March 27, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day 24 - March 27

Today Amy touches on a few interesting topics. One of my favorites is the question of ethics and tightwaddery. Sometimes in our quest to get a good deal or a lot of one good deal, we may cross a line. Amy addresses that issue.

These ideas are not my own.  They are from Amy Dacyczyn's book the Tightwad Gazette I.  I have underlined my comments.  As always your comments, criticisms and all, are appreciated.  Let’s get started.


Amy discusses the sure found truth that thrift and taking care of the environment go together. To save money on gas, she has ridden a bike. When their first child was born, he slept in a crib they purchased at the Salvation Army. When that same child became allergic to disposable diapers, they switched to cloth.

When the Navy transferred them to Norfolk, Virginia they started to shop at yard sales and began to regret the new purchases from years past.

Along the way they started to buy things in larger quantities. They didn’t air condition their entire house. They hung laundry on the lines. Amy washed dishes in half a sink of water.

When they were moved by the Navy again to Maine, she lived near a public laundry and went there often. She scoured the shelves for “How To” books.

Their efforts to save more on purchases naturally resulted in less consumption of goods. Eating few convenience foods meant less trash. Because they had used less gasoline and had monitored the thermostat in their house, they were using less energy.

And as Amy says “I recognized that economy and ecology are like two circles that overlap 90% of the time. The remaining 10% is the area where doing the right thing for the environment costs more.

As they had met their financial goals, and with the prosperous business that they had started with the Tightwad Gazette, they did not have to be tightwads anymore. The surplus money gives them the economic room to reexamine some of the areas within the 10%.

“The understanding of the relationship between thrift and the environment has given me the assurance that efforts to reuse and conserve could not be too extreme.”

Perhaps instead of saying that we are living frugally, we should say that we are going green.


Making your own homemade popsicles does save money. I have made homemade chocolate pudding pops that my DH loves, so popsicles are not just for kids.

Be resourceful and raid your cupboards or fridge for possibilities. Here are a few:

Homemade yogurt that didn’t set up well – mixed with some homemade jam;

Leftover Jell-O that didn’t set up well or Jell-O that you make for this purpose from a store brand.

Juice or syrup left over from canned fruit.

Juice that has been in the fridge and needs to be used up.

Kool-Aid or lemonade mixes bought on sale.


Amy received an invitation to be on the “To Tell the Truth” game show. (Okay, this will date me but we used to watch this t.v. show.) She accepted the invite and was flown to Los Angeles. Amy knew that she had been selected on the basis of her unusual profession rather than the merits of “her message.”

Amy was gone four days that added up to two days travel time, one day in the studio and a day to herself. On her free day she was tired from jet lag and since her hotel was not within walking distance of anywhere, she stayed in.

Amy received $80 for food during her stay. She had vowed to bring as much back as she could. She ate on the plane (Remember those days?). A breakfast buffet was included with the hotel. At the breakfast buffet she smuggled a muffin out in her purse to eat later on.

For her other meals Amy ate out and chose simple foods such as a turkey club sandwich. Actually, she ate healthy by not succumbing to the fancy sauces and such that a lot of people eat while dining out.

The maids replaced all the soaps and shampoos daily so Amy of course brought all of the extras home. Amy also noted that the bargain shampoo that she had been using cleaned just as well as the expensive shampoos the hotel provided.

The contestants all guessed that she was the true tightwad and she received the minimum award of $334 plus another $40 meal allowance.

So she accomplished her task of coming home with money left from her eating expense and with some prize money.


Amy was called to accountability on putting a muffin in her purse from the breakfast buffet. She admitted that she shouldn’t have done that. And with that said, Amy addressed some letters that she had received from people telling her of their tightwad ways. Here are a few:

1. A woman bought a suit that she needed for a business meeting. She wore it once and then returned it to the store.

2. Phoning their mother in law when they knew she wasn’t home, leaving a message on her machine so that she has to call them back and pay for the long distance call.

3. A man didn’t want to pay for his trash pickup, so he took his trash to a nearby community that didn’t charge for picking up trash.

Yes these people wrote to her with pride as to their money saving ways, but it would seem that they had crossed a line of ethics. So, how do you sort all of it out?

According to Amy, “The relationship between ethics and thrift can be summed up in one sentence. It is wrong to save money at the expense of others. Period.”

Amy goes on to say “small, seemingly insignificant acts such as pilfering, swiping sugar packets and steaming postage stamps, and fudging income taxes and insurance claims merely pass along your costs to other consumers.”

