The Complete Tightwad Gazette
I’ve been a fan of the Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn, for ten years.
Over the last decade, this book has helped me to save thousands of dollars on our housing, transportation, food and clothes. Almost every sentence, in the massive 788 page tome, is a gem.
Recently, I’ve started rereading tightwad gazette with an eye to crafting and cooking. Though these aren’t the main topics of the book, Amy has included some surprisingly good ideas on saving money in these areas. To varying degrees, the Tightwad Gazette touches on sewing, quilting, decorating, woodworking, baking and creating gifts of food. Though these sections are short, they are packed with great ideas.
My favorite story is a detailed accounting of how Amy made a $1.00 quilt for her daughter’s room. Amy designed her own pattern, gathered coordinating fabrics from free or inexpensive sources and set about making a simple but lovely quilt. All done, in her usual frugal way.
Here are 50 takeaways from Tightwad Gazette……
« 1 »
If you own a set of tools, consider building twig furniture for your porch. Rustic furniture is both free and attractive. Use the library to find a book of how-tos.
« 2 »
Try to avoid purchasing wood. Wood can be recycled from curbside throwaways. Use it to create smaller items like wall shelves, children’s chairs, etc.
« 3 »
Sew with the fabrics you already have on hand. Rather than running to the store for new fabrics, use what you already have in your stash. Nothing in your stash? See what your mom has in hers.
« 4 »
Cut down adult size clothing to make clothes for kids. Skirts generally provide the most yardage, but dresses and oversize tops can also be recycled. Cut apart as close to the seams as possible, to insure the maximum fabric.
« 5 »
« 6 »
Make your own patterns from ready made clothing or locate some freebies online. To start, try simple items of clothing like skirts. Eventually work your way up to vests and more complicated garments.
« 7 »
Refurbish clothes the easy way. Just remove dated, damaged and garish elements such as broken beading or yellowed lace. Other things to take off are out of style collars, appliques and buttons.
« 8 »
Skip the eggs for baking. Instead, substitute one tablespoon of water and a heaping tablespoon of soy flour. Stir together to make an egg substitute for cakes, cookies and breads.
« 9 »
Use lightly toasted breadcrumbs as a cheap substitute for Parmesan cheese. Toss them in olive oil and toast in a pan till golden brown.
« 10 »
Make up your own tv dinner trays to deal with leftovers. Fill each tray with one main course and several side dishes. Freeze till needed. Tv dinner trays can be bought at camping stores or online.
« 11 »
Have what Amy calls Smorgasbord Night as another way of getting rid of leftovers. Heat up a bunch of leftovers, place them on the table, and have everyone take what they want.
« 12 »
To get a used “something” for a cheap price, let friends and family know you are searching. Eventually, someone will hear of a “something” going for a great price, or even for free.
« 13 »
Get into the habit of buying items used and then reselling them on Craig’s List when their no longer needed. Just make sure your initial purchase is a great bargain.
« 14 »
Buy fluorescent lights. Fluorescent light fixtures and bulbs may be more expensive in the short run, but you will remake your money back fast, fast, fast.
« 15 »
Buy yeast from bakeries or warehouse stores in bulk. It will cost a fraction of the grocery store price. Just be sure to use it fast so it doesn’t lose it’s effectiveness. Or alternatively, split with a friend.
« 16 »
Don’t use soda or sticky soft drinks to make pops. Yogurt, ice tea mix and leftover jello can all be used for making popsicles. Fruit juice and pureed fruit can also be used.
« 17 »
If you’re sick of spending money on new socks when you have tons of mateless ones in your drawer, start buying identical socks only. You will always be able to match up your socks.
« 18 »
To save burnt cookies, scrape off their bottoms with a course grater. The cookies will taste as good as if they hadn’t burnt.
« 19 »
Never automatically follow the manufacturer’s instructions when deciding how much laundry detergent, shampoo, or dish detergent to use. Experiment. You often need much less than they say.
« 20 »
Don’t always assume warehouse stores are the cheapest source for groceries. Sale foods, coupon foods and loss-leaders can often be found cheaper at the supermarket.
« 21 »
If you don’t feel like paying to have your bulky item hauled away to the trash, place it front of your house with a sign saying “Free. Please take.” Often someone will come by and relieve you of your burden.
« 22 »
If you want your child to have encyclopedias, buy a slightly used edition. Most of the information will still be up to date, but you will save at least 90%.
« 23 »
Use coupons carefully. Coupons aren’t always money savers. They are often offered for items that were over-priced to begin with. You may be able to find another brand of the same item for less than the coupon price. Be sure to take a look.
