June 2, 2013

"There are infinite number of ways to live richly and well, but it's about applying a lot of creativity to this whole process."



I was motivated to look up Amy Dacyczyn by the discussion we're having in the comments at the post titled "How not to show respect for the stay-at-home spouse."

I was a big fan of "The Tightwad Gazette" back in the 1990s. Here's "The Complete Tightwad Gazette."

Why do you give your life to an employer and to the taxman? Use your brains and your creativity to give what you can to the people you love.

46 comments:

Harold House said...

The subtle difference between tightwad and tightass is...?

Ann Althouse said...

"The subtle difference between tightwad and tightass is...?"

If "tightwad" has the meaning that it has in "The Tightwad Gazette," it's the moment when you realize that your life belongs to you and not to the government or to someone who would pay you to work for them.

Saint Croix said...

I'm struck by how often I have seen stories like this over the last decade. Stories about how people need less, want less, use less, spend less.

I think that's the new liberal motto:

Less For You.

Or maybe Poverty is Fun!

Ann Althouse said...

It's not about any particular way that you economize. It's about realizing that conserving money is more powerful than making money and wanting to take back your time and valuing the time that is your life.

The subtleties of the ways in which time is money should be deeply contemplated by everyone.

If I had my whole life to do over again.... I would use this idea very powerfully.

All you really have is time. In that time, you can have pleasure and more than that, you can have love.

What on earth are you doing with the measure of time that you have?

Ann Althouse said...

@Saint Croix

Amy Dacyczyn is a 90s character.

She created that way of life in times of plenty.

edutcher said...

When toy try not to give your life to the taxman, the taxman may well find you.

As for an employer, that's called being your own boss.

And Saint is right. The Lefties are pushing the Less Is Less thing real hard.

Especially the Gray Lady.

ricpic said...

I don't care what people call it, if they want to call it being a tightwad who cares? All I know is I feel so good about making X dollars that I had figured would cover a week stretch ten days or even two weeks. It's a good feeling and I refuse to analyze it to death.

ricpic said...

Hey DBQ, you out there? This topic is made for a great comment from you.

Ann Althouse said...

"All I know is I feel so good about making X dollars that I had figured would cover a week stretch ten days or even two weeks. It's a good feeling and I refuse to analyze it to death."

The taxman loves your refusal to think.

ricpic said...

The taxman loves your refusal to think.

I don't understand. But I do take all allowable deductions.

Ann Althouse said...

I may have misinterpreted you, ricpic. If you are economizing and valuing your time, then the taxman doesn't love you.

rhhardin said...

Get a play for pay job.

elkh1 said...

"How not to show respect for the stay-at-home spouse."

Why do you give your life to an employer and to the taxman?

Ah, you don't understand: a stay-at-home spouse is not doing anything for the common good. Of course, the ideal society is everyone works to maximize the common good. Like the Great Helmsman's China. You are dispatched to the jobs and places that need you most. Your spouse may stay with his/her job 5000 miles away. It doesn't matter. You are working for the common good. Your one and only kid? He doesn't belong to you. Your beloved country will take care of him.

pm317 said...

She lives in a beautiful home.. most people are working their ass to buy something like that. Stop preaching is what I would say.

elkh1 said...

Saint Croix said...
"the new liberal motto:

Less For You."

More for them the connected. That is why they love Big Govt. The bigger the govt., the more opportunities for them.

"Or maybe Poverty is Fun!" for you, the little people, not for them who are entitled to lord over you. If they ever lost money? Big Govt. will make them whole with your money. Heard of Buffett's A123 Battery? Kaiser's Solyndra?

Phil 3:14 said...

I can't explain it, but her repeated declaration "I know this works!" rings false. Its not a matter of "working" for her; its a way of life.

If she won the lottery she would continue to live this way.

madAsHell said...

Dear God!!

My 97 year old uncle could put her to shame. No, he hasn't lost his mind.

His son.....

bagoh20 said...

Wholly defective premises.

Think of it this way. If you could choose to be in the best possible position to enjoy life and help others, would that include being rich or being poor?

Money is simply power. It's not the only form of power, but it is the most versatile, and many many things you may want to enjoy yourself or give to others are impossible without it.

I do think it is a mistake to work only for a paycheck, but it's also a mistake to avoid work just so you can live a life of low grade hedonism. Neither is very rewarding for you, or useful to people around you.

I have very little personal need for money, but I keep working and risking and searching, because I never run out of people who could use a little help, or a little more security or possibility in their lives, and maybe I can help with that.

Synova said...

Different people simply enjoy different things.

Suppose the answer to "making it" for a man was to fix cars and other engines... not to have a *job* as a mechanic, but to spend your time tinkering in your garage... weekends... evenings...

