The Cheapskate’s Bible: The Complete Tightwad Gazette

By Leo Babauta

When I wrote the Cheapskate Guide, I was writing about the frugality I’ve been striving toward for most of my adult life. And one of the inspirations for that frugality was the Tightwad Gazette, a frugality newsletter that was later compiled into The Complete Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn.

If you’re looking for tips for living frugal, it doesn’t get any more authoritative than this.

After my favorite book on frugal finances, Your Money or Your Life (read review), I’d say The Complete Tightwad Gazette is the second book any frugal person should read.

Today we’ll take a look at this classic, and what it has to offer.

Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”) became famous for her frugality through her newsletter, the Tightwad Gazette, Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle, which was published from 1990-1996. Read a great article she wrote about how she cured her love for spending: They Call Me the Frugal Zealot.

The newsletters were filled with her frugality tips — practical tips that you could use in your everyday life. If you read Zen Habits regularly, I’m sure it’s not a stretch to see how her writing helped inspire this site.

Dacyczyn’s journey into the world of the frugal began when she had her first child, and put her career on hold to become a full-time mom. Of course, raising a family on one income required some cutting back of expenses, and it was for this reason they started becoming frugal. She eventually raised a family with six children on one income. (Sound familiar? See my take on this issue here.)

Dacyczyn’s newsletters became extremely popular among those who wanted to learn about frugality, and in the frugal spirit of the newsletter they passed the newsletter among them, so it reached many more people than it sold. In fact, the copies I read in the mid-1990s were second-hand.

She eventually compiled the best tips from her newsletters into several books (Tightwad Gazette I to III), and then compiled those books into one volume, publishing The Complete Tightwad Gazette in 1998. The books taught many people how to do more with less, and to live a more contented life.

Frugality Tips
The Tightwad Gazette can teach anyone, even those who think they’re already pretty frugal, how to save money in all areas of their lives, including:

Now, just as with the frugality tips on this site, not every tip will be useful to everyone. In fact, some of them are a bit extreme (she’s into re-using just about everything), and that will be a turn-off to many people.

However, with the sheer volume of tips and articles in this book, every person and every family will be able to find a lot of tips to apply to their lives. In fact, I would recommend that you go through the book with a pad of paper and a pencil, and note the tips you’d like to try. You’ll find dozens, and it’ll save you the time of having to go through the book a second time just to find the tips you want to use.

Financial and Life Management
The Complete Tightwad Gazette is not just a book full of frugality tips. Dacyczyn offers sound financial advice (along with some rather extreme advice) and some advice on simple living that can help anyone having trouble with finances and anyone who wants to scale back on life. Some of her advice revolves around:

If you’re interested in living a more frugal life, if you’re having financial difficulties, or if you want to live a simpler life, this book is a must-read.

However, I recommend (as Amy does) that you practice frugality first and check it out at a library. If the book is useful (and I’m sure you’ll find it so), you may consider buying it. Used.

See other book reviews: