It might sound dramatic but I stand by it. The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn has the power to change your life. It did mine, and countless others.
I know what you’re thinking, how can a 1990’s newletter, come book, have any relevance today in how to save money?
The Tightwad Gazette newsletter was written before the world wide web became a thing (this was less than 20 years ago so not ancient history!) and posted out to loyal subscribers.
Believe it or not, many of the thousands of tips in the book ARE still relevant today. I bought the Tightwad Gazette book in 2006, I already had the internet and was on many money saving forums. And it changed my life.
We all know that living within your means is important and embracing the frugal lifestyle can be empowering in many ways. However, it takes practical advice, tips and creative ideas to get good at this lifestyle change.
There are plenty of books loaded with frugal tips and creative ways to save money. Where the tightwad gazette tips differ is that you are guided through ways to live an alternative lifestyle, one where you don’t just follow tips blindly.
You learn how to apply tips in a way that works for you and your life. Not just the typical cookie-cutter life that none of us actually have.
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What is the Tightwad Gazette?
The newsletter was founded by Amy Dacyczyn and ran for just over 6 years. Amy was determined to buy a large house with attached barn and stay at home with her kids. So she learn how to cut costs everywhere.
She published three books which are a compilation of all the newsletter articles. The Complete Tightwad Gazette is all 3 books neatly compiled into one. This is the book I have had since 2006.
Why would you need a book published in 1998?
This book is an oldie but a goodie that has lessons and life wisdom from the author and her many thousands of newsletter readers. The tightwad tips in this book are timeless, useful for all ages, and some will make you laugh out loud. It’s also a great gift to give as it keeps on giving well into the next century.
The book is a reference tool for those who want to save money and live life on their own terms. The index of the book makes it easy-to-use, which helps you find what you need quickly.
As the economy continues to change, Amy’s advice remains relevant today, even more than ever.
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9 essential tightwad gazette tips that changed my life
As a fully paid up member of the Tightwad Gazette fan club these tightwad tips are by no means the only tips I recommend. The book is 950+ pages, it’s FULL of tips to live frugally and save money.
The following tips are more like life lessons, the building blocks of common sense frugality that have impacted my life (and many others) over the years. They stand the test of time. They are timeless in the message they convey to you and I.
1. Nothing is off limits with frugal living
Can’t is not part of your vocabulary when you are trying to save money. You can save money on everything, if you are willing to do so. Some of Amy’s tips were a step too far for me.
Tips like using dryer lint to make a Halloween mask (yes really!) or repurposing a pair of jeans 19 different ways. But what she was proving to us all is that if you need or want to save money, you will do what it takes.
Saving money is not just about knowing a hundred different tips on how to do so having read and memorised them from a book. It’s about the process of working out how you can save money specifically in your life.
I don’t have a dryer any more so saving the dryer lint is of no use to me. But the idea of using something like this lint to make something else is the revelation. Lint is something most of us would put straight in the trash. Yet here was Amy coming up with a way to use it.
Apply that idea to other things in your life. The envelopes you receive with a bill or credit card statement in. How can you use these opened envelopes to save money? (Hint, I use them as scrap paper for shopping lists and daily to do lists).
What about the unused return envelopes you occasionally get? Stick some paper over the return address and it becomes a free envelope for you to use.
✅ Do you need to save money right now? Want to embrace being frugal and how it can transform your finances? Then find out how to become fabulously frugal here.
2. Calculating the costs will save money
Taking the time to do the maths on what savings you make is one of the core principles that Amy is at pains to instill in her readers.
The calculation that I always refer back to is her explanation of which size of a whole chicken was cheaper. A small chicken or a large chicken. The unit price (price per kg) is often a little more for a large chicken but does that make it more expensive?
She did the math by buying both chickens, cooking them and stripping the meat off them. Then she weighed how much meat she got from each bird. The large chicken won. It might be a few pennies more per kg but there was much more meat to be had, making it cheaper overall.
