Sunday 30 August 2009

Ask The Tight Fist: Splurging on Sushi

Just One Piece, Just One Paycheck

Dear The Tight Fist,

The recent comment by Anonymous on your "Group Dinners" column talked about tapas, stating "Also, it seems like the Tight Fist should take a stand against tapas, if he hasn't already. Now that's a good way to empty your wallet while staying hungry!"

This made me think of delicious, delicious sushi. No matter how much I eat, I'm always hungry afterward, and my wallet is left empty! How do I reconcile my desire for this awesome-tasting dining choice without breaking the bank? Does this fall into the category of stuff that truly is worth it, even if it is a bit expensive, and hence one of the ultimate reasons for tight-fisting in the first place?

Keep in mind that the The TightFist once treated yours truly to the most expensive sushi dinner he's ever had...


Dear Nat,

Come on, don't be such a cheapskate! Feel free to treat yourself to delicious, expensive, unfilling delicacies like tapas and sushi whenver you'd like. I mean, you only live once. Who needs to be full? Spoil yourself!

There you go Nat, is that what you were hoping to hear? What's next, do you want my encouragement that it's ok to splurge on 50-yr old scotch? Or would you like my advice on the best bling to put in your new grill?

Have you been ignoring my advice all these months? Because if you had been listening, you'd know that this crap doesn't fly. The following quote pretty much sums it up: "No matter how much I eat, I'm always hungry afterward, and my wallet is empty." Look Nat, next time you feel like being hungry after dinner, why don't you just skip the part where you blow your paycheck? Last time I checked, starving yourself is still usually free. And if you're really desperate to part with some cash, you can always contribute to the worthy Tight Fist Foundation. (Donations accepted via PayPal at Moral of the story: eating is supposed to make you full, and any eating style that doesn't accomplish this basic task needs to get dumped from the routine.

And for those of you who are thinking, "But I love sushi, and I can afford it," THEN WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING AT THIS BLOG? You are obviously either too rich or too dense for frugality lessons.

Desperate To Get Full Off Of Sushi,
Big Jonny Had To Sell A Kidney

But ok buddy, I'm not going to leave you hanging. The obvious answer, which has of course already been covered before, is just to make the sushi yourself. While I know sushi is probably a bit different than what you'd normally cook, let's be honest here: it is just a piece of raw fish plopped on some rice. I'm pretty sure you can handle that. Sure you have to buy expensive sushi-grade fish, but overall it's going to be way cheaper than a restaurant (and you may even stand a chance of getting full.)

But my personal strategy for enjoying sushi? Get someone else to pay for it! Yes, every now and then we all get the opportunity to have a nice meal on someone else's dime. Think business expense accounts, someone owing you a meal, parents taking you out, etc. Every time one of these opportunities comes up I have one thought: delicious, delicious sushi.

So Nat, you made a smart move opting for sushi when some poor sap (me) owed you a nice meal. But aside from that, steer clear.

Have problems with frugality? Ask The Tight Fist at Don't be shy.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Tight Fist Tip #21: Avoid The Soda Upsell

I Love Overpriced High Fructose Corn Syrup Water!

While the ultimate liquid sin still has to be purchasing bottled water, drinking coke and other carbonated beverages can't come too far behind. Sure we know a Coca-Cola habit is going to keep you poor, but with the added bonus of making you a fat drug addict with rotten teeth, how could you resist?

But ok, soda (and other sugared beverages) are just one of many unhealthy, unnecessary products that you could waste your money on. So why pick on them specifically?

Well, the really disgusting thing about soda is how it is so ridiulously cheap to produce, and therefore such an incredible profit driver for restaurants. Now, as an economist I have been trained that trying to assess a product's value by looking at its production cost is silly and meaningless, but I'm going to do it anyway. Let's take a look at how selling a fountain soda works out for a fast food place. They have a machine that takes water, carbon dioxide, and syrup and turns it into soda. Water is virtually free, a single CO2 tank is cheap and lasts weeks, so what about that secret-formula Coca Cola syrup? Well according to a recent book reported on by Newsweek, basically nothing! (Ok, it is $.000052 per coke.) And sold at $1.50, who could resist such a bargain? While I know there are probably some distribution costs, etc, the raw fact of that matter is that the input cost of a soda for a restaurant is basically zero.

