Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Whatever happened to Amy Dacyczyn and The Tightwad Gazette?

Posted in frugal by Kathy on October 3, 2008

Somebody came across my blog asking that, and although I don’t know the full answer (only the Frugal Zealot herself knows that), I do know what she said in her final book — The Complete Tightwad Gazette, which included all three of the other books, as well as the final editions of the newsletter and her farewell column.

Basically, in addition to feeling like she had covered most topics (in one book, she likened it to learning multiplication tables — once you know the basics, you can apply those principles to other problems), she was feeling drained. Their tremendous success (appearing on Parade magazine soon after finding out she was pregnant with twins, about a year or so after she started The Tightwad Gazette newsletter) enabled her and her husband to fully retire after 6&1/2 years of doing that. But her newsletter subscriber base didn’t just mushroom — it exploded after that Parade magazine interview, and stretched them all really thin. She says that in that first year afterwards, her kids were lucky to be able to pick the color frosting on their birthday cakes, instead of having a full celebration which they typically did (for $25 or less). And after so many years, there were only so many topics to cover without repeating the same information, which she promised herself she would not do — especially after the books came out, and made the information in the newsletters permanently “out there.”

Here is an interview she did earlier this year with the blogger The Simple Dollar, in which she talks about life since retirement (basically, what she did before, just without writing about it, and presumably with most or all of her kids out of the house, since they’d be 18 or over… well, maybe the twins are just 16).

So, basically, she retired when she retired, and continued her frugal ways, resuming the anonymity (more or less) that she had before launching The Tightwad Gazette. But for all of us who “knew” her through her newsletter or (like me) her books, we feel like she’s a friend we’ve just lost touch with, and reread her old letters to connect and reminisce about old times — old times that it feels like we’ve shared together… but never actually did, oddly enough. :-)

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40 Responses

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  1. Kim Stevens said, on October 7, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    I loved her books. They were a good combination of frugal theory and practice.

  2. Debra Bubier said, on October 15, 2008 at 2:02 am

    the funniest part of Amy’s success with the Tightwad Gazette is that when she was just hatching the idea she came to our house and sat down with my father and asked him “Charlie, do you think this is a good idea?” (this is the same Charlie that she mentions in book 1 in “a stolen soap box speech”). the thing we found most amusing as we read and answered mail (in the most frugal of ways…we would respond on the persons letter directly and mail it back to them :) ) is that although we had an international subscriber base, very few in our local area read it…why??? because it was all stuff we had been doing for years. given the current state of the economy i can see her books flying of library shelves (a true frugal person wouldnt buy it lol) its great to see there is still a following and its great to be able to say “i remember when”

    • Rae Beasley said, on June 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      I have been looking for some contact information for Amy and the Tightwad Gazette. I am interested in purchasing. Do you have any contact info? Thank you, Rae Beasley raebeas61@yahoo.com

      • Kathy said, on June 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

        I’m pretty sure she still lives in the same house in Leeds, Maine, so you could probably find her via the internet. Other than that, I have no contact info.

      • Dave Gomberg said, on June 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm

        I contacted her about 8 months ago intending to suggest that an editor just refresh, tighten, and update the book. She indicated that the publisher held the copyright and that she personally had no interest in messing with it anymore. I got my copies using addall.com

  3. Celeste said, on January 29, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I was at a parade about 9 years ago with my 2 year old. The floats were tossing candy, etc. Amy’s kids were hoarding the candy and running to get it before the other kids.

    She may have taught them frugality, but she missed on the manners aspect.

    You may be right; you may also be inaccurately judging her on one short example (how many children are always perfect all the time?); or you may be mistaken. She can’t defend herself. In the name of fairness, I will let your comment stand.

  4. Leslie said, on March 9, 2009 at 4:53 am

    I have her last book and came across your post here as I went searching to see if she’s done an updated version of the book. If ever there was a time when she should, it would be now!! I sincerely hope she comes out of retirement to consider updating the bible for frugality.

  5. Candy Douglas said, on March 10, 2009 at 12:24 am

    Good grief! I hope Celeste never saw my kids at a parade where they were throwing candy from the floats! She would really trash my mothering skills; kids go nuts when there is candy being thrown at them.

  6. Dan said, on March 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Ummmmm………. I snatch up candy at parades too….. and I’m 53!

    I agree with Leslie.. NOW would be a great time to come out with an updated version and influence another generation of tightwads!

  7. 543210cpp said, on April 7, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Yes, yes, yes, now is definitely a good time for Amy to come out of retirement.

