Thursday, 28 May 2009

Tight Fist Tip #5: Don't Buy Expensive Sandwiches

At around 12:30 each workday, the predator begins to stalk. The prey: unsuspecting office workers, simply looking for a quick yet delicious bite to eat. They mill about like lemmings. 'I just feel some thing simple today something like a...' AND THEN HE POUNCES!!!! The Seven Dollar Sandwich.

Like a frog in slowly warming water, the poor lunch-breakers of the world have been taken unaware by this once-innocent lunch staple. And who could blame them? A sandwich was once a reliable choice: a couple pices of bread with some meat, cheese, and maybe some veggies in between. It was a staple that you could order quickly and cheaply, without much thought.

But the sandwich makers were sneaky, and began to take advantage. Their trick (similar to those described in the last post) was to deviously change the names of all the standard sandwich ingredients in order to cause mass confusion, panic, and uncontrollable purges of cash. For instance, instead of good old 'Bread' you now have vaguely foreign-sounding options like Ciabatta, Foccacia, or Lavash. And where we used to have reliable lettuce, we now have to choose between chard, romaine, or even sexy options like rocket. Ooooh! Rocket!

[On a side note, I was recently informed by a friend in San Francisco that some sandwiches there cost $15! I am trying to remove this piece of information from my memory because merely considering the fact that people out there are spending $15 on sandwiches is making me a little bit woozy.]

So what are you supposed to do if this is the going rate for sandwiches in your area? Well believe it or not, you don't have to be Gordon Ramsay to reverse engineer your favorite sanwiches. Just in case you're confused, here is a step-by-step guide:

1. Put a bunch of stuff you like on some bread.
2. Put more bread on top.
3. There is no step 3. That's it. Want me to go over it again?

Hungry People: RUN AWAY!!

And finally, I know my fellow Londoners are going to point out there here we don't really have the equivalent of a seven-dollar sandwich. So are all the Pret and Eat drones out here off the hook? Absolutely not. The reason that the local sandwiches here are cheaper is because in America you don't need a microscope to find the sandwich filling. In order to derive the same amount of sustenance out of a Pret sandwich as a Seven Dollar Sandwich back home, you would have to buy three of them and combine all the fillings between two pieces of bread.

You know what, I have better things to do with my time. At least in the US there is no assembly required.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Tight Fist Tip #4: Avoid Products Described With Unnecessary Adjectives

Sorry, I Was Looking For a Half Food

An important clue to easily tell if any product is a rip-off is whether it is described using completely non-informative adjectives. For instance, consider the following boardroom scenario:

Stupid Manager: Gee, we sure aren't going to make much of a profit off of all these dried tomatoes that we need to sell.
Stupid Junior Marketing Guy: Hey, I know, why don't we add a completely useless adjective to describe our product! Then we can totally jack up the price. How about we chuck them out in the sun for a sec then call them 'Sun Dried Tomatoes'?
SM: That would never work! People aren't possibly stupid enough to pay more for tomatoes that were dried in the sun rather than any other way, because there is absolutely no difference.
SJMG: But they will, because they are morons!
SM: Genius! You're promoted!

Yes, completely non-informative adjectives are used in tons of products to trick people into thinking that they are somehow better than other products that don't have these adjectives. But really, you need to just step back and think: do these adjectives give me any more relevant information about the product I am about to buy? If not, you are almost certainly being duped.

The worst offenders in this category are restaurant menus. Every restaurant wants to justify its ridiculous prices by making its dishes look somehow special. For instance, a normal restaurant would serve eggs, toast, and hash browns. But this snooty manhattan restaurant instead chooses to serve:

Baked Farm Eggs two tello's green farm eggs with roasted potatoes, nettle meadow chèvre and thyme, served with amy's toast and best of market greens

For 15 dollars! But this helps us get started in spotting some common restaurant menu trickery. Note that all examples below are taken from actual New York City menus.

1. "Amy's Bread" - I mean, who the hell is Amy? For all I know, she is the busboy's dog. Any food named after some random person is not to be trusted.

