March 10, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day Nine - March 10th

I cannot get over how much I am learning from re-reading the Tightwad Gazette I. Tips that I felt didn’t apply 15 years ago, apply to me today especially since we now own an old house.

All of these ideas come from Amy Dacyczyn and any comments of my own are underlined.

My favorite section in today’s reading is the section on Interior Design. I hope you are enjoying and re-learning (or perhaps you are reading this book for the first time) as much I as am.

Well, let’s get started with Finding Bargains.


Amy starts our today’s discussion with phrases that people buy into such as “Expensive is Good” and “Inexpensive is bad.”

Sometimes a bargain or inexpensive product doesn’t turn out to be such a great product, but for Amy those times are rare. She shares some examples such as adopting a purebred German Shepherd from the animal shelter for only $20; and buying a like new game from a thrift store for only 39 cents.

Price doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Do your research and experiment a little and also have some patience.


Amy listed a few of her best bargains such as: The Public Library, a single zucchini seed (just how many zucchini's can you get from one seed - a bunch); public places such as free museums and such.

Pg. 89 – Two Christmas Projects

Bread Bears

Amy shapes yeast bread dough into the shape of a bear. Here is a link to Taste of Home Magazine that has a picture of what the bread bear looks like.

Dough for Bread Bears

1 pkg. dry yeast
1/4cup warm water
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey
3 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, whole
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup warm milk
5 to 6 cups flour
Cinnamon sugar

Combine yeast with water; stir with fork until dissolved and set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, honey, lemon peel, almond extract, lemon juice and salt until mixture is fluffy. Beat in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. (Reserve three egg whites for glaze.)

With a spatula, blend in milk and yeast mixture.  Beat in two cups of flour to make a smooth batter. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it until the texture is smooth, about 10 minutes. Place in a buttered bowl, cover lightly with a cloth, and allow it to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; punch it down and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Shape into 2 – 12” bears or 4 – 8” bears.  Use a small amount of water to attach the parts.

To finish the bear, press indentations with your index finger to make eyes and belly button. Put a blanched almond in each eye socket so that it will hold its shape while baking.

Cover the bread bears with a clean cloth and let them rise for one hour in a draft free space. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beat one egg white with 1 teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush paint the entire top surface of each bear with the egg glaze. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake the bears, 30 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Smaller bears take less time. After baking remove the nuts from the eyes. Let cool for 1 hour. Place raisins or candies in the eyes.


Save stones or pits from peaches, prunes and cherries. After collecting a large number, wash the pits well. Soak briefly in bleach and rinse.

Glue the pits to a sanded circle of ¼ inch plywood. Attach a wire wreath ribbon. This can be hung or laid flat as a centerpiece.

This sounds interesting and I wish there was a picture. It would take a very long time for me to save up pits and then I would have to let the entire family know that I am saving pits and not to throw them out. Still, this project kind of intrigues me.


For those children that insist on certain designer clothes, Amy recommends to give them a clothing budget ample enough to cover his/her basic needs. Then provide them with special jobs to earn the difference between the designer and a non-designer item.

Amy goes a step further to say that you could collect designer labels from worn clothing to sew onto non-designer clothing.  I don't think I would do that, especially since now the designer label is on the front of the t-shirt somewhere."
I know families that pay a lot of money for their children’s clothes so that their children can wear what they want to wear – be it Nike shoes or Aeropostale, American Eagle or the Gap, as examples. My sons run and so we always bought them the best running shoes but we purchased them on sale at a discount outlet.

I have never faced the problem of my sons wanting to wear only designer clothes. My sons both wore jeans and t-shirts (mostly running shirts from running in races) and they didn’t really care for designer clothing. We buy “school and church type clothes” at an outlet mall, when there is a sale going on. My youngest son is not into wearing “thrift” clothing and that is fine. We save money on my clothes by buying them at thrift or consignment stores. With the deals that we get at the outlet mall for our son and the fact that we buy clothes that mix and match, we don’t spend a lot of money on clothes for him.

If had daughters, I’m sure this would be a different story. However, I do agree with Amy in that you make a budget and if they want to exceed that budget, they can pay for difference themselves.


I love this statement that Amy makes “Where we live has a marked effect on our sense of well being. If we are happy in our home we have less need to leave it and spend money. As tightwads, how we feel about where we live is important. But we approach interior decorating in a unique manner – money is an object. Therefore, we must resort to the strategies that yield the most improvement for the least money.”

Housecleaning – Just keeping your house clean, gives your home dramatic results without doing a lot of redecorating. Get rid of the clutter and put things away. Eliminate unnecessary items.

Rearranging – Redecorate by putting old things in new places. Shop your house. Move something from the living room into the bedroom – such as a chair. What about a vase or lamp? Perhaps it would look great in a different room. “When you clean house and rearrange you can still keep the decorative items that please you, but try to group your treasures to create a focal point.”

Eclecticism – This style lets you mix furniture of all types. Collect mismatched things from yard sales, garage sales or thrift stores. “Some people feel compelled to buy things that match because they lack confidence in their own tastes.” This can result in a sterile and impersonal look.

I was in somebody’s home one time and they had a beautiful oak dining room table. All of the chairs were wood and all were different. It looked really nice. My dining room chairs will need to be replaced this year and my plan is to find different styles of wood chairs to replace the old ones.

The Potpourri Approach – “A potpourri is a grouping of items that are similar but not identical.” Instead of one large picture, collect several small ones and paint the frames the same color. Pick up odds and ends of china for your place settings.