For some men this would be really fabulous because even if it cost them money instead of saved them money, that's what they'd enjoy doing with their time. Nice, wholesome, "time valuable", hobby. But for other men it would be a distasteful chore. Every moment spent with a wrench in hand under a car getting dripped on would be annoying and frustrating. And they'd have to pretend to like it, too, because it was a man-thing that they're just supposed to be good at. I mean, who *couldn't* be a perfectly adequate mechanic? It's not as though this is HARD or something.

But it's the same with this lady's lifestyle. She enjoys it. It's a game. She gets happy feelings when she saves another dime. And it's not as though it's HARD to save buttons and sew clothes or shop and shop and shop with an eye out for the value of every little doo-dad. Anyone can learn to do it.

But you know... it's not HARD to write a novel either, to become a master at grammar and skillful turn of phrase. You just have to do it. And it's not as though being a financial adviser is HARD or that anyone can't learn to do it. And it's not hard to learn to be a fabulous chef either, if you just DO it. And there's no reason you can't be a master musician if you just work hard enough.

But somehow we don't all become experts at all of these things that would enrich our lives and make them better and us wealthier.

We all do *enough* to get by. We do *enough* financial planning to get by. We do *enough* cooking to get by. We do *enough* car maintenance to get by. We do *enough* writing to get by. We do *enough* housekeeping and decorating to get by. We do *enough* of all the things that we must do, even if we really and truly hate every moment of it.

The things that we *must* do, that we actually enjoy, we do at a significantly higher level.

This lady truly enjoys making a dime squeak. That's fabulous.

bagoh20 said...

This is simply a long way of her saying, I'm lowering the bar, because work is hard, I don't care enough to come up with or pursue more demanding goals.

ndspinelli said...

I hate tightwads. Annie is proud of being one. Bet she's a shitty tipper like all tightwads. Wisconsin is a tightwad state. Must be all that fuckn' cheese.

bagoh20 said...

I have always had a natural tightwad instinct, and have always lived far below my means, when I had any. It is helpful, and the opposite is usually ruinous.

But, I have found that being naturally frugal can be a disadvantage especially because time is short, and often saving money is done at the expense of time. Also there things that you just have to pay too much for. It may eat you up inside, if you are like me, but refusing to do things because you know they are over-priced can prevent you from doing things that are well worth doing.

acm said...

What Synova said. I think of it as roughly like gardening. If that's what you're into, great. But I personally hate gardening. I'd rather give my time to an employer and be able to buy tomatoes than give my time to the tomato patch.

Henry said...

My mother-in-law was a big fan of the tightwad gazette, so I read some of it. I admire Ms. Dacyczyn for so gamely representing a gainful alternative to the two-income trap. On the other hand, I'd rather give some of my life to an employer than spend it washing used plastic bags for reuse. To really get an idea of the level of insanity possible in the tightwad direction you have to read the gazette's letters-to-the-editor. How many times can a man re-use a razor blade? You have no idea.

Or how much time can a tightwad spend looking for deals? One of Dacyczyn's essays is about the hundreds of houses she and her husband looked at to make sure they got the exact thing they wanted at the best price. I'd rather stick a fork in my eye and go on disability than look at hundreds of houses. Luckily I can work for an employer and let the taxman cheat me so I can afford the sanity of overpaying.

Some tightwaddery is sound economics. Don't buy stuff you don't need. Don't pay a premium for something that is no better than the alternative. Re-use stuff.

But some of it is pure drudgery. The tightwad sacrifices time to save money. That's insane. All you have in this life is time. Money is fluid. Time is inexorable.

Chip Ahoy said...

She's slipping. Bing

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[ear piercing disaster] 70,600 results

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bagoh20 said...

I'm a tightwad and a big tipper. I'm frugal so that I can afford to tip big. That's kind of my whole point here.

PWS said...

The "time is money" quip cuts both ways sometimes as bagoh20 points out. If you enjoy economizing, then you don't mind driving an extra 20 minutes across town to save a few bucks, for example. Or taking the time to hunt around yard sales. (Amy enjoys it--it's a game.)

But if you enjoy your job, and, perhaps more importantly, it's not an enjoyable game to you to economize, then taking it to the same level as Amy probably won't be fulfilling.

Nevertheless, it's always good to be conscious of time and money; not everyone will come out with the same answers as Amy (or Ann).

I will say this can be satisfying in certain instances; just the other day I wanted a shirt to support my local pro sports team. Found it at Goodwill for $3; saw nearly the same shirt at the venue for $30.

bagoh20 said...

I don't regret either times I worked hard long hours or the time I've spent really enjoying myself, and they aren't mutually exclusive either.

