9 Frugal Tips Learned From The Tightwad Gazette [Still Relevant Today!]

Rampant consumerism is considered so normal in our everyday life. We’re born into this mentality, and deciding to adopt a more frugal lifestyle is likely to be met with confusion. Living a frugal lifestyle, you’re often seen as the outcast.

The mentality associated with frugal living is that these people are cheapskates, unreasonable, and worse. Their lifestyle is criticized and seen to be overdramatic and unnecessary. This stems from decades of indoctrination, which pushes that we should live a consumer-driven society. 

Marketing strategies have somehow made us believe that we need the best, newest, and most expensive items to achieve happiness. Most people can’t attain this image, which causes immense stress, and is a contributing factor for many people being driven further into debt.

Frugal lifestyles bring us back to the way we first lived many years ago. Implementing certain aspects of frugality into your daily lives can prove beneficial, not just financially but mentally, too.

This article contains some of the tips discussed in the Tightwad Gazette that are still relevant today. With these tips, you can easily add them into your lifestyle so that you can live a more frugal life.

I want to share this knowledge with you because I believe that it’s the best way to live. Anyone can benefit from the teachings outlined in the Tightwad Gazette. One small change can impact your entire life in a way you didn’t think possible. 

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What is the Tightwad Gazette?

Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”) became famous for her newsletter called “Tightwad Gazette,” among other newsletters, which revolved around frugality. The newsletter contains abundant volumes of frugality tips that could easily be implemented into your day-to-day life.  

She later published three books that compiled all of her tips discussed in her newsletters, and then gathered all three of those books into one volume called, “The Complete Tightwad Gazette,” which was published in 1998. You can grab your copy here.

The book brought knowledge to many people on how to do more for less while living a more content life. Some of these tips are still relevant today.

Best frugal living tips from the Tightwad Gazette:

  • Don’t keep up with the Joneses
  • Cook from scratch
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Be frugal in moderation
  • Stock up on sales
  • Find a signature dish
  • Quality over quantity
  • DIY before you buy
  • Make your own cleaning supplies

1. Don’t Try to Keep up with the Joneses

The creation of a consumer-driven society has created an unsustainable lifestyle. Strategic marketing has led you to believe that a particular product can make you happy. All this creates the ideology that you NEED ‘the newest this and the newest that.’

These items have come with a certain stigma. For example, those with old phones are poor, while those with the latest, top-of-the-market phones are wealthy. To show off your wealth, you need to buy all these expensive things to prove that you’re successful.

We feed into all the lies these companies tell us, and we support their business. This system benefits them, but it doesn’t help us. As a society, we are the most stressed and depressed we’ve ever been as human beings.

We continually want what we can’t have, and forget about the things we do have. We’ve continued trying to find happiness through materialistic items, and while this process seems to work for the few seconds after we’ve received it, we’re on to the next thing we want.

This process has left us without contentment and instead plunged us into a multitude of debt and stress. You don’t need what your neighbor has to prove that you’re worthy enough. An item can’t define you like that. You choose not to measure your success and happiness by what you have is one way of achieving financial contentment.

2. Cooking from Scratch Saves a Ton of Money

Before big grocery outlets, we made our goods from scratch. We have gotten lazy over time and have forgotten that baking and cooking are an option. Convenience has taken over, but this convenience is at a lot higher cost than what you may think.

Cooking and baking from scratch save you a lot of money. Think of it this way; a loaf of bread is going to cost you around $2.50, but it can end up costing you a fraction of this just by making it at home. It’s so funny that nowadays homemade bread is seen as such a luxury when before, bread making was an essential way of life. 

If you’re looking to reduce your grocery budget, buy these cheapest groceries. Also, double-check how much you should be budgeting for food to see if you’re about average.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

A simple practice taught in Tightwad Gazette is that you shouldn’t throw something out because you’re tired of it or because it’s broken. The classic saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is entirely true but added to this, your trash can actually be turned into your treasure.

An example of this is that you can make mittens out of old sweaters that aren’t in use anymore. Reusing items like the cardboard from your toilet roll and stuffing it with dryer lint can be an effective firestarter.  

4. Being Frugal In Moderation Is Good

The term “frugal” typically gets a negative connotation. But it shouldn’t be mistaken for being cheap or stingy. Here are the main differences between being frugal vs cheap.

The benefits that come with being frugal include:

  • You have more freedom to pursue your passions
  • You have the opportunity to prepare for earlier retirement
  • You have more money to save and invest
  • You experience less financial stress
  • Your net worth is improved
  • You have a higher risk tolerance
  • It aids in creating more financial creativity
  • You’re financially content
  • You have the skills and the savings to get through financial hardships

So go ahead and embrace being frugal! Having less financial stress and finding contentment makes any negative words from the naysayers worth it.

Related: Great Depression Era Living Tips That Saves Tons Of Money

5. Stock Up When There’s A Sale

I think a misconception about this rule is that you should buy everything that’s on sale and nothing at the full retail price. This isn’t true. A golden rule to stick to is that you should buy items that you would typically buy, even if it isn’t on sale.