Do-it-yourself – “When you refinish furniture, paint your own art, or grow your own houseplants from seedlings, you invest part of yourself in those items.” Amy goes on to say that when they bought their farm house they didn’t let the condition of the kitchen dampen their spirits. They stripped wallpaper and patched plaster walls. They repaired holes in the walls and the ceiling. They refinished the floors. Their total cost to “redecorate” was only $200.

Right now, I am doing the same thing. It took a long, long time to get over 100 years of layers of wallpaper stripped off the living room wall. Then it was patching the holes and washing the walls so that they were clean and free from old wall paper paste residue. Now comes the fun part of painting, but the fun part had to wait until the prep work was done. Still, doing it all myself has saved a lot of money.

Today with the internet we have access to all sorts of DIY information on t.v. and the internet. If I’m not sure how to do something, I check out You Tube.

Flexibility – Be flexible as you start out to buy things for your home. Carefully choose things. As you acquire better things you will want to be able to use your earlier acquisitions in other parts of your home. Area rugs can be used in other areas of the home, when you get a new rug. I have a few unmatched old end tables that I use in the living room that were in other areas of the house before. 

Breaking with Convention – one reader wrote in to say that they bought a surplus library card catalog. They refinished it and used it to store silverware, napkins and placemats. They used an old street light for a lamp. If you accept the unconventional, the range of inexpensive alternatives increases. I love the unconventional. For years I wasn’t sure what my “style” was and then I realized that I am an unconventional – eclectic. In other words, I love unmatched, weird stuff.

Stick with Classics – “Interior design, like clothing, undergoes style changes. With clothing, black is the classic color. In interior design the classic color is white. The harvest golds and avocados have long since enjoyed their heyday. But the white appliances form the 1960’s go with the ones from the 1990’s. Now, although I like unmatched, weird stuff, I couldn’t agree more with Amy. I love white appliances in a kitchen. I love a basic color in my furniture in my living room – brown with some olive. I put weird colors on my walls as I can always paint them neutral to get a different look with my basic furniture.

Years ago I bought blue chairs and a blue, green, maroon plaid couch for our living room. After a while the colors kind of got to me. I kept them until the couch wore out and now the chairs are in our mismatched basement family room.

Amy used the example of avoiding trendy motifs. Remember the “country themed” decorating of the 1980’s with the “Country Goose” and “Welcome to my Country Home” motif? It seemed everything was pink and blue. I never liked it. I think it was because my Grandma had a country home and she never had anything like that in it.

Think – Many people are dissatisfied with their homes. Amy recommends that they clean, declutter, move the furniture or put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and they will become more satisfied with their home. I agree with this and I also think that rearranging furniture first, searching for items from other rooms to bring perhaps into the living room should be the first step before you go out and shop for something to add to your décor.

I also go one step further by advising people to not compare their home with someone else’s. Live within your means and find your own style on a budget.

Pg. 95 - TIP ONE

A reader advises to keep an Aloe Vera plant on hand as it can supply you with the best burn ointment available.

Pg. 95 – TIP TWO

A reader wrote in that she made all of her own baby food. I know women that make their own baby food and then freeze it in ice cube trays. When frozen, they simply pop the ice cubes into a Ziploc bag in the freezer. This of course is better when you are growing your own vegetables.

Pg. 96 – TIP THREE

One stay at home wife said that when she makes a pot of coffee, she pours it into a thermos and leaves it on the counter all day. This helps to save energy and prevents the coffee from “cooking” for a long time.

Pg. 96 – TIP FOUR

Cut a roll of paper towels in half so that half a sheet is used most of the time.


Amy had about 400 surplus quart glass top wire ball canning jars that people had given her. They were becoming obsolete as the rubber rings were getting harder to find. She used them for many purposes such as canisters for food storage. I love this idea. I think that it is a nifty decorating idea to store rice, beans, pasta and other items in these old fashioned canning jars. She also pondered how she could use these as gifts by putting in homemade gifts of soup mix and coffees.

I for one would love to have these kind of canning jars. They would look wonderful in my kitchen, but I have yet to find any. I think it is because they are becoming more and more treasured “finds” for people. But, I will use regular canning jars to store some items.

Amy found several uses for her glass top canning jars such as in the office to hold paper clips, rubber bands and pens. She used them for storage for buttons, sea shells, marbles and in the kitchen as wooden spoon holders and silverware holders when entertaining.

Other uses include holding cotton balls, cotton swabs, colored soaps and such for the bathroom. She used them for a mini terrarium and for a candleholder – put some sand in the bottom and put a votive in the center.

Well, that ends our reading for today. Lots of good tips and decorating ideas in this section. I always feel that Amy Dacyczyn’s suggestions are just like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. If she has tried something and it works, then it is worth trying.

Reading her section on Interior Decorating makes me want to get our living room painted and the furniture re-arranged.

Tomorrow we will read pages 97 through page 106. Tomorrow’s reading includes a section of Time vs. Money. Is something that saves you money worth your time? There is also a section on Time Savers and of course there are a few Tips.


tammyyarbrough said...

I really do agree with Amy's idea that regardless of ones interior decorating, having a decluttered house where you can sit down and feel like you're at "home" is far more important than spending thousands of dollars to impress the neighbors =)

The Headstrong Housewife! said...

I remember making that bear shaped bread in home Ec in high school in the early 90's!