She also worked out how much it cost her in time to wash out her plastic baggies and re-use them. (Yes she really did!) This was to show how much money she was still saving by not working and putting her kids in childcare.
Doing your own calculations is essential to maximise your savings potential. You might be a family of 2 who eats very little meat and have a smaller freezer. Buying a huge joint of meat might not mean saving money for you.
Whereas for a large family of committed meat eaters, buying meat in bulk makes good financial sense. And of course, this concept stands the test of time, no matter the change in price for chicken, turkey or baggies.
Always work out for yourself whether something saves you money. You can apply this to utility bill suppliers (they all set out their energy prices slightly differently), different cuts of meat and many other things.
3. Using a price book
Creating your own Tightwad Gazette price book when you starting out on your savings journey will make a huge difference to your grocery bill. What’s a price book?
A price book is something you create where you list the unit price (price per kg or lb) for every item you usually buy. The idea is to list the normal price, the often sale price and then the deeply discounted price. That one where occasionally your store puts something on sale where you know it’s a great deal.
Armed with your price book, you are then in a position to swoop and stock up when a product is at it’s lowest price. You don’t need to memorise every price when you have your price book.
The other element of your price book is to note down how often those really discounted prices happen. I noted that in my local store canned tuna went on a deep discount every couple of months.
Therefore there was no need to stock up with 6 months worth when the low price popped up. Whereas the best price on beef joints only happened 3 times a year.
Using your price book for most of your grocery shopping helps you save hundreds every year, if not every month!
4. Being frugal is eco-friendly
Being frugal, you don’t buy on a whim, you don’t continually replace things that haven’t yet worn out and you are happy to search for used items. These tactics are eco-friendly.
‘Make do and mend’
Is an old fashioned living saying that is another staple tightwad tip. Make do with what you’ve got and mend things if they break. Doing this not only saves you a lot of money, it means you are not putting things into landfill that can still serve a purpose.
Re-using milk jugs as planters (yes she does!) means those jugs aren’t being added to the plastic mountain we are creating.
Being able to reduce what you buy, reuse what you already have and recycle everything is a constant throught the Tightwad Gazette book. And we all know that Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (the 3Rs) are the mainstay of the eco-friendly movement.
There are hundreds of Tightwad Gazette ideas from both Amy and her readers to make the most of what you already have, without spending more money.
You might not want to make children’s outfits out of the same things that are mentioned in the book. But all these suggestions and ideas help you see that you don’t need to buy something new. You can get creative with random items you find.
5. A multitude of tiny savings add up quickly
Many books on saving money talk about tips that save a lot of money in one go. But what about if you’ve already done them? You’ve cancelled cable, got the best prices on your insurances, your utility bills and refinanced your mortgage.
Yet you still need to save money. You need to save money week in week out, not just on one off items. This is where the Tightwad Gazette excels. There are so many ideas and tips on ways to shave a few pennies, maybe just once a month off your bills.
Each tip on it’s own doesn’t make a difference to your budget. But multiple those few pennies hundreds of times and the savings mount up.
Using powdered milk in cooking instead of cream won’t save you $10 a week. It might not save you $10 a month. But it will save you a little bit of money.
Using the Tightwad Gazette pizza dough recipe will save a few cents. The Tightwad Gazette laundry detergent recipe will also help cut your costs.
There are plenty of Tightwad Gazette recipes you can use and they will save you money. These recipes are cooking (or making) from scratch recipes done on a shoestring budget. And they have helped many people feed their familes and make ends meet.
Never think that something isn’t worth doing because it only saves you a tiny amount. Just find more ways to save a tiny amount.
6. More than one way to fix a problem
Adopting an alternative lifestyle is often about doing things a little differently from those around you. Spending money to fix a problem is the last thing you try when you are super frugal.
Amy’s aim with her tightwad newsletter was to help folk like you and I learn how to do things for ourselves. Not rely on a book that listed tips that you must follow each time.
