June 28, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day One - June 28th

And so we begin the Tightwad Gazette III.  I'm not going to list daily readings this time.  Instead I will just start profiling each reading and you will easily be able to follow along.  I usually try to read and "digest" about 6 to 7 pages per post.

As a reminder, I didn't write the Tightwad Gazette III and the ideas that I highlight are those of the author, Amy Dacyczyn.  I am reading the book and giving you the "Cliff Note" version.  Also any comments that I make will be underlined in each post.  Be sure to add comments of your own.


Amy starts this article by saying that there is a common idea going around among the “Baby Boomers” that middle class people couldn’t afford to have children anymore on their middle class incomes. Amy started her newsletter because she believed that to be false. It is her belief that people are victims of their own inflated expectations.

Politicians feed this by convincing people that they are hurting and one political party can bring back opportunity. There are the news reports that inflation has made income decline and so on.

Amy wrote this book back in 1996 when we were beginning the boom years, but now two years after the Great Recession ended many people have not recovered financially and may never recover. Incomes have declined, prices have gone up and we don’t know what is around the corner, BUT we do know that we don’t have to sit and take it as there are some things we can do. For example, live on as little as possible so that you can pay your bills and perhaps even put some money away in savings. I have always felt that the statement “expenses rise to meet income” is so true. The days of “if I lose my job I can get a new one within a short period of time” are gone. Learning to live on less and lower your expectations is the way to live now.

People feel poorer because they have come to expect more. They buy more stuff; each driving age family member has a car of their own; people travel a lot more; people spend an exorbitant amount of money on hobbies and recreation; people don’t cook at home and they eat out.

The reason people feel priced out of the housing market is because they want houses that are so much bigger and better. Though the average family is smaller, the average modern, new house is twice as big as the average one built after World War II.

I was watching CNBC this afternoon and Tom Brokaw’s documentary “Baby Boomers” was on. Tom talked about the parents of Baby Boomers that bought homes that had around 1200 square footage and their children want to build the monster homes that have a master suite that is like an apartment. Each house must have bedrooms for each family member plus for guests, the kitchens are almost as big as a small apartment and then there are the 4 car garages, the great rooms and more. Homes are no longer places for shelter and family life alone but have gone beyond shelter to large enough that a family member can be alone in the same house even when everyone is home. Having the biggest, best, newest home is the mantra.

Amy says “that even if there is a financial inequity, complaining about it wastes emotional energy. You could use this same energy to be even more creative than your parents were. For example, our family expenditure for food and clothing is almost the same as what my parents spent for these items 25 years ago, and this isn’t adjusted for inflation.”

We have 2 cars and 1 truck in our family that were purchased before I lost my job. Back then if I knew I was going to lose my job, we would only have 2 vehicles and I would share my car with our son. But now with one car being paid off this month and the truck being paid off in 3 more months, we will be correcting this in the future by not replacing one of those vehicles when it wears out.

I don’t feel as if I am going backward financially by not being able to afford the things that our family could afford when we had two paychecks coming in. Many people think that if you are driving a 2008 vehicle and you replace it with a 2006 vehicle, then you are going backwards financially by not continually buying newer and newer. The same is true of building a home. Many people feel that they have not achieved a major milestone by building their own home. Instead they should look at home ownership as shelter and a cozy place for your family to live. Living in a 1200 square foot 3 bedroom ranch with 1 bathroom does not mean that you are less successful in life than the family that is living in a 3000 square foot “monstrous” brand new home.


Many times Amy is able to purchase the standard Macaroni and Cheese dinners (similar to Kraft) for only 25 cents. She adds some meat or tuna to make a quick meal. It is about the only convenience food that she purchases. Amy did look into the cheese powder and except for the food coloring; the ingredients didn’t appear to be “fake food.” A reader had written in to say that she was able to get the cheese powder in bulk at a health food store and wondered if by adding store bought bulk macaroni if it was cheaper than the boxes. However, Amy was consistently able to get the boxes on sale cheaper than the buying in bulk items.

This is one item that you can keep on hand and make it into a quick casserole or even a pasta salad.


Amy spent about $50 annually to dress her six kids with an average of $8.33 per kid. This includes winter outerwear. Socks and underwear were purchased new. Many clothing items were given to their family by their relatives and many items were purchased used.

Amy kept an inventory sheet on each kid as to what clothes they wore and the sizes along with what clothes that child had in their closet to wear. So for one child she wrote down the number of winter shirts and the sizes. This was to ensure that gaps and surpluses don’t occur. For example, one child ran short on shoes so she knew that in the future she needed to make sure they had enough shoes for the year.

Since manufacturers differ in their sizes, Amy started to measure the clothing to make sure that she would be getting the correct sizes at garage sales. For example, she would measure inseams and also would measure shoes for the correct size. Then when an item was needed she would take a tape measure along with her to a garage sale and it was easy to measure and know that pants and shoes would fit her child.

I think this is a good idea from the standpoint of clothing does shrink after washing, so you may look at an article at a garage sale and think that you are buying the correct size only to find out the item had done some shrinking. Measuring ensures a good fit.

Amy kept a list of the sizes along with the measurements that went with that size so she could make sure the clothing would fit. For example size 2 in pants measures to be an 8 ½” waist (measured in the front) and 11 ½ inch inseam.

Even if you didn’t keep a list of the sizes, but only took an inventory of your children’s clothing you would be able to see if they needed any “new” clothing for a season. Then you would be able to go ahead and buy those items before they were needed as compared to going to a garage sale and buying everything “willy nilly”. Having a plan to buy only what is needed and nothing beyond that will save you money, even at garage sales. Also just because items are cheaper at a garage sale doesn’t mean that you buy your child 10 dresses, 15 pairs of pants and 25 shirts. Money is money so only buy what your child needs.

Having a clothing inventory for every member of the family would be a good idea too. Think of the money you will save by not going out and buying extra items when you aren’t sure if you really need them or not.

Tomorrow's reading will cover such things as comparing your food budget to other families, some reader tips and buying dented, dated and discounted food items. 

