March 07, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day Seven

Well, today marks 1 week since we started this journey of looking at Amy Dacyczyn's book, The Tightwad Gazette I.  Some advice is a little outdated but the majority of the advice in this book is still good today and will be good tomorrow.  I have found that while re-reading this book, that I have become more conscious of ways I can save money in our budget.  A lot of it is a renewal or recommitment to living frugally. 

In this time when we are paying a high price to put gasoline in our vehicles, we are having to look at even more ways to stretch our families resources.  I hope you enjoy today's reading and again post any comments.  Remember, my comments have been underlined.


Amy discusses her strategy for buying a turkey for the holidays. She recommended that you buy your turkey several months in advance to get the best price. If you don’t, you will end up paying twice the price. Every area of the country/world is different, but in our area you can get the best turkey prices about 30 days before Thanksgiving.

Amy recommends buying a large turkey even if you have a small family as you can freeze meal size portions of meat. She also talks about those holiday “deals” where you can buy Brand A ham and get a turkey free. Amy said that she priced a different brand of ham and figured it was cheaper to purchase brand B ham and a separate turkey and save money.

This is a traditional holiday deal in our area and every year I marvel at the people that feel they are getting a great bargain. If they would only use the calculator on their cell phone, they would quickly figure out that this was not a deal after all.


Amy dries her clothes outside in the summer and during the winter she has a clothesline that is hung in her attic. She only dries cloth diapers in a dryer so that they remain soft for baby's bottom. One day she heard that smaller dryer loads are more efficient.

Leave it to Amy to go to the length that she did to test this. She tried different weights of laundry using diapers to run this test. Amy timed the loads to see how long it took each load to dry. The end result: 20 lbs. of laundry seemed to be the most efficient. Under that weight, the dryer is inefficient. It took 40 minutes to dry 10 lbs. of laundry and it took 60 minutes of dryer time to dry 20 lbs. of laundry. One large load versus two small saves 20 minutes of dryer time.

Amy did comment that clothes dried on the line tend to be wrinkled but half a day of wear removes the wrinkles. But she also said that if you couldn’t tolerate wrinkled clothing, that drying the clothes a little in the dryer and then hanging the clothes up will remove most wrinkles. Also, Amy reminds everyone to clean their lint trap in order to get the best energy usage out of the dryer.

I do not like wrinkled clothing. I have a small bedroom upstairs near our master bedroom and there is an ironing board set up all the time in that room for ironing. My husband will press his dress shirts for work and even his dress pants if they need a touch up. Years ago he got tired of waiting for me to iron his work clothes every morning, so he asked me to show him how to iron and he’s been doing it ever since.

Amy advised not using the dryer as an iron as it costs more to dry than to iron the clothes in the first place.

When I was working I would iron clothes the night before. Each night when my husband comes home from work, when he changes his clothes, he picks out what he is going to wear the next day and he irons his clothes then.   About the only clothes I need to iron for my son is what he wears to church or when he needs to wear “church” type clothes anywhere.


Amy starts this discussion with this sentence “Health insurance rates continue to climb dramatically, in part because the costs of the uninsured are passed on to those who have insurance.” She continues with saying “As health insurance increases in cost, fewer people and businesses will be able to afford it, and the more those who carry insurance will pay.” Well, some things never seem to change.

Amy does say that even though some people may not be able to afford a traditional health insurance plan, they may be able to afford a higher deductible health insurance policy from the amount of money that’s routinely wasted on groceries and expensive consumer items.

She goes on to say that most people fear the higher deductible as they are worried as they don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for medical expenses. A higher deductible would probably be a good choice and you should discipline yourself to save the money in the bank to pay any expenses to save the premium difference.

Okay, health insurance has changed a lot since when Amy wrote this article back in 1992, but I believe there is one point she is trying to make. You should make it a priority to have health insurance.

Health insurance costs have increased greatly since then and many people cannot afford health insurance. But, if you can afford a policy but you don’t get one as you would rather spend your money on something else, well that isn’t a smart idea.

When our son and daughter in law got married in 2007, they were on their way to graduate school where they would also earn a living by coaching part time. Health insurance was not provided. This made me nervous. The amount of money they had to live on was around $800 a month so they really couldn’t afford health insurance. Being as they were coaches and would be doing a lot of travelling, and also knowing that anything could happen, my husband and I decided to pay for health insurance for the two of them as part of their wedding present.  At the time I was working so we could afford this expense.

We were worried that if they were in an accident or worse yet, were diagnosed with cancer or any other major illness, that they wouldn’t have insurance. We researched plans and ended up getting a policy on each of them with a deductible of $2,500. The cost was $130 a month for the two of them. No, it didn’t cover normal trips to the doctor nor an annual physical, but if the worse happened, they had insurance.

We only had to do this for one year. It was $130 a month payment that gave me peace of mind and gave them peace of mind also. In return the two of them lived on very little money during that time and did learn a lot during those first few years of marriage as to living on a small amount of money and being appreciative for everything that they did have, including good health.

