I wouldn’t exactly call myself cheap (although some family members may disagree) but I hate to spend money unnecessarily and I like to consider myself thrifty or frugal.

To promote my thrift I like to read books or articles with money saving tips but I’m invariably disappointed with the advice. Suggestions to turn out the lights, pack your own lunch, buy bulk or generic products are so old as to be meaningless – it’s amateur stuff.

In my quest to save money I have recently come across The Tightwad Gazette.  Originally a monthly newsletter, they have now been compiled into one book, so I’m ready to soak it up.

Consider the source

Most of these types of articles are written in the United States.  Like finance books, a lot of the information is not really relevant to Canadians:

  • Stores in my area never have double or triple coupon days.
  • Likewise, my stores never offer coupons for meat, dairy or produce.
  • I will never again see chicken at 69 cents a pound so I can’t produce a $5 meal for a family of six.
  • I have yet to find a store or manufacturer who will let me have their discards for free.

Some tips are just weird

I would not be too overzealous to save a few cents:

  • Turn a used envelope inside out and refold it to use again.
  • Scrape the crumbs out of your bread bag and save them for a crumb topping.
  • Use my coffee grounds for two or three more pots of coffee.
  • Turn worn socks into dishcloths.
  • Rework a stained T-shirt into underwear.
  • Dig out the last bit of solid antiperspirant, microwave and cool it for many more uses.

Some ideas are just not worth the trouble:

  • Sew a strip of cloth over the top of a shower curtain and make buttonholes so it doesn’t tear and lasts longer.

Some things I’ll never do!

  • It would have to be a life and death situation (and maybe not even then) for me to drink reconstituted powdered milk.
  • Dumpster diving.  I know that North Americans are a wasteful society and people find some good stuff in the garbage, including food (gag!) but I’ll leave the pickings to others.
  • Fashion a lamp-shade out of a coffee can.
  • Save up egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, meat trays and bread tabs in case I have a future use for them.   Isn’t this the way hoarders start out?

Bread-tab earrings? You can’t be serious!

A talented person can make terrific gifts for others, but some homemade items are just plain tacky:

  • Jewelry made from paperclips, buttons or hardware items.
  • Toys made from cardboard, milk jugs or tin foil.
  • Home décor items made from egg cartons, margarine containers or anything else you can hot glue and paint.

I know I’m in trouble when I read:

  • Take a scrap piece of sheet metal (huh?)
  • Turn your old cable spool into a planter.
  • Use your barbed wire to make a wreath.  I live in cattle country but barbed wire is still not that easy to come by.

A couple of good ideas

I have discovered a few things that I might try:

  • Price book.  I’ve heard of this before and thought it would be too much trouble but apparently people who use this swear by it.  You simply enter the prices of the things you buy in a little notebook so you will know when the items are at an exceptionally good price to stock up.  It perhaps would be a bit easier with a smart phone.  Is there an app for that?
  • Recipes for homemade mixes such as Shake ‘n Bake, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt and onion soup mix.
  • Use cut up Styrofoam meat trays to put in behind electrical outlets to stop cold air leaks. (I did try this tip but found the Styrofoam was too thick so I ended up having to buy the little package of ready made)

I’m still working my way through this 960-page tome.  In the meantime, if you have any great money saving tips I’d love to hear from you.


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