Random Money Thoughts and Tightwad Gazette III

Today I am sitting on my back porch as a way of avoiding the housework I must do today.  Well, I'm not avoiding it, just delaying it.  As I sit here I made a list of the things that were on my mind. 
Here they are:

1. Desk. Need a desk for my son to put in the den next to my desk. He’s been using my desk and it doesn’t work to share. I will have him use a card table until I find a used desk.. Solves two problems – will he really use a desk of his own and and if we decide this is a need, he can use the card table until we find a used desk.

2. New workout shoes. I wore my workout shoes on vacation as we did a lot of walking but Curves insists on wearing “clean” shoes when you work out. I can’t afford new shoes. Instead I will clean them off with all purpose cleaner after my evening walk and will be able to take them to Curves instead of buying another pair.

3. I need to clip and organize my coupons as I grew lax over the past few weeks between graduation and vacation.

4. Bike more. Yes, gasoline has gone down in price but at $3.39 a gallon it still is high by any standard. I’m biking places now. The bike basket I bought over two years ago doesn’t fit my bike and is collecting dust. Instead of ordering a new one on line perhaps there is some way I can make it work by “remaking” it.

5. I need to get rid of more clothes so I can make room for some of my new sewing creations.

6. I need to make a list of items to sew for Christmas presents so I can do a little bit at a time. One idea for gifts is to make kitchen valances out of different holiday fabrics that I have found on sale throughout the year. I have the following theme fabric: Valentine's Day, Easter, Patriotic, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

7. Price Book – my dream would be to own a tablet computer and put my price book on that, but not on an austerity budget. I need to re-organize and re-do my Price Book and put it in the old fashioned way – a small notebook – to fit my purse. I have everything in Excel but I am finding prices are really starting to vary from Wal-mart store brand items to other grocery store brands. I can no longer rely on memory. Prices are changing constantly and I am struggling to figure out the best price for meat. There is power and money to be saved by updating this tool.

I have read the reading for today for the Tightwad Gazette III and will post it this evening.  I am surprised that after 2 books Amy is still giving great advice and it is not just a repeat of prior books.  You will love going through this book with me. 

June 27, 2011

I'm Back.

I’m back…. After a couple of days to get organized, declutter and take a break from blogging, we headed on our vacation to Washington, D.C. It’s not the kind of thing you want to announce to people over the internet that you are leaving town for vacation so I needed to keep it to myself.

I did have a few days before we left to walk through the house and make a list of what I wanted and needed to accomplish over the remainder of the year. It’s a long list but it is full of more projects that I want to do versus those that I have to do. I was also able to get more sewing done.

Our trip to Washington, D.C. was a graduation present for our son who will be in college in the fall majoring in journalism and American government. My husband had set aside some money 3 years ago for just this trip. The unique thing is that he didn’t tell me. He wanted it to be a surprise. And as long as money secrets have to do with fun stuff like this, I’m okay with it.

The money he set aside didn’t pay for the entire trip; it just paid for the hotel in D.C. and the hotel stay on the way there and on the return trip. The total hotel expense for the entire trip was $2,050. Yes, that’s right – over $2,000. On the drive we stayed at very inexpensive hotels for those overnight stays, but D.C. is a different story. Hotel accommodations are very expensive and we had two requests: 1. We wanted to be able to walk to all of the sites or be near the Metro (train) as we knew that we didn’t want to have to drive our car around D.C. 2. We wanted to have breakfast included with the hotel.

We paid $259 per night to stay at the Homewood Suites 5 blocks from the White House. We parked our car in the hotel parking lot and walked everywhere. The hotel provided a full breakfast and when I say full we are talking about eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, biscuits, waffles, yogurt, cereal and hash browns. Then to our surprise they also provided dinner from 5:00 to 7:00 each evening.

When we were checking prices on hotels in D.C. even those in the suburbs were very high and they included a continental breakfast. Staying at the Homewood Suites where we enjoyed a suite with a small living room with pull out sofa sleeper, kitchen, bedroom with king sized bed and bath and with the benefit of those two added meals along with being able to walk everywhere, saved us more money than if we would have stayed at a cheaper hotel in the suburbs.

We budgeted $400 in gasoline and $300 for food (I packed food for travelling and we ate at the hotel and purchased other food as needed such as lunch, ice cream and other treats). As to souvenirs I wanted to pick up some pictorial books on the Capitol and White House. I priced these in D.C. and then went on line to check the prices of the same book, but only used, on Amazon. At the stores in D.C. each were priced at around $20 each. On Amazon, used, they were around 25 cents plus shipping.

This was a special vacation trip. It was one of those once in a long time, save up, go all out and stay at a special hotel trips.

Now it is back to scrimping every penny and save as much money as possible. We need a new roof. Yep, we took money and spent it on hotel accommodations for a trip that we probably should have used to put towards a new roof. Perhaps it was irresponsible with our money, but I don’t think so.

We are now home and it is back to hanging clothes up on the line, mending clothes, baking bread, painting and patching and cutting back on anything and everything to save money. I will never regret the trip to D.C. Every time I want to purchase something and have to say no to myself, I will pick up my cell phone and look at the pictures we took in D.C. It was oh so worth it.

Tomorrow we will begin the Tightwad Gazette III.

June 17, 2011

I'm going to take a break for a few days

I have a lot to do around my house over the next several days.  I need to totally declutter as I put so many things on hold while I was painting and getting ready for my son's graduation party.  

I'll post when I can but I will definitely be back to regular blogging in a week.  Also I have moved the start date to our Tightwad Gazette Book III reading to June 27th.   

Some projects I need to think about for the future is getting back to a Household notebook or organizer of some kind.  I have not been using mine for the past year and it definitely shows.  Also I have only been working out 3 times a week and I need to up the ante and get myself to Curves 6 times a week. 

Do you have any organizational projects or personal goals for the summer?

What If? Case No. 7 - Unplanned Expenses - My response

You don't get out of a financial mess overnight and you will be faced with many obstacles.  I would go ahead and cut back wherever I could and would end up putting what money I couldn't come up with to pay for these expenses on my credit card. Then, don't give in and whatever you do don't give up entirely and go out and buy a bunch of clothes and such on credit to make you feel better.

Sometimes we take one step forward and two steps backward.  Just do what you can to get back on track knowing that soon you will have money saved in the bank for such emergencies.

