Thursday 30 July 2009

Tight Fist Tip #19: Get Free Haircuts

How Bad Could it Be?

Unless you want to end up like Cousin Itt from the Addam's Family, you're going to need to get your hair cut every now and then. But although haircuts are one of those things that should be really simple (ie, inexpensive), for some reason people have become convinced that this is something they can justify paying tons and tons of money for. And that's not to mention the incredible sexism inherent in the hair industry. Why exactly do womens' cuts usually usually have a base price of double the amount of mens' cuts?

Let's break down some easy steps you can take to cut down on your haircut costs.

I get my hair cut every two days.
After all, your hair is your headsuit.

1. Don't Pay for Haircuts. If you needed to find a doctor to perform open heart surgery, or maybe a lawyer to reduce your life sentence, you'd probably want to ensure that you found a real professional. But last time I checked, cutting with scissors was standard curriculum for kindergartners. I'm not saying that cutting hair doesn't require skills, but it's not exactly rocket science, and the consequences of a slight mishap are pretty low. Odds are you know someone in your social circle who knows how to cut hair, and you would be a fool not to take advantage of this. Buy them a beer, get a haircut, and be happy.

2. Get your hair cut as infrequently as possible. The problem here is that most people make a crucial mistake: they try to get their hair cut to exactly the length that they like best. THIS IS COMPLETELY MORONIC, because it means that seconds after you leave the place, your hair is now too long, and will just continue to get longer and look worse and worse. Instead, the key is to get it cut way shorter than you like it. Then, as time goes on it approaches its desired length, and then goes over. Not to get too nerdy on all of you in the audience, but if we make the simple assumption of symmetry of utility over hair length, getting your hair cut to the shortest length you can possibly tolerate will allow you to get half the amount of haircuts, with the same level of satisfaction.

Super Savers!

Also, stop being such a freaking priss and just learn to deal with cutting your hair short and letting it grow long. Who do you think you are, Jack Donaghy?

3. Keep it Simple. If you're looking for that ever-so-hot Marge Simpson do, Aunt Bertha may not be able to pull that one off for you on the cheap. But if you avoid the temptation to create some ridiculous and unnatural hairstyle, you are saving yourself a ton of hassle. For instance, the simple buzz cut removes any need to pay for haircuts once you get your own razor. And if that's a bit too dramatic for the ladies in the audience, just feel free to let your hair grow and you can have a friend give it a little snip when it gets too long.

If you are thinking that following these tips will prevent you from being really, really incredibly good-looking, get over your yourself. Your vanity will ruin you.

Monday 27 July 2009

Tight Fist Tip #18: Use Sales and Promotions, But With Caution

But Honey, It Was On Sale!

I know that some of you out there get all hot and bothered at the sight of a sale sign, but these situations are no time to be rash. We Jews know to be skeptical of sales, as we know that even big discounts won't make overpriced, useless crap even vaguely desirable. But since the credit card loving masses out there can have trouble distinguishing a gimmick from a really good deal, let met try to break down a few simple rules.

In order to illustrate when it is justified to partake in a promotion, I've prepared the following mock scenarios for us to analyze.

Q: Crate and Barrel has an amazing honey dipper on sale for 80% off- should you buy it?

A: If you have spent years and years trying to figure out how to transfer honey from the jar to your food, you are obviously too moronic to be making shopping decisions in the first place. For the rest of us, it should be painfully obvious that this is a product that has no right to exist and therefore should not be bought no matter what the price. The moral of the story is that the ultimate Tight Fist rule 'Do Not Buy Crap That You Don't Need' trumps everything. Plus, what the hell are you doing at Crate and Barrel anyway? You should be ashamed of yourself!

Q: You need a new pair of jeans (which of course must mean that you have no other wearable pants, as otherwise the above rule would apply). The Prada store has an incredible 50% off sale on some super-swanky jeans. Deal or No Deal?