There are some other great anecdotes at this guy's blog, but the main point is that selling sodas are the main profit driver at many restaurants. My favorite quote, which I totally agree with: "McDonalds is the most elaborate Coca Cola sales operation on the planet, and exists pretty much to sell coke." (Taken from an obviously-reliable poster called 'TheBlueberryPirate')

But as sick as this situation is, it actually creates amazing opportunities for Tight Fists everywhere. Since sodas are such an amazing profit driver for fast food restaurants, they frequently offer steep discounts on food in the hope that this will get customers in the door to buy Cokes. Yes, the 99 cent menus and Sub of the Days are basically Coke promotions, and potentially are loss-making in themselves. But of course, you would have to be A TOTAL MORON to fall for this trick. The Tight Fisters are smart enough to see through the old bait and switch, and instead drink crisp, cool, free water.

So next time you go into McDonald's, order two 99 cent double cheeseburgers and a water. Then sit back and imagine the CEO trashing his office out of rage since you saw through his evil plan. The Tight Fist wins again!

Ask The Tight Fist: Group Dinners

Team Tight Fist? You Had Better Hope.

Dear Tight Fist,

The team, including my ride, decides to go to a post-tournament dinner on Sunday. At a brewpub. The cheapest thing on the menu is an $11 burger. Before we even sit down, a teammate sets the tone by ordering four $18 pitchers and three $9 appetizers "for the table." What do I do?

-Frugal Teammate

Dear Frugal Teammate-

This is seriously a nightmare situation that is going to require some deep plays from the Tight Fist playbook. There is nothing more frustrating than being forced into outrageous purchases made by some idiot just because that bastard 'assumed' that you also love to throw all your money away.

First things first- you need to get away from that hellish $99 bill. The only way to do this? Get the hell out of there...sneakily. Everyone will just assume that you are going to the bathroom, but you really will be jetting out of the restaurant and finding some reasonably-priced carry-out place. Then you just come back to the restaurant with your food and tell your friends you had an deep unavoidable urge for Subway or McDonald's or whatever. Bill avoided!

And if the waiter gives you crap about bringing in your own food, I would suggest the 'start a scene approach'. One idea: Fake allergy! "Sir, I am deathly allergic to polysorbontic compounds. Can you guarantee that all your food is polysorbontic free? I didn't think so. So if I eat your food I could die. Do you want me to die? Now get the hell out of here." Make sure to be loud and disturb other customers, so the waiter will just want to do anything necessary to shut you up. Done and done.

Hey, What Asshole Ordered
The Faberge Omelette?

But what if there are no other food options nearby, and you don't have the willpower to sit there and consume nothing? Well, then you have to make the eternal choice: food or booze. This should be a no brainer, as we all know that ordering food and booze simultaneously is moronic. Pick one and join in, but make sure it is publicly known that you are not consuming the other (and therefore not responsible for that part of the bill.) Some example excuses for why you're not eating:
  • "I only eat my food in bar form"
  • "I have an eating disorder"
  • "I have explosive diarrhea"
  • "I'm trying to starve my parasite"
And why aren't you drinking?
  • "God hates booze"
  • "I have only one kidney"
  • "I am worried I will try to make out with you"
  • "I'm an alcoholic"
  • "Because of my happy pills"
As for your 'friend', you need to make sure you return the favor by putting him in an awkward situation where he is obliged to spend money against his will. I would suggest the good old 'order pizza for delivery to his house trick'. Every week.

Have problems with frugality? Ask The Tight Fist at Don't be shy.

Friday 21 August 2009

The Tight Fist Engagement Proposal

This Big Ring Means He'll Never Leave Me!

As mentioned in the previous post, Tight Fisted men who are hoping to get engaged are in a bit of a conundrum. While they know that dropping a bazillion dollars on a shiny rock is completely idiotic, they know that their fiance-to-be has been brainwashed into thinking that serious proposals must come with a fancy ring.