Where have I been? Sewing up a storm

I'll respond to the last case scenario later today but I wanted to tell you what I have been doing for the past several days. I have been having a sewing marathon. I must admit when I get in the sewing mood, I am totally into it.

I have needed some pretty cotton tops and tunics and couldn't find any in the store, so I found a pattern and I have been sewing. I am a much better seamstress than I was when I was in high school. By that I mean that I do a lot of hand basting and hand sewing to make sure that the bias tape on sleeveless tops lays perfect. I hand stitch the embellishments such as rick rack on a top and I finish all of the seams (I don't have a serger.).

I take my time. My mother would be proud. The end result of course is a sewing project that looks great and fits great.

Last month I purchased some capris and shorts that were on sale at a ridiculous price. They were the perfect colors - kaki, stone, navy, light brown. Yes, I purchased 4 pairs of capris and 4 pairs of shorts (knee length) in the same four colors. These are basic colors that go with anything. The problem with these shorts and capris is that the capris were a size 12 and the shorts were a size 14.  I am a size 10 to 12 depending on the style. I find it hard to find pants, shorts and skirts that fit me. Why? I am a pear shape and when I try on clothes, the waist is always too big but they are too tight in the hips/thighs.

I know that I am not alone in this. You pick what ever it is and you will find perhaps that when you try on pants the waist could be too tight and it is too big everywhere else OR you try on a top and where it hits you in the waist it is too tight and the bustline is too big OR you try on a top and the length is all wrong.

I weigh 145 lbs. and am 5 foot 5 inches. I work out and no matter what I do I cannot change what the good Lord gave me - that pear shape. So I have learned over time to alter my clothes.

When I came across the great sale on capris and shorts (much needed items in my wardrobe now that I am not working), I tried them on and then looked over the seams and such to make sure I could alter them. I knew I could do it. That is what I have been doing this week.

First, I washed the shorts and capris and dried them to see if they would shrink and they didn't.  The fabric is 98% cotton and 2% spandex and we all know what that means.  They fit great when you try them on and then as the day goes on they start to stretch out.  I wore each of them around the house for an hour so I knew how much they would stretch out after wearing them.  That was the starting point to the alterations.

Instead of sewing in my sewing nook area upstairs, I decided to park the sewing machine on the diningroom table since I knew I would be doing a lot of sewing and I wanted to be around my family in the evening and not upstairs all the time. I pinned, tried on, re-pinned, tried on again, hand basted, tried on again, ripped out seams, machine basted, tried on again, did the final sewing, finished the seams and was done - 8 times!

The result: capris and shorts that fit me perfectly. I don't care that the tags say size 12 or 14. Now they are a perfect size/fit for me - whatever the clothing industry says - I say it is a perfect Martha fit. (I'm not talking Martha Stewart either.)

I never took a class in sewing besides 8th grade Home Ec, I just know how to sew clothes. If you know how to sew, you can apply the same principles to de-constructing and altering an article of clothing. I learned by trial and error.

But that is not the only thing I did this week. I sewed two cotton tops. One is a peasant top which still needs to be finished and the other is a tunic top that I stll need to finish sewing on the rest of the rick rack and hemming it.

When I get into my sewing zone, I end up staying up late as I love to sew and find it hard to stop. So, my house has been neglected but I have "new" clothes to wear which makes me very happy. And we all know that "when momma is happy, everyone is happy."

As you can see I still have some finishing work to do on these two tops.  The photo of the peasant top doesn't do it justice.  I tried it on and it looks great.

As to the shorts and capris that I altered, I'll post pictures at a later date when someone is around to take a picture of me wearing them, but in the meantime, here is what they look like.

June 12, 2011

What If? - Case No. 7 - Unplanned Expenses all at Once

After your children go to bed on a Saturday evening, you and your husband sit down at the dining room table to go over all of your finances.  You have no money in savings and you carry quite a bit of credit card debt along with car loans.  You have both decided that no matter what it takes, you must get out of debt and get money into savings for an emergency fund.  You are concerned about the future and want to make sure you are prepared if either of you should lose your job. 

Money is tight, but you know that if you cut out all of the extras such as eating out, stop all recreation shopping and make up a meal plan you will be able to pay down debt and put money into savings.  You have a plan and are determined to "work the plan."  That was Saturday. 

Sunday morning you wake up to hear a hissing noise coming from the basement followed by a loud bang.  The bottom of your water heater has rusted through and water is leaking everywhere.  You have no choice to replace it.  But how will you pay for it?

Monday morning you go to fill up your car with gasoline and you realize that gas has now gone up 10 cents a gallon and is almost $4.00 a gallon.

On Wednesday your 15 year old son calls you at work after he gets home from school.  The family pet dog got loose and was hit by a car.  A neighbor has taken the dog to the family vet.  The dog will need surgery if he is to survive. 

As you drive to the Vet clinic you start to cry not only because of the dog but also because of the cost of the gas and the cost to replace the hot water heater.  "What's the use?" you tell yourself.  As you pull in front of the Vet's office, you lean your head against the steering wheel and wonder how you are going to get out of debt and put money into savings when you have just taken three steps backward.

What do you do?

June 09, 2011

What If? - Case No. 6 - Unable to Trust Spouse with Finances

You are married with no children.  Both you and your husband have good jobs, but you have been living the high life and beyond your means for a long time.  Then it happens, your hours are cut back.  Suddenly you realize that you can only make minimum payments on your credit card bills.

You and your husband sit down and go through all of your credit card bills and discover that you have almost $38,000 in credit card debt.  Both of you vow to cut back and apply as much money as possible to the debt so that you can pay off your credit cards within 3 years.  It is doable.  You stop buying clothes, eating out with your friends at lunch and start cooking dinner at home.  It is hard but you know it will be worth it in the end.

Six weeks later you get a call from a credit card company about a credit card that is in arrears.  You tell the caller that there must be a mistake as you don't have a credit card with that company.  The caller is adament that there is a credit card in her and her husband's name with a balance of $4,800 on it.  The woman tells the caller to call back tomorrow. 

That night when her husband comes home she confronts him about the "hidden" credit card.  He admits that yes there is a credit card in both of their names that he has hidden from her.  He has used it to buy whatever he has felt like buying because he deserves it.  The husband goes on to say that life is too short and it is only money.