The time I regret is the time I spent doing neither. The time spent at work, but not really working it. The time spent not working, but just killing time, like time I've spent in bars hoping something magical would happen that rarely did. There was a lot of that when I was younger. I regret the time watching TV I really wasn't enjoying, the time I've spent doing paperwork, my taxes, waiting at the DMV, the first 6 months of every year I spend working for the IRS, and the State of California, time shaving, brushing my teeth, driving to work, and most of all sleeping and NOT dreaming, or the time awake dreaming and not doing. Has anyone else started getting irritated with having to take a piss. I ain't got time for that. Been there - done that a million times already. Can't that get handled while I'm sleeping?

Work time or leisure time can both suck, if you don't do them with gusto and purpose, or both can be the best of what life is all about. I wouldn't put either one down. There is a lot to be gained from the income you produce at work, and people should appreciate that earned benefit and everything it brings you. You probably don't really have anything better to do most of the time. You just imagine you do.

bagoh20 said...

Clearly, I spend too much time here. I enjoy it quite a bit, but I bet it has cost me dearly. The thing is, you guys are the only people I talk to who don't interrupt me and tell me to shut up mid-sentence, and that's worth a lot to me.

William said...

There's a supermarket at the bottom of the hill. It's much cheaper than the one around the corner. I shop at the cheaper, more labor intensive supermarket. I suppose it's a sign of frugality, but I'm not going to die broke. It's kind of stupid to trudge two blocks straight up in order to save a few bucks, but that's who I am.......You never truly overcome childhood poverty. The wolf is a step and half behind you on your fastest break.

wyo sis said...

Of our 5 kids 3 are tightwads and 2 are spenders. The spenders expect more help from us.

Chip Ahoy said...

[urinal bag] Amazon search.

Okay, bagoh20, I have an answer.

I think you can find a suitable bag with a hose that attaches reasonably that fills without wasting any time and then is drained at will.

Here's an advantage having to do with dogs. Say you have a number of dog runs, it is my belief that it is important for the dogs to know who's property it is they're protecting and that bag of wee can come in handy for continuous boundary reinforcement. As you know it is a very strong signal for dogs about who's zoom'n whom, and this way you wont have to whip it out all over place walking the perimeter, rather, this way you can casually walk the perimeter, drain, drain, drain, and in dog language by scent reestablish your authoritah and your territorritah.

Largo said...

bagogh20,

If you say you spend too much time here, I say that it at least is not -wasted- time. Not for us.

Michael Haz said...

If I had my whole life to do over again.... I would use this idea very powerfully.

This.

I would do likewise. The money spent on homes larger than I needed, cars more expensive than I needed, and thousands of other expenditures I did not need to make would have accumulated into a large savings account by now. I was fortunate to find my way into (semi) tightwad-ness a decade ago, but still, should have been earlier in life.

Cheap chic is a good thing.

I look at younger members of the family, especially those in college, and marvel at the espensive phones, clothes, parties, furniture, apartments, vacations, etc. that are not necessary and that will be have to be paid back over thirty years because thery are funded by student loans.

CyndiF said...

But, I have found that being naturally frugal can be a disadvantage especially because time is short, and often saving money is done at the expense of time.

Agreed. What I find with some tightwads is that they undervalue (or simply don't recognize) opportunity cost. If time is money, it can be a good decision to use money to buy time. I don't find trying to find ways to save a few cents a fun game so I don't do it. Getting a biweekly house-cleaning service, for example, was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Synova said...

"Of our 5 kids 3 are tightwads and 2 are spenders. The spenders expect more help from us."

I'm trying to encourage my kids to live below their means. I don't know that they'll do as good of a job at it as they possibly could but as long as it's below their means, I don't know if it matters how *far* below their means. My oldest seems to get it. My second is probably living paycheck to paycheck but she's paying her bills. Don't know yet about the younger two.

I think that nearly anyone could get by, comfortably, with less. If you've planned it that way.

"The money spent on homes larger than I needed, cars more expensive than I needed, and thousands of other expenditures I did not need to make would have accumulated into a large savings account by now. I was fortunate to find my way into (semi) tightwad-ness a decade ago, but still, should have been earlier in life."

I sometimes think of how much more money we'd have (and how much cleaner the house would be) if we didn't have animals. At this point, though, I just constantly remind myself that I will not Not NOT get any more of them when these pass.

I don't know if it makes financial sense to try to move house into something smaller or in town even if a smaller house and smaller mortgage or shorter commute would have been much wiser choice 10 years ago.

A cheaper used car would have been a good plan, too, but the time for that wisdom is also past.

I think, too, that the "tightwad" lady is right that most of the lost money goes to the little things. And it's probably helpful to have some encouragement and support while trying to stop that drain on your finances without feeling as if it means you're powerless or poor or trapped or if you struggle with organization or really and truly hate Hate HATE shopping.

cubanbob said...

