Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tightwad Gazette Review - The Only Book I Recommend

I have read a lot of books on frugality and finances. It is a topic that fascinates and thrills me, so I devote a lot of time to learning about it. I read blogs about it. The ones I recommend for others are Being Frugal and The Simple Dollar, although I read more for fun.

I get several newsletters in my inbox on frugal living. My favorite is the Hillbilly Housewife Newsletter. The Hillbilly Housewife's site has a ton of frugal recipes and is a great resource. She also has set up Frugal Living News, which has an RSS feed of lots of frugal blogs and articles, including my blog.

But the only book I really recommend on frugality and finances is Amy Dacyczyn's The Complete Tightwad Gazette. This has The Tightwad Gazette, The Tightwad Gazette II, and The Tightwad Gazette III all in one volume. If someone were in a real dire situation, this is still worth spending your swagbucks Amazon gift cards on. (To those of you who may not own this book, you can save $0.01, based on the current Amazon prices, by buying the three books separately, shipping included, but I like having things more compact, so I splurged and bought the three-in-one volume.)

I've read it at least four times this year, cover to cover. I reference it weekly, and quote it often, sometimes to my husband's chagrin. I am one of those who talks about Amy as if we were pals.

The Tightwad Gazette changed my life. We were pretty frugal before we moved, as we still lived below the poverty level. When we moved to an area that cost more but we were getting a smaller income, I got some phone calls about mystery shopping; they needed someone in my area. I started picking up jobs and within a few months, was matching, even some weeks surpassing my husband's income. My kids came with me, but it wasn't fun for them, being dragged around from store to store. I felt like it was really hurting my relationship with my baby, Bobby, only a few months old. I began hating it.

I didn't know how well we could make it financially without it. Lynnae from Being Frugal spoke often about The Tightwad Gazette on her BlogTalkRadio show, so I bought a copy. I soon had the confidence to take a month off of mystery shopping, only taking the jobs I wanted, restaurants and clothing shops. It was nice to know I could go back to it if I needed to, but we started out doing okay. Here were the big lessons that are ingrained into my mind thanks to the Tightwad Gazette.


1) Track everything you spend for a month. Take a notebook with you everywhere if you have to. It won't be easy or convenient, but it must be done to curb frivolous spending. Even with my spending under control, this helps me spot places where I could do better.

2) Check your prices. Don't just check your prices on big things, like car insurance and rent. Check your prices on eggs and broccoli, too. When you find the lowest prices around, you will be saving each time you buy. I did this where we used to live, but hadn't since we moved.

3) Do it yourself. I am a big do it yourself advocate. I don't like that the American people are made to feel stupid so that we will pay others to do things for us. From basic car repairs to making tortillas, you are probably more capable than you give yourself credit for.

As I learned more of the nitty-gritty, and reread the book a few more times, I got better and better at living on a small budget. In the book that was written over a decade ago, she said that some people do need to make more money, that raising a family on $20,000 per year just isn't going to work. With her help, I have proven her wrong.

There are several things I disagree with her about, and I generally won't write about her unless it is to show something I have discovered that I disagree with her on. If I wrote everything I agreed with her on, that would quickly turn into plagiarism. The principles she has taught me have changed my life, and I am thankful. Has the Tightwad Gazette, or another frugal book, changed your life?

33 comments:

Anna said...

I LOVE the Tightwad Gazette. I recently began reading it cover to cover, because I had always been too excited and flipped through. I'm trying to go through with post-its, to bookmark, and write-out the ideas that I've yet to implement. I wish Amy was still writing, especially with the ever-changing economy, but I know the same principles still apply! BTW, hubby did lose his job and as of right now, no immediate job openings!

Anonymous said...

The Tightwad Gazette really opened my eyes to many changes I could make. I had been doing some of the things in the book, but there were so many more!

S said...

I used to have the Complete Tightwad Gazette but then I traded it for books 1,2 and 3. It seems like a lot of good information was edited out to condense it into the "big book". Next time you want to reread it, you might want to see if your library has books 1,2 and 3 and read those instead, to see if there is more information you are missing from the big book. : )

For me, getting the newsletter, and Amy's philospohy is what allowed me to be a SAHM, before that I could not imagine how we could afford for me to do that.

Anonymous said...

Love Amy Dacyczyn! She has taught me so much. The other book I've found so helpful is Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy.

I'm a Hillbilly Housewife fan, too.

Allison said...

This is offtopic but it's timely for the season. Do you guys do anything for Halloween, like costumes or treats to hand out?

I was just wondering cause I know buying candy to just give away can definitely eat into a budget. I live in a condo complex so I buy a lot of candy since tons of kids come around. I enjoy watching the little costumed trick or treaters so for me it's okay to "splurge" a bit.

Jaime G said...

I love The Millionaire Next Door and also Your Money Map. Must-reads, In my opinion. :) Changed how I thought about money.

Emily said...

Allison, I have a Halloween post for tomorrow, but no kids ever come to our door, so we can easily forego buying candy to pass out.

Betsy said...

I love TWG, too. I especially love its emphasis on frugality as a choice. That we all make frugal choices to get the reward that we desire (for y'all it's to live on Walmart income during seminary, for us, it's living on one income despite large student loans, and for someone else, it's getting to travel to many places all year).

Remembering to think of frugality as a choice, with goods and bads, with trade-offs and rewards, well, that goes a long way towards keeping me content when the day (or week) isn't going as smoothly or as easily as I would like.

lisa said...

I have all 3 books of TightWade Gazette...I go to them from time to time and use alot of things from those books..Like you I have somethings I disagree with...with any book you take what works for you.. I like the Miserly Moms book, the Penny Pinchers book..I have been a stay at home mom for 23 years..We penny pinched for things we wanted..it was a fun and a challenge..we love the hunt in saving money..we buy brand new and we buy used...Love your blog..I have learned alot...Keep up what your doing...Lisa

Treva said...

I <3 Amy Dacyczyn! The other day my DD was complaining about her crayons being all broken so I pulled out TWG and read the paragraph on crayon cookies and made 4 for her right then. She was happy and I didn't have to break open a new pack of crayons. She loves those things!

I reread the book yearly and always take away something new.

All my muffins are made using her "create a muffin" recipe; I'm still shocked that stores charge $2-5 for 4 muffins when I can make 2 dozen for the same price. I saved breadtabs for a year so DH could label the cords on the surge protectors. Silly little things that many would not do, but I got a kick out of not throwing something away and not having to buy its marketed counterpart.

Natballs said...

I think I'm going to invest in that book. Because that sounds like what it is- an INVESTMENT.

Pam said...

My MIL introduced me to these books when I became a SAHM. They changed my life. I have read many frugal books/blogs, but I really like AD because she goes so in-depth into the how and why, not just giving tips.

Atheist Mama said...

I used to own the Complete Tightwad Gazette, but sold it recently on amazon. I read it many times and although I did enjoy it and get some tips from it, I felt like it was just sitting around my house, useless.

I have a problem with getting rid of things, lol!

I think for a newbie to the frugal life the book can give some tips - although it is SEVERELY dated - but as far as basing your financial life off it...no way.

It more or less just give tips on odd ball ways to save money (well, some oddball, some obvious), it's not a financial map for your future.

I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover...even if you don't have debt, it's a good and *simple* plan to achieve financial security...which I know, isn't what you are going for...

Anyway, yeah. I've read a lot of books but TMMO is by far my favorite - even though Dave does get a bit preachy every so often :P

Martha said...

The first Tightwad Gazette was published the month my youngest son was born and when I stopped working for a while. I was and still am fascinated by Amy's advice. Now that I am unemployed and committed to staying home full time I have dusted off those Gazette books. Last night I made the recipe for cuban bread for supper that is found in the Gazette II. I remember when the Tightwad Gazette I came out she was interviewed on the Phil Donahue show. Phil thought her advice was well worth talking about BUT many members of the audience thought she was a Kook. Especially when she told that they did go out for their anniversary one time to McDonalds and used coupons. When people started snickering Phil Donahue told the audience something to the effect of "I would bet that Amy has far more money in her savings account than you do and is financially more secure." People stopped laughing.

Kimber said...

Oh, I have been wanting to read those books but have not wanted to spend the money on them. I am thinking we should now. I will ask my DH to get it for me as an early Christmas gift. This will give me something to read this winter!
I read "10,000 ways to live large on a small budget." It is good & helped me out when I first relized there were no jobs in Michigan & wont be for a long time. We know how to live off only my DH income & doing well. I also enjoyed "Frugal living for dummies."
I am also a big fan of the Hillbilly housewife. I read her blog every day & cook many of her meals...

Clisby said...

Hey, we can have another "Julie & Julia" here! "Emily & Amy". Unfortunately, this movie will not feature life in Paris, so that's a downer.

Moxie said...

This isn't just a shameless plug 4 my blog (LOL) but if anyone wants to pop on by

http://nannamanna-moxie.blogspot.com/

...on the top left I've got a rather large list of what I feel are the best frugal books :) I love all things frugal! You can find most all of them at the library FREE- the best frugal option :)

Anonymous said...

My favorites are The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin... The Millionaire Next door is also a good one. I think I have one of Amy's books somewhere on my book shelf. I will have to pull it out and reread it. :)

Amanda said...

The Complete Tightwad Gazette is one of my best purchases ever! I am just afraid that my copy is going to fall apart soon. I seem to read it cover to cover at least once a year and reference it often. My index is full of yellow highlighter marks so that I can quickly find favorite sections (i.e. the snowball principle, the pantry principle, the reader letter that she published where a woman detailed how she was able to become a stay-at-home mom, various recipes, etc.) I also love that she shared the thought process and calculations behind a lot of the ideas so that you can then apply it to money-saving challenges in your own life (this is also one of the reasons why I love your blog Emily and look forward to turning on my computer each morning and seeing your latest post!)

Blessed said...

