April 11, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II Reading - Day Three - April 11

I’m back after having a few days to devote to Prom and assisting with teaching a financial class at our church. I also feel a lot better which is due to getting more sleep than I have been getting.

Now back to Amy Dacyczyn and the Tightwad Gazette II. In this reading are two of my favorite articles “Do Sweat the Small Stuff” and “Breakfast Breakthroughs.”

As a reminder, all of these ideas are from Amy Dacyczyn and her book the Tightwad Gazette II. I have put any direct quotes in quotation marks and my comments are underlined.

Let’s get to it.


Why does Amy go to the trouble of calculating how much you save by boiling water in the microwave versus the stove, using a mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar in place of baking powder or using cloth versus paper napkins? Because even those these actions save a little bit of money. It is those little bits of money that add up to bigger savings. This is why she sweats the small stuff and why I do too.

1. There are more ways to save with small strategies versus big strategies. “There are thousands of small things you can do to shave a few cents off that most people don’t know about.”

2. There are more opportunities to use small strategies than big ones. How often do you buy a car versus buying groceries?

3. The time investment in figuring out this minuscule stuff actually yields a high “hourly wage.” It takes time to make up a price book, but over time this tool can help you save a lot of money. So in essence those hours of making up a price book could end up saving you $1,000 over time. That was a great salary for an afternoon of making up the price book.

4. Its good training. In other words it keeps you in the habit of thinking frugally.


Every year the Perseid meteor shower occurs from August 10 – 14, peaking on August 12. For fun Amy and her husband get some blankets and spread them out on the ground and they and their kids sit and watch the meteor shower. Amy says that it happens during the warm weather of summer which is a plus as the kids can stay up late and there are a lot of meteors – up to 60 per hour.

The best viewing, per Amy, is after midnight so the kids enjoy this because it is not only fun to watch the meteors but is also a treat to be able to stay up late.

I thought this was a wonderful idea as it costs nothing, but has the great possibility of becoming a traditional family outing each year.


Amy decided that instead of buying bargain cereal for breakfast with double coupons, she began to compare breakfast costs. So Amy measured out a bowl of cereal that was an actual serving that they ate. This ended up being double the serving than what was on the box. She compared this 2 oz. of cereal to two – 4 inch pancakes.

After Amy worked out what everything cost, she rationalized that scratch breakfasts use some energy in cooking (a penny or so per serving – remember the small stuff article), so she decided that cold breakfast cereal was a good value only if she could get it for 7 cents or less per ounce (or about 14 cents per serving).

Amy went to the double coupon grocery store with coupons and a calculator. She found none that were cheap enough. For this reason they have very little cold cereal for breakfast.

Many people don’t eat scratch breakfasts as they say they are too busy. Amy has found that they are busy too but they rely on “fast” scratch foods such as oatmeal or a pan of corn bread.

Amy suggests to get your kitchen organized and consider baking muffins for breakfast as you can mix up a double batch in 20 minutes and then take your shower while they are baking.

The result of all of this knowledge is the following list of breakfast choices for their family. Most of these cost 10 cents or less per serving which has helped them to save a lot of money over the years.

These breakfasts are supplemented with juice, fruit, jam, sugar, milk, syrup and so on. Remember these are 1995 prices.

Tightwad Breakfast choices

2 ounces cornmeal mush = 4 cents
2 ounces bulk purchased oatmeal = 5 cents
2 – 4 inch scratch pancakes = 6 cents
2 scratch muffins = 7 cents
2 – 4 inch scratch waffles = 8 cents
2 pieces French toast = 8 cents
2 oatmeal – raisin scones = 8 cents
2 – 2 inch squares corn bread = 8 cents
2 ounces store brand oatmeal = 9 cents
2 – 4 inch Bisquick pancakes = 10 cents
1 egg and 1 slice toast = 11 cents
2 ounces Quaker oatmeal = 15 cents
2 ounces store-brand toasted oat cereal = 20 cents
2 ounces Cream of Wheat = 21 cents
2 Eggo waffles = 36 cents
2 ounces Cap’n Crunch = 41 cents
2 ounces Foot Loops = 42 cents
2 store brand doughnuts = 43 cents
Carnation Instant Breakfast = 43 cents
2 – 4 inch pancakes from store batter = 49 cents
2 bakery made cinnamon rolls = 51 cents
2 Pop tarts = 82 cents

This is one area that I can save a bundle on. I can get cereal very reasonable especially considering regular Cheerios (or their store brand version) can be really cheap on sale and with a coupon. Also, my homemade bread with homemade jam or homemade bagels with peanut butter is another breakfast that we enjoy.

