Tightwad Tips for Raising Baby from Frugal Zealot, Amy Dacyczyn

Last week we reviewed Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette, the ultimate guide to creative frugality.  We could ooze on for hours about her innovative outlook on reusing and reducing, but instead we’ll give you some concrete examples of how she made budget friendly, eco-friendly choices with her twin babies. 

Since Dacyczyn thought her fourth child would be her last, she had given away all of her baby things, only to find out that she was having a surprise set of twins.  She spent less than $100 on their first year of life by employing some zany acts of simplicity.  These are just some of the items she skipped with her babies:

Baby Shampoo: She just used regular shampoo and was careful not to get it in baby’s eyes.

Bottles: Since she wasn’t working outside the home, she nursed the babies until they were one year old and then taught them to drink from a cup.

Changing table: Dacyczyn used a towel on top of a dresser with changing items stored in a shoe box.

Disposables: Even when traveling, Dacyczyn used cloth diapers.  She invested $65 of baby’s first year budget on diapering supplies because she knew it would pay off in the long run.

Crib: Dacyczyn writes that people can get creative with dresser drawers or use a playpen as a crib. (I know this might upset some readers, but it is an interesting idea, although neither Rebecca and I nestled our infants in our bureaus.)

Shoes: Until baby is toddling, these are totally unnecessary.

Despite our enthusiasm for The Tightwad Gazette’s baby tips, we’d be hesitant to endorse Dacyczyn’s stance on diaper pins and plastic pants—she states that they’re the best option for cloth diapering families. The book is over ten years old now, and there are so many more Velcro options on the market than in the mid-nineties.  We’ve been able to find many gently used Velcro diapers for bargain prices.  Cloth diaper tightwaddery is now updated for the new decade! 

Although we also wrote a post about what baby doesn’t need, Dacyczyn shows that reducing and reusing can be taken much further than most of us realize.   Some find her extreme, but we at Green Baby Guide harbor great respect for the sense of fun and pragmatism she brings to living a simpler life.


  1. For prefolds, which are still the least expensive way to use cloth, a Snappi is great! Or, skip the diaper pins altogether and just fold the prefold in thirds and slap a PUL cover (with velcro) right over it. You only need 3 or so covers in your stash, because they last through several changes.

    Who doesn’t breastfeed until at least a year? heh.

  2. Thanks for your tips! We got away with just folding our prefolds in thirds and using covers. Cloth diapering is far easier and cheaper than most people realize!

  3. Hils, I got a Snappi and never used it, as I preferred the just-fold-in-thirds method, too. (If anyone wants me to send them my Snappi, please email me and I’ll be glad to pass it on!)

    The vast majority of women do not breastfeed at all, let alone to a year. (I know it does not seem like that in some circles, especially if you live somewhere like Portland or Eugene!) Although breastfeeding is common in my world, I’m still impressed that Dacyczyn used no bottles, breast pump, or sippy cups at all! Even the stay-at-home moms I know used a breast pump and bottle every once in a while.

  4. I’ve always liked the idea of having my baby sleep in a dresser drawer – maybe because it is a family tradition. I first heard the story of my grandfather sleeping in a shoe box as a baby when I was a kid and always thought it was so clever. My older brother slept in the bottom drawer of a dresser, and he turned out just fine!

    Has anyone else given this a try?

  5. Mimi–what a coincidence! My grandfather also slept in a shoebox when he was born.

  6. I forewent the shampoo all together. The cheap stuff is just full of chemicals and fragrances, water works just as well! And how dirty does a baby really get?!

    Unfortunately moms don’t breastfeed as much as you might think. It’s only like 17% that make it to a year and most quit before 6 months! Sad really. Not only is it the healthiest option (that proves healthier in the long run as well) but the cheapest. It’s free, you don’t HAVE to buy bottles, and it also cuts way down on medical bills the first few years.

    And I don’t think babies ever really slept in cribs ‘back in the day’! Both mine and hubbys grandmas have told us that a lot of folks just used dresser drawer. Now a days though, you’d probably have child protective services after you if you did that. (You know with SIDS and all) Thing is you can always check out freecycle.com or craigslist.com and ask for a free one. There is always someone out there willing to give to someone in need! For our next one I picked up a moses basket at a garage sale for just a few dollars, cheaper than a bassinet!

    The cheapest thing I’d do next time is not buy so much stuff! Babies don’t need THAT much clothing. Or toys for that matter. They are pretty small and simple little beings! As Americans we tend to go way overboard and fall into all of the marketing (from the manufacturers – they want us to buy!) that we NEED certain things. Guess what? We went centuries without squeaky toys and tons of stuffed animals. You think the pioneers had a NURSERY for the babies? Nope, they fit them in wherever they could, no specially decorated rooms just for baby.

  7. Jennifer Roberts says

    I am not sure these were things she actually did. I think they were suggestions for what to do in an extreme circumstance, or to make you think about if certain things were necessary. For example, you can have a baby and not run to the store to spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes, toys, and furniture. If you still can’t find a safe used crib and are strapped, you can try letting the baby sleep in a play pen or the dresser drawer idea.

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