Amy Dacyczyn and Me

by Katy on July 31, 2012 · 46 comments

I started my journey of extreme frugality back in 1998 when I was on maternity leave with my younger son. I had gotten used to a couple years of great paychecks, (especially when compared to the nursing school years without paychecks) and had loosened my wallet as a result. My husband and I ordered takeout at least a couple times per week and I found great satisfaction in scooping up all the Baby Gap bargains from the mall.

But buying a fixer-upper house brought me back to a reality that did not include any extra nickels to well . . . rub together.

Luckily, I discovered Amy Dacyczn and her Tightwad Gazette. (Like Josie and The Pussycats, but better!) At the time, the books were in three separate volumes and I read them over and over again. For content, for ideas and for inspiration. She presented frugality as a fun and creative endeavor. I wanted in.

I was done spending too much money.

I started cutting my kids’ hair, hitting Value Village on 99¢ days and cooking from scratch. I gave handmade gifts, hung laundry on the clothesline and bored my friends with my never ending talk about frugality.

I hooked my sister Jessica, and it was common for us to base our decisions based on “What would Amy do?”

Fast forward 14 years, and I no longer have that recent convert zeal, but I do still love her with all my heart.

Amy and me.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel Gillespie August 1, 2012 at 2:30 am

I love her, too! My journey began as a tightwad and Amy devotee but has meandered and segued into our ethical and eco-friendly lifestyle. Sometimes the two are highly compatible and sometimes not.

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Christine August 1, 2012 at 2:52 am

In the early 1990’s I heard an interview with her on NPR, and immediately bought her first book. Then I subscribed to her newsletter. I still have all of them — honestly, I think they’d be one of the things I’d grab in a house fire. Over the years I’ve been frugal and less-frugal, but I always come back to it. I’m a big fan!

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Lightlycrunchy August 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Isn’t it funny how it starts as a frugality thing and ends up as more of a green lifestyle? My journey has been like that too.

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Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land August 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Don’t forget, though, that at the end of the Tightwad Gazette, Amy herself detailed how frugality and eco-friendliness overlap 90% of the time, and that as her family had more and more money saved up and she no longer needed to be frugal, she was starting to base her decisions more on stewardship of natural resources, rather than just stewardship of financial resources.

I, too, have found myself doing the same thing, and I think it’s common for us disciples of Amy Dacyczyn to do likewise, not just because she did, but because it seems to be the natural progression of a mind bent on thrift.

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Susan August 1, 2012 at 3:42 am

I have read these three books over and over and over — especially when I’m in a real crunch — unfortunately, I have not always retained what I’ve read, and have to go back and get re-inspired! Of course, in true “What Would Amy Do?” mode, I always read the public library’s copies!

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Linda from Mass August 1, 2012 at 3:59 am

I saw Amy on Parade Magazine years ago and then on Donahoe show. When her books came out, I bought them all. I still love to read them. She still has great advice.

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Linda in Indiana August 1, 2012 at 4:22 am

I, too, have Amy’s books and still reread. I am like Christine….I am more frugal at times than others. But I believe it is in my genetic makeup to not waste and stretch those dollars. Amy started a lot of good in lots of lives….call it ecologically sound, thrifty, miserly….whatever, it is good stuff!

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Anne August 1, 2012 at 5:38 am

Oh yes, Amy, our honored queen. I , too, discovered her from that article in Parade magazine. I still have every newsletter.

I sent her a suggestion, which she used, and so I have an autographed copy of one of her books. A treasured possession.

I used to reread them all the time. Now we have new bloggers (like yours) to trade ideas with. A nice update.

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Another Jackie August 1, 2012 at 5:54 am

Anne, what was your tip that she used?

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Katy August 1, 2012 at 8:44 am

Yes, Anne. What was your tip?

Katy

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Anne August 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

You have to remember this was in the early 90s. But I suggested buying a used set of encyclopedias for your kid’s school years for $25-50 at a garage sale instead of new ones.

My girlfriend had just signed up for a $2000 set for her large family and I had just bought a used set. Hers were probably a tiny bit more up to date, but certainly not worth $1950 more. I even resold mine at a garage sale when I was through with them.

Of course the whole idea of buying encylopedias is so quaint now, it practically goes back to the bustle.

But I am forever immortalized in Vol. 2 of her three book set.

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Katy August 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I remember that tip!

