Monday 28 September 2009

Tight Fist Tip #25: Don't Buy Nice Things

Seals In The Couchy Freshness, And Keeps Out The Grandma!

As much as we all hate it, sometimes you just need to buy stuff. Maybe there are better Tight Fisters than me out there who are willing to sit on their kitchen floor to eat dinner and jog seven miles each way to work, but you have to draw the line somewhere. So, when you have to buy some annoying material item (like say, a kitchen table or a bicycle), you have to a bunch of choices. But the central choice I'm going to talk about is this: do you buy the more expensive nice one or the cheap crappy one?

So, loyal Tight Fisters, what do you think the answer is? Well, if you said the expensive one take a deep breath then punch yourself in the face. Yes, you know you deserve it. But I can just hear you snickering "Oh wow, The Tight Fist told us to buy cheap stuff. Freaking revolutionary." But OK Mr. Snickerpuss, I hear you, but you haven't heard the rest of the argument.

See, buying cheap stuff isn't always obvious. For instance, sometimes you could make the argument that your expensive table will last longer and therefore justify its higher cost in the long run. Or you may say that your cheap bike will break so much that it won't really be of much use. These are decent arguments in certain circumstances, but in the end they are missing the central point. The point is not only that you save money by buying cheap stuff, but that you are also avoiding a life filled with stress and worry about stupid crap. Double score!

You see, when you buy some expensive odd or end, you immediately feel the need to protect your investment, resulting in ridiculous devotion to preserving your physical possessions at the cost of enjoying your life. Pretty soon, you ecome all emotionally attached to your stupid crap and it becomes a great excuse to do something that all big spenders love: STRESS OUT!!! 'Oh my god I can't park my car here! It might get keyed!' 'Holy Crap I Spilled Two Buck Chuck all Over My Versace Dress!" 'My Marge Simpson Hairdo Got Pissed On!' And so forth.

Ferris, he never drives it!
He just rubs it with a diaper!

As always, let's illustrate the point with a few examples:

1. Tables: Last time I checked, the point of a table is to put stuff on, and one of the things that is really convenient to put on a table is a nice cold drink. Wouldn't it be totally ridiculous if someone developed a table that would get completely ruined by placing a drink on it? Yes it would, but for some reason lovers of expensive tables seem to think that it is justified to use a table so expensive and crappy that you need to have a buffer between it and the drink. Just to be clear, if you ever purchase a table that you need to use a coaster on, YOU ARE A COMPLETE IDIOT! Plus you then become one of those annoying people who is always yelling at their guests for not using coasters, and your friends will all hate you.

2. Dishes: When you grew up, did your family have a whole freaking set of 'Nice Dishes' that were far too good for normal use? Because maybe by using them one may spontaneously explode, sending shrapnel everywhere? And even more comically, you probably couldn't put these dishes in the dishwasher because their incredible awesomeness was too much for the poor machine to handle? Seriously, buying something so 'nice' that you can hardly ever use it is just painfully stupid.

3. Bicycles: As seen in an earlier post, I certainly do support buying a bicycle. But remember people, the point of a bicycle is to get places. And when you get to said places, you need to be able to lock up your bike. And you know what thieves love? Expensive bikes! (Though remember, they hate checks.) So a good rule of thumb: if you are too freaked out to lock up your bike anywhere you might want to go, then you have bought a bike that is too stupidly expensive.

4. Rugs: Rugs are made to be walked on, and peoples' feet are dirty. What, do you expect them to levitate across your house? Also, there is a very good possibility it will get pissed on by a Chinaman.

I think that's enough for now. The main point is that if you are not emotionally attached to anything you own, then when it gets broken/stolen/lost/pissed on, you just don't care. Now if that isn't a liberating lifestyle change, I don't know what is.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Tight Fist Tip #24: Ditch the Fancy Hotels

After The Party It's The Hotel Lobby

Welcome to the first of what will be a (non-successive) series of articles on traveling. To get things kicked off, I'm going to start with the most painfully stupid waste of money while traveling: the hotel. Sure you need a roof over your head, but the prices people pay to stay in these soulless boxes make me want to cry.