What would you do? 

My Response to the 5th Case Scenario

I have enjoyed reading all of the responses.  For me, I would put a grocery gift card in the women's mail box so that it would be anonymous.  Then I would try to establish a relationship with her, involving other neighbors, so that she had some kind of support network. 

June 08, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 33 - June 8th

Well, here it is, the last reading of the Tightwad Gazette II. Amy ends the book with a discussion of wealth and frugality. I quoted quite a bit of what she wrote because I wanted to get her point across.

Page 263 – The Twilight Phone Zone

In this article, Amy talked about the mire of phone companies and long distance rates and researching to get the best deal. This advice is still true today, except now there are cell phones and cell phone companies that we must deal with. Combine that with whether to have both a land line and a cell phone or to have a cell phone or a land line alone and you end up getting a little blurry eyed trying to compare companies and deals.

There are still bargains to be had today and you need to spend some time researching what your “needs” are. Do you need all of those minutes and extras? Can you live with a basic cell phone or do you “need” a smart phone? What can you live without and so on?

It may take time to do the research necessary to find a cell phone or land line service that fits into your budget. But the savings alone is with the time you spend doing this research.


When you have burned on gunk on pots and pans, simply put enough water into a pot to cover the stain. Add 2 tablespoons of dishwasher powder detergent. Boil for 15 to 30 minutes. This also works for dirty burner plates if boiled in a pot of water.

I have been doing this for years but without adding the dishwasher powder. Usually I pour hot water into the pot or pan and let it soak while we eat. If the “gunk” is still on the pans while I am cleaning up, I then boil the water. All of this can be done while you are cleaning up or eating and it doesn’t take long at all. Then I pour the boiling water contents down the drain. The boiling water helps to keep the drains unclogged.


A reader wrote in to say that instead of using parsley in a recipe, she uses chopped celery leaves.


Amy says that the title of the soup may not sound tempting, but it is actually one of the best soups she knows. “It is delicious and has an appealing orange-gold color.”

Tuna-Cheddar Chowder

2 carrots, shredded
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 can tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan, sauté the carrot and onion in butter until the onion is translucent. Mix in the flour. Add the chicken broth and milk. Heat and stir constantly until thick and bubbly. Add the tuna, celery seed, Worcestershire sauce and salt, and heat through. Add the cheese and stir until it melts. Serves 4.

If you don’t like tuna, I think that this would taste good with crab or imitation crab meat. We can get imitation crab at a fair price. You could always stir in some under cooked broccoli for a change too.


When Amy was growing up, her family lived in a large house, drank reconstituted powdered milk, took box lunches to school and ate oatmeal for breakfast. For a brief time, Amy was upset that she didn’t get to wear the latest fashion trends, but then she noticed something. Kids that wore all the new stuff lived in small houses and she lived in a big house.

Instead of feeling upset over not having the latest fashions she began to feel more fortunate due to their big house. Her simplistic view as a child was that people who wore new clothes lived in small houses and people who wore second hand clothes lived in big houses. Of course this isn’t always true.

What is true is that people who put their surplus money into short term extravagances rarely build the same wealth as those who put their money in things with lasting value.

Amy goes on to say that “we still think that frugality has to do with being poor, and that wealth and frugality are mutually exclusive terms. The fact is that income level has very little to do with whether a person chooses frugality.”

I have rented the series “Cranford” from Netflix and it is about the life of several women in a small town in England during the 1840’s. The women are constantly referring to how they live their lives with “elegant frugality.” I love that phrase and to me it means living a frugal life that is still a pleasant and elegant life.

Some people think that when they cut back, that they are now poor instead of thinking that they are living a life of frugality. It is all in the perspective. Some people think that living a life of frugality gives kids low self esteem.

“Wealth, on the other hand, is not how much you earn, its how much you accumulate.” A man did a study and said that the typical wealthy person lives in a middle class house, marries once and stays married, owns a small factory, chain of stores, or service company and lives his entire life in one town. His money is seldom inherited.

“Americans tend to think that frugality has to do with being poor, we see it as an admission of economic failure. We think only poor people go to the thrift shops, only poor people bring home a good find from the dump, and only poor people cut their kids’ hair.”

“Because we don’t want to be seen as economic failures, we spend our money the way we mistakenly think the wealthy do – usually on day to day extravagances.”

“It is true that most wealthy people buy a few more luxuries than do poor people, but the total percentage of income they spend on extravagances is extremely small. Consequently, a person with a low income and a wealthy attitude would live modestly as possible to create a maximum surplus to save and invest.”

“To be successful and happy in the frugal lifestyle, we have to be proud and confident in our choices. We must have a clear view of our goals, and we must understand the tradeoffs we’re making. If we do this, we’ll feel no shame about being frugal. Instead we’ll understand that we have a wealthy attitude.”

And so ends the Tightwad Gazette II. We start the Tightwad Gazette III next week. I need a few days to get some sewing done and I want to post about what I am sewing. I haven’t sewn for a very long time and I am anxious to revive my sewing skills.

I have enjoyed re-reading and getting a refresher course on all of Amy’s books. I hope it has been beneficial and encouraging to others.

June 07, 2011

What If? - Case No. 5 - Helping Someone in Need

You find out that there is a neighbor that lives 4 houses down the street from you that is going through some hard times.  You don't know this neighbor very well because she is extremely shy and doesn't say much to anybody.  This neighbor is a single mom and someone else in the neighborhood that knows her better told you that she thinks this mom is running low on food.  Another neighbor told you that she won't let her kids play with the single mom's kids because she thinks that the kids have head lice. 

You and you family are on a limited budget but you want to do something for this single mom.  What can you do?

My response to the 4th case scenario - To quit or Not Quit a Job

WHAT IF . . . . . . .

I've lived this situation.  I know what it is like to work at a job you dislike but your income is valuable to the family.  I did quit my job only after I had lined up children to babysit in my home to supplement the income.  I knew that being home and babysitting other children would not give me flexibility in my day, but it didn't matter to me.  I didn't have grade school children at the time as in this case scenario.  I had one child and he was one at the time.  In the end, it worked for me as I was home with my child and I babysat two other children near his age and they became great friends.  I earned the extra needed income for our family.

