O Magazine has a monthly feature called “Five Books That Made a Difference to [Famous Person]” in which some celebrity waxes poetic about the five books that made them who they are today.
O hasn’t come knocking, but I’m not too proud to swipe a great concept; as promised, I’ll tell you about the books that most shaped my world view.
We’ll start with the most influential:
The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle
Voila! A big, fat book about saving money and living well with an excellent blend of specifics and general concepts, process and philosophy.
Topics include dating, car maintenance, weight loss, interior decorating, recipes (the Universal Quiche, Muffin, Casserole, and Pilaf recipes are particularly valuable), meticulous cost comparisons (Paint or siding? Can dishwashers and bread machines pay for themselves? Which kind of tape is cheapest per 1/8″?), ethics, planning weddings and funerals… … sound principles, somethin’ for everybody, and 17 pages of amazing reader success stories to end this 959-page book with a bang.
Author Amy Dacyczyn defended frugality as the means through which all manner of people could achieve all kinds of goals. Dacyczyn’s dream was to find, buy, and restore a rural pre-1900 New England farmhouse (with attached barn)— on one income. YOUR dream may be to backpack across Asia, own a Steinway for every room, or become a stay-at-home parent. The principles in The Complete Tightwad Gazette can help.
I have only one complaint; the index isn’t sufficiently thorough. Keep a notebook or stack of bookmarks nearby to mark important articles.
Now for good news! Because the book is eleven years old, your local library (free knowledge!) and used bookstore are likely to have copies. I studied my mother’s copy, then the library’s, and only THEN did I shell out $3.50 at a used bookstore for a massive tome of my own.
Having been raised in genteel poverty, I’m a passable tightwad. Why, I was even debt-free… right up until three days ago. Still, every few months I find myself getting careless about money, drifting toward the mainstream spending habits of my friends. I always turn to the Tightwad Gazette to help me pull my life back in line with my goals and ideals. Whether you’re a novice or black belt tightwad, you can learn from this book.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be curling up with my [secondhand] copy of this glorious book and a mug of [clearance-priced] tea, seeing what changes I can make to improve my life and my bank balance.