March 06, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day Six - March 6th

As a reminder, none of these ideas are mine. All of this information is taken directly from the Tightwad Gazette I. I have a great admiration for Amy Dacyczyn and the way she mentored me in frugal living. Her advice is timeless.

Now, let’s continue our reading today from the Tightwad Gazette I. As a reminder, all of my comments are underlined.


Amy starts her discussion on coupons by stating that “manufacturers provide coupons to entice consumers to buy their products.”


Amy said that many of her readers would send her their sales receipts and mark how much they saved on coupons but she said they were looking at the wrong number. Instead of looking at how much you saved on coupons, she suggests that you should be looking at how much you spent on coupons.

I agree with these statements. I could right now take a bunch of coupons to the store and buy stuff with those coupons. Yes, I would save a lot of money with the coupons, but I also would be spending a lot of money by using them in a wrong manner.

Amy suggests that you should always compare the price after coupons with alternative products such as store brands or making the same item from scratch or not buying the product at all. She also suggests that cutting coupons and organizing them takes time and this valuable use of time takes the savings down further. Amy also said that one needs to factor in the cost of obtaining those coupons.

I try really hard to keep my coupons organized and it involves a weekly maintenance of clipping and filing new coupons and purging the expired ones. Now we have the internet available and I can go to online sites to see what is on sale at local grocery stores and where I can find a coupon for many sale items. This is a great time saver.


She put couponers into two categories: moderate and very serious.

The moderate couponers tend to be quite organized and spend a few minutes a week on couponing. She suggested using a small file box to organize the coupons. At the other end of the spectrum is the very serious couponer who devotes 10 to 15 hours per week clipping, studying flyers, is involved in refunding also in which they may get cash back or some kind of product.

Amy also said that another time factor would be that couponing may take you longer at the grocery store.

Times have changed and couponing is so much easier and you can definitely be a moderate couponer or an extreme couponer. I do look at how much time it takes me to do a chore to see if I can find a simpler way. For me, saving some money each week off my grocery bill by using coupons with sale items is an easy way for me to lower my grocery bill and save money for my family. But, I don’t go overboard. Just like everything, it’s all about balance.


Amy did state that she used coupons to purchase nonfood items and food items that cannot be prepared from scratch. But she did say that most food coupons are for convenience or processed foods which they avoid. She also added something that I had never really thought much about, and that is you may buy something that your family likes so much that they will want you to purchase it a lot. I can understand this especially if it relates to a cereal or snack item. In our family if I buy cereal on sale with a coupon and my family likes it, no problem. I just tell them that I will buy it again when it goes on sale.


Amy states that Coupon Queens are the women seen on t.v. buying a $100 worth of groceries for only a few dollars. They normally save close to 40% per trip.

Now, for a drum roll, please, Mary Potter Kenyon, mom to Elizabeth from the Trenches of Mommyhood was profiled on this page by Amy as a coupon queen. You can find Mary's blog here
When Amy profiled Mary, Mary reported that she saved 20% per month on her grocery bill for her family of six, actually spending about $308 per month. But Mary also received $110 per month in refunding. With costs and everything involved, the net for her groceries was $249.00.

Amy goes on to say that an average family of six spent $500 per month for food and she said that most families could save with a mixed approach of couponing and making meals from scratch and gardening to supplement the family’s food. Amy also said that if you enjoy couponing and are saving money, then it is a great way to save on groceries.


Pickle Juice – use in marinades or salad dressings.

Toilet Paper Tubes – use to gather up loose excess electrical cords.

A Half Eaten Apple – Cut off remaining good parts and save to make an individual apple crisp for the microwave. Chop up apple. Stir together 1 teaspoon each of brown sugar, flour, oatmeal and margarine. Add a dash of cinnamon and sprinkle this mixture over the apple.  Microwave til soft.

I would have never thought of doing this but after reading this article 18 years ago, I started to do this with my kids. If they ate only half their apple, I would sprinkle with a small amount of lemon juice, put it in a baggy and make them an individual apple crisp later in the day.

Worn Towels and Washcloths - A worn towel can be cut lengthwise into strips to make a back washer. Washcloths can be cut in quarters to make reusable “handiwipes” or “baby wipes.” Store damp in a plastic bag for when traveling.

Mesh Onion Bags – Cut off the metal clip and knot. Use to store soap bits. The mesh and soap combine to form an effective cleaning agent when washing hands.

There are more tips on these pages.