If everyone followed her advice not only would the economy shrink substantially but government would face a huge drop in revenues. How would those who live off government survive?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I love this.

This is how I live my life. Not being cheap but being frugal. In my early years as a poor college student and later a young mother...I had no choice. We were poor. I sewed all of our clothing that I didn't buy in yard sales or thrift stores. Refinished and re-purposed furniture and other items for the house. Bought used dishes and other household items. Cooked all of our meals and made good use of leftovers. While it might have been time consuming it was satisfying because everything we had was not only less costly.....many items were BETTER than new or 'store bought'.


The subtleties of the ways in which time is money should be deeply contemplated by everyone.

When I was pregnant and working at ATT as a phone operator (a job I really didn't like but paid well) I would think about the things that I needed for the coming baby and how much my TIME was worth compared to those things.

Cost benefit analysis. I could buy Pampers for the next 2 years or so at $XX dollars per week...OR....I could buy a new washer and drier with cloth diapers. How many hours did I have to work to buy either of those choices. Not only was it cheaper to buy the washer/dryer.....the cost savings of not having to go to the laundromat for all of our clothing was also a savings....PLUS!!! When I was done with diapers I would still have a washer and dryer. With the Pampers option, I was spending more money and nothing to show for it.

Washer and dryer....saved up and bought it. I had the washer and dryer for over 12 years!!

Cost benefit analysis.

Dust Bunny Queen said...
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Dust Bunny Queen said...
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Dust Bunny Queen said...

In my former career as a financial planner I would use this technique shock young people into realizing that they CAN save money and how powerful just a small amount of savings can be.

By just a small savings being deposited monthly and illustrating the future value of an annuity......the young people would be SHOCKED at how much it adds up to.

Me: "So...do you buy yourself a latte or go out to lunch every day? Yes? So if you save just $8.50 a week and put that money into something that earns you a return how much do you think you might have for retirement in 30 years?"

What if you saved that 8.50 you spend every day and instead put it aside into something that gets 7% return (stock market returns over time)?

You would have $317,602.92.

Of course you aren't going to deposit every day and you aren't going to get 7% every day because investments do go UP and DOWN so this amount is possibly a best case scenario.

But...if you don't put that $8.50 aside .....you will have nothing. So, for the cost of foregoing a daily latte instead of a plain old cup of coffee, or a weekly pizza and beer fest or not buying things that you don't really need right now and that will be obsolete in a few years..... think of what you might be able to achieve in the next 30 years."

I would use my computerized program while they were there to run other scenarios with less money.... less frequent deposits...less or even more optimistic returns. Scenarios more adapted to each individual.

The result was that they were shocked to see that just a small amount of money set religiously aside "MIGHT" actually result in an amount of savings that they never imagined.

deborah said...

Damn, DBQ, that's a powerful message.

@bago :"I do think it is a mistake to work only for a paycheck, but it's also a mistake to avoid work just so you can live a life of low grade hedonism. Neither is very rewarding for you, or useful to people around you."

Low grade hedonism, excellent insight. Excellent.

Michael Haz said...

@DBQ - Hard to tell what passes for personal economics education these days.

I was explaining to a college student grand-nephew how to live carefully, incur no debt except for a modest mortage (and then pay it off fast), avoid using a credit card, car loans, etc.

He was shocked that people actually did stuff like that because, "debt is good and a mortgage lowers your taxes."

He's a finance major, by the way.

deborah said...

PS, by which I was referring to me, not the tightwad lady. For all I know she was a hellacious volunteer, etc.

Larry J said...

What Dust Bunny Queen discribed was what one economist called the "Latte Factor" several years ago. The cost of little purchases made without thought can be considerable over time. Put that money into a Roth IRA instead of pissing it down a toilet.

Michael Haz said...
@DBQ - Hard to tell what passes for personal economics education these days.

I was explaining to a college student grand-nephew how to live carefully, incur no debt except for a modest mortage (and then pay it off fast), avoid using a credit card, car loans, etc.

He was shocked that people actually did stuff like that because, "debt is good and a mortgage lowers your taxes."


There is no such thing as good debt. There is terrible debt (e.g. credit cards) and not quite so terrible debt (e.g. a mortgage). Student loan debt is some of the worst of all.

Tax deductions can be a trap and the mortgage deduction is one of the biggest. Suppose you're in the 30% (combined federal and state) income tax bracket. $10,000 of deductions will lower your taxed by $3000. Personally, I'd rather pay off the mortgage and pay the additional taxes (if I must) and keep the $7000. My wife and I have done that twice. I tracked our mortgage balance on a spreadsheet. It was great seeing that balance go down towards zero. Living in a home with no mortgage, just taxes and insurance, is wonderful.

Deb said...

Just one more thing at which I have failed.