Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rediscovering the Frugal Zealot

I mentioned in my last blog that Amy Dacyczyn, know as the Frugal Zealot, may have been one of the first to write about the concept of thrifty living. In 1990, she started a newsletter called The Tightwad Gazette that was sent (monthly via mail) to over 100,000 subscribers and were later compiled into several books by the same name.

Paula Gardner, editor of Michigan Business Review, contacted Amy Dacyczyn, retired since 1996 to her home in Maine with her husband and six children, to ask her what she thinks of today’s economy. Her blog: published in March 2009 is worth reading – it solidifies some of the reasons that this is a good time for the South Brunswick Public Library De-Clutter Club to shift our focus from lightening the load in our homes, offices and cars to thinking about “de-cluttering” our spending habits and simplifying our lifestyle.

One of my co-workers shared her (signed) copies of The Tightwad Gazette and The Tightwad Gazette II with me so that I can write about them in this blog. The South Brunswick Public Library no longer owns a copy of any of Mrs. Dacyczyn’s books, but they are available by placing a system hold in our catalog online at I will see if I can purchase a copy of at least one of the titles for our use.

The subtitle to the newsletter and the books is “Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle” and I think that this is an apt description – this is not a must do “bible” of survivalists and misers, but rather an easy-to-use (with a comprehensive index) digest of suggestions of ways to live frugally and at the same time, be kinder to the environment. The word that I think Amy Dacyczyn coined for this way of life is “tightwaddery” and when her ideas were proposed and first discussed there was a lot of negative reaction – that it was way over the top to do things like reusing aluminum foil and sandwich bags – and the word was defined in a negative way. This is the definition from Wikipedia: “A miser, cheapskate, curmudgeon, niggard, penny pincher, piker, scrooge, skinflint or tightwad is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts and some necessities.” That was before we all got on the “Green” bandwagon and recycling became a way of life – now tightwaddery might be a badge of honor.

Although some of the things that she lists in these books have been solved, or replaced, with inexpensive alternatives since the 1990s, her ideas are still interesting and useful and some are even more relevant that ever before. By the way, she says that her last name is “pronounced ‘decision,’ as in ‘I made a decision to marry a guy of Ukrainian ancestry.’”

More about these books in the days to come and don’t forget to join us on March 1 for our first meeting discussing this new topic.

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