Let's take a second to drive home the seriousness of the brainwashing drivel that gets pounded into young girls' heads from the moment they hold their first doll wedding. I present a quote from Jef Van Royen, a senior scientist at the Diamond High Council, the official representative of the diamond industry in Belgium. He says "If people really love each other, then they give each other the real stone. It is not a symbol of eternal love if it is something that was created last week." So, that pretty much sums it up- love is officially only valid if it comes wrapped in a huge, extravagant purchase. And I mean, if you can't trust the Diamond High Council, who can you trust?

So what can the poor tight-fisted lovers do? Well, there are two straightforward solutions. If The Tight Fist had his way all the men in the world would sign a pact refusing to ever marry any girl who requested a diamond ring, which would jolt a bit of reason into a generation of females. Unfortunately, I fear that this would probably be unsustainable, as I have witnessed the most reasonable men among us break down when it comes to engagement. Even easier would be for the Tight Fisted men to just find a sensible girl who doesn't care about having a bank-breaking ring. But of course, this is easier said than done, since even if the girl has nice intentions she will still be subjected to years of catty whispering about how she has the cheap husband who wouldn't even shell out for the real ring. And finding a girl who is ok with that is pretty tough.

Those are the sensible solutions. But since the sensible solutions won't work, I'm going to propose an economist's solution instead (because of course those always work.)

OMG! I Didn't Know He
Loved You 5 Carats!

In order to come up with better solution we need to analyze the psychology that drives couples towards stupidly expensive gems. First of all, the man wants to show that he is serious and committed about the whole marriage thing, and sends a signal by wasting a ton of money. (In economics, we would call this signaling by ‘money burning’.) Second, the woman needs to be able to re-transmit this signal so that she can show to all her catty friends that her fiance loves her carats and carats above their stupid boyfriends. I'm going to work under the assumption that these two elements are crucial, non-negotiable facets of engagement in our society.

Since the money burning signal is a central part of the equation, it is inevitable the the man is going to have to spend some money. But he certainly does not have to hand over this money to greedy, evil DeBeers. Instead, what if he gave it to his fiance's favorite charity, and the amount of money he gave was coded onto the ring? For instance, let's say there was a standard that each carat of cubic zirconium (or maybe some more specific subset of fake diamonds) equaled a $1,000 donation to charity. Then, the size of the ring would still demonstrate how deep was the man's love, and this signal would still be easy to show off to all the wife's catty girlfriends.

How could this be implemented? Well first there would have to be a selection of a certain type of beautiful-yet-cheap gem that would be generally recognized as being tied to donations. Next, charities could provide special certificates for engagement donations that could provide 'proof' of the donation. Reputable jewelers would need to see this certificate before they produced a ring with the special stone. While there would be some scope for cheating, there is no reason to think it would be more widespread under this system than in the current one. (A sneaky husband can always try to pass off a fake diamond as a real one, but I would guess this is rare.)

And what if the bride-to-be doesn't have a favorite charity? Well, then the husband could always just donate to the default option: The Tight Fist Foundation, a truly angelic organization committed to ending the scourge of money wasting.

In the end, however, such a scheme will only work if women sign up for it and let their potential fiances know that they expect a 'Modern Engagement'. Are there women out there courageous enough to be trendsetters? Ladies, who's on board?

Sunday 16 August 2009

Tight Fist Tip #20: Don't Buy Diamonds

Bling Bling!

Let’s say that an evil, gigantic corporation decided one day to buy up all the supplies and sources of a relatively pretty and relatively uncommon rock such as turquoise. Now that they had cornered the market for turquoise, they could sell it for any price they felt like, as long as they could find buyers. But while we all know that idiots love to shell out tons of cash for shiny, useless things, they certainly weren’t going to pay hundreds of dollars for a tiny grain of turquoise. So what is an evil corporation to do?

Hey, here’s an idea- what if they launch a sophisticated decades-long marketing campaign exploiting the most sensitive of human emotions: love. If they could somehow just convince people that buying turquoise was the only way to find true love, then people would pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars for the opportunity!

Oh that’s impossible, you say! People are way too savvy to be tricked by the relentless marketing of a gigantic company! If you really think that, I certainly hope that you have been living in a cave your entire life, because otherwise I would be tempted to call you an ignorant moron. Don't forget that there are millions of idiots out there just desperate to waste their money, and they are thrilled when society gives them an excuse to do so.

