March 04, 2011

Tightwad Gazette I Refresher - Day Four - March 4th

We continue our journey through the Tightwad Gazette I today.  I love re-reading this book and find that it still is very useful after all these years.

Pg. 35 - TIP ONE: Free Ride

An individual wrote to Amy that in 25 years of driving (which with the date of publication of the book would put that back to 1967), he hasn’t spent a cent on cars. This writer goes on to say that he bought two repossessed cars for $500 each and sold one for $600. When it came time to buy a new car he ran an ad in the paper to sell his “1959 Classic car.” Then he took that money to buy a little newer older car with the cash. He takes his time looking and negotiating. Also he takes very good car of his cars making sure they are well maintained.

I like this idea. After all, the thrill of a car purchase can wear off pretty quickly after everyone gets used to seeing you in a different car and when you start making those payments. I really think the advice has merits and if you are a two vehicle family, you could easily start this method with a second vehicle. Now in today’s dollars, you would probably have to come up with a lot more money – let’s say $2,000 to $3,000 but I have to admit, this idea really appeals to me.

Pg. 36 – TIP TWO: Good Deals

This individual wrote in to say that if you make a purchase at certain stores and that item goes on sale within 30 days, you can take your receipt to the store and they will give you the difference. I know this is true of many stores; unfortunately none of them are in my community. It does mean that you need to make a habit of saving your receipts and keeping them organized.


A reader wrote to Amy with a question as to how Amy’s husband bought a new car and saved a lot of money. Amy started out by telling this reader that purchasing a new car can only be considered economical if you own the vehicle for more than 10 years. We bought a new minivan back in 1997 and in 2006 it died. So I felt that we did get our money’s worth considering we took yearly trips in that van. Amy’s response is vintage Amy. She recommended doing detailed research on several models finally deciding on one. Then she asks if you really need all of the whistles and bells on the vehicle and a more moderate or modestly equipped vehicle would be better. Really look at the options and see if you do have the option of not taking some of those. For example, Amy’s husband did not get a rear window wiper and defogger on the car, but later on regretted it. Be as educated as you can about the car so you know the price, what options you want and how much they should cost and then go shop several dealers to see what kind of deal you can get. Now, we have the internet and this can be done online.

Amy advises not to trade in your car and sell it on your own as you will get more money for the vehicle. We sold my DH’s 1992 Ford Tempo in 2004 for $600.00 to a High School Student. At a dealership I doubt we would have received that at all. When the dad and his daughter came to look at the car, the dad started the engine and opened up the hood and looked at it. He turned to my DH and said “you have taken good care of this car.” Yes we had. We took it in for oil changes like clockwork, any repairs were fixed a.s.a.p., and we always checked the tires, oil and more as needed. So we got a very good price for simple ongoing maintenance and I still see that car around town.

Amy reminds us that dealers will not sell at a lost and the best you can get is the bottom line. Again, we can do a lot of research online now which is such a time saver.

Again, Amy’s secret to success is research.

I am going to quote what Amy wrote in this section as it really makes you think.

“Why is it that if I had placed my six children in daycare at a cost of about $250.00 per week, and I worked a job grossing $100 per week, our family would have qualified for a larger mortgage loan?”

“Why do people moonlight for a few more dollars to make ends meet and then buy convenience foods because of a lack of time?”

“Why is it that people won’t donate to charities, but will buy overpriced merchandise they do not need because it’s for a good cause?”


An individual wrote in that quilts can be expensive to make but having quilts on your bed or to wrap up in on a cold night, can help save on the utility bill. This individual recommended buying old stained or frayed quilts at garage sales or thrift stores and recovering them by using sheets for the back and quilt pieces from old shirts, jeans and more. The advantage to this is that you already have a quilt with the batting and you are just recovering it. If you are looking for an inexpensive quilt cover, use the idea HERE that I posted about using old t shirts to make a quilt. Or if this is something that is needed for warmth and you aren’t concerned about appearance, then just recover the front and back with sheets and then attach with yarn for a pulled quilt.

I have a few old throws that I have for extra warmth if needed. They aren’t necessarily pretty enough to keep out all the time, but if needed I can reach behind the love seat and pull one out. If I need to be warm, I don’t care if colors match. Also we will pull some of these out to use on the beds underneath the pretty bed cover.


