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Palm Latitudes

Bottom Line

August 09, 1992|Nancy Wartik

"Friends call me the Queen of Cheap," says Annette Jeffries, 46, a Los Angeles County children's social worker. "I shop discount, I look for bargains, I own a wholesaler's license so I can experience the joys of buying wholesale."

In fact, Jeffries is a typical subscriber to the Tightwad Gazette, a national monthly newsletter with an avid following--including several thousand Southern Californians--trying to beat the recession. A folksy melange of money-saving tips and musings on the virtues of thrift, the Gazette is a publishing phenomenon. After two years, its circulation is 75,000 (subscriptions go for $12), the Wall Street Journal wrote it up, and editor Amy Dacyczyn, 37, has done Donahue and Letterman.

Much of the Gazette's appeal lies in its treatment of economizing as a game--how many years can you use the same piece of wrapping paper--and frugality as "empowering." For Jeffries, the Gazette "is about developing a certain mind-set, discovering solutions to economic situations people find themselves in." Locally, she recommends the Price Club, the garment district and the jewelry mart downtown.

A mother of six from Leeds, Me., Dacyczyn turned tightwad a decade ago to stretch the family income. She reused aluminum foil, haunted yard sales and shunned convenience foods. Flushed with triumph, Dacyczyn decided to share her secrets with the world.

With a six-figure advance from Villard to do a book on tightwaddery, Dacyczyn herself no longer has to cut corners. But, she insists, "My values are still the same. It will never make sense to me to spend 20 times as much for something store-bought, when I can get a sweater for 50 cents at a yard sale."

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