I began reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette last week. “This is pretty good,” I told Kris. “It’s like a frugality weblog from before there were weblogs.”

The Tightwad Gazette was a newsletter published during the early 1990s by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”). Eventually the back issues were collected into a series of books, which were in turn collected as The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Dacyczyn wrote articles like:

  • Used Shoes: Are they Good or Bad?
  • Budget Bug-Busting
  • Tightwad Toys
  • Saving Money on Your Mortgage
  • Etc.

Sounds just like a personal finance blog, doesn’t it? This book has thousands of tips, many of which were contributed by readers of the newsletter. I bought a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette for $11.95 at a local used book store. I’ll bet a used book store near you has a copy. (Your library almost certainly does.)

After I told Kris about the book, she stole it from me. She’s been reading it for the past few days (“It’s entertaining,” she says), dogearing corners when she finds articles that she thinks I should share with you folks. I want to contact Dacyczyn for permission to reprint some articles, but her web site has been in hibernation since 2001. (If any of you know how to reach her, please contact me.)

I know that some of you frown upon frugality, consider it beneath your dignity. You equate it with being “cheap”, and would rather focus on increasing income instead. That’s one approach. But an early essay in The Complete Tightwad Gazette does a wonderful job explaining why frugality is a crucial element to the personal finances of so many people. This piece is long but important.

Everything You Already Know

Telling you how to save money is like telling you how to lose weight. Everybody knows how to lose weight. You need to eat fewer calories than your body uses. To save money you need to spend fewer dollars than you earn. In both cases you need to adjust your rate of consumption to your rate of work.

The “Don’t save more, earn more” philosophy is a very one-sided approach. And it has one big flaw. Nearly everyone that earns more automatically spends more. For this reason, regardless of their incomes, many families seem to have exactly enough to get by.

Telling you to earn more instead of saving more is like saying “Don’t eat less, exercise more.”

When I learned that walking a mile burned up the same amount of calories as an apple I wondered how many miles I would have to run to burn the calories in a candy bar. It made more sense to give up the candy bar.

Most Americans are running to burn up candy bars. They are running out of the house, running to the daycare center, running on the job…so they can afford candy bars and Nintendo games, meals at McDonald’s, and designer sneakers.

There is no doubt that the minimum wage earner does need to earn more to afford apples — the basics of life.

But for most of us whether we choose to earn more or to save more depends on how easy, accessible, and enjoyable more work is.

[...]

There is a point at which the quality of life and the standard of living depart…where earning more results in a personal cost that erodes the quality of life.

The solution is to find the right balance of earning more and saving more. You need to couple your earning effort and your saving effort to achieve the highest quality of life.

When you do earn more, resist the temptation to spend more. Discipline yourself to saving whatever possible of what you do earn and reinvest in ways to either earn more or save more.

Sometimes I feel like I am telling you everything you already know. It is much like when I joined Weight Watchers years ago. At the time I joined I already knew how to lose weight, yet I continued to attend long after I had reached my goal. Weight Watchers’ success is in their structure as a support network.

The purpose of The Tightwad Gazette is much the same. You will learn learn some new nitty-gritty strategies and it will bring into focus what you already know. But I hope you will also come to regard it as a national tightwad network, providing support as you work toward reaching your goal.

I hope that Get Rich Slowly can fill much the same role for you as The Tightwad Gazette once filled for its readers.

[from The Complete Tightwad Gazette, pp. 13-14]