April 25, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 12 - April 25th

Amy Dacyczyn must be an interesting person to sit next to at a church buffet. She has a wealth of knowledge and I'm so thankful that she shared that information in her books. 

I decided two months ago that it was time to re-read Amy's books in light of today's economy in order to glean more frugal tips.  I'm glad I did as I have gained new tips to use in my house and I have also gained the encouragement I need to keep doing what I am doing.

Today’s reading is pretty interesting. Amy covers shopping at Warehouse stores and she also did a test on whether store bought mixes were cheaper than from scratch. Also there is a discussion on negotiating and on how to make your own bug repellants. 

My comments are underlined.  I would be interested to hear comments on today's reading, particularly on those who shop at Warehouse stores.


A reader wrote in to say that her children had birthdays in the same month. These kids were surprised when their great Aunt sent them homemade birthday cards made out of construction paper and in each card was a few dollars. The Aunt had gone to buy them cards and when they rang up the price of each card, she decided to make the kids a card and send them the money she would have spent on the cards. The children were pleased with the homemade cards and the cash.

This is one of my pet peeves – prices of greeting cards. I used to make my cards when I was very much into stamping and crafting, but now I go to Dollar General and get cards for 50 cents. I agree with this article as spending all that money on a card is ridiculous.


A reader took up the wall to wall carpeting in her bedroom and when she did she realized the portion of the carpet under her bed was like new. She cut it out for an area rug. Binding is available at carpet or fabric stores and can be glued on.

We were given a large carpet remnant about 14 years ago. At the time I was going to put it in our basement but after we picked it up I saw that it was a brand new piece of carpeting and it was a perfect fit in our oldest son’s room. The color matched his room as if we had picked it out ourselves. However, the edges were raw, so I went out and bought some brown duct tape which matched the carpeting.

The carpet is brown and tan “speckled” short nap carpeting. I used the duct tape to “bind” the carpet. As I applied the duct tape to the top of the carpet I made sure it was even by ½ inch all the way around the top and then I folded it over to the back of the carpet. It worked beautiful and it looks like we had it bound. When I tell people that it is duct tape on the edges they have to touch it before they believe me.

We always thought we would replace the carpet but we haven’t because it hasn’t worn out and the duct tape looks like binding, so we have kept it that way.


America is one of the few countries in the world where shopping is a passive sport. In many countries even if you are buying a piece of candy, you haggle for the price. It is a way of life.

Amy and her husband learned a long time ago that it doesn’t hurt to ask and her husband as a result has bought a new outboard motor for his boat for only $900 when it was priced at $1,250.

One of Amy’s readers wrote in to say that he haggles for everything. Here are his tips:

1. Everything is negotiable. When he goes to a retail store he will talk with the manager and ask him/her if they will take a lower price on an item.

I’m a wimp when it comes to “haggling.” However last week I did something that I normally don’t do. I went to buy some coffee that was on sale and when I got to the checkout I noticed that the expiration date on the box was March 24th. I asked the assistant manager if she would consider selling it to me at a reduced price since it was past the expiration date. At first she said she couldn’t do that and she went back to find the same coffee that hadn’t expired. She came back and told me she would sell it to me for half the price. I was pretty happy with that.

2. Negotiating is a human transaction. Don’t barge up and start haggling, instead start a conversation and chit chat first.

3. After this, gently guide the discussion to the item at hand.

4. Don’t rush to discuss prices.

5. Once you hear the proposal, never counter it immediately. By waiting and considering the proposal, you show respect to the seller.

6. When you do respond, give your reasons, and then make your counter offer.

7. Suppose you go through all of this and you end up with a gap between what you will pay and what the seller will take. You can sweeten the pot by offering a noncash commodity to sweeten the deal.

Either you are comfortable in doing this, or you are uncomfortable. If this makes you uncomfortable but you want to give it a try, go to a garage sale and find something you want to buy. Let’s say the price is $1.00. Ask if they will take 75 cents. If they say no and you still want it, go ahead and buy it and remember that at the next garage sale they may be willing to negotiate. If they say yes, then you saved 25 cents.



1. Make a garden spray from 1 tablespoon dishwashing detergent and 1 cup vegetable oil. Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of this mixture with 1 cup of water and spray it on your plants.

2. Fire Ant Hills - Wait for a day when the ground is dry and rain is at least a day away, and then gently sprinkle a teaspoon of instant grits on each fire ant hill in your yard. The worker ants carry the grits to the queen, who eats them. When she drinks water, the grits expand in her stomach and kill her. The remainder of the hill dies within a day.


1. To get rid of fleas in your home, fill a pan with soapy water and place under a night light in any room that you suspect contains fleas. Make sure it is the only light in the room. The fleas will jump at the light, fall in the pan of soapy water, and drown.

2. Make ant repellant by combining 10 1/2 ounces of water, 3 ounces of Tabasco sauce and 2 1/2 ounces of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap (available at health food stores). Spray where ants enter the home.

3. To get rid of roaches, make roach dough. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup shortening. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup flour and 8 ounces of baking soda. Mix in just enough water to make a dough like consistency. Put small balls in plastic sandwich bags and place in roach infested areas. You should probably keep them out of areas where children and pets play.

It works because it creates gas when eaten. Roaches can’t belch, so their digestive tracts explode.


Amy read an article that said that store bought mixes were cheaper than making those same items from scratch. Amy decided to “get to the bottom of this apparent tightwad heresy.”

