CRUISING through our favorite discount warehouse the other...

Salmagundi

June 23, 1993

CRUISING through our favorite discount warehouse the other weekend, we spotted a book we couldn't resist. We're happy to report that we bought "The Tightwad Gazette" for one-third the list price. The author would approve. After all, Amy Dacyczyn -- it's pronounced "decision," she says, "as in, 'I made a decision to marry a guy of Ukrainian ancestry.' " -- doesn't call herself "the Frugal Zealot" for nothing.

As you might expect, the book is chock full of ideas for saving money, but the more interesting aspect is the philosophy behind the book and the monthly newsletter from which it was compiled. Here's a sample:

"Telling you how to save money is like telling you how to lose weight. Everybody knows how to lose weight. You need to eat fewer calories than your body uses. To save money you need to spend fewer dollars than you earn. In both cases you need to adjust your rate of consumption to your rate of work.

"The 'Don't save more, earn more' philosophy is a very one-sided approach. And it has one big flaw. Nearly everyone who earns more automatically spends more. For this reason, regardless of their incomes, many families seem to have exactly enough to get by.

"Telling you to earn more instead of saving more is like saying 'Don't eat less, exercise more.'

"When I learned that walking a mile burned up the same amount of calories as in an apple I wondered how many miles I would have to run to burn the calories in a candy bar. It made more sense to give up the candy bar.

"Most Americans are running to burn up candy bars. They are running out of the house, running to the day care center, running on the job . . . so they can afford candy bars and Nintendo games, meals at McDonald's and designer sneakers.

"There is no doubt that the minimum wage earner does need to earn more to afford apples -- the basics of life.

"But for most of us whether we choose to earn more or to save more depends on how easy, accessible and enjoyable more work is. . . "There is a point . . . where earning more results in a personal cost and erodes the quality of life.

"The solution is to find the right balance of earning more and saving more. . .

"When you do earn more, resist the temptation to spend more. Discipline yourself to saving whatever possible of what you do earn and reinvest in ways to either earn more or save more."

That's good advice for families, several thousand of whom are now subscribing to the monthly newsletter. It may be even better advice for all levels of government, as they try to adjust to leaner times and limited tax revenues. In fact, in most of the above excerpt, you can substitute the work "tax" for the word "earn" and express a philosophy of government that would please even Ross Perot himself.

As that financial expert might say, "It's just that simple."

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