Frugal Tips From the Tightwad Gazette – Book Review

by heather

The Tightwad Gazette II

The Tightwad Gazette II

If you’re into frugal living and saving money tips, then I’ve got a treat for you.

A few days ago I took out The Tightwad Gazette II: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle , by Amy Dacyczyn, from my local library. And, I was enthralled from the first page.

This book teaches you how to frugal hack anything. You can open up any page of this book and find something useful.

The Tightwad Gazette was a newsletter that Ms. Dacyczyn started back in the ’90s. It was a smashing success with readers because they learned tons of ways to save money, and make their things last longer. In fact, Ms. Dacyczyn made so much money off the newsletter and book sales she was able to retire early and raise her family at home.

High fives to her!

All this speaks to the treasure trove of wisdom in these pages. There are three Tightwad Gazette books, and all of them are completely wonderful.

Another cool thing about these books is that Ms. Dacyczyn included countless tips from readers who wrote in over the years with frugal tips of their own. And, these nuggets of money-saving wisdom are invaluable.

So, want to learn some frugal living tips from the Tightwad Gazettes?

Tightwad Gazette Frugal Living Tips

1. Reuse Junk Mail Envelopes- You can reuse the junk mail envelopes you get by carefully turning them inside out. This hides the postal bar code on the front (which would send your mail to the wrong place) and extends the life of the envelope.

2. Make Your Shoes Fit With Ice- I loved this tip! If you have bought boots that are too small, try this tip: put a garbage bag into the shoe (make sure it has no holes!) and fill it with water. Tightly tie the top of the garbage bag and put the water-filled shoe in the freezer. As the water turns to ice it expands, and will stretch the leather enough to give your toes more room.

3. Save Money By Marking Your Hubcaps- If you lose a hubcap it’s going to cost $100 or more to replace it. Be proactive by taking off your hubcaps now and, with permanent marker, writing your name, phone number, and “Reward” on the inside. If they fall off, paying someone $20 for returning them will save you big.

4. Don’t Buy New Gas Caps- If you lose your car’s gas cap, then don’t spend money on a new one. Most gas stations have a “lost and found” box full of forgotten gas caps. Often they’ll gladly give you one for free.

5. Regulate Your Kid’s Bathwater- If your kids love to take baths, then put a piece of electrical tape on the inside of the bathtub to let them know when they should turn the water off. This will save money because they’re using less water.

6. Freshen Your Car Naturally- Instead of buying air fresheners for your car (which are nothing but chemicals we shouldn’t be breathing in anyway), put cloves in your ashtray and leave it open a bit.

7. Make Your Own Puppets- If your kids are hankering for puppets, don’t buy new ones (which are insanely expensive sometimes). Buy stuffed animals at thrift stores and garage sales, open the back seam, and take out the stuffing. You’ve got a great puppet for a fraction of the cost of a new one.

8. Save Your Six Pack Rings- Instead of recycling (or worse, throwing away) those plastic rings that hold six packs together, save them up (and ask your friends to do the same). You can tie them together with fishing line to make a sturdy, lightweight hammock.

9. Reuse Your Onion Bags In The Bathroom- Those plastic mesh bags that your onions (or oranges) come in are invaluable. Use them to store toys in the bathtub; when you hang them up in the tub they can drip dry during the day.

10. Save Your Metal Juice Lids- Glue a piece of magnetic tape to the back, and a small picture of your child to the front. You can use these to keep track of who’s doing what chores on the refrigerator chore chart. Or, you can use them just as cool, funky magnets.

11. Save Stuck Envelopes- If you have old envelopes that have sealed closed because of moisture, stick them in the microwave for 20 seconds. This will extend their life, and help you save money on not buying new ones.

12. Throw Your Ziplocks In the Wash- If you want to extend the life of your plastic bags, turn them inside out and put them into your washing machine with a load of laundry. They’ll be brand new and sparkly clean when the wash is done, just make sure that you get them all out before the load goes into the dryer!

13. Save Those Boxes- If you buy your kids new toys for Christmas, keep the boxes and store them in your attic or basement. When the kids grow tired of the toys and you’re ready to garage-sale them, put them back in the box. Toys in boxes are always bought first, and you can ask a higher price, especially if the toys are undamaged.

