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?