5 Top Things I Learned About Frugality from Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette

The only things more dog-eared than my coupon envelopes are my Tightwad Gazettes I and II. There are so many pearls of wisdom on every page that each reading experience offers new insights and ideas. Amy Dacyczyn’s (pronounced ‘decision’) ideology has absolutely shaped our family’s life. Long ago when my husband read the Tightwad Gazette’s first book and wanted me to read it, I scoffed at the book–I worked in New York City at the time and my mind was a bit warped as I was exposed to great wealth…I was just not interested in frugality. Somewhere between leaving the working world of New York City and becoming a mom, I learned to love the Tightwad Gazettes

A few of my favorite books on my bedside table–including both Tightwad Gazettes tagged with stickies! So much for reading fiction!

Lesson 1: How to Avoid Feeling Deprived (page 230-232 Tightwad Gazette 1)

In this passage, Amy discusses how to avoid feeling bad about living frugally. If you view giving up extras as transferring funds from one area of your life to another (brilliant!!!), frugality becomes an important financial strategy rather than a prison term. This goes along with a favorite quote of mine by Amy: “The dieter fails as long as he hates low-calorie food. The would-be athlete will fail as long as he hates exertion. The tightwad wannabe will fail as long as he views frugality as a lifestyle he has to endure, or, was forced into by circumstance.”

Lesson 2: Three Steps to a Frito-Free Child (page 234 Tightwad Gazette II)

I learned that when kids ask why we don’t have “good food” like their friends, they really mean “why don’t we have packaged foods.” This goes hand-in-hand with one of my favorite quotes by Amy: “Frugality without creativity is deprivation.” This simply means that your kids will feel deprived if you don’t at least find an inexpensive, good, interesting, and delicious alternative to the overpriced, bland, and unhealthy food their friends may be eating.

Lesson 3: Create a Dinner Casserole (page 625, Tightwad Gazette Compedium)

Anyone who throws out leftovers is nuts. I learned that from Amy’s post on casseroles. From Amy’s simple instructions, I’ve learned how to cook any tiny amounts of leftovers into quite the tasty casserole that even my kids like most of the time. From this, I also learned how to make white sauce from scratch and use it to make just about anything taste great!

Lesson 4: Wealth, Poverty, and Frugality (page 272, Tightwad Gazette II)

I learned never, ever assume frugal people are poor. Amy discusses why we still think that frugality has to do with being “poor” and that wealth and frugality are mutually exclusive terms in most people’s minds. But as her passage says, income level has nothing to do with whether a person is frugal or not. “Many poor people aren’t frugal and a surprising number of wealthy people are.” This passage goes along with my other favorite books: The Millionaire Next Door and Stop Acting Rich, both by Thomas J. Stanley.

Lesson 5: The Used Clothing Filing System (page 270-271, Tightwad Gazette I)

Thanks to this discussion, I had the best system of hand-me-downs going in my attic for my two kids. This lasted for years until the HMD stream slowed down. I literally built a system of bank boxes in my attic marked with types of clothing, what sizes, what gender, etc. It worked beautifully. I don’t think I would have loved HMDs so much if I hadn’t been this organized thanks to Amy’s tutorial.

There’s just so much more I’ve learned and continue to learn from these books. Let us know your favorite lesson from reading The Tightwad Gazette!

~Marilyn, TFF


5 thoughts on “5 Top Things I Learned About Frugality from Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette

  1. I’ve been following Amy since the 1990’s. I was a subscriber to her original newsletter. $12 a year for 12 monthly issues. Her books are simply her newletters bound into issues. I have all of them.

    I consider frugality to be fun! Always thought of it that way and still do.
    Am I poor? Far from it. Lived for 16 years in the Hamptons. Now 11 years living in the Hudson Valley and summering in Newport. I can only live this way because of my frugality. I choose where and how my money will be spent. If I can shave off a few bucks that gives me more freedom somewhere else, why not sit back and enjoy it?

    Who’d a thunk, right?

    Live and learn.

    1. Amy is my hero! I love your story! Did you feel pressured to keep up when you lived in the Hamptons? I guess it depends what part of the Hamptons….? ~Marilyn

      1. It was in Southampton. How much more pressure is that? We lived in the smallest house on the block. We ate in the smallest kitchen on the planet. Unlike my neighbors, I never felt the urge to upgrade. What for? They faced property tax increases of $10,000 to $13,000 per year as they added in more bathrooms and upgraded their kitchens and baths. Plus took out equity lines of credit. Yes. You are reading this correctly. I kept the original footprint of the home, only painted and did interior upgrades within the original walls. We had a upgraded bathroom with jacuzzi tub BUT hubby did it all. We had a new kitchen with all white cabinets and appliances with formica countertops (faux granite). My tax bill never went above $2500 a year.
        After Labor Day, my 2 daughters & I would go to the Southampton thrift shop on Main St and buy up all the designer clothes the rich people would just casually toss aside and donate. Everyone thought WE were rich but we only spent pennies in retrospect. Plus helped out the Southampton Hospital.
        Every February we took a trip to the Carribbean. If money was tight, we drove to Florida.

        I told my kids NOT to look at what their friends had. But to look at what we had. We only had to look across the street at our 2 neighbors. The richest family’s parents were NEVER home. Kids raised by nannies and spent very little time with parents, after school activities or had family fun. The other family were the ‘locals’ and had trouble holding onto jobs, drank, got into trouble with the law, constantly having their utilities shut off. I asked my kids to choose how they wanted to live. They chose me! Work hard. Live within your means. Don’t care what others say. Play by your own rules. And stay in school! Never borrow, no credit cards or debt, etc. etc.
        Eleven years ago I sold my Hampton home and was able to downsize and retire 15 years earlier than I had planned. I never borrowed against my equity and my frugal ways sustain me to this day.

        My daughters still follow in my frugal footprints. Amy would be so proud of all of us!

        1. I love your story, too, Cindy! Especially what you told your kids while they were growing up; it’s reassuringly familiar to what we are trying to convey. Like you, my husband and I emphasize, “Don’t care what others say.” Easier said than done, but not impossible. Thank you SO much for sharing!!! ~Aimee, TFF

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