  8. sharon said, on June 9, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    i must say i loved all of her books. She made everything seem so well with in reach. Cant tell you how many times i have read her books over and over. She told of her mistakes. you could relate to her. i wish she would come out of retirement. in our current economy, we really need help…

  9. Patricia Gallagher said, on September 20, 2009 at 5:44 am

    My name is Patricia Gallagher and I wrote a book in the mid 1990’s called Raising Happy Kids on a Reasonable Budget. I wasn’t as famous as Mary Hunt or Amy D. but I was a guest on Oprah twice. I have 300 copies of my book available and now see that a whole new group of moms would be helped by this information. So for all of the frugal moms out there, I am selling them for #5.00 each right how, and that includes postage.
    Patricia Gallagher, Box 561, Worceser, PA 19490
    I welcome interv. and speak. engagements.
    Cell: 267 939 0365

    • DeeAnn Vancil said, on June 21, 2010 at 7:20 am

      Greetings Ms. Gallagher,

      I would love to send for your book if it is still available?

      Thank you so much for the wonderful offer and for more resources on Living Frugually and Smart

      Warmly,

      DeeAnn

    • Brenda Speckel said, on July 15, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      Dear Ms. Gallagher,
      I would love a copy of your book.. Is it still available? Please let me know. I love the challenge of finding low cost ways to acquire things I need or want.
      Thanks so much!
      Brenda S.

  10. Dave Gomberg said, on January 6, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    As a veteran of 50! years of computing, I would like to partner with Amy to publish an online version of the Complete Tightwad Gazette.

    The objectives would be:
    1. Make it more available
    2. Fix typos (there are many)
    3. Update it into the cheap computer age and other innovations since the 1990’s.

    Does anyone have an email address for her? I am dave1 at wcf dot com

  11. Cynthia from Georgia said, on January 9, 2010 at 3:57 am

    I was hoping Amy had updated her book to include living frugal via innovations made available by the internet, as much of what was previously published now seems quite dated. With today’s economy, her advice would be invaluable.

    • Kathy said, on January 9, 2010 at 4:33 am

      Yeah, me too. I know that with the “tools” from the TWG books we should be able to take the information and make it work, but sometimes it helps to have a more practical, hands-on approach. Even though I read some frugal blogs and stuff, most of it seems pretty tame compared to Amy’s “black belt tightwaddery.” I miss that, even though I can read the books; because it is somewhat dated.

  12. olivia said, on January 11, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Retiring on a budget and living well for less. her way since she’s already retired.

  13. Dave Gomberg said, on May 27, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Well, it’s been almost five months and no contact info, so I give up. It would have been nice to modernize the book, but some things are just not meant to be. If anything changes, see my email address above….

    • Kathy said, on June 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm

      Sorry, I don’t know Amy personally, and am only a humble fan. You should be able to find her info online — Amy Dacyczyn in Leeds, Maine; maybe look through the links Kelly posted — it might have some info.

    • Rae Beasley said, on June 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      Dave–
      I replied to the Tightwad gazette message board just today, but am also interested in contacting Amy Dacyczyn. I have just seen your “reply after 5 months” message. Would you like to get some ideas together and approach Random House? I truly believe, in today’s economic climate, that so many people have need of this. I have always wanted to teach this “way of life” in schools. It is a valuable life skill and unfortunately for many, have had to weather financial disaster before they realize the value of these skills. Fortunately for us, the time is ripe to educate and peddle these skills. Rae Beasley raebeas61@yahoo.com

  14. Dave Gomberg said, on June 3, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Well, I finally got closure on the Complete Tightwad Gazette. I found Amy’s phone number on the web and called her. Pitched my idea for editing a new edition of CTG and she said she didn’t think it was useful and that anyway Random House owned the rights. So unless someone thinks it is worth the work, I will just drop it. You can always read the edited version by buying the old one and editing it for yourself as you read it.

  15. John Brazil said, on October 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I feel that living for today and don’t worry about tomorrow should be the Gen Xer’s motto. The government (Mr. Obama) will take care of us. Let’s not worry about the ramifications about what it (run away national spending and debt) will do to our children and their children….WE WILL BE DEAD BY THEN! WHO CARES?!!!!!

    Throw thrift out the window. Spend or today, live for today. You can’t take any of it with you, so enjoy it whilst you can! When you run out of cash, charge it. When you can’t charge it anymore, file for banruptcy, then steal it where ever you can (just don’t get caught.) This is the NEW American economy. Enjoy!

    • S.W. Atwell said, on April 24, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      I have been using Amy’s thrift techniques for 15 years now. They make a huge difference to my family. But they will NOT save us from homelessness or bankruptcy if one of us ever has an uninsured illness, which could happen, because even our savings don’t run to the exorbitant rates insurance companies charge families with disabled children and parents with pre-existing conditions. Obamacare got too tame and didn’t reign in the insurers on how much they could charge us. So get a dose of reality, don’t drag politics into every last forum you view (unless you want people like me to let you know what a fool you are) and quit attributing lousy morals and base motives to people who don’t agree with your politics.