« 24 »
Collect gifts all year round. When you see an exceptional bargain, purchase it for birthdays and holidays. If you wait to buy gifts till you need them, you may not find them on sale.
« 25 »
Make a new quilt for just a couple dollars. Reuse an old comforter or blanket for batting and used clothing for fabric. If you don’t have a machine, just sew the quilt by hand.
« 26 »
Lose weight and save money by walking to nearby errands instead of taking the car. This works best if you live within a mile from a large commercial area.
« 27 »
Don’t always assume fresh vegetables are the cheapest. Also check out the prices on canned and frozen vegetables before making a purchase.
« 28 »
Next time you want a vacation, consider borrowing a tent and going camping. You’ll save almost a $100.00 a night on motel fees. Look the site up online to make sure it has all the amenities you’ll need.
« 29 »
To refurbish an old sofa, cover the cushions as you would wrap a gift box. Use heavy duty safety pins to secure their backs.
« 30 »
Make a price book. Use a notebook to keep track of the prices of all the groceries you purchase on a regular basis. Note the prices at each of the stores your frequent.
« 31 »
If you are really poor, ditch the cable TV. Get a money saving hobby instead. Some good ideas or sewing, gardening and baking.
« 32 »
Always check out the scratch and dent section of your grocery store. You can find some big bargains. Not all stores have scratch and dent sections so you may have to do some research first.
« 33 »
Pick up craft supplies like yarn and embroidery floss very cheaply at yard sales. Also keep an eye out for sports equipment, books, clothes, cookware, small appliances and kids toys. In general, the nicer the neighborhood, the nicer the sale.
« 34 »
Ask your local bakery if they have a “day old” section. Or, better yet, learn to bake your own bread and save even more.
« 35 »
Purchase used tvs at repair shops. Repair shops sometimes sell abandoned televisions for no more than the cost of the repair.
« 36 »
Make two banana desserts. For banana ice cream, blend frozen bananas with just a little orange juice. Top with granola. Or, make banana pops by inserting a popsicle stick into a peeled and halved banana. Spread with yogurt, roll in cookie crumbs and freeze.
« 37 »
Purchase aluminum foil, plastic wrap and other kitchen items in restaurant supply stores. You’ll save a lot of money, but you may need to buy in large quantities.
« 38 »
Simmer fruit peels and cinnamon in a little water. Your house will smell great and you’ll avoid the cost and chemicals of commercial sprays.
« 39 »
Have your kids make gifts for friends and relatives using the newspaper. Collections of comics, crossword puzzles, word games or chess problems cut out from newspapers over several months make a fun and thoughtful gift.
« 40 »
Go ahead and garden, even if you live in the city. If you live in an apartment or house with a small lot, call your local city hall and find out if there are any lots available for gardens.
« 41 »
Buy used furniture from auctions. Inspect the furniture before the auction begins. Also, make sure you set an upper bidding limit before you attend.
« 42 »
Use the food pyramid as a guide for eating. Not only is the food pyramid a healthy way to eat, it is also a cheap way to eat. Emphasize the grains and produce, and go lightly on the meats, dairy and sweets.
« 43 »
Consider renting rarely used tools instead of purchasing them. Tools like floor sanders and hoists come under this category.
« 44 »
If you don’t have good prescription insurance, ask your doctor for free samples. Most doctors have an abundance of them.
« 45 »
Make your own cheap versions of Snapple. Just mix homemade ice tea with fruit juice. Try out grape juice, mango, apple and orange flavors.
« 46 »
Consider purchasing a used ten-speed bike as an alternate form of transportation. Even if you only use it occasionally, you will save money on gas while improving your health at the same time.
« 47 »
If you own an inexpensive used car, purchase a second car of the exact same model for parts. Most older cars need a lot of repairs, and a second car is a much cheaper source for parts than the car dealership or your mechanic.
« 48 »
When furnishing a new home, put out the word that you will take anything, as long as it is free. Then sit back and wait for the avalanche of furniture coming your way, as everyone gets rid of their “clutter”.
« 49 »
Give homemade candies as birthday and holiday gifts. Package in Chinese takeout containers, decorated with markers and stickers.
« 50 »
When purchasing groceries on sale, try to stock up sufficiently so that you can avoid buying the item again till the next sale occurs. For instance, if peanut butter only goes on sale twice a year, get six months worth at a time.
These tips, plus plenty more, make Tightwad Gazette a very worthwhile read.
Note: There are several versions of the Tightwad Gazette. Be sure to pick up the last and most comprehensive volume, The Complete Tightwad Gazette.