I understand that for many out there, you just assume that a hotel is part of the cost of traveling. For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to figure out when a hotel is really worth it, or if you are just being duped by the shininess of the lobby. So therefore, I'm going to prepare the 'Is Your Hotel A Waste of Money?' checklist. When you are evaluating a hotel, go through the following questionnaire, scoring one point for each time your hotel fails.

1. Is your hotel officially called a hotel?If so, get the hell out of there. Almost all the time, the word 'hotel' is just a code-name for 'you are getting ripped off'. While it varies a bit country by country, the words 'hostel', 'motel', 'train station', etc generally mean a place is a better deal. But what justifies the hotel to charge such outrageous prices? Well, first of all, they tend to offer the following useless features.

Still Missing The Free Conditioner?

2. Does your hotel offer the following perks (one point for each): wake-up call, mini-soaps, daily cleaning? Are you some type of luddite that does not own a watch or cellphone? Do you find it impossible to remember basic toiletries when you travel? Are you used to your personal maid cleaning your house every day? If so, then by all means pay $50 extra dollars a night for a fancy hotel. But for normal people, these bells and whistles are just another excuse to part with your hard-earned money.
3. Do you have your own bathroom attached to your room? What, did you fail kindergarten? Did you grow up in some mansion where each person had their own bathroom? Are you really too lazy to walk three minutes down the hallway to use the bathroom? Having a private bathroom is possibly the most baffling excuse that hotel owners use to drive up prices, and that it works boils my blood.
4. Are you the only one in the room? I know there are some people out there who just hate others, but you really need to get over it. Anyone who is traveling alone needs to find a hostel with shared rooms, because booking your own room in a hotel is akin to burning money. If you're traveling in a group, you can re-create this effect by packing a ton of people in a room. For ultimate savings, I recommend the classic 'sneak 10 people into a double room' approach.
5. Is there a chandelier in the lobby? This was a trick question. Dock yourself two points if your hotel even has a lobby.

Sorry Hon, You're Going to Need
More Than That

Now, let's count up your points:
0: Score! Way to travel like a Tight Fist.
1-2: Not bad, but you really need to steal like 12 of those mini-soaps to make up for it.
3-5: Steal all the mini-soaps and towels you want, you're not going to recoup your investment. You'd better grab the chandelier from the lobby.
6+: Either you are on a corporate expense account, or far too rich to be reading this blog.

All this is pretty standard money-saving advice, but what really irks me about hotels is that a lot of the time, the more you pay the crappier your experience will be. At a quirky hostel you're likely not only to meet interesting people, but get friendly service, free breakfast, free wifi, etc. But fancy hotels are about the most sterile places on earth- completely devoid of personality. And also, the more you pay for your room the more likely you are going to have to pay ridiculous amounts for other services like internet, breakfast, etc. Who the hell would agree to that?

But the real Tight Fist score while traveling is to avoid the hotel charge completely and find a couch to crash on. Just make sure to reciprocate by opening up your living room as well- being Tight Fisted doesn't mean you get to be a jerk.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Ask The Tight Fist: Avoiding and Evading Taxes

Dear Tight Fist,

The single biggest chunck that comes out of my paycheck every month is taxes. Instead of teaching me how to look and feel like a hungry moron riding his bike around in cheap pants with a roll of homemade sushi, how about some tax advice on how to beggar state and federal governments by setting up some offshore accounts 'n' shit?


