April 18, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 8 - April 18th

It’s good to get back to reading the Tightwad Gazette. Today’s reading has a variety of articles from recipes to a discussion on the economy.


Homemade Cracker Jacks

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
8 cups popped popcorn
1 cup peanuts (optional)

Combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over low heat until the butter is all melted. Cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Add the baking soda and vanilla. Pour onto the popcorn and peanuts, and mix until evenly coated. Bake 15 minutes at 300 degrees. Break into pieces.

If you pop your popcorn in a saucepan, you can use the same oily pan to make the candy coating mixture. The oil helps it slide right out.


Even back in 1995 when electronic scanners were coming into use, Amy reported that you had to “babysit the checkout” to make sure you weren’t over charged or that an item wasn’t accidentally scanned twice. The same went for using coupons that are scanned in. You have to make sure that they are accepted in the scanner.

Well the same vigilance still applies today. I watch as items are being scanned to make sure that the prices are correct. I ask the checker if she will please wait until I get everything on the conveyer belt before she starts scanning so I can watch to make sure I am being charged the correct price. It probably takes an additional 15 seconds wait for her/him and they are happy to comply. Then I watch the screen as everything is scanned and as the coupons are scanned. If there is a mistake, it can easily be corrected.

Last fall I reported on my blog that I had for several weeks found mistakes on my grocery receipts at one grocery store in town. I would pack the groceries in my car and take out the receipt to double check. Then I would find mistakes and go back into the store to customer service to get reimbursed. After about 7 weeks of this I e-mailed the store manager to tell him that I could see why some people would feel the store is cheating them and that I felt they had a problem with entering the prices into the system. He e-mailed me and then called me to talk with me about my experience.

The store manager told me he had a meeting with the employees that morning and that he felt the problem had been corrected. (I hope no one got fired.) After that I didn’t find an error until about 1 week ago. So, whatever he did worked. Oh and because I had brought it to his attention, he gave me a $75 gift card to shop at the store.


For small groups or organizations you may to set up a “wants” bulletin board. Amy said you simply post some wants or something you are looking for and people read the board to see if they have any of those items. For example, Amy posted that she was looking for size 7 jeans for her daughter and a friend noticed it. The friend told Amy she was going to hit some garage sales on her way home from the meeting and she would look for size 7 jeans and buy them if Amy wanted her to.

Facebook is a wonderful place to post something you want or perhaps something you need to get rid of. I haven’t had any responses yet, but we have a piano to give away and I posted it on Facebook.


“It’s true that plenty of economists believe we need to get that American consumer confident and spending again. This thinking, that we can spend our way to economic prosperity, leads some to believe that those people who don’t spend money but save it instead, contribute to recession. In fact, the reverse is true. Spending too much, and spending badly, got us into this mess. Frugality, in the long run, will get us out.”

Amy wrote this back in 1995 and it deserved to be quoted verbatim. Does it sound familiar? Have we not heard these same comments in the past few years since we have lived through the “Great Recession?”

Here’s why frugality will get us out of this mess, per Amy:

1. Businesses need capital to start up or to reinvest for greater productivity. This kind of borrowing is good debt, because in the long run it will create economic surplus. In 1995 there was a shortage of capital for two reasons – a. Americans saved very little money and b. What is available is sucked up by the American government for overspending.

2. The average American has huge debts.

3. “The focus on spending our way to prosperity denies much deeper underlying reasons for the recession, such as the laws that make relocating manufacturing jobs to Mexico attractive for business. Consumer confidence will not bring back the thousands of manufacturing jobs we’ve lost in the last ten years.”

Spending only brings short term economic gains. “More money was in circulation, which meant more jobs, and that meant more money, and that meant more jobs.” It was short term as people went into debt to buy stuff. Businesses, such as developers, borrowed money to build office complexes when there was no market for them.

“By trying to accelerate a recovery artificially, by going into debt on a government, business and personal level, we eventually lost economic efficiency, because a larger and larger percentage of our money has had to be siphoned off to pay interest on debt.”

Okay, I know, that was a lot of quoting Amy Dacyczyn but I felt this was one article that needed to be quoted. Can you see the similarities in what she was describing during the recession in the mid 1990’s to what we are going through now? Or should I have said what we are being told now?

I know of two people who lost their jobs in the last 10 days. I know of several people who are unemployed and they are struggling with finding work. It doesn’t help that they are over 50. I’m not sure what is going to happen over the next several weeks with all of the “work” that needs to be done in D.C. There is a great feeling of anxiety as we don’t know what to expect.

“So don’t rationalize spending because it’s good for the economy. And don’t feel guilty about being frugal because it’s bad for the economy. A healthy economy is made up of economically healthy citizens.”

Amy started the article talking about how many families have a lot of credit card debt at high interest rates. On average these families are paying close to $450 annual in credit card interest. Again, this is back in 1995, but it still rings true today.

But – credit cards are handy for identification and in case of emergencies. So Amy says that if you want to carry a credit card with you, pick the right card. Shop around and be sure to pay your credit card balance every month. If you carry a card with a higher balance, perhaps you can do a balance transfer to a lower interest rate card and get it paid off sooner.

Remember the days when you would get a credit card application in the mail at least every other day? Those days are gone but credit cards are not gone. I carry a credit card in my name so that I was able to establish credit in my name only, separate from my husband. This was important to me. The balance is paid off every month and I make purchases that we need. It could be groceries or some paint for my living room or a gift I ordered on Amazon. I don’t run it up and think of it as a savings account. I use it for what I would purchase anyway and get it paid off right away.

Credit cards need to be handled responsibly or you could get into debt quicker than you can say “bankruptcy” if you aren’t careful.


A reader wrote in to say that when she cuts homemade bread, she cuts the entire loaf at a time. She collects all of the crumbs on the cutting board and puts them in a bag in the freezer where she keeps her bread crumbs for any recipes.


Here’s a cat litter tip from a Reader. Use newspaper cut into strips for cat litter. It smells better, is cleaner, and can be changed often. First, you mix the strips with the real litter, and then use less and less litter, then just newspaper. It’s good for eyes and lungs, because there is no dust.


One reader said that when she goes to the grocery store she looks at the expiration dates on the milk. If there is milk there that is going to expire that day or the next, she asks if it can be marked down and they cheerfully do it for her. She takes the milk home and puts it in the freezer for later use.

For tomorrow read pages 65 through 71.

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