Perhaps in this scenario the wife could stay home and reduce her expenses by $400 through scratch cooking, cancelling some services such as cablevision and learning to live a frugal life.  But in my experience some people are not meant for the frugal life and after a period of time they can fall off the wagon and revert to old spending habits.  However in saying that, this wife could go ahead and see if they could possibly live on less money while she is working and stockpile money into savings.  She could set a deadline for 1 year and see if by then it would be possible to quit her job because she was reducing expenses, paying off debt and getting money into savings.  Just knowing that you have a deadline for possibly quitting your job brings about a change in attitude.

In this economy I would be hard pressed to quit a job and stay home if there was not going to be enough money to pay my bills.  Instead I would do whatever it took to find a way to put a positive spin on my job even if it was only that I was earning a paycheck. 

June 06, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 32 - June 6th

How many of you have a price book? I need to update mine. Amy answers some further questions today about compiling a price book.

The last Extreme Couponing episode showed one of the ladies going through the grocery store looking at her excel spreadsheet list of groceries on her tablet computer. If I had a tablet computer it would have my price book on it, but I don’t have one and I’m not going to buy one. Even frugal people can dream about having an expensive gadget.

Let’s get to our reading and I’ll put my dream on the back burner for now.


To “upholster” a one or two cushion piece of furniture, Amy said that you can take fabric and wrap it on a cushion like you would wrap a present. Then you just safety pin it all in place. Amy has used this as a temporary solution until she finds upholstery fabric that she likes and will then make a permanent cover.

When our kids were younger, I would keep a sheet on the couch cushions and I would tuck it in. The purpose was to keep dirt off of the cushions or prevent spills from damaging the cushions. Actually in the summer time it was so much cooler to sit on a couch with a sheet on it than to leave it uncovered. We have owned our couch for 8 years now and I know that doing this protected it during the first couple of years. We always removed the sheet when company stopped by. I no longer do this as it isn’t necessary.


Because the price of instant milk rose to almost the price of whole milk, Amy wasn’t going to fault any tightwad for abandoning instant milk altogether. However a reader wrote in to tell Amy that they purchased “non instant powdered milk” in 50 lb. bags from a bulk food store. Other readers purchased this product from a factory or a bakery supply company. The price for non instant powdered milk for these readers ranged from $1.00 to $1.54 per gallon. It takes a little more effort to get non instant powdered milk to mix completely so Amy uses a blender to get the product completely dissolved.


Amy profiled her Price Book in Tightwad Gazette One. I profiled that article here. Several readers wrote to Amy to say that they were hassled by store employees when they went to stores to write down prices. These readers were trying to write down hundreds of prices at a time when they were confronted by store managers wondering what they were doing. Some managers thought that these readers were working for competing grocery stores.

Amy never had that problem as she gleaned most of her price book information from jotting down a few prices at a time, looking at her store receipts and going through sales flyers. She went to the grocery store to fill in the gaps. She spent almost no time standing in aisles writing down prices.

Amy keeps track of fewer products as she does not use many convenience foods. Also some items she didn’t need to include in her price book as she bought them so often she had the prices memorized.

“Remember that through keeping a price book you gain a general sense of where you should shop for each item, but far more important, you learn the bottom price. It doesn’t matter where you buy it, what matters is the price you pay.”


“Moving can cost thousands of dollars. How cheaply you can move depends on how much advance notice you have, how far you’re moving, how much stuff you have, how healthy and strong you are, and how resourceful you’re willing to be. If all of those factors are in your favor, a move can be almost free.”

1. First of all get rid of as much of your belongings as necessary. Scrutinize your belongings and sell the excess at a yard sale.

2. Packing material bought from a moving company can be extremely expensive. Go to stores and look for free boxes. Scavenge for Styrofoam peanuts, or other packing material. Go to a newspaper publisher and get end rolls that are free of newsprint. You can use this as packing material and there won’t be any ink to rub off of your belongings. Of course you can use your own sheets and towels as packing material. If you have a facebook account, put the word out to friends and family as to the packing materials that you need.

3. Pick up free brochures on packing tips. Now you can go on line for packing tips.

4. Get friends and family to help you load the truck. Have everything boxed up and ready to go before they get to your home. Be sure to provide them with a meal, snacks and beverages to keep them hydrated. Consider some other sources of inexpensive labor: college or high school students, (I would add that church youth groups would be a good source.), anyone that you know is unemployed.

5. Borrow a pickup, van, truck, utility or horse trailer. For longer moves consider buying a truck or trailer or even an old school bus. Many readers did this and because they had shopped carefully, they were able to be resold after the move and they broke even. When we moved about 120 miles to where we live now, we rented a U-Haul truck and members of our church helped us load it and one man drove the truck down to where we live now. We followed in our car. This same man drove the truck back to the town we had moved from saving us a lot of money.

6. Your most expensive option is to hire a moving company. If you go this route, do your research for the cheapest alternative. You can save money by packing yourself. Now you can do this research online to find all of your options.

On June 8th we will finish the Tightwad Gazette II. Read pages 262 through 274. A few of you have e-mailed me saying that you would like me to continue with the 3rd book and I have decided that I will do that. I have been re-educating myself on frugal tips and have re-acquainted myself with several by going through Amy Dacyczyn’s books, so it has benefited me also. I won’t post a reading every day, but will post at least 3 times week on The Tightwad Gazette III.

Doing a Search on my Site

For some reason, the "search this blog" gadget is not working on my site.  In the meantime to do a search on my blog, simply use the general blogger search box located in the upper left hand corner at the top of the blog. 


Problem with "Search this Blog" Gadget

Is anyone else having problem with this gadget?  Links come up and when I click on the tabs for search the web or search my blog list, they show different articles to read BUT when I click on the link to search my blog, nothing happens.  You can't even click on it to do a search on your very own blog.  Anyone else notice this?

June 05, 2011

What If? - Case No. 4 - To Quit or Not Quit a Job

You have reached the end of your rope as far as your job is concerned. You hate to go to work every day and even though you scan the job ads online and in the newspaper, talk to others about any other possible jobs, there just isn’t a job out there. You know that you should be grateful to even have a job in this economy.  Your husband works and his job pays for the family’s health insurance. You have two boys who are in 3rd grade and 5th grade.