Sale on Shin Ramen?

A: Give me a break. Let's solve this with some simple mathematics: 1 Stupidly Expensive Piece of Crap x Some Discount = Still 1 Stupidly Overpriced Piece of Crap. Plus, you would get laughed at behind your back for having stupidly expensive jeans, and you'd have to go out of your way to work into the conversation how you got them for such a great deal, making you look like a complete douche.

Q: Your girlfriend is getting impatient because you haven't gone on a real 'date' for a few weeks. You notice that some new restaurant has a 2-for-1 midweek meals promotion. Can you swing it?

A: You Bet! The best way to make use of discounts is when you were going to have to buy something anyway, and just make use of a sweet discount to dampen the pain. And if you're worried about your date judging you for taking her out on a discount, DUMP THAT BITCH. If she can't appreciate a good deal, she will only cause you pain.

On an aside, this situation reminds me of a lesson learned by my ultimate Tight Fist inspiration, my grandfather Harry. Whenever the family used to come into town to come visit him, he would promise to take us out one night to a restaurant. Immediately, he would bust out his giant 'Entertainment' coupon booklet, which was full of restaurant deals, and we were allowed to pick a restaurant based on the selection of where he had the best coupons. What a legend.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Tight Fist Tip #17: Fancy Wine Is Still Just Fermented Grapes

Prickly, with a Subtle Aftertaste of Unicorn

There are tons of examples where companies use clever branding to convince customers that their crappy product is some type of luxury good; this is helpful so that rich idiots can find something to waste all their money on. Some examples are when Toyota puts some leather seats in its Camry and calls it a Lexus, or when Tesco labels fruit 'Finest' just because it is ripe. In general, however, producers don't invent an entire new vocabulary and train an army of 'experts' in order to brainwash the populace spending ridiculous amounts of money.

But the fermented grape industry is special. Normally, if you were trying to distinguish between the taste of two different things, you would use normal descriptions like sweet, bitter, salty, etc. But for connoisseurs of fermented grapes, this isn't good enough, because if you were to use normal, reasonable, understandable descriptive characteristics you would come to a horrifying conclusion: fermented grapes all taste pretty similar. Noooooo!!!!!!! But then how can they convince rich idiots to spend hundreds of dollars on 50-year old fermented grapes? Well, that's easy enough. You just have to invent a whole new ridiculous vocabulary to describe your fermented grapes, brainwash a few people into thinking that they taste all these crazy things, and then dismiss all the doubters as unsophisticated.

For some examples of this crazy vocabulary take a look at fermented grape guru Robert Parker's wine glossary. Pretty soon you'll be saying things like, "I love my fermented grapes flabby, silky, and chewy. Or actually, today I would prefer one that is round, plummy, and somehow smells like tobacco." Is this guy serious? (Note that sadly, that was a rhetorical question.) I used to think that when someone said fermented grapes had hints of rasberry (or some other non-grape fruit) that they had actually put some other fruit in the fermented grapes. But no, that would make too much sense. Instead this is just drunk fermented-grape tasters imagining that grapes had somehow mutated into other fruits when no one was looking.

For more along the lines of this discussion, I ecourage you to consult the excellent article On Wine Bullshit from the Journal of Wine Economics. Of particular interest is the part where they write a computer program to generate fermented grape reviews using common terms, and compare them to real reviews. (As expected, they are pretty much indistinguishable.)

I'm not saying there aren't subtle differences between different types of fermented grapes from different locations, year, etc, I'm just saying that these subtle differences DO NOT MAKE A LICK OF DIFFERENCE IN YOUR ENJOYMENT OF THE FERMENTED GRAPES. Sure, there are some cheap fermented grapes that make you grimace or give terrible headaches, and feel free to avoid them. But other then that, it's pretty much impossible to make an objective judgment of quality. Of course the fermented grape industry would love to convince you that their expensive fermentations have special qualities that are somehow better than other ones.