I whole heartedly agree with Amy and I go further to say that I have been places where they are handing out free samples with coupons. I take one. I don’t try to go back and get more. Also, when there is a great deal such as the 80 cent a lb. hamburger that I purchased back in February, I didn’t clean out the whole lot of it. I left plenty for others. In my mind it goes to the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. You don’t want people to cheat you, so don’t cheat others.

Amy does see the importance of generosity or consideration for someone else especially when their income is less than Amy’s. She believes in paying a decent tip at a restaurant, while dickering at a yard sale. She will pay full price to buy something from a child or someone who appears to be raising cash due to lean times.

Don’t bring frugality or tightwaddery into a bad light by being unethical.


A reader sent in a frugal recipe for rice and beans that is also prepared in an energy saving method.

“In a large pan that fits inside a pressure cooker, bring 1 cup beans to a boil, pour off water and add 2 cups fresh water plus 2 tablespoons oil. Place large pan into pressure cooker with 1 1/2 cups water in the bottom of pressure cooker. Place smaller pan down in the bean and water mixture with 1 cup short grain brown rice and a 1 1/2 cups water. Cover both pans with foil. Close pressure cooker and cook 30 minutes after the doodad starts rocking. Then drop pressure under running water and serve.”

Flavor the meal however you like. Suggestions are cumin and chili powder with pinto or kidney beans for a Mexican direction. Curry powder with lentils. Sage, basil and bay with split peas or any other beans. Tomato paste or sauce and Italian herbs with pinto, pink or kidney beans.

I love rice and beans, but that is me. You could easily add a small amount of meat to any one of the variations for those who prefer some meat.

Lately I have been eating a salad for lunch that along with chopped vegetables and a little cheese I have topped with some kidney beans. I also enjoy a soft tortilla with some shredded cheese. I put this in the microwave and melt it, and then I add kidney beans with some veggies and picante sauce.

If your family does not like the idea of eating rice and beans, then start with a casserole made of rice and beans with plenty of meat. Season it well and then as time goes on, slowly reduce the amount of the meat. The key in my mind to serving such a simple meal is to season and flavor it.

Perhaps you could start serving a modest meal of beans and rice once a month and your family could donate what you would have spent on a more expensive meal to charities that work to feed those who are hungry.


At the time (1992), Amy said that these homemade salad dressings only cost between 45 cents and $1.45 per 16 oz.

Thousand Island Dressing

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish or finely chopped sweet pickle
2 tablespoons chili sauce or ketchup
2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 hard cooked egg, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl except the egg. Stir in chopped egg last. Refrigerate. Makes 1 1/3 cups

Ranch Salad Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions, tops only
1/4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or ½ to 1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.

Sweet Tomato French (Similar to Catalina dressing)

2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
1 to 2 cloves garlic (or 1 to 2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons finely minced onion

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake. This can also be mixed in a blender, although the color becomes creamier rather than translucent. If preparing in a blender, mix all ingredients except onion. Stir in finely mixed onion by hand. Refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.

Cucumber Buttermilk

1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup grated cucumber
2 tablespoons minced green onions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons dried dill
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl with a tight lid. Stir or shake well. Refrigerate. Makes 1 ¼ cups

Italian Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil or a combination
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or oregano

Combine ingredients in a large jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well. The cost comparison is based on vegetable oil. Makes 1 quart

Blue Cheese

This recipe makes a large quantity and is very strong. For die-hard blue cheese lovers only.

1 qt. (4 cups) mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. Roquefort or blue cheese, crumbled

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl except crumbled cheese. Mix with electric mixer. Stir in crumbled cheese with a fork. Refrigerate. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Tomorrow we will discuss page 230 through 240. Amy talks about how to avoid feeling deprived. That is something that many of us can relate to. She also touches on home haircuts and how to compare egg prices.


HDNelson said...

I (and my husband) wholeheartedly vouch for the excellence of the blue cheese dressing recipe - I just made it yesterday!

Martha said...

As I was typing the recipe on the post, my mouth was almost watering. I love blue cheese and blue cheese dressing. Yummy.

Anonymous said...

About ethics: This is a very important issue to me. There is no honor is living frugally if you in any way could be perceived as cheating to to do it. I struggle mightily with coupon mavens, for example, who go to lengths to get multiple coupons. The company offering the coupons takes a hit, and they pass that hit on to consumers. I wouldn't feel good about that.

The Wells Family said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I loaned volume 1 to someone & never got it back. So much good information!!