The tightwad tips take many forms and what makes the book so powerful is that many of the tips came from other readers. It’s not a book of tips from the mind of one person. But a book about frugal living from the minds of thousands!
I learned from the book that in order to save money I needed to not only follow the mantra “make do and mend”, but also be more creative with my thinking.
Saving money is not about not buying instead of buying. It’s about finding a different solution to the problem or task you have.
Love reading books? Check out these books on frugal living for even more inspiration (Yep, The Tightwad Gazette is there too!)
7. Meat reduced meals
I was never going to convince my husband to go vegetarian as a way to save money. If you have a confirmed meat eater at home, you can convince them to have the odd meat-free meal, but not on a daily basis.
A meat reduced meal is much more doable and this is something I learned and took to heart from the many tips in Amy’s book. Ground beef meals are the classic recipes you can reduce the meat content in.
Many recipes call for 1lb of ground beef mince for 4 people. Not only is that a lot of money when you are living on a shoestring, it’s also a lot of meat. More than a person needs.
With Amy’s advice ringing in my ears I managed to stretch 1lb of ground beef to twice as many meals as most recipes suggest. Instead of a meal for 4 people I would often get meals for 8 or 10 people from that pound of meat.
The secret to meat reduced meals is to pad them out with other tasty, nutritious ingredients. Lentils, oats, beans and veggies all made their way into my recipes to stretch the meat.
Do it gradually so your family don’t notice a huge difference. For picky eaters, blitzing cooked veggies helps to disguise how much of them you have secreted into the recipe!
8. Cooking from scratch saves big money
Cooking from scratch every meal you eat will save you a lot of money. More so than you think. We never ate out much as I knew this cost a lot of money.
What I hadn’t factored in was my original style of making meals was less scratch cooking and more putting together processed ingredients.
Making spaghetti (bolognese) sauce from scratch takes a bit longer than opening a jar of ready made sauce. That jar might not cost a lot of money, but it will cost at least double the basic ingredients. Your scratch made sauce will be tastier than a jar and you keep control of the ingredients in it.
You can shave hundreds off your grocery bill each year by making your own sauces, condiments and food from scratch. Sandwich meat is another costly item than you can do better at home.
Your Sunday joint can become sandwich meat for the week. Just slice it when cold (I use one of
9. Line drying
One of my favorite things to do – I’m not even joking! There is a satisfaction to be had when you hang a laundry load out in the morning and bring it in later dry and smelling of fresh air.
Coupled with the fact that your washing is less creased – no ironing and can be put away immediately.
A dryer will cost you a few hundred to buy, likely last around 5 years and cost you money every time you use it. While line drying will cost you 50 quid for a
Line drying cuts your monthly electricity bill. And when you’re on a tight budget, keeping your monthly bills to a minimum is high priority.
Even on winter days hanging your washing outside will get rid of much of the moisture. I will hang laundry outside any day it’s not raining. 6 hours later it might still feel damp and cold but once inside it’s actually dry within a couple of hours.
Tightwad gazette success stories
People who were struggling to make ends meet, people who couldn’t see how they could be the stay at home parent they desperately wanted to be.
There are also people like myself and the husband. We weren’t in massive debt, we already knew plenty of ways to live frugally, cut costs and save a bit of money.
But the Tightwad Gazette for frugal living took our saving abilty up several notches. We found ways to save money on things we thought we had already made the savings. As a result we saved much more money and were able to pay off our mortgage 10 years early.
We could not have done that without the Tightwad Gazette book and the frugal zealot as Amy nicknamed herself.
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What happened to amy dacyczyn?
When Amy retired from writing and running her popular newsletter, she really retired. She did exactly what she had always intended to do. She raised her kids, maintained her house and volunteered for her local church.
Amy rarely does interviews (she’s retired!) and still lives the life she promoted back in the 1990s. The one thing that has changed hugely for her, like it has for all of us, is the internet.
