The Frugalista

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When I was growing up, my mom subscribed to The Frugal Gazette, "a monthly newsletter dedicated to provide information and encouragment [sic] for those in pursuit of frugality." Amy Dacyczyn published it from her house in Newtown, Connecticut.

In the preface to her book, The Tightwad Gazette, she includes "A Word of Caution."

Tightwads are by nature unconventional. We push the normal limits to make things las longer. We reuse things in unusual ways. We experiment constantly to find new, cheaper ways to do almost everything.

As the value of the dollar continues to diminish, frugality is en vogue once again. I can't find a website for The Frugal Gazette, unfortunately. Did it go out of business? Natalie P. McNeal, a reporter for the Miami Herald, is pinching pennies. And blogging about it.

McNeal, alias "The Frugalista," has decided to "go a month without shopping, eating out, manicures, eyebrow waxing and/or hair salon visits."

Have you become a frugalista, too? What are some of the challenges you've faced, cutting back, saving money?



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What would happen to the economy if every U.S. citizen purchased only the basic necessities for 1 year?

Sent by David | 3:23 PM | 4-24-2008

Used is fine...We find a lot of things we need in near new condition at yard sales and garage sales.

We've easily saved a few thousand dollars by buying used. This also gives us the satisfaction fo recycling and reducing our carbon footprint.

Sent by Peter | 3:47 PM | 4-24-2008

Just this morning I found a wonderful bargain- a fantastic clearance poster for $5! My next challenge- a clearace frame. I've trained myself to only, ONLY shop clearance sales- and off season deals... I've taught friends, even our kids do it as a "sport"- there's a real sense of pride in a great deal!

Sent by susan | 3:48 PM | 4-24-2008

here's a tip:

Check out your local food pantry.
In Iowa City, IA the local food pantry gives away free food donated by local bakeries, supermarkets and food coops.
The food is fresh, healthy, organic in many cases, and FREE!!!

Sent by db | 3:48 PM | 4-24-2008

My husband is the most frugal person I have met. He does the grocery shopping and does not buy anything unless it is buy one get one free. When he uses coupons he comes home saving more money than he spends.
Thanks. Debi in Flordia

Sent by Debi | 3:50 PM | 4-24-2008

shop Goodwill. Incredibly good clothes there, lots of "brand names."

Sent by tina cook | 3:51 PM | 4-24-2008

Dumpster diving - amazing treasures are tossed into dumpsters behind frats and sororities the week before school lets out...

Sent by Jason, Menlo Park, CA | 3:52 PM | 4-24-2008

I've found that having a concrete goal for frugality helps. I've been married 5 years to a generous but very frugal man whose motto was at the beginning, "Buy nothing that is not necessary!" This helped us support him through graduate school on my meager salary as a private school teacher. We made some compromises, such as making space in the budget to eat out once a month and order pizza once--and put the rest into savings. But our goal was always to have a down payment for a house while also being able to give charitably. Now he's on the job as a college professor while I stay home with our daughter. Even so, we're about to reap the benefit of it all--we're closing on the purchase on a lovely house next week.

Will this be the end of our frugal ways? he wants to pay off our 30 year mortgage in 15 years or less.

Katie in Harrisonburg, VA

Sent by Katie | 3:53 PM | 4-24-2008

I love having a simple, inexpensive fabulous lunch in Davis, Calif. with the same entertainment as your other listeners: Talk of the Nation. I bike home from my office and at this time of year, have a delicious fresh lunch that rivals the cost of the listener who goes to Taco Bell for 99 cents: 1 slice of whole grain bread, half an avocado and a small amount of low fat cottage cheese. I get the avocadoes at our fabulous Davis Farmers Market - 5 for $1. The bread is from a local bakery, and the cottage cheese is from a local (within 75 miles) dairy. It really makes me feel fabulous, plus a little virtuous because I make my lunch.

Sent by Lyra Halprin | 3:55 PM | 4-24-2008

Frugalista: I'm by nature a penny-pincher. My clothes all come from the thrift store, my furniture off the curb. I once went on a 5 month vacation to India on a budget of $2 per day.

