Skip to Content

The Tightwad Gazette, revisited | Edition 1

I mentioned recently that I’m doing a reread of The Complete Tightwad Gazette. It’s been years since I have read it (probably since the very early days of my blogging career), so I thought it would be fun to reread it now, all these years after it was published.

copy of Tightwad Gazette book on a table.

Regarding the photo above: I think Amy would appreciate that her book is on a Buy Nothing table, along with a free Facebook Marketplace lamp and a picture frame from Goodwill (plus a nursing book from a sweet reader!)

Some of the information in The Tightwad Gazette is hopelessly outdated, like “Spray WD-40 on your worn typewriter ribbon to squeeze a few more uses out of it”.

can of WD-40.

Now I have to quote a Taylor Swift lyric:

I think some things I never say Like, “Who uses typewriters anyway?

Typewriter advice aside, some of this book’s contents are bound to be timeless.

So, I thought that as I reread, it would be fun to highlight some of the timeless content, along with some of the most ridiculous or outdated tips.

The gazettes were originally three books, but my version contains all three. Each book is separated into Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer sections, so I’ll do one section at a time, starting with Fall in the first book.

picture of title page in Tightwad Gazette book.

Best Frugal Philosophy Advice

The practicalities of frugal living may change with the times, but the philosophies do not. So, these are the nuggets I’m most excited to pull out of the book.

How to be More Creative

In the essay, “How to Be More Creative” two bits stuck out to me.

Amy lists ten steps to become more creative, and the second one is to “Give yourself mental space; a clear field.”

a field under a blue sky.

She says,

We tend to fill up our days with the TV, car radio, reading the paper, chats with friends on the phone. Instead, do “mindless” tasks in quiet. Boredom never strikes, as the mental gears whir constantly.

This one made me smile because it is so funny to think of reading the paper as a way to idly fill up your day. Imagine what Amy would have thought about the way we idly fill up our days now that we have smartphones!!

A pink iphone with a happy camper sticker on the back.

In mean, in 2024, we consider ourselves to be quite focused if we manage to watch TV without also simultaneously scrolling on our smartphones. 😉

Seriously, though, I do think she has a point here. As you all know, I often listen to podcasts or textbook chapters as I walk, but sometimes I just put on music as a background (or go without headphones at all), and I walk and let my mind wander.

trail in the woods.

Sometimes I get really good ideas this way, sometimes I find myself processing through memories and emotions, and I think these things happen because my brain has a chance to just think without outside input.

The second nugget in this essay is at the end.

She says,

What the heck does creativity have to do with thrift? Tighwaddery without creativity is deprivation. When there is a lack of resourcefulness, inventiveness, and innovation, thrift means doing without.

But when creativity combines with thrift, you may be doing it without money, but you are not doing without.

Yes, yes, yes! 

This is exactly what I have written about multiple times; I’m not interested in deprivation. Rather, I am interested in getting the things/experiences I want, just with less spending involved.

tidy bedroom.


A beautiful life, but on a budget.

Three Ways to Save

This is such a good basic frugal framework! The three main ways to save on something are:

  • Buy it cheaper
  • Make it last longer
  • Use it less

And you get the most savings by combining 2-3 of the strategies.

For instance, you can buy a clothing item on eBay (Buy it cheaper), then wash it in cold water, line dry it, and repair it when necessary (Make it last longer).

clothes drying on hangers.

Or you could combine all three like this:

  • buy a used car (buy it cheaper)
  • maintain it and repair it as necessary (make it last longer)
  • minimize your driving time by combining errands and carpooling (use it less)

An essay on…privilege

Amy doesn’t use the word but her essay, “A Stolen Thanksgiving Soap Box Speech” is basically about what we now would term privilege.

A Thanksgiving table spread with food.

Amy points out that things like being born in a wealthy country, having good health, or coming from a stable, loving family are gifts that we did not work for, and that not everyone starts in the world with an equal number of gifts.

The attitude of, “I worked hard and I deserve…” does not consider the very large degree that our gifts contributed to what we have.

She says that those of us who have been given surplus gifts should use those to smooth the peaks and valleys of unequal gift distribution.

And if we live frugally, we can maximize the gifts we have, which will leave us with more to give to others.


  • We should recognize and appreciate the gifts we’ve been given
  • It’s our responsibility to use our gifts well (not everyone does!)
  • Using our gifts well will yield a surplus, which we can share with others

Outdated Stuff

Things Used to Be Cheaper

This expensive home-packed lunch rings up at $1.63. THE HORROR. 😉

drawing of a packed lunch.

The “$0.04 per dinosaur” kills me. Ha.