Perfection in a Bottle

But if you're set on getting brainwashed into thinking certain types of fermented grapes are better than others, please do it the right way. Just do your best to convince yourself that the common qualities of cheap ones are distinctive, unique, and special. For instance, I have convinced myself that the perfect blend of fermented grapes is none other than the delicious Two Buck Chuck. I mean, it just doesn't get much better than that in my book.

But in case Two Buck Chuck doesn't exist in your area, let me try to introduce my own simplified system for judging fermented grapes.

1. Alcohol Content. Do the fermented grapes contain alcohol? If not, you are drinking grape juice. Go back to the store look in the booze aisle.

2. Taste. Does taking a sip of the fermented grapes make you grimace? Does it sorta make you want to wretch? If not, it tastes fine.

3. Price. Did you pay more then five bucks for the bottle? If so, you lose.

See, isn't that a lot easier?

And just in case you need more inspiration, check out this hilarious New York Times article which talks about how a panel of 'experts' was assembled to figure out whether or not South African fermented grapes tasted like 'burnt rubber' just because some 'expert' said it did.

Monday 20 July 2009

Tight Fist Tip #16: Cut Down On Bathroom Supplies

Bathroom or Chemistry Lab?

(This is part 2 in the 'Stop Buying Crap You Don't Need' series.)

A great strategy by marketers is to somehow convince the general population that some crap they invented should now be considered a necessity of modern life, as opposed to some sort of vain luxury. And there is possibly no sphere where this strategy has been more successful than in your bathroom, which is routinely stocked with tons of basically useless (or at least unnecessary) products that you simply buy out of habit.

As far as I'm concerned, you need three items in your bathroom: toothpaste, toothbrush, and a bar of soap. (If you're the shaving type I guess you can have a razor, but being hairy is cheaper.) Here is a list of other things you may find in a bathroom that are are serving no other purpose than enabling a Proctor and Gamble executive to buy a second yacht:

1. Shampoo. Newsflash: It's just liquid soap, in a different bottle. Try washing your hair with normal soap- it will still be clean.

2. Conditioner. According to various commercials conditioner is supposed to suddenly make you look like a supermodel and make everyone around you want to make out with you. I've tried this stuff before, and no hot chicks have ever tried to make out with me as a result. As far as I can tell, it does nothing.

3. Face Wash. Have you ever seen one of those commercials where some ditzy chick looks into the camera and says something like "Would you use the same soap on your face as blah blah blah?" Well ditzy chick, yes, as last I checked my face is made of skin, just like my whole body. True story: once when I was a teenager I asked a dermatologist about acne and told him I was using a Clearasil Facewash. He just laughed at me and told me to wash my face with soap.

Save the Shaving Cream for
More Important Tasks

4. Lotion. Last time I checked, our skin produces oils that keep it at the proper level of moisturization. I'm convinced that lotion users are kind of like crack addicts. If you had never used lotion, you wouldn't think that normal skin was bad at all. But once you started using lotion, you start thinking that your skin is all dry and just need more and more and MORE! (A note to my fellow burn survivors: If you got skin grafts, which kills your pores, you get an exemption.)

And just in case you think I'm picking on the ladies,

5. Shaving Cream. Go ahead, try shaving with just soap and water. Miraculously, it still works.

6. After Shave. This is the supreme leader of useless bathroom crap. While supposedly a disinfectant, you can just wash your face instead. Or just do nothing. Note that, similar to conditioner, aftershave will not cause hot chicks to start making out with you.

Ok, he gets an exemption

7. Deodorant. Do you stink? Well, if so maybe this is ok. But a lot of people just use deodorant unscrupulously- you may as well try cutting it out and see if you start losing friends.

