Let’s do a quick show of hands–who out there is a huge fan of The Complete Tightwad Gazette?
Well, my friends, you will be after this post. Welcome to the best money book ever written. Back in the day when our kids were small, our income was small, and our debts were huge, this book was my financial lifeline. Written by Amy Dacyczyn about twenty years ago, the book is actually a compilation of six years of her very successful newsletter. Yesterday I realized the obvious–this is an early version of a blog! She wrote quick, simple articles from a personal point of view. Except the poor woman didn’t have a smart phone to upload her pictures in a flash–she actually had to draw them all. And then she had to print the whole thing out on real paper and mail it out each month. I promise this blog wouldn’t exist if I had to mail it out. I am that lazy.
As you can imagine, some of the ideas Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”) printed have fallen out of circulation since 1990. For example, page 342 contains a reference to Breck shampoo, which I don’t think even Wal-Mart sells anymore. And of course the internet and technology have moved past what anyone could have anticipated 22 years ago.
I will also admit, and Amy admitted herself, that some of the ideas are a little far out. Not every money-saving idea will fit every family. In one article she discussed how her family bought a large amount of canned goods with no labels; then they spent the next few months guessing at what the cans contained and making up meals once they opened them. Think ongoing “Dinner Surprise” and you are on the right track. There is no way on earth my husband would agree to that, and it takes a lot for him to put his foot down.
But when you get past the twenty year old time gap and some unusual approaches, the woman and her contributors had the right idea. Amy’s basic desire was to have a large family, a large old farmhouse, and to stay at home with her children. She then arranged her finances to fit until she and her husband could manage those dreams.
I’d like to share some of her principles that changed our family finances, so off and on I’ll be sharing some ideas from the book. Today we’ll start with a foundational article called “Seeking the Minimum Level” (pg. 87). Amy challenged her readers to think about what they were doing and buying, and why. Do we really need all those shoes? Do we really need the pre-packaged snacks?
Find one small thing to cut back. Use less dish soap. Don’t buy the new shoes yet. Go one extra day before you wash the towels. Then continue to cut down your use until you find a level that is uncomfortable for your family. When you’ve hit an uncomfortable point, then go back up one notch. Just one. Not back to the way it used to be. Repeat this over and over with various expenses, and soon you’ll have trimmed your family’s finances with little stress.
How simple, and how beneficial! Thinking differently will have you spending money more wisely. What are your financial dreams? Are you willing to try anything new to reach them? Let me know what you think!