2. "Natural Beef" - 'Wow, I was expecting to eat a steak made out of Play-Doh! But, they have beef from real cows here? Amazing!' The word 'natural' used to describe food means nothing.
I only eat burgers that have been heat cooked

3. "Wok-sautéed greens" - Man, if the pan used to cook these greens was flat instead of conical they would have totally sucked!

4. "New Zealand lamb" - Mmmm, I can really taste the...New Zealand?

And finally,

5. "Air-Baked Organic Belgian Fries" - This is wrong on so many levels, but I've got a fiver for anyone who can enlighten me on how it is possible to bake in the absence of air.

You will never look at a menu the same way again. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Tight Fist Tip #3: Prepartying and Drinking on The Cheap

One of the greatest drain on the finances comes from a night on the town. Not only are bars usually hellishly expensive to begin with, but when you take into account buying drinks for the opposite sex, reciprocating unwanted rounds and inebriated decision making, things can spin out of control quickly. While the easiest way to beat these problems is to just avoid going out entirely, that is not exactly realistic. Fortunately, the Tight Fist has some time-honored tactics to get you nice and drunk without going broke.

Let's start with the basics. Has anyone ever told you not to drink on an empty stomach? THAT PERSON WAS A LYING IDIOT WHO WANTS YOU TO DIE POOR. In fact, you should only drink on an empty stomach. The logic is very clear: you want to get a bit tipsy, eating food means it takes more alcohol to get tipsy, so eating simply costs you money. So next time you are thinking of getting a bite to eat before hitting the bars, just realize that you are flushing money down the toilet. Plus since booze has plenty of calories, skipping dinner prevents you from getting even fatter.

But what about those tiny people who would get drunk off two sips on an empty stomach, shouldn't they eat? NO! These people are the luckiest people on earth, and should not waste their wonderful circumstance. Instead, they should get together in a group, buy one frilly cocktail and all get wasted for pennies! Lucky bastards!

And what if you don't actually want to feel the effects of alcohol, and want to have a nice, sober night of drinking? WELL THEN DRINK WATER YOU MORON, and stop pissing your money away.

And for the really hard-core Tight-Fisters out there? Try donating blood before a night on the town! Besides being a good public citizen, you will also get wasted for super-cheap!

Next, let me introduce you to two more tricks that both rely on a well-known fact: buying booze at supermarkets is way cheaper than buying them when out, but fortunately it does the job just as well.

First of all, don't even consider hitting the bars sober- ever. Instead, make sure you pre-party heavily. Then you can go out, nurse one beer the whole night, and barely dent your wallet. And if there's not time for proper pre-partying, you can always improvise: get a bottle at a local liquor store and hit that baby in the parking lot.

Next, let me introduce you to your new best money-saving friend, the flask.

Put It Down Your Pants
Yes, if you fill up a flask with your liquor of choice, it will be your best friend all evening, keeping you going for free while your buddies blow all their cash. If you want to be really sophisticated, you can buy a coke at the bar and then covertly mix it with the contents of your flask. (Note that this strategy is especially useful at baseball games. Never buy a seven-dollar beer again!) And if you're worried about getting caught with the flask going into a club or sporting event, just stick it down your pants!

And finally, a little note for the guys out there. Under no circumstances should you ever buy a drink for a girl you don't know in an attempt to get in their pants. The strategy is foolish, money-wasting, and unlikely to succeed. And even worse, it just rewards devilishly deviant gold-digging behavior. Solidarity, Tight Fisters!

Happy Boozing!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Tight Fist Tip #2: You Only Need One Pair Of Shoes

Amazingly Versatile

(This is part 1 in the 'Stop Buying Crap You Don't Need' series.)

You are going to notice a recurring theme on the Tight Fist: Stop Buying Crap That You Don’t Need. Although this large and important subject seems completely straightforward, I fear that it is going to confuse many of you. Therefore, I am going to break it down into bite-size pieces just to make sure no one gets lost: ok?

