Monday, February 25, 2008

My new old friend

I have been checking out the tattered copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn from my local library for nine years.

This would be in addition to all the times I checked out the original series from libraries in Cities Past. The Tightwad Gazette was the first real help I got on my journey. The personal finance books always did the same thing: They told me what to do, but not how to do it.

Spend less, they would urge me, and then they’d give a handful of examples. Don’t buy lattes, bring a bag lunch a couple days a week. Yeah, thanks, that’s a huge help.

Amy gave me the how. Not merely in the form of a whack of specific ideas for saving money, but in mindset. She taught me to look at things differently, to think about things differently. To stop and say, “Wait, what’s the actual weight of this thing? The bottle’s bigger, but there’s four fewer ounces of product? Hmm, that means this shampoo is actually pricier than this other one, even with a $1.50 off coupon…”

Bare-fisted frugality, people, that’s what this book is all about. It is bright and humorously written, but push come to shove we are talking about line-drying clothing to save twenty-five cents in natural gas, washing baggies to save a nickel each time and turning bottles of shampoo upside down to get those last few drops before taking the Last Shower, where you add some water to the ‘empty’ bottle, swish it around, and then use the soapy water on your hair. Then and only then can it be said that we are out of shampoo.

Recent reviewers mention that the advice is ‘dated’, and I suppose it’s true. Things change. Economics is a moving target, and prices seldom remain fixed. At one time, it was cheaper to buy powdered milk than fresh; in some areas that may still be true, but in mine it is most emphatically not.

In any case, the theories remain sound, and I still find the book to be both a good reference and an awesome way to jump-start my system when I’ve gotten sluggish in my tightwaddery.

So naturally, I checked out the book again recently. Then things got crazy and I didn’t get around to reading the chapter(s) I was meaning to re-read, and it was due back to the library (oddly, they seem to want the books back every few weeks, go figure), and I went online to renew it and they said, “NO! Somebody else wants it, you bring it back this minute, missy!” and I said, “Oh, bother. I really should buy my own danged copy of this thing…”

My first impulse was to head on over to Barnes and Noble, right then, for my own copy.

Then I said, “Nay, verily, I shall not do it for behold, I can Just Say No to fiscal imprudence.” I had already parted with a significant portion of my weekly allowance for a housewarming present for a friend, leaving me with a vastly reduced grocery budget. I actually had to go an entire week without diet Pepsi. YES WAY. The movie documenting my against all odds survival on nothing more than water, coffee, and slightly past its ‘use by’ date cranberry cocktail (I used copious amounts of cheap vodka to kill any potential mold spores in it) (none were visible or even probable, but one can never be too careful about such things) will be coming soon to Lifetime.

I felt a little put out, but at the same time hey. A deal is a deal. Those are exactly the kinds of purchases that make for financial train wrecks. You think it’s going to be some Big Huge Thing you buy, the expensive car or the $600 handbag, but it usually isn’t. It’s a series of smaller things, like going into Target for cat food and coming out with cat food, pine-scented litter, five cat toys, a book about parakeets and eight cute candles. None of them are over $5, so all of them are dismissed as ‘no big deal’ – but added together, they are mighty enough to sink your boat before it can come in.

And then, Behold how the Faithful are rewarded. I opened up my email last week and found I had been unexpectedly blessed with a $25 B&N e-certificate.


My shiny new Complete Tightwad Gazette arrived today. I have never seen a copy in this condition. It’s so new! To be honest, it’s kind of weird. This is probably proof that I was really past-due in getting a copy of this book, but I find it strange that there is no coffee stain on the back cover, and that the pages aren’t dog-eared, and that page 159 isn’t torn. And there are no pencil marks on the index, obviously scrawled by somebody’s toddler at some point (it wasn’t one of mine, I swear!).

I’ve actually stood in front of the bookshelf looking for it, and my eyes have zoomed right on past it because it was too new to be the one I was looking for.

My new old friend, home at last.

And on the cheap, too.

I think Amy would be proud...


PipneyJane said...

I love my copy of the Complete Tightwad Gazette. If I was marooned on a desert island, it'd be the one book I'd take. I don't know how many times I've read it but everytime I am inspired to do something different. I even sent a copy to Big Sis when she was in financial difficulties - her family call it "Aunty Pam's bible".

If I ever get to Leeds, Maine, I'm going to look up Amy D just to thank her.

- Pam

Barb said...

Good old Amy. I read about her "quest" in Parade magazine back in the early 1990's and started subscribing to the newsletter soon thereafter. I ordered all of the back issues and quickly devoured them. I still have my complete set and will sometimes go back and re-read them. You are right. With Amy, it's all about attitude. She definitely had a positive influence on me. I so wish she would start a blog...

Anonymous said...

Used bookstores can be your friend in these situations. You can even (gasp!) take some of your books in and get the new-ish book even cheaper.

It's often my first place to look when I find out the book I want from the library has "89 holds on 20 copies".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for alerting me to this treasure. I promptly logged into my library's web site and have reserved one of its four copies for my very own self.
I should have it in my hot little hands by the end of the day tomorrow.

PipneyJane said...

I'm with Barb, I wish Amy would start a blog.

The Tightwad Gazette is the best book on frugal living I have ever encountered. Nobody else comes close.

- Pam

Anonymous said...

From here on in you are my go to girl for good reads! My library has a copy but it's out, I shall wait.

p.s. loving all my freezer meals.

Science PhD Mom said...

The frugal bible! You are right, it's all about attitude. I just got back from the library today, I will have to get it on the next trip for a freshen-up on frugality.