Either way, I strolled here and there and came across a link (could have been from Dana's blog....?) to Like Merchant Ships blog.
Remember Amy Dacyczyn and The Tightwad Gazette books and newsletters from the 90's? I still have a whole stack of her newsletters from the beginning. A treasure trove for penny pinchers :o) But, I'm sure some folks think now, as they did then...she's way over the top on pinching pennies. She's a freak of some kind. Good ideas, but she takes them way beyond the scope of common sense and decency for families.
Yeah, and folks don't like Dave Ramsey either. He's too in-your-face when you call and ask a question. LOL...think about it...folks who get irate over his responses aren't really wanting to make life changes and buuild a future. They want to keep all their toys and still play as though they have money to burn. Heaven forbid someone tell them they can't keep the toys. You don't get the cake and get time to eat it, you know.
Hands-down, Dave Ramsey...and Amy Dacyczyn...have hit the nail square on the head with families and budgeting and saving money. As I said in an earlier post...I don't want to be lumped in with 90% of the world. I want to be different. I like being weird :o) Weird moves me to be debt-free. Weird motivates my every daily trek on the homestead. Weird keeps my using cash only and not falling for the credit card trap that is sucking the life and futures out of that 90% group. Weird is a good thing. There's a prettier view on this side of the fence. The grass isn't only greener, it's thicker and more lush, too.
Here is an article to share:
'Tightwad Gazette' author drove frugality in the 1990s but now Amy Dacyczyn worries about massive U.S. debt
Posted by Paula Gardner | Michigan Business Review March 02, 2009 21:24PM
Amy Dacyczyn may still call herself a housewife from Maine as part of her disclaimer that "I'm not an economic expert," but Monday's stock market plunge to under 6,800 points pushed me to call the woman who launched a national frugality movement.
As the editor of "The Tightwad Gazette," Dacyczyn spent the early 1990s promoting thrift as a viable alternative lifestyle to over 100,000 newsletter readers and hundreds of thousands more who read the compilation books.
She may have retired in 1996, but that doesn't stop her advice from resonating today - a time when the economy is imploding and both businesses and consumers are retrenching.
So, I figured as I dialed her number, I can't be her only fan who wonders: What on earth can she be thinking right now?
Moreover, what should Americans think, I asked, when the country seems to demand higher consumer spending to launch us into economic recovery - yet spending less, by necessity or caution, is ruling so many of our wallets?
"I believe that what's best for the economy is that every individual and individual family unit is in the best financial health possible," Dacyczyn said.
In "The Tightwad Gazette," Dacyczyn touted money-savers like homemade popsicles from leftover grape jelly and reusing aluminum foil that earned her a reputation as "too extreme" among some non-readers.
But the themes in the newsletter have an enduring richness that go beyond simple tips. Articles researched cheapest options - to the penny - for breakfast foods, water consumption, even making popcorn. They showed readers how taking the time to figure out the problem would yield both the solution and the inspiration to apply the skill to another problem set. That's why her fan base remains strong.
And the articles encouraged values like recycling, giving gifts from the heart, making efficient uses of resources (both time and money) all the while urging all readers to live well under their means.
Today's problem, Dacyczyn said, seems to be part of a cycle that goes back to the Reagan era when Americans also were urged to spend their way to prosperity.
"It sounded backward to me," she said. "... We can't be a financially healthy country if this debt load that we've had continues."
And the stock market fall is just another sign that something needs to change.
"Everyone over spent ... what we're seeing right now is just a big correction," she said. "We're probably seeing an overcorrection.
"And a lot of the rhetoric from politicians is not very helpful. It's helping to drive the panic."
Dacyczyn paused to note again that she's not an economist. She's not advocating that people turn entirely self-sufficient: "I don't think that's good for the economy at large."
Her spending values still align with buying locally or buying American-made products.
"If I can spend locally, I will because I understand that my neighbors are hurting," she said.
Yet today's pain may not result in lasting changes to how Americans consume. We're seeing a wave of media coverage that urges frugal choices; but we're also seeing the government expand its own debt and, along with it, the expectation that we'll eventually get to spend more and freely when this all wears off.
"Americans are pulling back," she said. "They're shocked right now. But I don't know if people will ever become more financially responsible."
It's the individuals who made bad financial choices causing a collective problem of people being overextended on mortgages, she said. And that element of choice drove much of the mortgage meltdown, she says.