Sweetheart, I have some bad news:
He doesn't really love you

Still unconvinced? Well, for the especially slow members of the audience, this is of course more or less the story of how DeBeers has manipulated the diamond industry for decades. Let’s just get straight about one fact: there is absolutely nothing special about diamonds or other ‘rare’ gems. Sure, diamonds are pretty hard but last time I checked most people don’t try cutting through steel with their engagement rings. Diamonds are only expensive because diamond cartels restrict supply while somehow convincing wives to be everywhere that their suitor is not serious unless they fork out three months’ paycheck on a rock.

Let me guess: you think that people (brides to be included) just want pretty jewlery, and fancy gems are the only way they can be really, really incredibly good-looking? Wait, have you been living in a cave as well? Because here in the real world you have to be a professional jeweler with fancy magnifying glasses and years of training to tell the difference between real gems and fake ones. And why do jewelers need fancy magnifying glasses and years of training to real gems and cheap knock-offs? BECAUSE THEY FREAKING LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME!

This is especially clear in the case of synthetic diamonds. Relatively recently, labs became able to produce synthetic diamonds that are chemically equivalent to real ones. Jewelers had no way to tell the difference between mined and synthetic diamonds, and DeBeers began to freak out. So DeBeers invented a machine that they give away to jewelers that can tell the two apart. See, the problem is that synthetic diamonds are too perfect, and their complete lack of imperfections gives them away. So of course DeBeers was able to convince jewelers that these weren't 'real' diamonds and therefore don't express 'real' love, so the 'real' ones still have a price premium. Ugh.

But let's be honest: not many men out there, especially if love has made them loopy in the head, are going to risk screwing up their engagement just to make a point. But I'm convinced we don't have to stand for it; I'll tackle this subject in The Tight Fist Engagement Proposal, coming out shortly.

The Tight Fist - Blogged

Friday 14 August 2009

Ask The Tight Fist: Man Accessories

Personal Question: Does this tie make me look cool?

Dear The Tight Fist,

Society keeps telling me that I need to accessorize my"business" attire with ludicrously impractical things like a "tie", "belt", and even "underpants". What do I tell society?

Miserly yours,
The Traveler

Dear Traveler,

If everyone in your office wore diamond-encrusted pendants, would you do it too? If they wiped their asses with hundred dollar bills would you be tempted to comply? Unfortunately I fear you would, as there is something about office life that sucks away all individuality. But Traveler, I think it’s about time you grew a pair. Just because everyone else in the office is blowing a chunk of their paycheck on vestigial man-accessories does not mean it is necessary, or even vaguely justified for you to do so as well. Let’s take a look at some specific examples:

Ties: I am still baffled how tying a colored noose around your neck ever became the norm of formal attire, but this is truly unacceptable. The sad thing is that, in almost all circumstances, a tie isn’t actually required; people just wear it because everyone else wears them. So stop being such a sissy follower and drop the noose.

Perfect way to say
"I don't love you"

Belts: Last time I checked, unless you bought a pair of pants three sizes too big, they aren’t going to spontaneously fall off. So does this mean that all the businessmen of the world are too dumb to buy pants that fit? Or maybe they are all competing in cut-throat intra-office ‘Biggest Loser’ competitions? While I wouldn’t put it past them, this is not the case. Instead, they are once again just trying to fit in with the crowd.

Cufflinks: Wait, you always have the latest Crackberry, but you find modern button technology unintelligible? Give me a break.

Underwear: Well, sorry to break it to you but underpants are actaully a Tight Fist's friend. See, if you wear underwear then you can get away with wearing one pair of pants over and over. But if you wear both new underwear and new pants every day, you are just being moronic.

Unless you work for some ridiculously prissy company, you are not going to be fired for bending fashion norms. So just drop the accessories- no one will even notice.

On a related note, just remember that buying a man a tie for a present is the perfect way to say ‘While I was obliged to buy you a present, I really don’t give a crap about you at all.’

Have problems with frugality? Ask The Tight Fist at

Tuesday 11 August 2009

The Tight Fist Manifesto

Tight Fists of the World, Unite!

