food industry to make inexpensive and healthful foods more expensive and less nutritious. She focused on the potato.

The potato is the perfect tightwad food. I agree. Many times I can get a 5 lb. bag of potatoes for between 99 cents and $1.25.

She compared the cost of instant potatoes (mashed, scalloped, au gratin mixes), potato chips, and frozen fries to a single potato. Of course the raw potato was cheaper and we all know what is in the raw potato. Amy did say that in a pinch they do keep instant mashed potatoes on hand, but they lack the fiber of a basic raw potato.

Amy makes a really good point and that is “within the tightwad frame of reference, grocery shopping means expending money for nutrition.”

Oven-Fried Potatoes – A recipe from Amy Dacyczyn

Wash, but do not peel, one potato per person. Slice into ¼ inch slices and soak in cold water for at least 20 minutes.

Melt four tablespoons of margarine on a cookie sheet. Drain potatoes and pat dry. Place potatoes on cookie sheet in a single layer, coating both sides with margarine. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes ( or til lightly browned) on each side.

Save the surplus margarine on the cookie sheet for other uses. To save energy, prepare this when you are using your oven to cook something else for dinner.

With my grocery budget of $25 a week right now, I cannot afford to buy convenience foods. I love homemade mashed potatoes and scalloped potatoes. I have a few boxes of the scalloped potato mix and after they are used up, I will make my own homemade scalloped potatoes. I just have to plan ahead for the baking time.

Instead of buying tater tots to top a casserole, I take leftover mashed potatoes and spread them over the casserole, sprinkle on some crushed corn flakes that have been mixed with a little melted butter. When I make mashed potatoes, I either freeze the leftovers for tater tot casserole or I make potato patties the next night. Just melt some butter in a skillet. Take the mashed potatoes and form patties. Then place in the skillet and when one side is golden brown, carefully turn it over to brown the other side. You can add a little shredded cheese or leave plain. A lot of times I make potato patties when we are having a “supper” of eggs and sausage and fruit.


1. Amy explains that there are 4 basic sources of used clothes.

a. Someone gives them to you.

b. Garage Sales

c. Thrift Shops

d. Consignment shops.

2. In order to save money, you will need to change your method of shopping. If you are used to going to a department store and finding an assortment of clothing in your size, you will be disappointed if you bring that same attitude to a thrift shop. Instead of thinking about what a shop doesn’t have, look at what it does have.

3. Develop a notebook for your needs. Write down the sizes of all family members and possible items you need to buy for each member. Be sure to include colors.

4. Examine all clothing for any defects.

5. Don’t be discouraged by poor clothing that you find. If something made it to the thrift shop and still looks respectable, it most likely will hold up well.

6. When you look at a used item, think of it as a new item that has been washed 10 times.

7. Buy classic styles.

8. When buying for kids, buy a few years in advance.

9. Know that there might not be some things that you will find at a thrift shop.

10. If you trying to find things for a picky teenager, try to look for the subtleties of current trends.


Amy tells about going for a walk with an Aunt that lived near Harvard. Someone had set out an interesting looking trash pile. As they walked by, something caught Amy’s eye. Her aunt went over and picked it up for her. After all, it was out with the trash because they didn’t want it anymore, so it was for the taking. This was the first time that Amy had trash picked.

After she was married a neighbor lady had cleaned out her garage and put everything in a pile near the street for the trash pickup. Amy and her husband looked through the pile and found canning jars, toys and some other items they could use.

Many towns have a city wide clean up day. Our community used to have one. I would be placing some things outside and people would drive by and be picking the stuff up. I needed a new dish drainer, the kind that sits inside your sink. Mine had broken and I had repaired it so many times, it was beyond repair and I was unable to find one to buy.

I was walking the dog one morning and as I passed a bunch of stuff that was out by the curb, there it was – a dish drainer and it was the kind that fit inside the sink. Not only was it free for the taking, but it was new. I had been unemployed for about a month then, and I was sold on trash picking.

In one town where Amy and her husband lived in the first few years of their marriage, the town had a city wide trash pickup where you could put out large items and such. In other words, things that your garage collector wouldn’t pick up. On the days of that city wide clean up, Amy, sometimes with her husband, would go out daily to look for any good finds. If she was in doubt if she would be able to use an item, she would take it. If she couldn’t use it, she knew she could always put it out with the next city wide clean up.

However, as time went on, Amy would bring home more things and her husband was able to repair these items. After that she never had to worry about not being able to use what she brought home. People throw out many things as they don’t have the initiative or ability to repair things.

Here is a partial list of what Amy brought home from her days of trash picking in her town: a bucket of nails, 3 working radio control cars, 30 partly full quarts of paint, 2 tricycles, 3 floor lamps including 2 of 1920’s vintage, 2 director’s chairs, books, over 100 canning jars, 3 rolls of Christmas wrap, an antique crock, lumber, a large rocker, plant stands, an ironing board , a fireplace screen an antique school desk, an antique iron bed frame and more.

When our community starts doing city wide clean up again, I will be one of many driving and walking by the trash piles to see if there is anything I can use.


If you live in the country, this is a great idea for you. Kids will drive through the country, lean out the window and hit every mailbox they can find with a baseball bat. To solve this problem, Amy and her husband bought a large mail box. They set the large mail box on its end. Then they took their smaller mail box, took off the door and slid it into the large mailbox. Amy’s husband filled the cavity between the two boxes with cement. Once dried the very heavy mailbox was bolted to a heavyweight post.

Again, another day of useful, timeless information that we can still use.

I will be painting my living room tomorrow, so our next reading will be for Friday, March 25th. Be sure to read pages 193 through page 206. Highlights of our reading are giving a pirate themed birthday party, budget weddings and cutting the cost of baking.


The Headstrong Housewife! said...

I am the queen of "trash pickup" My teenage daughter hates it when she is with me, but she reaps the benefits, currently I have 2 large standing file cabinets, a leather living room set, a solid wood magazine rack, a large white dresser, a plastic stackable bin for potatoes and onions, I could go on and on. Anytime I see a pile of stuff I stop to look to see if there is anything I can use!

Martha said...

As a child, it was a big treat to go with my dad to the City dump if he had something to dump off. We would get our stuff out of our vehicle and throw it away and then we would walk around to see if there is something we could use.

One day there was a metal doll high chair and my dad grabbed it for me. We took it home and cleaned it and it was perfect.

Isn't it odd that one of my favorite memories of my father is trash picking at the City dump?