In this section Amy talks about a lay sermon that was preached by her neighbor, Charlie Woodward. I have gleaned quotes from what Amy wrote. It is interesting and challenging.

“A gift is anything that we have that we did not work for. Most of us feel that being born in the United States is a gift. While not all of us are rich, we are likely to have greater opportunities for education, health care, and employment than those living in Third World Countries.”

“The bottom line is to understand that what we have and who we are has a lot to do with factors we received in a package deal when we came into the world.”

“I believe we need to use all our gifts as well as we can to provide security and quality of life for our families. Most of us do this well enough to have a surplus of either time or money.”

“The frugal lifestyle allows us to engineer the maximum surplus of time, energy, and/or money while using a minimum of resources. Since we are gifted differently, our surplus will also be different. We can, and should, use our surpluses to help smooth the peaks and valleys or unequal gift distribution.”

“By donating some of our surplus time, energy and money we express thankfulness for the abundance of gifts with which we were born.”


Under this section Amy writes about the book “The American Frugal Housewife” by Mrs. Lydia Maria Childs. The book was written in 1833. There were several recessions in the early 1800's along with Panics and bank closures.  This makes me wonder if Mrs. Childs wrote this book out of necessity to help others with the economic problems they were living through. I have a copy of it on my Kindle and I really enjoy it. While some of the tips are outdated, you can still get some use out of it. Lydia talks about saving money and not spending all your money.

Here are some quotes from the book that Amy highlighted. “It is a great deal better for boys and girls on a farm to be picking blackberries at 6 cents a quart, than to be wearing out clothes in useless play. They enjoy themselves just as well.” Amy inferred that all families should develop hobbies that save money.

“Patchwork is good economy. It is indeed a foolish waste of time to tear cloth into bits for the sake of rearranging it anew in fantastic figures; but a family may be kept out of idleness, and a few shillings saved by thus using scraps of gowns, curtains, etc.” Amy inferred that whenever possible re-use materials.


Amy is in favor of using a Credit Union over a bank since banks are for profit and credit unions are non-profit organizations. She felt that better deals could be obtained at a Credit Union. Credit Unions (or thrifts) and Banks have changed so much over the past 19 years that I feel that while this may be true in some cases, it isn’t necessarily the rule. This is one of those areas that you need to research for yourself.

Amy always recommends researching things. I recommend and I am sure she would to, that you research a bank or credit union that meets your needs. You may need a loan, want a checking/savings account, a debit card or prefer to do your banking and bill paying online. The best deal is for you to do your homework and research what will work the best for your family. Make sure you understand all the fees that may be charged to your account each month.

Let’s not forget something. Back in 2008 when the “Big Banks” failed, the Federal Government instituted new regulations that not only governed those big banks, but also the small community banks. Many of these small community banks did nothing wrong, but the government can’t make rules for certain banks, they must make rules/regulations that cover all banks. Some of these regulations are leading banks to charge higher fees.

Banks are changing their fees and simply getting your statement online and not mailed to you could save you some money. My advice is to sit down and make a list of your banking needs and then do some researching. Call customer service at banks or credit unions or go online and look at their websites.

So, in Amy Dacyczyn style, do your research. Depending where you live, a bank may be a better deal for some people while a credit union will be better for other people.  Just make sure that if you select a bank that your deposits are covered by the FDIC and if you choose a credit union that your deposits are covered by the NCUA.

Go to the FDIC website and click the link for consumers. There is a wealth of information there (here is the direct link). At this link you will find very useful information on scams, identity theft, bank failures, protecting yourself from bounced checks and overdraft fees and more.

As to credit unions, go to the NCUA at this link. You will find great information for consumers such as how to find a credit union, information about NCUA insurance, facts about federal credit unions and even a listing of failed credit unions.

Both of these links give great information to the consumer. In the meantime, remember to guard your credit rating. Having a high FICO score means better rates on loans and even credit cards. So work hard at  maintaining a high FICO score and credit rating. Go to this link at Free Credit Report to see your credit report and credit score. You should check your credit report and credit score frequently.

I would love to hear your comments on today’s reading. I apologize that I am posting these at night and hopefully tomorrow I can get back to posting during the day.

For our reading for March 7th, we will begin on page 66 and read through page 74.


Elizabeth said...

I forget sometimes that my mom was profiled in that book! :) I remember when a camera crew from Chicago flew out to film a clip of my mom for a Joan London special. :)

debster592 said...

sLoved seeing my Dad's sermon quoted is a warm special feeling to know his words have touched so many people that we don't even know :)