A woman wrote in to say that she had three ears of leftover corn in the fridge. She cut the corn off the cob, added ½ onion, chopped (also leftover in the fridge), and threw this into a bowl. Then she added a handful of stale crushed crackers, an egg, some dry milk with some water, a tablespoon of sugar and she blended it. The casserole was baked it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes and she had delicious casserole. This is a great example of looking in your cupboard and in your fridge for some kind of casserole concoction. She had some items that by themselves didn’t amount to much but with a little thought altogether these items made a great dish

My grandma made this recipe but she called it scalloped corn and it was delicious.


Amy advises that there are three ways to save:

1. Buy it cheaper

2. Make it last longer

3. Use it less

Here are two examples that put this ”three ways to save” into practice.

You drink coffee.

1. You switch to a cheaper, store brand coffee.

2. You make your coffee go farther by reusing your grounds with half as much fresh grounds added to the old ones.

3. You decide to drink half as much coffee.

You get your hair cut every six weeks.

1. You shop around and find a less prestigious salon that does as good a job for a lot less.

2. No savings here with option two, as Amy didn’t know how to make hair grow slower yet. I would offer this alternative, you have your hair in a style that looks good shorter or grown out. As my hair gets a little longer I can take a barrette to pull my bangs to the side. This way I can make my hair cut last longer and I can still look good.

3. You trim your hair around the ears yourself so that you need to get a professional cut once every eight weeks.


Amy tells the story of some friends, Dave and Maryann Smith bought a piece of land that had a dilapidated house on the property. They bought the property because it was picturesque and they planned to tear down the house. Amy describes the house as having had critters living it, gaping holes in the walls, the ceiling was falling down and more.

One day her friend, Dave, decided to take a crowbar at the house to see what was underneath it all. He ended up gutting it and three years later it is a beautiful home. Dave re-used old materials. Maryann spent endless hours pulling nails out of old boards. Dave used scraps of old lumber to make new trim. He bought odd lots of ceramic floor tile, and he bought “damaged doors” that he easily repaired. He scavenged a lot of materials. Now Dave obviously has skills as he made the two floor spiral staircase by welding scrounged scrap to make the framework.

Well you get the picture. Because they did the work themselves, and because they could do the work themselves, they ended up with an absolutely beautiful home with a lot of sweat equity. The Smith’s were extremely resourceful and patient when they were looking for supplies.

After they moved in their frugalness continued by purchasing used appliances, and by making a lot of other things for the home.

Okay, I wondered if the Smith’s had kids as this would have taken them 6 years to renovate if they had kids running around. I own an old house and I can say that we are slowly doing some things on our own but it does require a lot of time and patience. It looks so beautiful at the end, but when you are in the middle of a restoration/improvement project, it can be very discouraging .

It’s easy to look at an old house that has been renovated and want to have the same kind of house. It’s a different thing to do it yourself. Right now I am at the semi-fun part of painting and that is very rewarding. But, when it comes to the ongoing maintenance of an older home and renovating it, well, then it isn’t quite as glamorous. It takes a certain personality to do what the Smith’s did.


Amy goes into detail of saying that if she finds certain articles at a garage sale that she has been looking for and that article has a broken zipper, she will buy it if she knows she will be able to replace the zipper. This could be a jacket or snowsuit. Now, there are some pieces of clothing that have the zipper sewn into them before the item is entirely sewn together. This would include jeans, pants and such.

Amy goes into detail about how to replace a zipper and many different scenarios of how to replace a zipper. She scavenges zippers from worn items that she can use on new items.

I had a long canvas stadium type jacket that went just above my knees. I loved that jacket and it was perfect for me. One day the zipper broke. I looked at it to see if I could tear out the old zipper and replace it. It was going to be too difficult. But I came up with a solution. I bought a new separating zipper for the coat and I pinned it behind the old zipper letting the teeth of the new zipper lay next to the teeth of the old zipper. I sewed the new zipper to the fabric on the old zipper and I was very happy with the results. It was easy – just straight seams. When it was zipped it looked decorative with the old teeth showing, with the new zippered teeth next to it. I got several more years out of this coat.