Horatio L Wigglesworth

What do I look like, an accountant? But OK Mr. Wigglesworth, I'm going to help you out anyway. First of all, with a name like 'Horatio L. Wigglesworth' I'm going to assume that you come from some snooty old money family, because only rich snobs would be audacious enough to name a child Horatio. So, being insanely rich, you should follow in the steps of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates, etc, and shovel your money into some 'philanthropic' trust. I'm pretty sure that all you have to do is start a foundation dedicated some amazing cause that you are ever-so-passionate about and funnel all your money into this foundation. Then just graft money from the foundation tax-free! Plus, since the general public isn't really intelligent enough to realize that the only reason you are doing this is to exploit a tax loophole, they will conveniently forget all the souls you crushed while amassing your fortune and instead remember you for the lollipops you give out to disabled children.

For instance, you could take a page from the book of those selfless angels who run IKEA. Did you know that every time you shop at IKEA all your cash goes not to evil CEOs but instead to a charity? And not just any charity, but a charity dedicated to the extremely important long-neglected cause of “innovation in the field of architectural and interior design”. And all of your IKEA shopping 'contributions' (combined with the virtually non-existent giveaways of the foundation) have made it arguably the richest foundation in the world (with around $36 billion in assets). Such saints!

A Passionate Army of Philanthropy

But what about tips for the rest of us, who are not rich enough to start phony foundations? Well, the first mistake you make is paying some 'professional' to do some data entry into tax software for you. Sure, maybe if you have three of your own businesses and twelve offshore accounts it would make sense to hire an accountant, but then you're certainly too rich to need my advice anyway. In fact, if you're truly poor you can fill out online tax returns for free and it takes like 30 minutes.

And for your tax bill itself? Well to be honest, for most of you average Joe's out there there is not too much you can do. You just need to get over it and realize that your post-tax pay is your pay and that's it.

But if that's not satisfactory, you'll have to follow the true way of The Tight Fist, who has personally not paid any taxes over the past three years. Here's my personal strategy in four easy steps:

1. Quit your lame, soulless, high-paying job.
2. Move to a country where scholarships are tax-free (such as the UK)
3. Get a scholarship and head back to school.
4. File tax returns only when W feels like sending you a check.

Too radical for you Mr. Wigglesworth? Well, if you really understood the ways of The Tight Fist you would know that slashing your paycheck by two thirds and living the frugal lifestyle is the only way to true liberation. You hear lots of people claim they are going to quit their job and move to a foreign country to work for a pittance, which would of course reduce their tax bill to zero. (Take that Uncle Sam!) But inevitably they come up with excuse after excuse and delay after delay and it never happens. Know anyone like that Mr. Wigglesworth?

Are you wasting your money without pause? The Tight Fist can help you. Email him at

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Tight Fist Tip #23: Don't Drink Gatorade

It's Got What Athletes Crave!

Man, this world is a totally screwed up place. You'd think that millions of years of evolution would have attuned our bodies to be able to replenish themselves using readily available, natural means. But unfortunately that's not the case; in fact it wasn't until 1965 that scientists at the University of Florida finally cracked the secret to thirst quenching. Evolution really missed the boat on this one! You see, for millennia humans had been foolishly drinking water to quench their thirst, and they had totally neglected the necessity of 'electrolytes', and therefore were consistently slow and weak. The addition of electrolytes to drinks caused the Florida Gators to win the Orange Bowl, and gave mankind the energy and endurance to land on the moon, invent the supercomputer, and organize the world's largest coconut orchestra.

Yes folks, the above is all true, at least according to the marketing departments of sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, and the barely-fit-for-human-consumption UK equivalent, Lucozade. These guys have seriously talented Madison Avenue wizards, as they have somehow managed to convince legions of people that if you try to play sports without consuming fluorescent salt water, you will not only lose the race but will unquestionably shrivel up and die.

Let's just stop for a second and take a look at what the heck 'electrolytes' really are. It's no secret really- listed on the back of every Gatorade it tells you that Gatorade contains sodium, potassium, and chloride. So, here's the first lesson for those of you who failed high school chemistry: TWO OUT OF THE THREE FREAKING ELECTROLYTES ARE JUST SALT. As for potassium, it's not really some kind of evasive nutrient either- bananas are full of them. So just to be clear: Gatorade is just water with sugar, salt, potassium, and yummy yummy artificial coloring.