Health insurance is expensive, that is something that will never change. I would never want to make a decision as to whether I should buy groceries or pay for health insurance. I know many people where it is such an exorbitant expense and they can't afford it.  With the way that things are going in the economy, many businesses have cut out health insurance benefits to their employees as the business cannot afford it. 

If you need health insurance and can’t afford a basic plan, see if you can afford a higher deductible and try to get money saved in the bank to cover your basic costs. Better yet, take care of yourself.

Sometimes we forget that “the best defense is a good offense.” Get your sleep. Don’t stay up late and burn the candle at both ends, if at all possible. Bundle up when it is cold outside and stay away from anyone who is sick. Eat a healthy diet and exercise. If you feel you need to, take a multiple vitamin. By taking care of yourself, you can avoid a lot of visits to a doctor. This is what our mothers and grandmothers have been telling us for years.

As to what is going on today in our government with Obama care, well, let’s leave that for another today.


1 Turkey Carcass
4 chicken bouillon cubes
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
1 can peas
1 cup uncooked noodles

Simmer the turkey carcass in a large pot with enough water to cover. Add bouillon cubes and spices. Cook 45 minutes. Strain broth and pick meat from the bones. Return meat to the broth. Add remaining ingredients except the peas and the noodles. Cook til tender. Add peas and noodles. Simmer until noodles are tender.

Amy has a suggestion and that is if you add vinegar to the water when you cook the bones for soup, it will draw out the calcium from the bones into your soup broth. Add 1 oz. of vinegar to 1 quart of water up to 4 oz. of vinegar no matter how much water you use. You won’t taste the vinegar in the final soup.


A reader wrote that she buys her children’s clothes at the end of the season for the next year. She buys one size larger than they are at the time. She gets great bargains from Labor Day and into the fall for the following year.

I never did this because my boys could go through a growth spurt and then I would be sunk. Instead I would go to garage sales over the summer and would look for bargains on the sales that occurred at Labor Day.

Also, I didn’t buy my kids a closet full of clothes. Your kids don’t need to own so many clothes when they are constantly growing. You can still give them a variety of items to wear without feeling that they need to stuff their closet.


One very creative mother recommended saving the plastic lids from margarine containers, cool whip containers and such. During the summer this mother made homemade popsicles in plastic cups. She took the plastic lids and cut out a circle or two depending on the size of the plastic cups. Then she cut out a little hole or oval in the center of the circle and pushed a Popsicle stick in it. She placed this over the plastic cup and the plastic circle kept the Popsicle stick in place during the freezing process.


Amy was having trouble removing the old darkened varnish from their 100 year old home. She tried expensive chemicals that made the finish gummy, but it still wouldn’t come off.

One day someone who owned an old Victorian house told Amy that the varnish could be removed with a simple paint scraper. She went home and tried it and was amazed that it worked.  Amy said she was worried about scratching the surface, but after refinishing doors and tons of wood trim, she hasn’t botched it yet.

She recommended first trying denatured alcohol as sometimes this will remove the varnish without scraping. Simply apply the denatured alcohol and let it sit for minute and wipe it off with a rag.  Here is what Amy says about this process of scraping off old varnish, “Old varnish scrapes off in a powdery form with relative ease. I scrape very lightly.” Amy uses a standard paint scraper with disposable blades.

Once she has scraped a surface, she wipes the scraped area with a little denatured alcohol on a rag or a piece of steel wool. This dissolves and smooths out any varnish residue.   This is a time consuming process, but it is able to be done without chemicals.

I have old darkened woodwork in my house, but I am not going to touch it. I like the way it looks with its “alligator skinned type crackles” on the window seat. My plan is to touch up the woodwork with a little stain where it needs it (I have stain to match) and then rub on a little varnish.


Amy starts this topic with the comment that leave it to the food industry to make healthful and cheap food more expensive, all in the name of convenience.

She ran tests on microwave popcorn all the way to generic regular popcorn. As you can guess the microwave popcorn costs more and yielded only 6 cups, instead of the 12 cups advertised on the package. As you may guess, the generic popcorn was far cheaper popped in a popcorn popper or hot air popper.

For March 8th, read page 77 thru 87.  This portion has a short article on Christmas and there is a discussion on hot cocoa mixes and homemade mixes.  My favorite section "Seeking the Minimum Level" is covered in our reading.  The advice from this article alone has saved me a lot of money over the years. 


The Headstrong Housewife! said...

Another tip about the plastic lids, if you leave them on the Popsicle stick when you give the Popsicles to the kids it works to catch drips, and keeps hands from getting sticky!

judy said...

Its funny how health insurance never changes. We lived without health insurance for 6 months this year and when I tell you I was scared to death I am not kidding.

We can usually find turkey on sale really cheap in the week leading up to a Holiday so that is when I usually stock up.