No more ringing around to get the best deal on new car tyres or buying used items. Just Google it and use the likes of Ebay and Facebook Marketplace.
Tightwad Gazette criticism you might have
When someone can find a quick answer to any question, why would you need a book published in 1998?
After all life has moved a long way on since 1998. And you’re right. There are tightwad tips in the book that are clearly out of date and are not worth doing. Classic example is ringing around garages to get the best price on car parts and servicing.
What you are thinking…just google it, right?
Absolutely you would Google it. Indeed in one of her very rare interviews, Amy said herself that she uses the internet every day for research and to find the best price.
Following those tips to the letter would be silly given we have the internet at out fingertips. But the principle of those tips is still as relevant now as it was then. Research the best prices for things you need to buy.
Don’t just accept the renewal price for your insurances, shop around. And with the internet and price comparison sites, it’s a 10 minute task.
You could also criticize the prices quoted in things like the classic tightwad gazette muffin recipe or her bread recipe. Of course those prices bear no relevance to the prices we have to pay today.
Again though, the underlying principle is there. Make your own muffins and bread. Use your price book to buy your ingredients at their cheapest price. Save pennies where you can, every time.
The Book Isn’t Aimed at Me
A final Tightwad Gazette criticism you might have. It’s aimed at families with children. I felt the same, a lot of tips to help you clothe your children, do fun activities and generally spend very little on keeping them entertained.
Amy actually addressed this point in her introduction. Her aim was to be a stay at home parent with her 6 children so of course there are a ton of tightwad tips aimed at parents. The truth is around 13% of the tips are child orientated. With nearly 900 pages, that’s a lot of tips that aren’t aimed at parents.
When I bought the book I was a parent of young children but I often ignored them as I didn’t homeschool, I hate creating costumes and I’m just not as much of a frugal zealot as she was! And the book still changed my life even though I ignored 13% of it!
The Complete Tightwad Gazette FAQs
what is the Tightwad Gazette website?
There is no Tightwad Gazette online website. When Amy retired from producing her newsletters she really did retire. You can get the
Trust me, it’s a book that you will want to keep and refer back to. I’ve had my copy for over 15 years, I’ve paid my mortgage off and retired early. And I still refer back to it from time to time for inspiration and help.
Is there a Tightwad Gazette ebook?
Likewise, the complete Tightwad Gazette ebook does not exist nor is it on
Instead you’ve got frugal blogs like mine that are here to help. Check out these posts for help in becoming more frugal:
is there a tightwad gazette facebook group?
There is no official Tightwad Gazette Facebook group founded by Amy, her family or any of her helpers. However there is a group called The Tightwad Gazette Fan Club. It’s a large group with over 16,000 members and they are all about sharing the tightwadery and frugal ideas.
Amy Dacyczyn 2021 – where is she now?
Amy is happily retired and continuing to do just what she always did as described in her many wonderful tips. She looks after her house, barn and family.
She spent many years volunteering for her church and she has continued to save money in the internet age by using it to it’s full advantage.
Should you follow all the tightwad tips?
There is no point trying to follow ALL the tightwad tips as there will be plenty that do not apply. Alternatively, you might want to run a mile from tips like finding 19 different purposes for an empty milk jug. I certainly did – although I did use them as garden cloches to protect young plants in early spring.
Follow the tips that work for you and your family. Even if you ignore 30% of them, there are enough there to really make a difference to your finances.
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Tightwad Gazette summary
Long story short. The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn changed my life 15 years ago and I have never forgotten it. I’m not alone in being a big fan of her and her book.
If you want to save money and you’ve already tried a bunch of different tips and read some frugal books then it’s time to give the Tightwad Gazette a try. When you are willing to put the time in to save money (like washing baggies or line drying your washing) you can’t help but do so.
Achieve your savings goals with a little help from this book, you’ll be surprised at just how much money you end up saving.
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Last Updated on 22nd May 2023 by Emma