My husband took a seminar at our church on Dave Ramsey's ideas, don't know if he has more than one program or not. The only downer for me was that you had to purchace a workbook and a few other tools for use in the class, to help you with organizing your money matters, etc. BUT my husband really liked it, and thought the ideas were really sound. If anyone is interested, you might check with your local churches to see if any of them are hosting the classes any time soon. At our church at least the classes were free, it was just the Dave Ramsey "package" that you use in the class that cost anything.

Eileen said...

#1 The Four Laws of Debt-Free Prosperity by Blaine Harris and Charles Coonradt

#2,3,4 (tied) The Richest Man in Babylon, Total Money Makeover, Rich Dad Poor Dad--get different things from each of them.

I have read and used ideas from the Tightwad Gazette also.

lexie said...

Interesting, I had just checked this book out from the libary a few weeks ago!

iamtheworkingpoor said...

My favorites are "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, "The Simple Living Guide" by Janet Luhrs, and "The Tightwad Gazette." The first helped me see the big picture of my finances, the second gave me inspiration to create the unique lifestyle that fit me, and the gazette gave me all the tiny tips that built up to something bigger.

trishtator said...

I really liked "Your Money or Your Life." It got me to drop all my assumptions about the way I was spending, and examine what was really important to me.

It's also amazing how quickly we forget what we read/learned, and need to go back through our goals, spending, and saving plan.

I'd like to read Tightwad Gazette - it sounds very helpful!

Lyn said...

Absolutely that book changed my life! I know you're pretty young and I commend you for your frugality and for admiring Amy D when so many your age are into "stuff".

I first heard of her in 1990. I have every single newsletter still, and her complete book. She's the best author ever when it comes to frugality. No one else compares and I doubt they ever will.

What I loved about her was her ability to think a frugal action through to see if it was cost effective. Also, she encouraged readers to submit frugal tips, which made it all that much richer.

I may not use dryer lint but if someone else does, hey, go for it! I laugh when people say "I won't do this" or "I won't do that", etc., when it comes to frugal living. But yet they are deeply sinking in debt. People today need to stop being so prideful and stop being so spoiled. I could go on about that, but I digress....

S. said...

Great ideas for anyone.

But, I want to say one thing - you proved Amy wrong for your own case, but I think it's true that some people MUST make over $20,000. i.e. if you live in places that have a housing shortage, or in a very rural area where food is expensive.

Blessed said...

This is not a comment on this posting, but something I thought you and your readers would want to know about! I saw over at
http://fluidpudding.com/reviews/you-can-eat-off-of-our-dishes/
they are going to be giving away new samsung appliances to visitors who enter the contest by leaving comments, tweeting, etc. Free appliances--talk about frugal! : )

WindSweptBaby said...

Sounds like some great books I need to check out! Thanks:)

Anonymous said...

i really liked reading the TWG years ago, but found it not doable at all. i think it is very dated advice now. we take more of a minimalist approach now, and just don't buy much at all unless it's needed. also, i don't like used things, so that doesn't apply. we just have minimal clothes, shoes, lines, dishes etc. and NO decorative clutter.

Anonymous said...

I love the website moneysavingmom.com You may wish to check it out Also to the above poster and others, you can do Dave Ramsey's program I believe without purchasing his materials.

Jill said...

My husband (then boyfriend) discovered a hardcover The Complete Tightwad Gazette at a thrift store. When he beckoned me over, I literally gasped out loud. People turned and looked. =) I couldn't help it, I was so excited!! The best part? It was TEN cents!! I have read that book many times, and it is very informative. Although, as other people have commented, some of the information is very dated. Especially certain prices - although I'm surprised at how many food prices have remained the same, despite nearly 20 years having been passed!

However, I do find that Amy's primary focus in life is saving money. And although I am too fascinated with how to stretch a dollar, I find that when I focus on saving money too much, it's just as spiritually hindering as if I were spending money left and right. It's not a good focus. And let's face it: We'll always find someone who saves more money, makes more money, has different expenses, etc. And so our worth is not found in how we manage money - no matter how poorly or excellently we manage it.

Rachel said...

I have to agree with Jill. Although I have the books and refer to them often, I also think that having a focus just on saving money to be not healthy. One reason I like to save money is so that I can be in a position to help others. I enjoy taking food to the various food pantries in our community. If I spent our entire food budget on just feeding us, this would not be possible. And I believe that we will see rewards for our helps.

One of my problems is the psychology of it all. I can say no to most things, most of the time, but sometimes it just gives me a little boost to buy something. I try to keep that simple and in line. I have found that a Chick Fil a ice cream cone is a wondrful treat, and only $1.25!

Ms. Lilly said...

Hi there, I found your blog about a week ago through Ravelry, and I've really enjoyed it so far. You're inspiring.

Although I've read some of the various Tightwad Gazette books, the book that changed our lives was Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Revisited. Before reading that (and taking the course), we had no hope of being debt free, and living frugally seemed like a romantic act of extremism.

As of 9/4/09, we're debt-free except for our house, and by the end of next year, we expect to start paying off our mortgage early.

Maybe now that we're relearning our finances, I'll re-read the TWG books again.

Early Modern Mom

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