So many mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I think it's great. Then again, I think parts of it are totally ridiculous. But, this book was one of the things that got the ball rolling for me. Not the first thing, but one of them.
The Complete Tightwad Gazette is a 900-page compendium of ideas, recipes, tips, methods, and advice; it's a compilation of the newsletters the author published in the first half of the 1990s (making it a little outdated, as there are references to typewriters and hardly anything about computers). I first came across the Tightwad Gazette a few years ago when I read about it in the magazine Real Simple. I was working at a bookstore at the time so I skipped the library and ordered it, even though I'd never heard anything else about nor had ever thumbed through it. I had a really good discount, plus the extra money, so I figured, what the heck.
I got it a few days later and read it over the course of a week or two. I did say that it is a 900-page book, but it reads quickly - it's not straight chapter-by-chapter text. It's full of recipes, articles, pictures, reader correspondences/suggestions, and lists. I've gone through it a couple more times since then; the second time I highlighted the headings of the articles I found useful so I could just flip to them. To be completely honest, there's more that I didn't highlight than I did.
Don't get me wrong: there are some good ideas in here. The Tightwad Gazette introduced me to Square Foot Gardening before it got popular. I hadn't considered doing a price book for grocery shopping before I read this book. It motivated me to try making homemade pizza (I will be sharing my pizza recipe soon - you'll love it, I promise). I still have to try the "refrigerator dough" recipe she suggested in the book - it sounds like a great idea (I'll share that experiment on here someday...). I also was introduced to the idea of having an "hourly rate" to judge if going to frugal measures is really worth the time. There are some good ideas in here and lots of reinforcement that living frugally is possible, especially when you're creative. Chances are, I'll mention this book more than a few times on this blog.
Then again, there are definite flaws with this book. There is this attitude to it that if you don't do certain things, you're instantly a "spendthrift", that you should be ashamed to use disposable diapers or to not wash and reuse plastic zipper bags. That attitude gets a little old. The book also gets waaaay too extreme in some cases. Whenever I go through this book and read her suggestions, I try to imagine what her house looks like and where she stores all the garbage she collects. Seriously - there are suggestions for using saved bread tabs, Styrofoam meat trays (Ick.), juice can lids, old socks (as dish rags, no less), milk jugs, the mesh bags that onions come in, plastic rings from soda six-packs (no joke - she writes about making a hammock out of them. Really.), to name just a few. For babies, she suggests skipping buying a bassinet and using a dresser drawer on floor with bedding in it. And there's the suggestion of using shortening instead of diaper cream or ointment. Hmmmmm....
So, you may be wondering why I'd even suggest this book. Honestly, I think everyone interested in living more frugally should check it out (literally - check it out at the library. Even my town's limited library has three copies available) for a few reasons. One is that it is a good example of how you can assess what you have, what your limitations are, and then come up with solutions. You have to give credit where credit is due - author Amy Dacyczyn does not lack creativity. She can make anything out of anything. After reading about her ideas, you can't help wonder how you can be creative in your own way. Secondly, it gives you ideas to adapt to your life, while also illustrating where you'll draw the line. By this, I mean you can use her lifestyle as a gauge: is this measure too extreme? Would I consider trying this with my family? Does this action warrant the result? In this book, you can see the cause and effect of the way she lives. Finally, it's good for a laugh. There were a few times I'd read it and laugh out loud at some of the ideas - "Do people really go to all that trouble to reuse a junk-mail envelope?" And, according to this book, I guess some people actually do.
What books have you read about saving money? Were they helpful?