When you sit down with your husband and go over all of your living expenses you are short $400 a month of being able to live only on your husband’s income. As you drive to work the next day, you are discouraged but you wonder if it is possible to somehow reduce your expenses so you can quit. What can you do?

My Response to the 3rd case scenario - Food Dilemma

Well, if you have read my blog for a short period of time or since the beginning, you know I regard a stocked pantry and freezer as a must for our household.  I urge you to try to have at least 2 weeks of food on hand at all times so that you can at least make it through a pay period without having to pay for groceries if the need arises.

If storage is a problem, then save up two weeks of grocery money, put it in a jar where you won't touch it and leave it for an emergency. 

June 04, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 31 - June 4th

Cuban Bread
Today’s reading has probably the most interesting advice that Amy could give and that is her analysis of Feast or Famine spending. I quoted a lot of that article as everything she said was so important and putting it into my own words would have watered down Amy’s advice. I need to read that column more than once as I fall short many times so sometimes I need a little kick in the pants to get back on the frugal band wagon.


Amy gives her recipe for Cuban bread which takes only 1 ½ hours from start to finish.

Cuban Bread

5 to 6 cups all purpose flour (you can substitute whole wheat flour for 1 or 2 cups)
2 tablespoons dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups hot water (120 to 130 degrees)
1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds

Mix 4 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt. Pour in hot water and beat 100 strokes, or 3 minutes with a mixer. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead 8 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Let rise 15 minutes. Punch down. Divide into two pieces. Shape into two round loaves, and place on a baking sheet. Cut an X ½ inch deep on top with a sharp knife. Brush with water, and sprinkle with seeds. Place on the middle shelf of a COLD oven. Place a cake pan of hot water on the lowest shelf. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake 40 to 50 minutes until deep golden brown.


Put your dented ping pong balls in boiling water to pop the dent.


Amy used powdered laundry soaps as she felt it was cheaper per load and that liquids were more expensive. More and more people were buying liquids because it was easier to pre-treat clothes by pouring some of the detergent directly on to the stains. So in an effort to see if powdered was really the least expensive, Amy went to the store armed with some very high value coupons.

Amy found out that trying to compare what liquid detergent is the better buy can be difficult when each of the caps are different sizes.

Now the liquid laundry soaps let you know the “load” size per bottle so you can easily compare loads to loads instead of trying to figure out how much detergent fills a cap. I use less per load than what is recommended when I use liquid detergent. As a side point lately I have been able to get name brand laundry detergent very, very cheap as there have been some great high value coupons along with some great deals. Recently I bought three 150 oz. jugs of Purex laundry soap for only 99 cents each.

To get the most out of your liquid laundry soap, after pouring the measured detergent into the cap, toss the cap into the washing machine to get every last drop of detergent out of the cap. Just remember to remove it before you put the clothes in the dryer.


Amy makes an interesting comment in this article that I think needs to be pointed out first. “Frugality and bad economic times are so closely associated that I can actually gauge the severity of a drop in the G.N.P. by the boost in the number of media inquiries I get. People spend lavishly during good times because they believe that it’s better to have splurged and gone bust than never to have splurged at all.”

Amy calls this style of spending Feast or Famine. Here are some of the problems that can arise from this style of spending:

1. It leaves you with little to survive the times when your income drops. If you save money during the good times, then you will be able to weather the bad times.

2. “Continually changing rules creates stress.” For example, if your kids are used to getting whatever they want and you become unemployed, their constant whining about not being given money for anything they want is stressful.

3. “Although some frugal activities can be quickly adopted in times of famine, others can’t.” Examples of these activities are gardening which might take a year or two before it produces well. It may take more than a year to stockpile yard sale clothing so you will only rarely need to buy new again. “It takes time and patience to convert uncooperative family members.”

4. “When frugality is practiced only during unemployment, it acquires a stigma. Family members associate meatless meals and yard sale clothing with bad times. Often the terror of unemployment isn’t about not having enough to eat or losing a house, but about having to do all that ‘low-class penny-pinching stuff. Conversely, when frugality is practiced even in good times, the family learns to enjoy it and stretch the possibilities with their creativity.”

Amy goes on to say that “a tightwad tends to be fearless in an uncertain economy. He knows that as long as there is enough money for basic needs, he can live quite happily without luxuries. He knows that there will always be Christmas because he can create it from nothing. He knows he can wring more miles from his old car. He knows he can feed his family well from his extensive repertoire of hamburger recipes. Most important, he doesn’t feel like a victim of economic circumstances beyond his control. While he might dip into savings for a period of time, his lifestyle need not change. He is in control.”

We will cover pages 250 – 259 for our discussion on June 6th. We are coming close to the end of this book and I am wondering how everyone feels about moving on to the Tightwad Gazette III. I would post about 3 times a week from that book instead of nearly every night. Let me know how you feel. Remember if you don’t want to leave a comment, you can always e-mail me.

June 03, 2011

What If? - Case No. 3 - Food Dilemma

Our next case scenario involves a food dilemma.  You don’t get a paycheck for another 7 days and because of some unexpected expenses you only have $10.00 cash until you get paid.  Fortunately all of your bills are paid and you have 3/4's of a tank of gas in your car.  However, you (and your family) must live on what food you have in your home right at this moment.  Can you do it?

My Response to the 2nd Case Scenario - Vehicle is Totalled

As many of you may have suspected, this happened to us. Our oldest son was in college at the time and we didn’t need the extra expense of replacing a vehicle.

We had three vehicles at the time. The truck that caught on fire that we had a loan on, my van which was paid for and my husband’s older vehicle that was paid for and that our son took to college some 5 hours from home.

Since we were paying for college and we really didn’t want to go car/truck shopping, we decided that we would not replace the truck and put the insurance money in the bank. We had purchased the truck used about 15 months prior to the accident and it didn’t have a warranty on it. To this day we don’t know why it caught on fire but were thankful that my husband was able to pull over on a busy highway and get out in time. Also a volunteer fire fighter was behind him and he was able to help my husband.