14. Save Your Bread- If you live in a one or two person household, you might find that going through a loaf of bread is impossible before it gets moldy. So usually, you waste part of the loaf. To prevent this put the bread, two slices at a time, into small Ziplock freezer bags and toss them in the freezer. Keep the first half of the loaf fresh. When you get down to the last few slices, start “unfreezing” the frozen bread. Keeping it with just two slices per bag will help prevent freezer burn. You can also save money (and use less plastic) by easily reusing the Ziplocks each time.

15. Get Your Teeth Cleaned- If you don’t have dental insurance, you can get routine cleanings done for a fraction of the cost at your local dental school. The students have to complete several cleanings in order to graduate, and they do a thorough job because a) they’re watched like hawks and b) they’re graded on each cleaning.

You also learn…

  • How to start a great garden using stuff you have around the house (like egg cartons, milk jugs, old lumbar and windows…
  • How to revive old cast-iron cookware to make them good as new
  • How to make your own gourmet mustard
  • Why buying in bulk sometimes isn’t the better deal (statistically, you use more of the product at a time when it’s bought in bulk)
  • How to make refrigerator bread dough that is cheap, long lasting, and easy to make
  • How to make your own toaster pastries at a fraction of the cost of store-bought ones

Last Word…

Seriously, I’m in love with these Tightwad Gazette books. There is so much fantastic information here, and there’s no way I even covered a fraction of it. I’ve greatly trimmed down my books lately, but these are three that I might have to add to my collection.

One thing to note: because these books were written back in the 1990s, the prices are, understandably, a bit out of date. Remember when a gallon of gas cost $1.20? And that was high?

I couldn’t help but laugh at that one.

There’s also tons of frugal recipes in here. I’m definitely going to be trying the refrigerator bread dough one soon, and I’ll post that as soon I make it on my own. Hot cross buns sound pretty yum!

“Budgeting is the art of doing that well with one dollar which any bungler can do with two.”

-Arthur Wellington, British soldier and statesmen (1769-1852)

You can find out more on The Tightwad Gazette II: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by clicking that link, which will take you right to my Amazon store.

If you’d like to just go straight to Amazon to find out more, you can click here (I’m pretty sure the books are out of print, at least part II and III are, so you might have to buy them used online or in a used bookstore if you can find them).

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Jill May 6, 2009 at 10:55 am

Awesome! The hammock tip almost makes me wish I purchased things that come in 6-pack rings. I’ll have to ask my friends and coworkers if they have any!

heather May 6, 2009 at 1:11 pm


I know! I thought it was so clever. I never buy six-packs either, but I think it’s a great idea.

Rebecca May 6, 2009 at 5:10 pm

You should look at her The Complete Tightwad Gazette, which is 959 pages long and has all her stuff in it. I have it and it is great and huge! Something that is definitely worth buying, to keep on hand for all sorts of things!

heather May 6, 2009 at 7:18 pm


I had no idea she had a book that contained all three; I definitely might have to get that one.

Thanks so much for letting me know! May 7, 2009 at 7:13 am

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Team - PricebookDB November 22, 2009 at 12:59 am

In Amy Dacyczyn’s book, “The Complete Tightwad Gazette” she mentions creating a grocery price book (p.33). Essentially, you use a notebook to track the prices of grocery items over time in order to determine the absolute lowest price of an item, at which point you stock up on the discounted item.

The pen and paper version has works somewhat efficiently, but is rather low-tech. A friend of mine and me have gone one step further and wrote an Android based app called PriceBookDB. This is a smart phone app that does everything a pen and paper price book does, and more.

It lets you track items, prices, and stores, over time to determine the best time to buy any particular item. It seems that most people buy the same products week in and week out, such as milk, bread, meat, and produce. They also buy the same monthly items, Toilet Paper, cleaning supplies, soap, etc. All of these items can be tracked, sorted, and categorized.

We let you create basic shopping list, which you can morph into exactly the brands that you buy. We let you share your shopping lists with your spouse’s phone, or a web site. You can sync shopping lists, check items off, and analyze your buying habits.

To top it all off, we crowd-source all of the users data, so that, if you want, you can see all of the item-price-date-store info that other shoppers have entered, in your area, so that you don’t have to do all of the grunt work.

It’s a neat app, and we’re pretty proud of it. We’re working on it almost every day to make it better. If you have an Android smart phone, we would love for you to download it, try it out, rate it, and leave a comment. You can visit our web site
You can download it from the Android Marketplace, for free, here:

We really hope you enjoy it.

Save well and prosper!

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