8. Hair Gel. Newsflash: Dudes, hair gel just makes you look like a douchebag.

And finally, can I remind everyone in the audience that you should never buy bathroom products that are advertised as containing food products. Since when is it suddenly cool to spread food all over your body? For instance, while writing this post I saw an advertisement for some hair crap with 'apricot and avocado micro-oils'. Apricot and Avodaco? Isn't that going to attract a pack of locusts or something? I'm pretty sure that apricot and avodcado are the type of thing you want to keep out of your hair, as oppposed to lather into it! And what the hell is a micro-oil? A small oil?

By the way, you can get three bars of soap for like a dollar.

Friday 17 July 2009

Tight Fist Tip #15: Surviving Restaurants

He Won't Be Smiling When He Sees The Bill

As any good Tight Fister knows, it is imperative to avoid restaurants at all costs; especially those high class establishments with crazy bells and whistles like 'table service'. But unfortunately, we all sometimes find ourselves in an unavoidable restaurant situation. For instance, say you are out of food and your local grocery store has been firebombed by Martians, or you have been kidnapped by mentally unstable Zagat-huggers. Or maybe you're just vainly (stupidly) trying to impress some spendy member of the opposite sex.

But fear not, The Tight Fist is here to help you through this difficult situation with my step-by-step restaurant survival guide.

1. Ordering drinks. The first thing that fancy waiter-having restaurants will do is ask you what you want to drink. There is only one answer: TAP WATER. This sounds easy, but waiters love to be sneaky and bring bottled water if you don't specifically insist on tap. If you were hoping to get drunk but arrive at the restaurant sober, you've already screwed up, so don't even bother ordering booze. (See Tip #3 for more details.) And if you are ever at a restaurant where they won't give you tap water, MAKE A SCENE AND WALK OUT! That crap is unacceptable.

2. Appetizers. Right, as if the food wasn't expensive enough, you want to add an extra seven bucks to the bill on some tiny plate that won't even dent your appetite. What, are you made of money? Instead, just eat...

3. Bread. This is the one savior of Tight Fisters everywhere. Make sure you go to restaurants that serve decent bread, and fill up! And don't be embarrassed to ask for an extra basket, even if some snooty waiter gives you a dirty look. As a side note, if you live in one of those terrible countries (Austria, for instance), where they have the gall to put bread on your table then FREAKING CHARGE YOU FOR EVERY PIECE YOU EAT, this is completely out of line. I would recommend a revolution.

You would think that in a fancy restaurant
at these prices you could keep the snails off the food!
There are so many snails there you can't even see the food!

4. The main course. As this is the only thing you will spend money on, you need to think carefully. Since you now know how to cook, it would of course be absolutely moronic to order anything you could cook at home. Instead, you may as well use the opportunity to order something that would be impossible (or at least extremely difficult) to make a home. For instance, the dumbest thing to order in a restaurant is a steak, as it is easy as hell to cook at home. (Step 1: Put in Hot Pan. Step 2: Flip. Step 3: Eat.) If the Tight Fisters ever took over the world, we would immediately bankrupt all steak houses. Instead, order things that need to be cooked in crazy contraptions (tandoori oven, deep fryer, etc), are freaking frustrating to make (pie), or require crazy ingredients (kangaroo burger?)

Another thing to consider is that some food items have economies of scale, ie the food is difficult to make, but can be made in really big batches. Since it may not make sense for you to do this at home, it is justifiable to order it at a restaurant. For instance, things like lasagna or gumbo are good bets in this category.

5. Dessert. What, you want to be fat AND poor?

6. Paying the Bill. Date a Tight Fister and go Dutch!

Now that wasn't so bad after all, eh?

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Tight Fist Tip #14: Don't Buy New Furniture

Cheap Young Antique!
(Young Human Not Included)

There's a lot of overpriced crap out there, but the furniture prices are really in a league of their own. For instance, a couch is basically a few beams of wood, some springs, and a few cushions, yet can sell for thousands of dollars. I mean, what the hell? But even I am not hard-core enough to advise ditching furniture altogether and start sitting on the floor, so what is one to do?