Amy purchased the cheapest cake, biscuit, corn muffin and brownie mixes they could find in a supermarket. She even bought refrigerated tube biscuits. Amy calculated the cost of the eggs and milk and such that they used in the mixes. After they baked everything, they weighed what each mix made and compared it to from scratch recipes.

Scratch recipes tended to have more body and are heavier. They are more filling.

In the end Amy found that most scratch mixes were more expensive than from scratch unless they were bought at a great sale and used a coupon. Also they conducted a taste test with her staffers and all of them preferred the from scratch versions.

I make the majority of my mix type items from scratch because I then know what I am putting into a baked item. I can use a mix of white flour and whole wheat flour if I want to and I can use the sweetener of my choice.

I have my Kitchen Aid mixer sitting on the counter underneath the cabinet that contains all of my baking supplies. This is my baking center as I have come to call it. It is easy to make up anything from scratch when everything is located in the same spot.

Also, you can always make your own mixes to save time. I have done this in the past for such things as a waffle and pancake mix. When I was first married I was given the book “Make a Mix Cookbook” and also “More Make a Mix Cookbook”. It is the “Bible” of cookbooks for making your own mixes. You can also go online to find some homemade mix recipes.

Since I have flour, sugars, leavening, flavorings and extracts on hand, I find that making my own mixes is easier than going out and buying them. I also enjoy from scratch cooking.


Amy wrote that Warehouse clubs have some things that are cheaper and some things that are not. You have to know your prices in order to compare from store to store. That is why Amy recommends making up a price book.

Amy discovered that in her area there were too few good deals for them to sign up and pay the annual membership fee. Warehouse stores can be a valuable part of your shopping network, with an emphasis on “part.” No single source has the cheapest price on everything. Know what items have the cheapest price and plan to stop in and get them once a month.

I don’t shop at Warehouse stores as the nearest one is almost 70 miles away. With the price of gas it would be foolish to drive that far for a couple of deals. I have found that by buying items when they are on sale, I can beat most warehouse store prices. For example, I get shredded cheese on sale for $1.25 an 8 ounce bag ($1.00 before food prices went up) and I believe that beats most Warehouse stores. I buy 12 double rolls of toilet paper for around $4.99 when it is on sale. So for me there is no way I would travel to a Warehouse store as the cost to get there would be prohibitive.

Tomorrow we will read pages 98 through 105.


Elizabeth said...

I'm still a bit uncomfortable haggling but know that I am able to save a lot of money doing that so get past my nerves. My husband won't hassle and is no good at it anyway so it's always up to me, even when we buy cars.

Because I wouldn't let up when buying our van a few years ago I haggled $2,000 off the purchase price. The sales man couldn't believe his boss went that low and was impressed!

At a recent church garage sale I went back half an hour before closing and asked if they would take $1 per bag of items. I got 4 bags of clothing and a Land of Nod duvet, bed skirt, pillowcases, and a matching wool rug...all for $7! The Land of Nod set would have sold for about $250 brand new! Crazy!

Paula said...

We have a Sam's Club in the nearest large city to us, about a twenty minute drive. We don't make trips there just to shop. When one of us has an appointment in the city, we make a Sam's run, Walmart run, go to the drugstore, or take care of any other errands we have there. If we don't have to go to the city, we shop at the regional chain supermarket and dollar store in our little town of about 2,000.

The things we get far cheaper than at the supermarket at Sam's include olive oil in the two and three liter bottles, 200 wash size of house brand detergent, canned mushrooms (and they're from the US, not China), sour cream, trash bags, giant cans of chicken, tuna, yogurt, bags of nuts for baking, canned salted nuts for snacking, English muffins, bagels, coffee beans,etc. A gallon of Worcestershire sauce that lasts for a few years costs very little compared to small bottles from the market. Spices and such that I use constantly, such as garlic powder, cinnamon, and oregano, I buy in their large containers. They are so much cheaper. Canned asparagus is fifty cents a can cheaper.

Some things that are a bargain, as a family of two, we really can't use them fast enough. For a large family some things like name brand pancake syrup are incredibly cheap.

Other things, such as top notch meats and prepared foods aren't cheap, but they are top restaurant quality and are cheap compared to eating them at a restaurant. It's cheaper to treat yourself at home. That cheesecake that costs three or four dollars a slice at a restaurant? The same quality is a dollar a slice bought at Sam's. Some of the prepared foods are very helpful when feeding a crowd if a person isn't able to do everything from scratch at the time.

Soda and paper goods and some canned items are not as cheap as a good market sale.

Fresh mushrooms, bagged broccoli florets, trays of campari tomatoes, cherub tomatoes, and large baking potatoes are usually nicer and cheaper than at the market.

If lean ground beef isn't on sale at home, I can count on it being a dollar cheaper per pound at Sam's. If you get there early in the morning, there may be marked down meat, the same as at a market.

There are steep discounts on non essentials such as books, CD's, handbags, videos, gift quality plants, lawn accessories, holiday decorations, etc. There is a limited selection of towels, rugs, and clothing at better than store prices.

We can get really nice food gifts at Christmas to give to the handyman, etc., for a small price compared to having it sent from one of the food gift companies. (I know, I could bake cookies. I'm old and got tired of literally running a cookie factory at Christmas quite a few years ago. It just got to be too much.)

Sam's is useful both for frugal cooking, and for having some extras at a really good price.

Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker has a lot of information about what she buys at Sam's to feed her family on forty cents per person per day. Dry beans and rice at Sam's are far cheaper than at a market.