How did we come to our decision? For the first 10 years of our marriage we lived in Waterloo, Iowa and we had one car. We both worked and had to get up quite early in order for me to get to work and my husband then to drive himself to work. Now living in a town of 11,000 we knew we could get by with one car for me, my husband and our youngest son. We could both walk to work without a problem. Our son could take the bus to school.

Instead of going into debt, we applied the money towards our son’s college education and some needed home repairs. A few years later when our finances were much better my husband was able to buy another truck.

During those years of having one family vehicle I made some changes. I changed hair salons and nail salons to ones that were within walking distance. We communicated when we needed the van for any reason and it wasn’t that bad. Even when the van was in the shop for repairs, we were able to walk to wherever we needed to go.

If we had lived in a larger city such as Waterloo, my husband would have had our van during the day and I would have walked to wherever I needed to go or I would have stayed home. As Lyn said in her comment, you save money by not going anywhere. Also, if I needed to go somewhere I had friends to call and if I would have been working at the time, I would have car pooled or worked something out. Having one vehicle is an inconvenience but it is not impossible to live life with only one car.

Sometimes we think we have no choices, but we really do.

June 02, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 30 - June 2nd.

In today’s reading Amy tells how her husband shops for groceries each month. Most of the grocery shopping is done by her husband, Jim. There are other great tips about an easy healthy snack along with how to make toddler pajama bottoms from a man’s knit shirt.


When talking about grocery budgets, Amy defines hers as purchasing strictly food. She has a separate budget for pets and toiletries/paper products. At the time of the writing of the book in 1995 her monthly grocery budget averaged $180.00 a month for their family of eight. How did she do it? They never ate out or bought hot lunches at school. They gardened and shopped sales and stocked up when there were good deals.

I remember the first time that I read this book that I was struggling to feed our family of 4 on $200 a month. I was in awe of how much it cost Amy to feed her family.

Her monthly budget for personal care items was $25. Her budget for pet food was $30.

They achieved their low food budget through a combination of scratch cooking, gardening, semi-vegetarianism, never wasting food and other strategies that were listed in her first book. The one most important tactic was smart shopping. She gave credit to her price book to compare deals at local stores. “We realized it’s possible to buy many foods for half of what most people pay, if we buy them at the right place and the right time.”

They shop a few stores to get their great deals but they don’t make special trips to these stores. Instead they always timed grocery shopping when they did other errands. They shopped a natural food store to get bulk spices and such, a surplus and salvage chain store that sells odd lots of food to pick up very cheap cereal, a bakery thrift store for bread products and a Shop n Save store that had a large selection of high quality store brands. They also shopped a Warehouse store. Each store had its advantages as to prices on certain products such as tomato paste and cheese. It was by compiling a price book that they learned what items were priced at the best price at each store.

They never went out of their way to shop. They always combined trips to the stores with trips to do other errands also.

Most people would say that they don’t have the time to drive “all over the state” to hunt down bargains. But Amy counters with the fact that when they go to all of the stores, this is a once a month shopping trip that takes about 4 hours along with the other errands. Side trips to the store for the rest of the month add up to another 2 hours. So they spend 6 hours each month grocery shopping which isn’t bad when you think about.

I agree with Amy’s style of shopping. If I have some time and I am passing Wal-mart or another grocery store in our town, I will drop in to see if there are any mark downs and unadvertised sales. I always keep my coupon notebook with me so that I can take advantage of a great deal matched up with a coupon.


Take ½ cup honey, ½ cup peanut butter and ¾ to 1 ½ cups of dry milk. Combine all of these ingredients and roll into small balls. Roll the balls in coconut, sunflower seeds or nuts.


This reader said that while stationed in Germany she found that the European coffee was ground to an almost talcum powder like fineness, which makes it possible to use much less. Because of this, this woman bought extra find grind and then re-ground it to a powder at home before using it in her coffee machine.


This is a really nice idea from a reader of the Tightwad Gazette. When the reader’s sister was married, she took the half-dead roses from her sister’s bouquet after the ceremony. At home, she rooted them by cutting off the heads, making a clean cut on the bottoms, dipping the fresh cut bottoms in a rooting hormone, and putting them in a pot that was half Perlite and half soil. She kept these moist until rooted and then planted them in a shaded location in her garden. Then on her sister’s first wedding anniversary, she presented her sister with 12 rose bushes from her wedding bouquet.

PAGE 237 – 20 – 20 TELEVISION

Amy was amazed how many people regarded cable TV as a necessity. The only situation Amy could think of at the time when it would be needed was if the reception in your area was so poor, it seemed to be the only way to rise above the “fuzzy blob.”

Amy suggested getting high powered “Rabbit ears” to solve the problem. As always Amy recommended seeking the minimum level or finding the cheapest satisfactory solution.

Well, today, you have more options than Amy did back in 1995. If you can’t afford cablevision, it’s no big deal in my mind. You can watch a lot of programs and movies on the internet. You can even “rent” TV programs from Netflix or better yet if you want a movie you can borrow it from the public library. If I could only afford one luxury and had to choose between cablevision and the internet, I would choose the internet.


A reader wrote in to say that you can make toddler pajama pants from hubby’s old knit shirts.

Turn the shirt inside out and lay it flat. Use a pair of your toddler’s pants as a pattern and trace onto the shirt allowing extra for seams and the waistband.

Cut the two pant legs out. Sew up the side of each. Put one leg inside the other, right sides together. Pin and sew the crotch.

To finish, sew waistband down, to form casing for elastic, leaving a 1 inch opening to insert the elastic.

For June 4th, we will be discussing pages 240 through 249. I will post my response to yesterday’s Case Scenario on June 3rd. I also have had a really, really great week saving money on groceries and toiletries using coupons. I got several items free as I was patient to wait for sales to team up some really great manufacturer’s coupons. I will have to post how I did it sometime soon.

June 01, 2011

What If? Case No. 2 - Vehicle is Totalled

Your husband is driving home when his used truck catches on fire.  It is a total loss.  You receive a payment from the insurance company but you don't have enough to purchase another vehicle.  Your wife has a car.  Money is very tight.  What do you do?

I will post my response on June 3rd.

My Response to the 1st Case Scenario - Unemployment

My husband has never been unemployed, but with what has gone on over the past few years we have discussed what we would do if he eve became unemployed.  Here is what I have come up with from our conversations.  I would be interested to hear from anyone that has gone through this to see if I am covering all the bases.

