Saving Money

5 Extreme Money Saving Tips from The Tightwad Gazette

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This article is for people who are looking for money-saving tips, but bored with the usual advice. You want something else beyond modifying your living arrangement, downsizing your car, cooking at home and generally stop buying shit. You want something… different.

I got you, here are some money-saving tips from The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced ‘decision’) that are sure to satisfy that itch. I picked up this book years and years ago, time to dust it and bring it to light.

Now, not all the tips in The Tightwad Gazette works in Malaysia – I definitely won’t include anything related to cold weather (saving money on firewood, winter clothing etc) or their insurance system. But there’s plenty left to use, so here we go:

#1 – Increase your financial edge

The author’s concept of ‘financial edge’ is a great money-saving tip to start with. She describes this as the amount in your bank account that you MUST maintain at all times. For example:

When my balance exceeded $1500 I would spend. When the balance dropped below $1000 I would cease extravagant activity.

Now that I think of it, I use this ‘financial edge’ concept in my own life too. My own ‘edge’ is no less than 1 month of expenses. If/When that happens, I stop all unnecessary spending and dissect all necessary ones.

What is the amount you want to set as your own ‘financial edge’? It can’t be RM0, that’s too dangerous.

By the way, credit card limit or borrow from people doesn’t count. The money has to come from your own cash/savings.

#2 – You don’t always have to choose convenience

Companies are smart. They know you’re busy, so they will sell you convenience. Save time, they say. You might even internalise it and believe that any time saved = good.

And while some conveniences can be worth it, you still need to decide yourself because the cost can really add up. A bunch of the advice in The Tightwad Gazette is related to this, like:

  • Make your own dumbbells
  • Make your own [whatever expensive that is your poison] granola/ coffee/ sweet treats etc
  • Pack your kids’ lunchboxes
  • Make your own holiday decorations
  • Sew/Mend your own clothes (especially simple ones, like hairband etc)
  • Make kids/pets toys from whatever you have laying around
  • Cut/Trim your own hair (she notes that it’s simpler if you opt for low-maintenance hairstyle in the first place)
  • And more

Basically, whatever you can do yourself, do it.

Sometimes the ‘convenience is best’ crowd gets really upset with this, in which case I’ll just say, whatever, do what you want, it’s your life.

But for me, I do want to pick and choose what conveniences are worth it and which are not, especially because I know I am NOT using the time I saved that well :/ Good for you if you do but for me, I still end up wasting a lot of time lol.

One essential skill the author stressed is planning ahead. I mean, if your party is tomorrow, there’s no way you are able to spend the night cooking and DIY-ing the decorations, right?

#3 – 3 basic methods to save money

The 3 basic methods to save money are:

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

You can apply these to pretty much everything. For example, when it comes to laundry:

  • Buy detergent on sale/ in bulk/ buy store-brand
  • Take extra care not to dirty your clothes more than necessary
  • Use less than the ‘recommended amount’

Here’s another example, disposable shaver:

  • Buy them on sale/ in bulk/ buy store-brand
  • Dry them properly after use so they don’t rust as fast
  • Maybe decide to embrace the beard/ body hair

Or, kitchen towel (paper):

  • Buy them on sale/ in bulk/ buy store-brand
  • Cut in half so you only use half the amount each most time
  • Use (washable) cloth towels for general cleaning and paper towels only for certain things (absorb oil from food, etc)

You get the gist 🙂

#4 – Use it up/ Reuse before throw

The use it up part is easy to understand – as much as possible, use up all your:

  • Leftovers
  • Skincare/ personal care items
  • Clothes
  • Etc

Before you buy new ones/ do a restock.

The second part, reuse is about stretching your budget to the MAX. Basically, before you throw something out, try see if you can find a use for it. You can google things you can reuse before disposing things like:

  • Bread bags
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Dried-out bread
  • Vegetable peels
  • Leftover rice
  • Milk jugs
  • Ziplock bags
  • Egg cartons
  • Ground coffee
  • Old newspaper
  • Food jars
  • Old clothes
  • And more

Easier said than done, but try to pause before you throw anything away and see if they can serve another purpose.

#5 – Saying no (nicely)

Whether your goal for extreme penny-pinching is to get out of debt faster or to reach early retirement, you’re probably not doing this on your own – you’re probably living with family, and don’t want to stop hanging out with friends. Like it or not, most of us depend on our communities and want to maintain harmony.

So, it is likely you will be pressured at one point or another to spend more than you want to. The author gave a couple of examples:

  • Kids ask for fast food money
  • The annual door-to-door visits from Girl Scouts selling cookies
  • Gifting expectations during Christmas

In your case, this may mean getting invited to a party that costs RM50+ per person, or being asked by the nice salesperson to make a purchase.

To be clear, you can’t win ALL battles (if it means. alot to your loved ones, you may want to set a budget for it), but you can win some by learning how to nicely decline them.

General reminder: Saving too much money is a better problem than not saving enough

Once in a while I’d get DMs from fellow savers asking me how to overcome their guilt feeling over spending money. I kind of get it, I spent a long time coming to terms with my own lifestyle upgrades too. And to be fair, frugalism does have its downsides.

However, I’d take this problem any day. Better this than stressing over next month’s groceries money!

Plus, this ‘problem’ is easily fixable. If you save too much money and unhappy with it, you can always adjust your budget and allocate a new/bigger self-reward category.

Lastly, for those in the ‘why save, just earn more’ crowd, this is what the author has to say:

The ‘don’t save money, earn more’ philosophy is a very one-sided approach. And it has one big flaw. Nearly everyone that earns more automatically spends more. For this reason, regardless of their incomes, many families seem to have exactly enough to get by.

She’s not wrong 🙂


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One Comment

  1. Something I started doing last year was to buy gifts (birthday & Christmas gifts) on sale and up to one year in advance. Lots of online stores do sales throughout the year. So I just buy a little at a time during sales. it’s also easier on the pocket when you don’t have to drop RM500-1000 in December buying those Christmas pressies. I have an excel with all the names of people I have to shop for and a budget for each person. In fact all my Christmas shopping is done for this year except for one sister and it’s not even December.

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