And now, we interrupt this serious message to bring you some electrolyte-related humor, courtesy of the classic movie 'Idiocracy'. If you haven't seen this movie, go rent it now. (And sorry for the poor quality. It was the best I could find.)

If you fail to see the relevance of this video to the Gatorade argument, you fail.

So, how did humankind manage to build pyramids and outrun tigers without any sports drinks? Well, those clever people just ate food, and this food magically contained all the nutrients they needed. And when they were thirsty, they somehow managed with good old electrolyte-free water. Amazing, isn't it? So next time you're working out, save yourself a buck and grab a handful of pretzels and a banana instead of some glowing ooze. Your body and your wallet will thank you.

Monday 7 September 2009

Tight Fist Tip #22: Useless Kitchen Supplies

Are They Drinking Wine From Non-Wine Glasses?
Holy Crap, Call The Cops!

As our 'Stop Buying Crap You Don't Need' series has already paid a visit to your closet floor (Tip #2) and the bathroom (Tip #16), you had to know that your kitchen couldn't be too far behind. If you walk into most kitchens (at least those of people who actually cook), they will be filled with drawers and shelves just full of random crap. Now, the owner of this crap will certainly assure you that each gadget has its special purpose, and without it certain specific tasks would be inexplicably difficult. "But how am I supposed to cut my hard boiled egg without an egg slicer? And How could I possibly peel my banana without a banana peeler? And if I didn't have my 76.8g pancake flipper, then I would never be able to flip pancakes that weighed 76.8 grams!" And so forth.

I could list about a million useless kitchen items, but I'll just focus on a few that I have recently encountered.

Electric Can Opener - Oh, the joys of elecrification! To think that back in the stone age people had to expend precious calories turning the knob on manual can openers. Fools!

The Mysterious Lemon Juicer:
What, You Just Jam It In?

Lemon Juicer - Of all the useless appliances, this one is the most baffling. At least most of this crap at least does a decent job of doing whatever it was designed to do. But the lemon juicer, I don't even have a clue what to do with. Do I just jam it into the lemon and start twisting? That just seems ridiculous. I'll stick with a fork, thank you very much.

Honey Dipper - Yes, the rumors are true. If you ever try to serve honey with a spoon, as opposed to a certified honey dipper, the honey will revolt and attack you in the face.

Salad Tongs - You see, salad tongs are just like big spoons but flatter. The reason is that if you dared to use two normal big spoons to serve salad, you would never get to eat anything because all the salad would be lost in the bottomless crevice of the spoon.

A ridiculous selection of glasses: Believe it or not, one glass can be used to hold juice, water, or even wine! In fact, if a glass can hold one liquid, it can hold anything! In-freaking-credible!

This Is What Happens When
You Introduce Gentiles To Jewish Food

A ridiculous selection of knives: A staple of every kitchen is a big knife rack. But here's a clue: all knives are are just sharp pieces of metal, and sharp pieces of metal cut things. I'll give you one flat and one serrated, but that's it.

Bagel Slicer: When untrained gentiles discovered the deliciousness that is a bagel, they were drastically unprepared for the ever-so-slightly elevated risk of cutting their hands when cutting a bagel as opposed to cutting anything else. So they turned to an age-old solution to all their problems: Buy Useless Crap! Any Jew who owns a bagel slicer should be especially ashamed.

Man, I feel like I'm just getting started- there are so many easy targets! But I think you get the point. And one note: I know many of you are going to use the excuse that the useless crap was just a gift, so it is not really your fault. This is never a valid excuse because by accepting gifts (and most likely reciprocating, unless you are a total jerk) you are participating in the gift culture that generates mountains and mountains of useless crap. But I'll get more into terribleness that is gift exchanging sometime in the future.