You can always bake some muffins the night before and have the ready to go. The same is true of waffles and pancakes. When we have a breakfast for supper, I always make a few extra waffles and pancakes for the freezer. They can be thawed quickly in the microwave or toaster. Now that is convenience food at a bargain price.

As to the cornmeal mush being one of the cheapest breakfasts, I love cornmeal mush. I mix up the mush and pour it into a greased loaf pan and refrigerate overnight. Then I slice it thin, and let it brown in a skillet with some butter. The result is crispy fried cornmeal mush that I eat with syrup. Don’t knock it to you try it. It is delicious.


If you want to spend a lot of money, buy ready-framed art. But if you take some time and acquire decorative items slowly, you will save a lot of money.

1. Look for frames at yard sales. “Clean up older, varnished wood frames with a little denatured alcohol and linseed oil. The alcohol is a mild solvent that will redistribute the finish to minimize scratches.” Perhaps you’ll come across a nice frame with a picture that you hate. If it is a good deal, buy it and take out the picture and put one of your pieces of artwork in it.

2. Matting Solutions. Amy goes into detail about how to make your own mat with a utility or X-Acto knife to cut your own mat. However, it is very difficult to achieve the beveled look that makes a mat stand out from the frame. I have found mats on sale at reasonable prices at craft stores. To save money buy the mat on sale and use an old yard sale frame to frame your art.

3. Glass Solutions. Amy uses glass from old storm glass windows for glass for frames. She cuts the glass with her own glass cutter. If this isn’t for you, and it isn’t for me, I think you can shop around and look for some glass. We have a company here in our community that sells glass at reasonable prices.

4. Artwork Solutions. Find cheap art – there is art on calendars and post cards. Magazines have beautiful pictures and what about something as simple as labels from cans and packages with a vintage art look. For 4 years I have been saving a certain store brand of canned vegetable labels as they are quite vintage looking. I have thought about framing them for my kitchen or even making a wallpaper border or border for my backsplash.   Remember my goal is to have a retro kitchen circa World War II era.


Other possible cheap sources of artwork are old newspapers, old lace and an old quilt piece along with pictures of ancestors, family photos, and don’t forget about your children’s art work.

Final Notes – Even if you can’t cut your own mat or glass, you can still go out and find cheap frames at yard sales or thrift stores and find cheaper sources of mats and glass. I have some mats that I purchased that were on sale for only one dollar. I have no idea what I am going to use them for, but I picked them up because they go with my living room and I know I will find a good use for them soon

I will be interested as to what you think of my two favorite articles covered into day’s reading. Do you sweat the small stuff as I do?

For tomorrow we will read page 29 through 36.


Maureen said...

Martha I must ask you a question, can you use your bread recipe in a breadmaker machine, and if so how do you go about it ???
I have been buying the packet bread mixes and sometimes it works out more expensive than shop bought.
Catching up on a lot of your Gazette posts, thanks for them.

Martha said...

Go to this link at Fleischmann to see an article about converting traditional recipes to bread machines.


I think it would be easier to go out on the internet and find a make your own mixes for bread machines.

Here is a link for making your own mixes but it isn't in metric.


I kept my laptop off for two days so I am taking time tonight to check up on blogs. Yours is on my list.

judy said...

I sweat the small things to as they often add up to really big things. Just unplugging all the phone chargers, laptop chargers, tvs, printers...etc All of those little things add up to one big bill.

@maureen when I went to the website for my bread machine(its a welbuilt) they had tons of really great easy recipes.

Martha thank you so much for doing this again, I am ashamed at how much I had forgotten. This is a great refresher.