You are famous.

Katy

Linda from Mass August 2, 2012 at 5:48 am

I remember that tip, too! How cool!

Lili@creativesavv August 1, 2012 at 6:30 am

I used to go to the library and read her newsletters. I finally felt that there was someone else like me out there. In the 90s I felt like everyone else was living “rich” while our little family was keeping to a tight budget. I enjoyed her humor, as well.
It is nice, now, to have a community of folks online who are making similar choices. It doesn’t matter whether our political philosophies line up nicely or not. The frugal community seems to be quite inclusive.

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Yankeegal August 1, 2012 at 6:36 am

I too am a huge fan. Back in the early 1990’s, her newsletters helped my family survive a horrible situation caused by a lay-off. I still have all of them in a binder and refer to them often. Katy actually reminds me a lot of Amy and that is why I love her blog!

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Anna August 1, 2012 at 7:52 am

Umm….Amy was not so much for me. I had MUCH rather read your blog and The Frugal Girl. You and Kristen make frugality fun, and, in turn, I actually try the ideas. You two have save me tons of money. Amy came across as more military commander frugal, which can be scary! She did have some great ideas, but there were no hilarious sidenotes, crossed out words, pictures, or other “fun.” She also never just said, “Hey, I feel crappy today, so we ordered takeout” in order to keep things real. Keep up the good work, Katy!

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Diane C August 1, 2012 at 10:14 am

Oh, Anna, I firmly believe that if Amy was blogging today, her tone would be much lighter! As Kristen mentions today at TFG, there’s a world of difference between a book and a blog. The tools that are at anyone’s fingertips today simply did not exist back then. What Amy accomplished with the tools available and on a shoestring was mind-boggling and life-changing for countless readers.

There was also a much more hostile climate toward frugality then. She received a lot of criticism for her message. There was even accusation that she was abusing her children through deprivation. Horrors!

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Anna August 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Maybe I should give her another try. My library only had volume #2, so that was the one that I read. I could probably find the complete book on Ebay. 🙂

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Maureen August 1, 2012 at 8:01 am

I have all three books and every winter I pull them out and sit in front of my woodstove and read them. And I have learned tons. Although it is hard to get husband to convert (he won’t read them).

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Shannon August 1, 2012 at 8:42 am

You remind me it’s time for my semi-annual re-reading of the Tightwad Gazette. I sometimes wonder if Any’s out there reading blogs like this, lol. She was old school, hand typing newsletters. Kind of like a blogger before the Internet. I always wish she’d maybe come out of retirement—I’d love to hear her take in the 21st century!

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Katy August 1, 2012 at 8:45 am

Have you watched this video interview? It’s fantastic!

http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/2011/02/amy-dacyczyn-interview/

Katy

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Shannon August 1, 2012 at 9:12 am

Love!!!

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Diane C August 1, 2012 at 10:38 am

A General Note to All TG Fans – The Big Blue Book pictured is different from the three separate books. There were more newsletters after the third book was published and before AmyD decided to retire. The Blue Book includes information from the last newsletters plus a lot of testimonials, which are inspiring reading. There is something “extra” in the BBB for newsletter and earlier book readers alike. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat. Request it from your library, but be prepared to find a line. It still has an impressive circulation all these years later.

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Mary Kate August 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

I too read Amy in 1998 and it changed the way I look at the world and do things. I have a copy of the Complete Tight Wad Gazette. I think she found joy in her life, she was able to have the large house and six kids with very little money and retired when she had “enough” (and felt she had covered frugality and did not think it fair to rehash articles). She was nuts and bolts about things to show you the logic (math).

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Trish August 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I would so love an update on Amy – it sounds like some kids are married, and she may have grandkids by now. It would be so cool to know how her kids are doing as adults raised by frugal parents- did anyone go on a spending spree, etc. I would love it if one of the kids wrote a book about their childhood, to see it from their perspective.

It really irritated me when people were hostile towards Amy, particularly regarding how she raised her kids. She gave her kids time and attention, which lots of very overprivileged kids don’t get. So what if she made them eat what she served them or they got used toys as presents.