The Tight Fist is dedicated to giving its readers impeccable advice on how to live frugally and save money. However, it has been brought to my attention that some of you poor souls out there simply don't understand why this is important. Why is living frugally beneficial? Why shouldn't you just spend all your money when you have it? Isn't living paycheck to paycheck in constant debt totally awesome?

In answers to these and many more questions, I present my Raison d'ĂȘtre, The Tight Fist Manifesto.


A spectre is haunting the world-- the spectre of wasting money. Throughout the western world, people have never had more outlets in which to waste their money, and it has become an addiction. At first it felt good; it was just for fun, to let loose and relax. But then it became a habit, a way of life. You no longer thought about whether you were making smart purchases- that would only hold you back. You thought that by spending freely you would be able remove the shackles of constantly worrying about money, but instead you lost yourself in the myth that you could buy yourself happiness.

The Tight Fist is here to shatter the myth, and to help the good citizens of the world take back their purchasing decisions. The Tight Fist is here to show you that the key to financial ease and security is not to be found by joining the rat race and trying to strike it rich, but is accessible to everyone, regardless of wealth.

Do you have a steady income? Are you always broke? If the answer to the following two questions is 'Yes', THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU. Let me guess, every day you start with your Starbucks, grab a $10 sandwich with your colleagues, and slip in a drink after work. Yet when it comes down to doing something awesome like spending a week in Mexico or seeing that band that you've been air-guitarring to since you were seven, you are suddenly broke. The problem is that since you spend all of your money on stupid crap that you don't really need and don't take the time to think about how you spend your money, you rob yourself of the opportunity to do truly awesome things with your life.

Release the Chains!

The Tight Fist hopes to teach you the ways of the Jew through two core principles:

1. Do not buy crap you don't need- And especially beware the trickery of branding and advertising that make you think you need useless, unnecessary crap.

2. Always think before you spend your money- Before you buy those Louis Vutton sock liners, just think for a second whether this purchase is the best use of your hard-earned cash. A little thought can go a long way.

Everyone longs to never again have to stress about money. Many people think that by living as a Tight Fist, this means constantly worrying about money, but they are mistaken. Only by constantly thinking about your spending can you make all your monetary worries vanish.

A Tight Fist always has money to spend and never goes broke. A Tight Fist is never in debt. A Tight Fist is never longing the things they can't afford because they see through all the advertising and consumer mentality BS. A Tight Fist has been freed from the shackles of money, and is truly content.

Sound appealing? Tight Fisters of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your poverty.

Ask The Tight Fist: New Feature

Do you have problems keeping your money from flying out of your wallet? Do you think that your life is somehow so special that if would be IMPOSSIBLE to live frugally? Are you starting to think all is hopeless? Well never fear, because The Tight Fist is launching a new feature where I will answer all of your queries, solve all your problems, and make you rich and better-looking overnight. Guaranteed!**

Here are some tips to increase your chances of your question getting published:

1. Try to keep it somewhat narrow and specific, so that it can be answered quickly. I offer no guarantee that I won't take a more general question and simply turn it into a Tight Fist Tip.

2. Make it interesting and funny.

3. Slay all my other readers so that I only receive your questions. But then getting your question answered won't really stoke your puny ego since no one will be around to read it.

Direct all queries to I look forward to hearing from you.

As long as I'm making an administrative post, I may as well mention a few other things.

1. Shameless Self-Promotion. Although The Tight Fist has a great core of readers, there are so many people out there still wasting their money, in desperate need of Tight Fist advice. So feel free to let your friends, family, etc know about the blog. Also, if you are the type who posts to Digg, Stumbleupon, etc, please feel free to submit the site if you see a post you like. In fact, there is a little button in the upper-right hand corner of the blog designed exactly for this purpose that I think has been used like once ever.

2. Feeds. Just so you know, you can subscribe to The Tight Fist in any reader by using the feed links in the bottom right. Also, I now have a new box that allows you to subscribe via email, so all new posts will get delivered to your inbox. More spam! Yay! For more info on the feed, you can see my feedburner page at

3. Comments. In case anyone hasn't realized, you can comment on any post by clicking the 'comments' link on the bottom. You don't need to sign in or anything if you don't want, so the annoyance factor is pretty low. Commenting is fun!

Hope everyone is enjoying themselves, and I promise more posts soon.

**Note, this is not a guarantee.