Hello, it’s me- Mrs. Universe ( this is a reference to the blog name, by the way, I hope to God that no-one thinks I’m equating myself to the most beautiful women in the country. In fact, I chuckle to myself every time I type that moniker because it is so far from the truth). I thought I would give you some insight into my life and the impetus for starting this blog, Into the Universe. In my mid- twenties I stumbled across The Complete Tightwad Gazette, ( wow, look there is an affiliate link ) Amy Dacyczyn ( she says the pronunciation rhymes with Decision). The Tightwad Gazette was a newsletter published by Mrs. Dacyczn in 1990, essentially the brainstorm of one creative woman whose inspiration was to “ promote thrift and economy as a viable lifestyle”. After coming across the first two years of newsletters that had been bound together and published as The Tightwad Gazzette, I was hooked. I looked around my home and saw so much waste. I saw redundancy and unnecessary work in almost every aspect of my daily life. I soon found the entire compendium of newsletters, bound and published as The Complete Tightwad Gazzette.As my husband and I ushered our first chid into the world, I was resolute in my desire to be the thriftiest mom in America.
I failed miserably, of course. While I shopped at thrift stores and watched my grocery store circulars, we still had expensive outlays to refurbish and improve the fixer-upper brick ranch we had bought in April of 2000. At home with my newborn son, I was inundated by advertising on television and radio about exactly the kind of expensive products and services we needed to be both good parents, and to promote the health of our beautiful child. Of course, it was all bullshit. A young , new mother is very susceptible to the kind of advertising geared to that demographic. They prey upon your fears, your guilt and your dreams for your child’s future. While I never totally abandoned frugal measures of economy, I would not be honest if I said that my journey was a single trajectory toward thrifty living. My life resembled a pendulum swinging back and forth. At times I have embraced the tightwad lifestyle and that knowledge served me well during the 2008 recession. Other times, though, I have splurged when I ought not to. I have indulged in luxuries that were unnecessary or bought gifts that were too extravagant. Now, I see it all as an enormous learning curve and I have not yet learned all my lessons. I try my best. I learn from my mistakes and I try not to beat myself up too badly.
Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation.
Regardless of my past misadventures or failures, I count the blessings of my life and see the progress we have made. Mr. Universe and I live on 1.2 acres in Charlotte, NC with our two children, our German Shepard, and one cat. We don’t own our home outright, as yet. We refinanced in 2009 and pay less than 3% interest on our loan. Our monthly payment of less than $900 is far less than what we would pay for rent on even a small apartment closer to the city. Having a mortgage payment this low is virtually unheard of in Charlotte; a city which is currently experiencing another construction boom. We have no credit card debt. When we occasionally use credit cards for home improvements or travel expenses, we pay it off as soon as possible while reaping the gains of cash back bonuses and rewards. I would estimate that fully 50% of our newly purchased clothing comes from cash back rewards from one clothing chain’s credit card benefits. That credit card never carries a balance and is always payed in full before the end of the billing cycle. We have a credit score that most people don’t enjoy until well into retirement because both our cars are paid off and outside of our mortgage, we carry no debt.
Above anything else, I would like visitors to this blog to understand the liberation of being free from debt and having a modest savings to fall back on. You are suddenly free from businesses that would prey upon your fears. The relentless stream of companies that want to sell me extended “warranties” on everything from my hot water heater to my car, comes immediately to mind. It is so freeing to be able to tell these people, “no thanks, if anything breaks, we will just pay for the repair- and by the way- please take our name ofF of your list”. Often, this response causes the company to ratchet up their fear tactics…” Ma’am, don’t you realize just HOW MUCH a repair like that could cost?” And I tell them, “yes- we’ll be fine”. There is also the freedom of being able to make life decisions that were previously unavailable to you. Without the yoke of debt around your neck, you are able to dream and plan a new life, a different life, than the one you had before. Adventures that once seemed outlandish are now within your grasp. Have you ever imagined spending 8 months of your life walking the Appalachian Trail? In a life encumbered by a staggering amount of debt, this idea would be ludicrous. It would be completely irresponsible and would have long lasting and damaging consequences to your finances and credit score. I use the term financial resilience to describe habits you employ to both fall back on savings during any of life’s emergencies and to utilize your tightwad skills to maintain your lifestyle and save the largest percentage of your income. With financial resilience , the dreams of hiking full time become an actual possibility. While I’m not ready to pull up stakes at the moment and walk over 2000 miles, its nice to know its an option. Other people, other families, that have traveled down this path of thriftiness, saving, conserving, and learning sustainable skills have also broken free from the endless cycle of consumerism and debt. They have quit jobs they disliked to embark upon new adventures in other fields of interest. They have bought farms and lived off the land. They have become more independent humans that rely less on a paycheck and more on their mastery of new skills and useful knowledge. They have learned that financial resilience, and ultimately financial independence carries with it the ability to say FU to a boss or a corporate entity and to embrace every minute of every day as your own.
All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of coin, credit and circulation.
I hope to explain in this blog that there is an intersection of Simple Living, Frugality, Sustainability and Financial Independence that benefits all of us. While few of us will ever become the master of any one of these topics, each new skill brings us closer to a life that is free-er and more hopeful than it was before. If there were a thriftiness competition between myself, Mrs. Universe, and the pragmatic, black belt tightwad ,Mrs Amy Dacyzyn, SHE would surely win. However, HER creativity bookended with extreme frugality has been an inspiration to me. Has anyone else read the book? Tell me what you think about the Gazette, and how it has affected your life.
Disclaimer: this blog uses affiliate links to generate a small amount of income to help pay for upkeep and maintenance of the site. If you use an affiliate link, I will earn a very small percentage from the sale of the product, at no additional cost to you. I would also suggest that anyone visiting this blog can find a free or cheaper way to find these products. If so, please share your lower cost or free alternative. Most if not all of the books referenced today can be found at your local library. ( Yay, for libraries! I should do a whole post on libraries!) Other sources for discounted but high quality books are EBay, Etsy, thrift stores, garage sales and borrowing from friends.
On my bedside table:
- The Girl Before– by JP Delaney
- International Living magazine- October 2019
- Home Made– by Yvette Van Boven
- The Landscaping Revolution – by Andy and Sally Wasowski
- Gardening with Junk – by Adam Caplin
- Vertical Vegetables and Fruit – by Rhonda Massingham Hart
- Don’t throw it, Grow it – by Deborah Peterson & Millicent Selsam