I bought a winter coat one time at a garage sale for my oldest son. It was a beautiful winter coat and it had little wear but the zipper was broke. I looked it over and I knew I could repair it as I did on my jacket. I bought it, and did my zipper repair and that lasted until he grew out of it.

Sometimes when you have a little bit of money, you tend to really sit down and problem solve how to repair something.

This is the fourth day of our refresher reading of this book.  I had forgotten all about my zipper repair talents until I re-read those pages.  Don't forget to post your comments and share any extra advice you may have.

For March 5th, our assignment is page 45 beginning with Baggie Basics thru page 55.  We'll leave the Scoop on Coupons for the next reading. 


Anonymous said...

Martha, I have never read these books, nor the magazines I hear were published as well. I am REALLY enjoying your posts. I know it is a lot of work, and I wanted you to know how much I appreciate it.

Elizabeth said...

I never did agree with Amy about purchasing a car new. I don't think it is EVER worth it, as you loose several thousand dollars just driving it off the lot. If you need a *new* car you can get a much better deal on one that is at least a year old.

We buy all our cars used, with cash (except once when we took out a loan because the car lot agreed to drop the price by $2,000 only if we took out a loan - we had it paid off a few months later). We maintain them and take care of them and drive them to the brink of death...then sell them for a couple hundred dollars. Most of our vehicles have been about 9-10 years old when we purchased them. It's wonderful not having a car payment and we get really good deals on our vehicles. I hate to say it but I would feel wasteful buying a vehicle for $15,000 or more when I know I could get a completely reliable used vehicle for around $1,500-$2,000 that would last years. My husband bought a 1997 Chrysler LHS several years ago for $1,450 (new it retailed for close to $30,000 since it had all the options). He's still driving it.

Martha said...


I am enjoying re-reading these and posting my notes from the book. It is helping me to stay focused as we are really tightening our budget this month. I should have been doing this last month during the No Spend Challenge.


How long would you say you own a car? I know it will vary from what type of vehicle you purchase. We travel a lot in the summer to New York to visit my family or somewhere else in the country for a vacation once a year. This means a lot of travel time. Do you do a lot of travel, besides your trips to I.C. now? We drive our cars to the brink of death also, but we usually buy them used - about 2 or 3 years old. The mini van was the only vehicle we ever bought new, and that was due to it being cheaper than a used van at the time.

Elizabeth said...

I wrote a long response and now it's gone. :(
It does depend on the vehicle but average time we keep them is about 3 years (averages out to about $500 a year). My husband still has his car 4 years later which is an average of $350 a year.
We don't travel a lot (except for hospital appointments now) but did take a trip to Ohio soon after we bought our van. I would trust it on more extended vacations as well.
It does depend on what you use your vehicle for. Ours fit our needs just fine. I know too many people who can't afford car payments but *want* a new (or newer) vehicle. They put a down payment down ($1,500 or more) and then have hefty car payments each month that they can't afford. Several people I know lost both the money they put into the payments AND the car in the end, when it would have been much better to have bought a $1,500 car in the first place and had it paid off to begin with.

Martha said...

@ Elizabeth:

I believe that your strategy is the way we will go the next time. It makes a lot more sense.

Paula said...

I can't resist chiming in here. We have been married forty years and have only had one new car--a total lemon!--and one late model car--which had been rigged. Left a very bad taste in out mouths.

All the other vehicles we have owned have been bought as old cars and driven until absolutely used up. We don't travel a lot, especially now, but we do have to regularly drive up in the mountains a couple of hours away to see family.

We always either paid cash or bought what we could pay for in a year. We got much better cars buying from individuals than from a lot!

Our current vehicles are an '87 Dodge Dakota that we bought used in 2000 for about $1200. It was my husband's work truck and is the most reliable one he ever had.

I do most of the driving now that he is disabled and drive a '93 Tempo that we got from the estate when his mother died in 2000. It had 49,000 miles on it then and still has just around 80,000 on it.

I don't know how people afford new or late model cars. They cost more than our first home. I DO know that many people driving around in what one friend calls their "mobile superiority" don't own their homes free and clear as we do, and don't have our bulging pantry. We realized as young marrieds that for us, it would be a choice between a home of our own or fancy cars. I'd rather have people look at my car and think I'm poor than still be renting at this age and KNOW I'm poor.

Martha said...


Such words of wisdom.