1. If you belong to a spiritual community such as a church or synagogue, call your pastor or rabbi and let him know of you situation. You will need spiritual support during this time.

2. Stop spending any money and start hoarding it.

3. Immediately file for unemployment benefits. Unemployment is income to tide you over until you get a job, but it is not a lot of money. I did some researching and the average unemployment benefit is $295.00 per week. This figure does not say how many dependents are in the family. Let’s just say that whatever you receive it will be a lot less than your salary. A rule of thumb is that unemployment benefits are 40% of your prior income or even less.

4. Look into your health insurance benefits – depending on when you get lose your job, your benefits usually continue until the end of the month. Then you are on your own. There is COBRA which can be quite expensive or you can go the alternative route of getting your own health insurance. If at all possible do whatever you can to get some kind of health insurance. It may have a high deductible of $5,000 but it won’t totally bankrupt you if you have a catastrophic illness or accident. In the mean time, do whatever you can to take care of yourself so that you don’t get sick. I know, it will be hard since you will be going through a stressful time in your life, but you still need to eat and get your rest.

5. Look at what financial resources you have available. Review money in checking and savings, go through your wallet or purse.

6. Contact your creditors and make a list of your debts and your current payments. In my opinion, and I am not a financial consultant, your mortgage or rent, along with food should be your first priority to pay. You need a place to live and you must eat.

Next look at what money you have coming in and then look at what you can pay to your creditors. Immediately call all of your creditors and let them know that you are unemployed. You must do this before you quit sending any payments and default. Be up front and honest about your situation. Set up a payment plan if possible and see if your payments can be reduced temporarily.

When I say all creditors, this means credit cards, car loans, mortgage and any company or person that you owe money. Perhaps for the first time in your life you will not have enough money to pay all of your bills. It will be a shock and you may feel ashamed but you are not alone. Others have walked the same road.

When you set up a payment plan even if the payments are reduced, make sure you can actually pay the reduced amount before agreeing to it. Think about it and make sure. You don’t want to agree and then realize that you can’t make that payment. That is why it is important to make a list of your creditors along with the required monthly payments in order to see what you can now afford to pay while you are unemployed. Have this list next to you when your call your creditors and negotiate a reduced payment or negotiate to have your payments suspended for a couple of months.

7. Review what food you have on hand, include in this toiletries and paper products.

8. Barter services. Perhaps you can mow the lawn for the person that cuts your hair (hey, it’s worth it to ask) or now is the time to go to a “Cost Cutters” or other low cost hair salon. I learned to cut my son’s and my husband’s hair. I paid for the clippers and after 1 haircut each, the clippers were paid for.

You could barter services with someone who has a large garden in order to get fresh produce.

9. Find a way to earn some extra money. Being unemployed means that you need to swallow your pride and do what is necessary to live and pay your bills. Perhaps you will need to mow lawns, do odd jobs or work a part time job at McDonalds but you need to somehow come up with some extra money.

If the only breadwinner is a man and he is now unemployed, the
wife can help with additional income by cleaning houses, running a daycare or looking for employment herself to help make ends meet. The age of the children at home will determine which avenue the wife goes. I know of women that have waitressed to bring in extra money or taken on a job at McDonalds. Even delivering newspapers in the early morning brings in some money. Any extra money is better than what you don’t have now.

10. Cancel non-essential services. Cancel your cablevision. I would keep the internet but cancel cable. Having the internet will help with your job search. Research cheaper internet options than what you presently have. This could force you to search around to save some money.

Other non-essential services that you may have to cancel would be a gym membership, movie membership such as Netflix, subscriptions. Re-acquaint yourself with the Public Library for free movie rentals.

Perhaps cancel a land line and go with a cell phone or vice versa. Remember non-essentials are just that – non-essential for life.

11. Reduce the cost of essential expenses.

Food, utilities, clothing and shelter are examples of essential items. Within the essential category there are ways to save money. For example, lower the thermostat in the winter and wear sweaters and sweat pants – even long underwear to keep warm, and in the summer time don’t use the air conditioning until it is unbearably and dangerously hot. Close the curtains or drapes to keep the heat out in the day. We live in an old house and although the basement isn’t finished so to speak, it does have poured cement floors and brick foundation walls. It is cool down there and we have put a rug on the floor and old furniture. I have even slept on a cot in the basement when it was hot and I didn’t want to run the air conditioning.

Turn off the lights at night and use minimal electricity. Teach everyone to not turn on the lights unless absolutely necessary. Line dry your clothes and if it is winter, you can hang them up to dry in the basement or anywhere else in the house.

Quit buying paper towels and use rags instead. Don’t buy anything without thinking if it is a necessity or not.

As to food you will need to learn to cook frugal and humble meals and use store brands or generics. Spending as little money as possible is the mode of the day.

However with food, you will also need to lower your standards and buy the store brand or generic oatmeal and really cut back to a needs only grocery budget. After all you really don’t need soda but you do need milk. You need milk but not to drink every time you are thirsty, that is what water is for.

When you buy groceries, do not buy soda or snack foods, buy only the essential good food that you will need. For many people this will be one of those eye opener experiences as before they just threw whatever they wanted into the grocery cart. Now you must plan to make every penny stretch (yeah, you’re beyond stretching dollars and should be stretching pennies). Buying chicken hindquarters and cutting them into thighs and drumsticks may be new to you.

If you have a store that doubles coupons and have never used coupons before, now is the time to check into this great money saving tool.

Car pool, walk or ride your bike to cut down on gasoline consumption.

12. Investigate any resources in your community for the unemployed. Learn what is out there to help you out such as a Food Pantry in case it is needed. If you are in need of clothing, consider garage sales or Goodwill. Some churches have clothing outreach ministries in which they give clothes away.

Do you qualify for food assistance? Check into it. If you qualify you will be able to take what money you would spend on food and divert it towards your housing.

13. Do not isolate yourself from others. You need the social contact and support of your family and friends. A lot of people have been unemployed in the past few years and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens. Allow people to help you and minister to you. In turn, if you have extra time volunteer to an organization.

14. Begin your job search. Update your resume and seek any help for preparing a good resume and help with your interviewing skills.