      Can you name one time that price controls worked the way they were supposedly intended? — Kathy

      • S.W. Atwell said, on April 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        Kathy, I grew up in Canada where drug companies, for example, are subject to price control. They don’t like it, but they haven’t stopped doing business there either. Private health insurance companies can charge what they like there, because they are supplementary to the basic plan that everyone gets. The basic plan works (not perfectly, but not as badly as the anti-healthcare reform apologists would have you believe) in part because the salaries that doctors earn, the prices of medical equipment, drugs, etc. are all controlled. Nurses and even aides earn a middle-class wage (okay, aides earn a lower middle-class wage), doctors are anywhere from upper middle class to wealthy, depending on the nature of their practice.

        My point was that, in the end, I can do a lot to control the cost of food and clothes in my house. I can do quite a bit to keep utility bills low. My idea of recreation is checking a book out of the library. I socialize by having dinner with friends in my house or one of their houses. I go to free concerts in my city and I wait to see movies until they are available on DVD at the public library. I make much of the pet food we use. I am also very fortunate to have a low mortgage payment and one of my frugal objectives is to have the mortgage paid off in another 6 years. I am a gen X’er. Boomers used federal programs to obtain their first mortgages, sent their kids to public schools that were in better shape than the ones today’s children go to and were more likely to get living wages and benefits. So, they should really stop critizing X’ers and Y’ers (who are having even a tougher time than my generation) for “expecting” to be taken care of. X’ers and Y’ers have learned that they cannot take care of themselves as completely as they need to by working, because fewer jobs have benefits, many people are classified as “independent contractors” while working for the same company for a dozen years and so on. As for government programs, well, they are less generous now than when the Boomers took advantage of them. Oh, but none of them were expecting their government to take care of them.

        As for the Boomers who don’t think the way John Brazil does, my comments are not directed at you. Many of you are aware of the advantages you have enjoyed and are concerned about those who are hoeing a tougher roe. I only discuss generations because John Brazil approached the question that way and I am responding to him. From where I stand, it appears that the generations that are currently receiving social security and that are entitled to better government-paid medical coverage than many children in our country are the epitome of living for today and not thinking about future generations.

        • Kathy said, on April 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm

          The Canadian health-care system is going broke; people are having to stand in line to qualify for a lottery just to get a primary-care physician; they are dying or getting sicker while waiting for treatment or even to get a CAT scan or MRI. I’m not saying the current American system is perfect — far from it! But I think the cure is that the government is *too* involved, not that it is not involved enough. I could write much more about this, bu it would be going very off-topic, and t I doubt that I’d change your mind, nor will you change mine.

          • S.W. Atwell said, on April 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm

            Kathy, my relatives are still in Canada. They can choose their own PCP and go to any doc they choose without a referral. The waits for MRIs etc are ridiculous and it annoys me that Canada has taken such a defeatist attitude about it. A Canadian friend who now works in hospital admin told me about Israel, where she had her first admin experience. The Israeli healthcare system simply staffed MRI and related clinics 24-7 to make sure everyone was fitted in quickly. Some people had appointments at weird hours, but they did get appointments. As far as a government that is “too involved” with healthcare goes, I can tell you that the Canadian provincial governments that administer the programs create bureaucratic hurdles and cause delays, but none that I have not encountered dealing with private insurance in the United States.

  16. Bill said, on December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I think Amy laughed all the way to the bank. Of course she doesn’t need to update her book, nor does she want to. She is retired!! She is living the American Dream. You all should learn to earn more money, continue to be frugal and build your wealth. Just don’t destroy your children while you are being the tightwad, that you all yearn to be!

  17. Martha said, on January 29, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I miss The Tightwad Gazette!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. S.W. Atwell said, on April 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    But to get back to Amy Dacyczyn, the best frugal habit I picked up from her was thinking about money in terms of how many it would buy me of something I really valued. Being frug, I used cloth diapers and laundered them myself. However, I kept disposables on hand to use on car rides after discovering the hard way that my son’s car seat cover could not be completely detached for laundering after “accidents.” At that time, the cheapest disposables cost 19 cents apiece. Whenever I was tempted to buy something I didn’t need, I’d think about how many disposable diapers I could get for the money. “Hmm, I could spend 60 cents on a package of chips that’s bad for me, or I could have diapers for my son the next three times we have to use the car.” Then there was the time I figured out that I could buy all the diapers my kids would need until they were potty trained if I didn’t buy a new piece of furniture! Really, really effective way of thinking about money, because it made money and its benefits as concrete as possible.