We’re going to start with one of the most egregious examples of this simple, simple rule: shoes. Everyone listen closely, because I am going to reveal a tightly-guarded secret that may bring about death threats from the Nike/Reebok mafia: You can actually use shoes for activities other than the one they were designed for. In fact, you can use just one pair of shoes to do just about anything! Shocking!

I know, I see the incredulity jumping off your faces. But, aren’t tennis shoes especially designed for tennis? Wouldn’t they self destruct if they were subjected to the rogue sport of volleyball? And won’t my running shoes instantly fall apart if I try to take a hike in them? And if I wear basketball shoes to a party, won’t I accidentally jump too high and hit my head all the time? Amazingly, the answer to all these questions is no. A shoe is pretty much just a slab of rubber with some leatherish covering on top. They are all pretty much the same.

And for anyone out there who thinks that the shoes you wear have to be somehow coordinated with the rest of your outfit, get over yourself. Get yourself a pair of black shoes. Black goes with everything. And if your response is 'But OMG those shoes R 2 cute LOL!!!!', please go away and leave me alone.

Perfect for fleeing overweight Sharks

Now, I am willing to admit that there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, let’s say you are constantly being attacked by slower-than-normal sharks and need to somehow elongate and enlarge your feet in order to out-swim said sharks. In this case, you probably should have some special shoes.

Those spikes are just tied on

Or maybe you live on top of a giant ice cliff and need gigantic spikes attached to your feet in order to make it home. It seems to me you could just duct-tape some spikes onto your normal shoes, but maybe there is some room for debate.

Also, I think this guy probably gets special consideration:

Other than that, no excuses.

Tight Fist Tip #1: Get Rid of That Gym Membership

One thing that mystified we Jews for years is the modern obsession with the gym. I mean, it has always been a mystery to me why people think it is a good idea to cough up a ton of cash to go to these dimly-lit, terrible-smelling hellholes.

Now let’s not be confused: I’m certainly not suggesting that you should give up exercise. No, Mr. Potbelly and Mrs. Thunderthighs, I do not have some magic recipe for getting you laid without getting in shape. But seriously, anyone with an ounce of common sense should realize that gyms are totally useless; as it is insanely easy to exercise for free, spending money so you can exercise is completely unjustifiable. And please don’t get me started on all of you who take elevators, stand on escalators, take taxis for four blocks, etc before going to the gym. IF I EVER AGAIN SEE SOMEONE TAKE AN ELEVATOR/ESCALATOR TO GET TO A STAIRMASTER AGAIN I AM GOING TO BLOW A GASKET!

Still confused? Well, let’s take some of the more popular gym activities in order to deconstruct them further.

1. Treadmill: You have got to be kidding me. With 148.847x10^6 km^2 of the earth’s surface to explore, there is no excuse.

2. The Stairmaster: I am willing to bet that you have stairs in your house, in your office, and probably in numerous other places you go all the time. If you want to get a stair workout, run up some real goddamn stairs. AND STOP TAKING ELEVATORS/ESCALATORS, YOU LAZY ASS!

3. That elliptical thing: This machine is designed as an excuse for chicks to wear hotpants and gyrate for hours, which I can only assume that the users of these machines want to do all the time but it is generally not socially acceptable. This gizmo provides absolutely no level of exercise.

No Exercise in Sight
4. Weights: That’s right, you just spent $50 per month for access to large pieces of metal to lift above your head. Bravo. Believe it or not, there are heavy objects all over the place that you can move about for free, if that's what really floats your boat. You can probably find some of them in your very own house. Milk Gallons? Chairs? Rocks? The list goes on and on. And if that is too difficult, how about lifting your own flabby self and do a push-up? Amazingly, this 'vintage' exercise method is still effective.

5. Aerobics Classes: If you really want, I'm pretty sure I saw some old Richard Simmons videocassettes in the bargain bin of my local video store, but is that even necessary? Can't you figure out how to do jumping jacks and run in place without instruction?

I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. One more thing though: If you wanted to get really radical and get exercise in a way that wasn’t soul-destroyingly boring, try taking up a sport. And no, golf does not count.

There you go, fifty bucks a month saved already. Don’t spend it all in one place.