Buying everything you see on sale can end up being more expensive. For example, you’re not going to start liking canned tuna automatically, even if it’s only $0.25 when you’ve disliked it for your entire life. Buying like this can be wasteful, and this is the opposite you want to achieve when adapting to a more frugal lifestyle. 

6. Finding an Easy ‘Signature Dish’

This day and age provides you with convenient food services, but these come at a hefty cost and aren’t all that good for you either. ‘Take out’ culture is one of the reasons for the increase in obesity that’s being faced globally. 

Fast food is so easily accessible; all you need to do is use your smartphone to order and your food is ready before the end of an episode. This quick access has made us lazy in the kitchen, but something most people don’t realize is that it’s cheaper and healthier to make the food yourself.

Finding recipes to cook can be challenging, but a useful tip is to find a ‘signature dish’ or dishes. These recipes can be used on repeat while changing up a few ingredients each time to keep it interesting.

Something that’s always very popular in almost any household is vegetable fried rice. This is a fantastic option that can be served in a variety of ways. You can add carrots, mushrooms, and tons of other vegetables to increase the fiber and vitamins.

My husband has always lived by the saying that rice always tastes better the next day. If you have leftover plain rice, you can always reheat it with stir fry sauce and add in frozen vegetables for a quick healthy lunch.

All you need to make good fried rice is frozen vegetables of your choice, day-old rice, and soy sauce. It’s a completely vegan option but you can also add in egg or meat if you’d prefer.

You’re able to spice up the rice as well, by adding some chili flakes or sriracha. Finding a signature dish or recipe doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. Tried and true family meals win over complicated any day.

7. Buy Quality Over Quantity

A fantastic tip that’s highlighted in the Tightwad Gazette is that buying high-quality staple pieces is going to last and save you money in the long run.

For example, you can buy a pretty well-priced laptop from a brand that’s reputation is unknown, or you can invest a little more money and buy a Samsung or Apple product instead. The odds are that you’re going to need to upgrade the lesser-known brand’s item, while the Samsung or Apple product can give you longer use.

A general rule about ‘quality over quantity’ is that you’re going to want a quality durable item and a quantity of non-durable items. This means you’re going to invest in useful quality items that are going to sustain a significantly longer lifespan, and you’re going to try and cut costs on non-durable items like groceries.

You’re going to spend more money on a good quality couch because this can last you a long time, while you’re typically going to reach for the pasta that’s cheaper on the shelve because it’s going to last you a short amount of time, ingredients being the same. 

Why spend more money on something that you’re going to get very little use out of? In this case, you’re going to get three meals out of that pasta, why spend an extra dollar on something that’s going to give you the same item – pasta. 

8. Try DIY Before You Buy

Many references are made about doing things yourself in Tightwad Gazette. There are mentions in the book on how to fix things, create something yourself, and build stuff without needing to hire someone. The 1990s was a less technologically connected time.

We were encouraged to go to a library and take out a book on carpentry if we wanted to fix our broken door. YouTube tutorials weren’t around. This tip is still relevant today, but the means of ‘DIY-ing’ are much easier as the information is right at your fingertips. 

Check out these frugal living tips from the Great Depression era that save a ton of money.

9. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning products are expensive – It’s that simple. I really wish everyone would implement this tip into their lives to be more eco-friendly while saving money. The mere thought that these businesses profit so much of the products that are incredibly unhealthy and toxic to the consumer is a great reason to start DIY your own.

These businesses love to frighten customers into buying their products by saying how germs are everywhere and how you need this specific product, which costs an arm and a leg, to resolve this ‘germ’ problem. 

Often, chemicals presented in these cleaning products, called phthalates, are seen to cause cancer and carry hormone disruptors. That’s why it isn’t just cheaper to make your own cleaning chemicals, it’s also safer.

Final Thoughts

The world’s greed has taken over, which has led to industries brainwashing the public into a consumer-driven society. Anyone that strays from this ideal is labeled ‘weird.’ That’s okay with me. I’m more than happy to be known as ‘weird’ because by being ‘weird,’ I’m able to live an overall more comfortable life with limited financial stress.

Frankly, I’ve rather be ‘weird’ than be drowning in debt, trying to fit into an unsustainable culture. I thank Amy Dacyczyn and her Tightwad Gazette for showing me how to live this life. Implementing the teachings of Tightwad Gazette was the best thing to happen to me. I have taken my life back into my hands. 

When I was younger, nothing ever satisfied me. I was always on to the next thing, and the next, and so on. I was never able to take a breath and appreciate what I had. 

The Tightwad Gazette has given me this opportunity to appreciate everything I have and not rely on materialistic objects to bring me joy. My hope now is to transfer what I’ve learned and give you the same opportunity, too.

Have you read the Tightwad Gazette? Let me know what your favorite tips are in the comments.

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Steffa Mantilla

Budgeting & Debt Payoff Expert

Steffa is the founder behind Money Tamer. After paying off over $80,000 in debt through budgeting, she now teaches families how to get their own finances in order. Steffa’s background in operant conditioning and behavioral husbandry has given her an understanding of motivation and motivators. She uses this training to help people understand the reasons “why” behind their money behaviors and how to successfully change them. You can learn more about her here.

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