April 15, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 7 - April 15th

As a reminder all of these ideas come from Amy Dacyczyn and her book the Tightwad Gazette II. (My comments are underlined.) This is her second book of the tightwad lifestyle and it was written in 1995. With the recession that hit in 2008 and the resulting economy that we are living in, now more than ever, Amy’s wisdom is needed.


Amy had been getting requests from readers to graduate from writing about saving money through her frugal advice and tips to writing about investing money. The undertones of the letters were that the information she was giving was “penny-ante” or worse yet “women’s stuff.”

The reasons why she won’t write about investments (at least as of 1995) are the following.

1. She’s not qualified.

2. The right investment changes constantly.

3. You can find investing information in a lot of magazines (and now on the internet).

4. Compared to investing, tightwaddery is more tangible. It’s simple – it doesn’t take a lot of education to put a price book together.

5. “Most people need to do a more basic type of investing first. They should put money into tools and maintenance that will save money, and they should pay off debts. Its nuts to be squirreling money away in a retirement account, but have credit card debt and no extra money to buy a freezer.”

6. “Even if you make a killing on your investments, you’ll blow it all unless you have learned how to conduct your personal financial life.”

7. “Tightwaddery gives you a great financial return for a similar investment of time.” Many people, after taking Amy’s advice, are able to reduce their grocery expense by $250 per month or $3,000 a year. This is a better return on your investment in tightwaddery.

The grocery store doesn’t require a huge amount of money, time or luck. Investing in a price book for grocery shopping is a little time consuming at first, but that investment will give you a huge return.


Serve hot rice with milk and sugar. Amy tried this and her family loved it. They also tried it plain with brown sugar, and with cinnamon and raisins.

I have a small rice cooker. It cooks up about 4 cups of rice which is just the right amount for our family. Any leftover rice I warm in the microwave and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and rice and have it for breakfast or a late night snack.


One of Amy’s favorite cheap and easy meals is baked potatoes topped with chopped, steamed broccoli, cheese sauce and a sprinkle of bacon bits.

In the fall Amy will get a 50 pound bag of potatoes from a local market for only $3.99. She stores these in a cool, dry place and they last until spring. For the rest of the year they buy 10 lb. bags for around $1.50.

They grow their own broccoli. When bacon is on sale for 89 cents a lb., she buys quite a bit and freezes it. You can definitely tell this is a 1995 price. Amy treats bacon as a condiment as it cannot be considered a protein. So she doesn’t fry up a lot of bacon, but uses it sparingly on the potato.

Amy makes her own cheese sauce. She melts 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and blends in 2 tablespoons of flour. Combine it with 1 cup of milk and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the sauce thickens. Add 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese and cook until smooth.

Another potato topping is chili with shredded cheese. When I make chili I freeze some for chili mac (chili mixed in with some cooked macaroni, heated in the oven and topped with some cheddar cheese OR I use it on baked potatoes). Other possibilities are leftover sloppy joe mixture, taco meat and pizza style.

Really the choices are varied and if you sit down and think about it for awhile, you can come up with a lot of possibilities.


I have to quote the beginning sentence of this article. I like it. “Stocking up on good deals and saving things for future use – what I call ‘organized packrattery’ are essential to successful tightwaddery.” Amy has a big house and the room to stash things but it wasn’t always like this.

They have lived in a small ranch house and also in an apartment. Amy gave an example of saying that if someone gave you $75 per month to rent your closet, you would do it. Why not save money on groceries by stocking up on items when they are on sale and storing those groceries in a closet? Or you could put boxes in that closet of stockpiled kid’s clothes from yard sales.

Here are some of Amy’s strategies for people for whom space is a precious resource.

1. Get rid of what you don’t need. Examples are old books, clothes you don’t wear, kitchen items you don’t use, toys your kids don’t play with and so on.

2. Buy things that have multiple uses. A teakettle can only boil water, but a sauce pan can boil water and cook dinner.

3. Buy furniture that has built in storage space. A flat topped trunk could serve as a coffee table and also as storage. You can buy beds with drawers underneath.

4. Buy smaller. A compact microwave is what most people only need in the first place.

5. Buy foldable furniture like sofa beds and flip down desks. Use foldable cots for company. A card table and folding chairs can serve as extra table space when company comes.

6. Buy items that will store compactly such as stackable glasses or chairs that stack.

7. When saving things for future use, keep only the small parts. Amy had been saving couch cushion covers just for the zippers. If she didn’t have the room, she would have just stored the zippers.

8. Customize your furniture to fit. When they lived in a small city apartment, they were able to make a nursery out of a room that was barely bigger than a twin bed room. They fit in the crib and they converted the closet to a baby changing table and diaper storage area. They built a wide lip shelf with foam padding for the changing table. The other shelves held diapers and clothing. They were then able to squeeze in a drafting table (for Amy) and a small filing cabinet.

We lived in a very tiny house when our oldest son was 3. We had just moved to the town we now live in and we had a house to sell where we had just moved from. Unfortunately we had very little to spend on rent, because we were also paying a mortgage, so we rented a very cheap, kind of dumpy, tiny house.

The second bedroom was more like a little sewing room. We fit a roll away bed in that room for our son’s bed. There was no closet but there was a little space for a small dresser.

We had a lot of boxes of stuff that we were storing. Until our house sold there was no way we could afford to rent a bigger house. When you opened the door to our son’s room, I found that the space behind that door had possibilities. I stacked banker’s boxes of stuff behind that door. They stacked all the way up to the top of the door. You could only see that stuff if you went in that room and closed the door.

The bathroom was off of the kitchen and there was only a shower, toilet and sink. We put a plastic tub in the shower and ran shower water in the plastic tub in order to give our son a bath. That tub was stored in the shower.

We stacked more boxes in our little bedroom and put a sheet over the boxes to cover them up. Yes, it was tight and small, but at least we were together.

9. Try to avoid duplication. This is a major cause of household clutter.

10. Think square. Square storage items fit more efficiently in a freezer or fridge.

11. Keep the right amount on hand. In Amy’s case, they found that tuna fish was on sale every week so they only kept 6 cans at a time. For me, I stockpile enough until the next sale – usually 12 weeks. Keep only the amount of egg cartons, glass jars or plastic bread bags on hand that you can re-use.

12. Share ownership. Perhaps you could go in with a neighbor or family member for a table saw. The one that has the most space stores the table saw. What about sharing a lawn mower or snow blower?

13. Barter for space. A friend of Amy’s asked if Amy could temporarily store an organ. Amy said yes and in return her friend gave her 20 pounds of handpicked wild blueberries.

14. Think vertical. The space above something can be used for storage. You can put racks in your garage to store items such as a bike or tools. What about on the high shelf of your closet?

15. Be creative. Think about the spaces under, behind or between. What about space behind your couch or for that matter under your couch? I put milk crates on the floor of my closet to store sweaters and other clothing that wouldn’t fit elsewhere.

16. Hang it all. Bikes can hang from walls or ceilings. Pots and kitchen utensils can hang on pegboard.

17. Store things in untraditional places. Your bulk food could be kept in a nearby living room closet.

Smaller spaces are generally cheaper to live in. The extra effort required to find storage space in these small spaces can be rewarded with savings.

I have a busy weekend, so our next Tightwad Reading will be on Monday, April 18th. Read page 58 through 64. I will probably post about other things over the weekend.

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