    • Kathy said, on April 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      While we may disagree about health care and government’s role in insurance, it’s nice to know that we fully agree on frugality. :-)

    • abflack said, on May 21, 2012 at 12:44 am

      S.W. Atwell! Are you out of your mind???? By telling them this stuff those of us who know will not be able to get ahead cause you told them how to do it…..Even after Amy (a goog lady indeed)….I won’t be able to drive my little pickup picking up bits and pieces of old wood for my work shop..(Never cut a tree down again)…I won’t be able to go to the op shop to pick up pieces of cloth for my aprons (yes girls, I do sew)… or buy books on woodworking worth $50.00 for $1.00 (one dollar) or less.. Please!!!! Just shut up!!!!
      PS If you need some wood….just call me…I deliver for a cup of coffee….and no cookies in your computer
      Art

  19. rusty said, on July 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    i like the tightwad gazzette books too, however i did eventually find amy herself a little over bearing at times. Lets just say i like my frugality with amy trying to constantly mention that she is better at saving then anybody in the world. Also i think she wrote the books based on a moderate income, however many of us are low income and she didnt address enough issues per that. I also think discounting all couponing is a little stupid, and by the way i wouldnt have appreciated the wedding gift that i think she gave her uncle, the one she wrapped nicel but was nails and wood or something, i would have taken offense. She is a little to competitive and i do think she should have devoted more time to her kids and maybe less to her ego

  20. rusty said, on July 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    without i meant

  21. Earle said, on December 8, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Amy (Davis) Dacyczyn was a friend of mine (as were her sisters, Laurie and Joanna) when I was a teenager. We both went to North Middlesex Regional High School, Townsend, MA c. 1971 – 1973.

    I also knew her parents; her dad was a survivalist by the name of Nord Davis, who stocked up on silver bars and coins, gold, guns and assorted food provisions, published a political newsletter he entitled “Pardon Me, but….,” and he headed up what one might term a “colony” of other survivalists, who had bought lots on subdivided property from him. They called it, “Patriot’s Place.” They even had a community garden they all farmed. Think of storing harvested frozen zucchini in trimmed milk cartons for later wintertime consumption. They had their own community church, “The Townsend Church,” and erected a memorial to John Birch, the American missionary murdered in China in the 40’s, and for whom the John Birch Society was named.

    Amy and I used to do NRA-led shooting target training together with a group of us on Saturday mornings. I acknowledge what “Rusty” says about her being competitive. When I knew her she was certainly a nice person, smart too — but she didn’t suffer fools gladly (nor do I actually). We got along great, and for a time we rode the same school bus in the morning. Still, an environment like that can make someone competitive for the scraps that remain, as you might guess. No criticism there, but I understand it.

    Amy learned how to live and get by with very little in that “use-it-up, wear-it-out, make-do, go-without” Puritan ethic-style environment, and it is nice to see how she parlayed that survival instinct into a profession that appears to have paid well enough for her to retire after a comparatively brief time.

    Wherever she is today, I wish her well.

  22. Workwench said, on October 8, 2013 at 12:56 am

    I read Amy’s columns as a teenager, and I can now as an adult and mother say that I have a real problem with a certain perspective injected in her writing – mainly her view of her responsibilities as an adult and parent. What do I mean? Well. I am not degrading her frugal philosophy. I am a successful professional and do not like to waste money. However, I find it disturbing that someone with such limited resources would have six children. I regard her frugality as a weak proxy for the career she should have had, the income she should have earned and the resources she should have contributed to the family. It reminds me a little bit of my paternal grandmother chiding my mother when I was younger about having people help out with cleaning our house. Well guess what my mom made more in one year in part due to those conveniences than my grandmother earned over her lifetime. Just something to consider.

    • Kathy said, on October 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      And something for you to consider is that a person’s worth and value is not summed up in how much money he or she earns in a year or even in a lifetime.

      You and I have a very different mindset, and I think it is best summed up in one short story Amy shared in her book. To paraphrase the story: in ancient times there was a despotic king who didn’t like what one philosopher or advisor had told him, so forced him to live in poverty. One of the favored members of the king’s court came to visit this man while he was preparing a humble meal of lentils. The favored man said to the shunned man, “If you would just learn to serve and please the king, you would not have to live on lentils.” The other man replied, “And if *you* would just learn to live on lentils, you would not have to be the servant of the king.”

      Here are another couple of links for you to consider: this comic and “You’re a Stay at Home Mom?”.

  23. abflack said, on October 24, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Something is wrong with the thinking. I went and earned lots of money so I could buy everything I want or I made it myself and I take care of it myself….Just yesterday I spoke with a very wealthy man who informed me he does his own cleaning (a two story house) because his wife is not well, and (this is the best part), he takes such pride in cleaning the wood floors of the home… He admitted that after he cleans them (once a week) he stands back and admires his work……Oh What a Feeling!!!!!


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