Book Review: The Complete Tightwad Gazette

>> Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Complete Tightwad Gazette
Amy Dacyzyn

Rating: *****

I left my copy of this book sitting around one day at my sister's house over Christmas vacation, and when my mom noticed it, she commented, "I used to watch this lady on TV!"

The Complete Tightwad Gazette is a collection of all of the newsletters Amy Dacyzyn published about living a frugal life from 1990 to 1996, and although some information in the book is dated (don't listen to anything she says about computers), most of the book is perfect.

I devoured this 1,000 page book over Christmas. I read it like it was a crime novel, though I never could figure out what had me so hooked. The articles in the book range from the philosophical ("creative deprivation" of your kids so they will be more grateful) to the practical (how to make potholders out of old blue jeans) to the totally off the wall (detailed instructions on how to safely dumpster dive) interjected with tips and advice from readers of the Tightwad Gazette.

You could keep this book around as a reference guide for what to do all your old milk jugs (there are dozens of uses for milk jugs in this book), for advice on how to slash your grocery bill (Amy Dacyzyn spent about $175 dollars a month to feed a family of eight), or for cheap homemade recipes (universal muffins, anyone?).

But I think the ultimate beauty of this book for me was the overall philosophy change I felt myself experiencing as I read it. Dacyzyn points out that if you want more money, you can earn more, or you can practice frugality and learn to save. Most people don't have the option to earn more money, so they should learn to live frugally.

I've always thought of myself as a frugal person, but I realized while reading this book that it has mostly been what Dacyzyn calls "fake frugality." She describes this as the type of person who focuses on how much he saved rather than how much he spent. For example, someone who says, "I bought this shirt on sale so I saved $15," ignoring the fact that the shirt still cost $50 even being on sale, and that he could have gotten a perfectly good shirt for $3 at the thrift store.

Also, Dacyzyn promotes earning money and living frugally as a means to an end. She encourages readers to figure out what their monetary goals are and to work toward them through living frugally. For example, she and her husband decided when they got married that they wanted to buy an old farmhouse with an attached barn and have a large family, but they didn't want to have to rely on babysitters or day care while they worked. Through frugal living, they were able to save up a huge down payment and achieve their goals.

I realized that my husband and I are always talking about our goals, but we haven't made any real financial steps toward achieving them. Hopefully, the advice in The Tightwad Gazette will help us prioritize so we can save up for the things that really matter to us.

Next up on my reading list...The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones


Stephanie February 1, 2009 at 11:19 PM  

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Some of her ideas are out there (it's been quite some time since I've read this, but I still chuckle at her bread bag diaper cover!), but really, like she said, it's all about the mindset. I still make a lot of the recipes she mentions in here too.

It's a great book to have around for frugal inspiration. :)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 2, 2009 at 9:54 PM  

Stephanie - I forgot about the bread bag diaper cover. That was very funny!

ChicChick February 4, 2009 at 10:08 PM  

I also love this book, though her first one is still my favorite. For some reason it felt like in the more recent books she was a little angry--probably tired of trying to explain why she lives the way she did to many people over and over. Have you read the first one? If so, did you find a difference in her "voice"? There are a ton of great tips and you're right, it's a great reference book.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 5, 2009 at 8:15 PM  

ChicChick, I agree with you that her "voice" got more defensive in the later books. And I think the first book had more useful tips and articles. I think she just got burned out after so many years of writing about the same thing and getting attacked by people. But I still enjoyed all of her writing.

Amy March 10, 2010 at 2:39 PM  

I love this book! Some of the ideas are a bit "out there" for me. Overall, though, it's a good read filled with fantastic ideas!

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