"I have little patience with people who talked about predatory lending," she said. "No one put a gun to their head (for a bad mortgage)... People took out a second mortgage, spent the money on consumer goods, and then when the housing market collapsed, they ended up upside down in their mortgage."
The spending cycles couldn't last: "We've been overextended for a long time."
Now spending turns to the government. What does she think about the bailouts?
"Government intervention is probably not helpful," she said.
Propping up already-inflated housing prices won't let them come to a more realistic level, she said. And she's concerned that in the long-run, that won't solve the problem - particularly when the government steps in on individual mortgages.
She also questions the automotive bailout. Her objection centers on the pay scale for U.S. workers and how it sets U.S. automakers at a competitive disadvantage. "They want (the government) to support automakers at this inflated pay scale."
This economic meltdown marks a turning point for Dacyczyn, because she's getting very few media calls. In the past, she said, "I could gauge the health of the economy by the number of phone calls I got ... people thought, 'Now's the time for people to get into saving money.
"I think people should do that all the time."
Because, she points out, if everyone had behaved in a financially responsible way, by showing spending discipline, "We wouldn't be here right now."
That attitude means that, like in her 1990s article "Whoopee, we can spend again!" the nation may just ride out the recession by spending less, then turn on the shopping faucet when the economy improves.
Which brings her back to her fundamental point: Americans need to spend less than they earn. And by maintaining a consistent lifestyle, they'll build the financial stability to withstand downturns - while, it's likely, re-setting lifestyle expectations to what an income can support.
"Families that spend a lot in good times, then when their incomes go down, there's a constant expansion and contraction of a budget - it's very stressful on a family," she said.
"It's just better to always live significantly beneath your means at on a very constant level. Then when there's an economic downturn, it doesn't really change anything."
The Dacyczyn family's spending was very public during the newsletter years. Their habits have not changed much, even as her children prepare for college and weddings. We talked as her husband, Jim, prepared a dinner of scratch macaroni and cheese, one of their favorite low-cost meals.
The family closed off part of their large farmhouse to save heating oil this winter. They've stopped tracking the family food expenses, but still follow their "pantry principle" and don't splurge on steaks and other expensive food. They don't indulge in new clothing, but do have an $8 per month Netflix account, aiming for fast turnaround so they get the per-movie price below $1.
At one point, Dacyczyn said that people probably aren't ready to go "hard core." What exactly does that mean to her today? Trash picking. Gardening in a major way. Wearing second-hand clothes.
"Most people think they're thrifty, but they're probably not," she said. "... They do some things, ... and because they clip coupons, in their mind they're thrifty. But it's not in a holistic way through their whole budget."
Dacyczyn said her needs are simple: "As long as I'm warm and have food, I'm good."
She doesn't want to sound callous or flip. She knows she's talking from rural Maine, while other parts of the country feel the recession more acutely.
But she also thinks that some of the things that people mourn as lost - the ability to buy steak, for example, over hamburger - simply aren't important on a bigger life scale.
"It's hard to be cold. It's hard to be hungry. It's hard if your vehicle is unreliable," she said. "But if we have all of the basic things met, life is OK."
The recession might let people "rediscover what's already under their noses," she said.
Her family enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles together. She recently read some old books passed down through the family. She enjoys finding new foods to cook. She's using fabric scraps to sew baby doll quilts for future grandchildren. The entire family recently got into serving daughter Becca and her fiance a candlelit Valentine's Day dinner at home.
"There are a lot of things you can do that are fun and interesting and rich that don't cost a lot of money," Dacyczyn said. "That would be fun for people to rediscover."
"... For me, it's fun to take money out of the equation. That's when you invent new things."
She's also watching her own investments and hoping that even more significant value drops won't have to force the family to re-think where daughter Laura goes to college next year.
And she's spending time considering how today's economy will impact the future. She's now hearing Dave Ramsey's message as he preaches the frugal message to national audiences. And she's been reading John Stossel's blog, where headlines like "Real Jobs Create Wealth" catch her attention.
"We're going to go through some pain," she said. "I don't know if there's any way around it."
Eventually, she said, spending will increase. That's when we'll see if Americans internalize any of the messages about balancing spending against income.
"One potential scenario is that we go through a long rebuilding process and people ... become more careful with their money again," Dacyczyn said. "But I don't think that'll happen."