Life Before Online Billpay

A tightwad gazette reader wrote in to say that she and her neighbors send their telephone bill payments together in one envelope, and also all their water bill payments so that they can all save on the cost of a stamp.

envelope with a heart stamp

I do remember that early in my adult life, I had to write checks for all the monthly bills, but I am delighted to have everything set up for online autopay now. No postage required at all!

And no bill coordination with neighbors required either.

An Actually-Good Tip

Baggie Washing pays $30/hour

I will spare you all the math she shared, but even back in 1990, washing plastic bags for reuse netted people $30/hour for their effort.

So, imagine how much more that task is worth now!

My student nurse job is going to pay me $20/hour, so hey, even the 1990 rate for bag washing is more than that.


Well….that was fun, at least on my end! I’d be happy to keep going with this series if you guys are interested.

Maybe we could do one every other week, on Wednesdays, and if you have the book, you could read along and come share your own nuggets each time.

Soo, if there is sufficient interest, we could do the Winter portion of the first book on Wednesday, June 26th.

Send feedback!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Vicki Frederick

Tuesday 18th of June 2024

Tightwad Wednesday! I’m in! Thanks for the memories. Now, I have to go find that book ☺️


Sunday 16th of June 2024

I read this from the library about 11 years ago as a newlywed, and I still to this day wash my plastic bags! I reuse them until they get a hole and can't be used anymore (and when I rarely put raw meat in them, they go immediately). Between this and others giving me food/things in plastic bags, I have only purchased new ones 1-2x in the past decade. It's worth it and so much better for the environment! We have a few reusable snack/sandwich bags now too.


Saturday 15th of June 2024

I recently finally found a copy of the Complete Tightwad Gazette and started reading it in full for the first time - only had the first volume before. I must say I'm enjoying it. Even the typewriter tip is useful - I use typewritten notes in my creative endeavours, and good ink ribbon is nigh impossible to find these days for obvious reasons. :D So I was very glad to find that WD40 tip lol.

I'd be very interested to see you continue this series and see what you think of the articles upon reread. <3


Saturday 15th of June 2024

that was amusing! please continue

Debra Woodward

Friday 14th of June 2024

The stolen soapbox speech was a sermon my Dad gave at the Leeds Community Church oh so many years ago. Amy was our neighbor, my Mom babysat ALL her kids. I remember the night she came by after dinner to sit and talk with my Dad about an idea she had. She started out with, “this is a crazy idea what do you think?” and the Tightwad Gazette was born! I spent many hours with other neighbors and members of our church opening mail. We went from a couple of trays to DOZENS following her appearances on The Home Show and of course Donahue! With every new subscription, we put a pin on map, we had to get a bigger map when she started with some international subscriptions. (I also spent many hours stapling and addressing said newsletters. It’s so wonderful to see the ideas presented back then being relevant today. The soapbox speech was just a tiny bit of my Dad’s wisdom that he imparted upon us and our community. I’m touched that his words continue to touch others today <3

Debra Woodward

Friday 14th of June 2024

@Kristen, lol I googled it! That particular sermon came to mind today (as many of his tidbits of wisdom often creep in) and I knew it was in her book. I lost my copy years ago, but so many of the things mentioned e we already did so it was already second nature. Interesting fact, I don’t think she had any subscribers from our local area, it was just the way we lived. Back then, even in the late 80’s & early 90’s, we still had residents living in dirt floored shacks. Poverty was more the norm but none of realized that we were poor… we were all in the same boat. My Dad grew up in during and post WWII, he would tell us of the evolution of the Woodward Family Friday night dinner, as a young child it was baked beans (homemade), then beans and franks, then beans and cubed steak followed by beans and steak. He grew up just outside of Boston, was a printer by trade until he packed up and moved to Maine in 1961 bought a farm in 1962. I think you are right, he was a bit ahead of his time. He imparted in my sisters and I a work ethic that is second to none, compassion and acceptance of our fellow man, regardless of their socioeconomic standing and the VALUE of working for what is yours and to share that wealth no matter how small. I lived that I found this today and it was from THREE DAYS AGO. Funny tidbit, shortly after Amy published the first book, I moved to Western Massachusetts. I was working at a Dunkin Donuts when one of the State Police Officers from the local barracks stopped in. His last name was Dacyczyn… he was surprised I could pronounce it and asked me how I knew. Told him my parents neighbors had the same last name. He looked at me and said,” you must be Charlie and Irene’s daughter! I’m Jim’s cousin!” Couple months later he pulled me over on the Mass Pike for speeding, I was going 90. He tapped on the window as I was rummaging to get my insurance, registration etc, and simply told me that 90 was the route number not the speed limit, slow it down a tad. My folks knew about it before I reached my destination on the Cape…. Small world!


Friday 14th of June 2024

Oh, that is so cool that you know Amy, and I love the substance of your dad's message. I feel like he was ahead of his time!

Did you find my post by googling? Or were you already a reader here?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.