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Shannon August 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm

They ate organic vegetables and fruits and homemade baked goods with no preservatives., and I jink what we might describe as a “less-meat” diet . By our modern standards far from abuse, lol

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Chris August 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm

In the 80’s we were down to one income with a new home and new baby, when we saw the Parade article. I immediately subscribed (still have the newsletters in a binder somewhere) and also bought the blue book later. We learned about Amy at just the right time. We economized, saved our pennies, and with 2 kids out of college, newer cars and even rental property, we are almost completely debt free (small mortgage). End result = fabulous! Even our kids manage their money well. I don’t think they ever felt deprived, and have even commented that they were lucky to have a stable home life.

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Lisa Lewis August 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Amy was a hero of mine for years… I still think of her advice in many situations. Although she was definitely extreme, and more of an ideal to work towards than someone I could totally emulate! I remember little gems like swishing water around in a mostly-empty jelly jar then making popsicles with the resulting liquid.

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Katy August 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I think it was milk.

Katy

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Jo H. August 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Another reader here who greatly enjoyed these books and gleaned lots of ideas from them. Her writing was quite inspirational.

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Jennie August 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I have been told OVER and OVER that I should read these. I have been on the frugal train for about five years. It’s about time I look on ebay.

Thanks for reminding me.

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Katy August 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Or, the library!

Katy

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Pam August 1, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I haven’t read the book, but I cut my husband’s hair to save money (along with a lot of other things!). I think I do a better job of it than a stylist anyway.

I love your blog- I found it via healthytippingpoint (who saw it on Huffington Post). I’m reading through the archives now, and you’re so inspiring!

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Katy August 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Thanks, glad to have you!

Katy

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Laurel August 2, 2012 at 9:06 am

I first learned about Amy from a daytime talk show she appeared on (can’t remember which). They were kind of making fun of her for using dryer lint, mixed with glue (I think), to create a kind of clay/paper mache for the kids. I thought it was a very clever, creative idea. She had other frugal tips that day, but I can’t remember them. I was just thrilled that she was “out there” giving legitimacy to being frugal!

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mom to five children August 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

I read some of your past words about the Tightwad Gazette, and began to pray for the books. I found three volumes at a yard sale a year ago, and read them cover to cover. I love the ideas in the Tightwad Gazette. I don’t use all of them, but I do use many. They are such great books.

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Lightlycrunchy August 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I first saw her books when working in a bookstore in the early 90s, then became reacquainted with them a couple of years ago when trying to cut back spending after my husband was laid off.

I love the big book – some things are out of date, but there is a lot of simple living wisdom within. My husband found work within a month of losing his job, but our lifestyle change had already started and kept going from there.

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Sass August 3, 2012 at 3:42 am

I had all of her books back in the early/mid 90s. Somehow, through moves or just cleaning out, I either lost or got rid of them. Sigh. I did find the big blue book at a used bookstore last December when we were trading in some other books. I keep it in my bedside reading basket and pull it out any time I’m feeling overwhelmed by too much month and not enough money. Her ideas definitely make you think outside the box!

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Diane C August 3, 2012 at 6:54 am

Katy – The last few days, any click on the “comments” link redirects to an obnoxious red Publisher’s Clearinghouse ad. Pretty funny considering the subject matter, but as you can imagine, slightly annoying as well.

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Katy August 3, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Argh!

Katy

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Ruth August 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Count me among Amy’s fans!

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Katy August 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Counted! 😉

Katy

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ArdenLynn August 4, 2012 at 8:41 am

I would love to meet her someday. I found her books when I was a new mom and I am certain I would have had to limit my family size or go back to work (or both) if she hadn’t taught me how to really manage a household.
Yes to Amy and her “Little things add up” mantra.

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Katy August 4, 2012 at 11:47 am

Me too! Although I’m sure I would go all Kathy Bates-style super fan on her. Of course, without the sledgehammer. 🙂

Katy

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Celeste August 6, 2012 at 6:46 am

Amy will always be one of my favorite frugal writers because of her thoughtful and practical approach. Her essays are a kind of bedrock upon which to build a non-consumer lifestyle. When my son-in-law’s father asks if I still have “those hilarious books on being a tightwad,” I proudly answer in the affirmative.

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Connie Bradish November 22, 2012 at 8:37 am

I have always been frugal but didn’t have any support from my family. Found Amy’s books and found a friend. Her books are inspirational and full of basic good ideas. Still read the compiled book from time to time. Sure do miss Amy. Would like her to start a blog or Facebook page. I think we would all like to reconnect with her and find out not only how she and her family are doing but what her views are now. Miss you Amy!!!

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