Well let's start with a simple rule: DO NOT EVER BUY NEW FURNITURE. You see, the most annoying thing about furniture is that it is hard as hell to move around, and this is what creates an opening for Tight Fisters. Since moving furniture is difficult and people are incomprehensibly lazy, there is always tons of awesome, cheap furniture around as long as you can go pick it up! Just check out Craigslist, Gumtree, or whatever, and you can stock up. Only people who hate their money buy new furniture.

IKEA makes me feel so manly

But what about amazing big-box furniture stores like IKEA? Aren't they perfect for the budget-conscious? I mean, the prices are supposed to be like, totally amazing! Well here's some advice: JUST BECAUSE YOU PUT IT TOGETHER YOURSELF DOES NOT MEAN IT WAS CHEAP! Instead, you just got ripped off AND lost a day of your life trying to fit round pegs into square holes. I mean, IKEA wouldn't look like a good deal if other places weren't off-the-charts expensive. Being happy with saving money at IKEA is like being thrilled that you scored with the skinniest girl at fat camp.

Finally, let's address the complaint: But won't old, used furniture be crappy and just fall apart? I'd say that all you need is an attitude adjustment, which can be produced with some Madison Avenue wizardy. Next time you are at a garage sale, remember that all pieces of furniture there are simply 'Young Antiques'. As much as snooty morons like paying big bucks for new furniture, they simply love paying insane prices for really, really, old furniture. So really, by buying Young Antiques you're totally outclassing those IKEA losers.

Take that, snooty Swedes.

Tight Fist Tip #13: Beware Needless French Translation

Bar House?

Normally, if you are in the US or some other English-speaking country, you expect most text you encounter to be in English, even if it is talking about some foreign item. For instance, if you go shopping for furniture at Swedish IKEA (which by the way, The Tightfist does not approve), you expect to find signs for beds, shelves, and tables, not sängar, bokhyllor, and tabeller. And if I go to a Greek restaurant for some chicken, I expect to find 'Chicken' on the menu, not freaking κοτόπουλο. I know that this doesn't hold in some immigrant neighborhoods for valid reasons, but that's beside the point.

However, walk around any fancy neighborhood and you are likely to be bombarded with strange, completely unnecessary French translations of all kinds of things. We all know how much the French are obsessed with their own language to the point where they feel other tongues are equivalent to monkeys screeching, but that is not what is going on here. It's not like swarms of wealthy Parisians have invaded all the wealthy enclaves of America to set up their 'bistros' and 'boulangeries'.

No, instead sneaky business owners have discovered some subconscious element of the Anglophone brain that associates hearing French with a rampant desire to throw all of their money away. But come on people, JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS TRANSLATED INTO FRENCH DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD PAY MORE FOR IT. In fact, when you see random French words completely unnecessarily thrust onto a store name or menu iteam, you should be extremely suspicious.

Maître D' Takin' Yo Money

Now, I don't speak a lick of French so I'm not in a great position to give examples. But fortunately, my fellow Tight Fister Jake Cooper (who posts as 'Jake' on this blog) has offered to help with some friendly translation. Here we go:

1. In English, "a la carte" means "I hope you already ate, 'cause this ain't coming with any sides or anything." So there's really no reason to bother with a translation, but I will, just because it's so mind-boggling. "A" means "on." And "la carte" means "the menu." Dead serious.

2. Hors d'oeuvres means appetizer, but you have to pay extra for the spell-check.

3. Maitre D isn't even sensical. It means "master of." Master of WHAT?

4. When you see "aubergine" and think it's some exotic French counterpart to the eggplant, you're half right. It is French. It means "eggplant."

5. Soup du jour? Why is this in a conspicuously different language than the rest of the menu, did it get lost? And why is it $6.95 for a cup of friggin' soup? No shit it's soup of the day!

Thanks Coop.