How Cheap Can You Get? Tips from the Tightwad Gazette Journal

As an impressionable college student, I tore through the Tightwad Gazette Journal the way a lonely thirteen-year-old devours a Harlequin Romance: voraciously, with bated breath. It’s been more than fifteen years since I first read it, and some of the wacky money-saving tips have stuck with me all this time. Here are some highlights from the recesses of my memory:

Make muffins out of leftovers. A few bites of oatmeal left in your bowl? Some cereal dust at the bottom of the box? A little baked potato left over from last night’s dinner? Transform it all  into muffins using a universal muffin mix.


This cookbook has nothing to do with the universal muffin mix. I was just trying to find a muffin picture to illustrate this point.

Rearrange furniture instead of buying new pieces. When you run off to Ikea or Target to buy new stuff, you may temporarily fulfill your desire to redecorate your house—but six months later, your cheap new bookshelves and framed posters will fall apart and you’ll wish you’d saved your cash for nicer things. Next time, see if you can satisfy your desire for change by regrouping the pictures on the wall, rearranging the furniture, and getting creative with the décor you already own.

Don’t go out to eat. The Dacyczyns didn’t go out to eat for the first decade of their marriage. Instead, they made every meal from scratch. Ten years and six kids later, they splurged on a night out . . . at McDonald’s.

They ate a lot of boxed macaroni and cheese. (True story. They did the math and determined that this is one of the few convenience foods that is cheaper than homemade.)

Use a bread bag for a diaper cover. Say your baby has a nice fresh cloth diaper pinned on him. All he needs is a diaper cover. But you don’t have a diaper cover. (Why or how this would happen is not important. Go with it.) Simply find an old bread bag, rip it open, and diaper the baby with it. (Again . . . why? I am not really sure.)

UPDATE: I was telling my friend Heather this story and she told me a story about a friend with a diapering emergency that only a bread bag diaper cover could solve!

Go ahead. Splurge!

Develop advanced garage sale skills. From the Tightwad Gazette Journal, I learned a lot about making the most of garage sales. Have a plan. Pack a lunch. Get there early. Bargain them down—especially if it’s later in the afternoon, when people are desperate to unload their belongings. With this advice in mind, I acquired a popcorn maker for $1.50 instead of $2. That was almost ten years ago, and we still use our Whirly Pop about five times a week. SCORE!

This costs $20 new. Now that is extravagant!

If you haven’t read the Tightwad Gazette Journal, you must! If you are already a fan, help me round out my list of tightwad tips.

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