But here is my question: after a while, living this way makes you start to think small. Make my own website instead of hiring a professional, buying the cheapest brand at the grocery store rather than what I really want, and so on. Even when living frugally, I think it's important to splurge now and then, what do you think?

Sent by michael Forster Rothbart | 3:57 PM | 4-24-2008

I share/ trade ties with the members of my sunday school class there are five of us that are in different proffessions with simular suits so we trade ties every two months.

Sent by Scott L. Sammons | 3:57 PM | 4-24-2008


They would be able to pay their mortgage (on-time), send their kids to private schools (on bicycles) AND STILL save money for retirement!

We (Americans) are probably the most wasteful society the Earth has ever seen. All in the name of convenience!

Sent by Harold | 3:58 PM | 4-24-2008

i appriciate the importance of saving money, however i wonder about the costs (social/ environmental) associated with these cheap products (99 cent meals, 5 dollar shoes).

how do you reconcile personal savings with these external costs?

Sent by jordan | 3:59 PM | 4-24-2008

wow, my daughter thought i was a miserly penny-pencher. i thought i was just trying to live within my means. now i can tell her i'm a frugalist!

Sent by Dan OlderMusicGeek | 4:00 PM | 4-24-2008

For more frugal tips check out the forum on Tips like using the paper towels you use to dry your hands in restrooms and paper napkins to replace toilet paper, catching your shower water to flush the john and other flushing out not flushing tips, a wood fired water heater that use junk mail and sticks, picking up and selling aluminum cans, deodorant mining to get that last bit of deodorant out of the applicator, cheap clothing, reusing coffee grounds and more.

Sent by Paul Still | 7:58 PM | 4-24-2008

Hooray for closet shopping!

My girlfriends and I used to regularly trade paper bags full of clothes, with the implicit understanding that if you didn't like it, you could donate it to Goodwill.

To me this is even better than shopping for new clothes, because I get to share a part of my friends' lives, and share my life with them.

Sent by Rachel N H | 1:32 PM | 4-25-2008

When I decided to be a SAHM (stay-at-home_mom), I knew I would have to give up a few things. After 10 years of it, I've learned there are many ways to save money. For instance, our family love the once a week movie night (we have no cable), we either rent from the library (free) or if we really want to splurged, we go to the theater that charge $1 or $2. Books? Library. Everyday clothes? thrift stores, garage sale. Food? food pantry, Coop, definitely coupons! Gas? more biking or walking. And if you have to use the car, run all your errons on the same day! (which forces you to plan ahead). Recycle as much as you can. Reusing items save alot of money but best of all, it saves the world resources.

But frugality is like a good healthy diet. Don't deny yourself that piece of pie. It's ok to buy a new dress or a pair of shoes for that special function.

We deserve it after all the good work!

Sent by Thana Millar | 2:49 PM | 4-25-2008

I'm a fitness instructor in Portland, Oregon. Some may think fitness programs are a luxury, but I say think outside the gym.

Instead of paying for gym memberships and expensive equipment, I teach folks to use the outdoors, their body weight, even kitchen items as their "gym".

I also encourage them to walk, ride their bikes and take mass transit as a way to get exercise in their everyday lives and save some bucks too.

With rising obesity rates, the economy sliding, and a not-so-happy-mother nature my approach shows folks they don't need to waste time, money and resources on gym workouts, just take it outside!

Sent by Kristin | 3:33 PM | 4-25-2008

Wow what a waste of words this whole topic is. It's easy if we remember one rule. Don't spend more than you make except maybe for your home.

Sent by Evelyn | 2:49 PM | 4-27-2008

Dear Ms. Frugalista, I disagree with your comment on NPR that hair highlights are 'high maintenance' compared to the all-over color job you shell out the big bucks for every six weeks. I, too, am graying and I'm saving about $600/year getting my hair highlighted every 4 months rather than every 2 months, as I'd done in the past. Highlights do a fabulous job of integrating the gray with the high and low lights (Neal, don't try to figure out what I'm talking about here; it's a chick thing) thus allowing weeks or months to go by before a touch-up is necessary. Try it. It works. And put the leftover cash towards a Prada change purse! Hee hee!

Sent by Kim Johnson | 4:59 PM | 8-12-2008