Wednesday 28 October 2009

Ask The Tight Fist: Cheap Halloween Costume Guide

Dressing Like A Slut is Cheap If Your Closet
Is Already Filled With Slutty Clothes!

Hi Tight Fist,

Halloween is coming closer. A party is planned, and it has been made abundantly clear that guests are only welcome if they wear a costume. What is the tight fist's take on this? Should I cough up one ore two tenners (oh the drudgery) to buy stuff I will never ever wear again? Or shall I just stay home? But if I stay home I'll be expected to buy sweets and give them to perfect strangers. There is no way out of this conundrum. Please advise.

-Scared of Going Broke


As explored in earlier posts about movies and group dinners, it can be tough when you are forced to make a decision between saving money and hanging out with your free spending friends. But geez SOGB, this is not one of those situations! We know that most people are just looking for any excuse to waste their hard earned money, and Halloween is as good an excuse as any. Of course, companies are happy to oblige by creating aisles and aisles of craptastic costumes and accessories. But SOGB, ONLY AN ABSOLUTE MORON WOULD SPEND ONE OR TWO TENNERS ON SOME PIECE OF CRAP THEY WILL ONLY WEAR ONCE!

Halloween is NOT an excuse to go spending money left and right. But am I endorsing showing up at a Halloween party without a costume? Of course not! Any respectable host of such a party would deny entry to a jackass who thought they were too cool to dress up. Instead, the trick is to exercise a bit of originality (yes, I know it's hard) and make a freaking costume yourself. Seriously, you don't need to have graduated from Milan Fashion Academy to throw together a rocking Halloween costume on the cheap, with things you already have.

But let me guess, you're so devoid of creativity that you can't think of a thing. Fortunately, I'm going to share some tried and true costume ideas.

Part One: The Classics

1. Ghost: This is for the truly lazy and pathetic among us. Take a sheet and cut eye holes and you're done. Note that the ghost will never ever get laid at a Halloween party.

2. Mummy: This is seriously easy. Get some assortment of rags, tape, paper towels, etc, and wrap yourself up. Extra points if you remove your brain through your nose.

Quite Possibly The Sexiest
Killer Whale Ever

3. Zombie: Make your own face paint, put on some ripped clothes, and just tell everyone you want to eat their brains. As the point is to look ugly, this may even help you get laid, as your victim will think you just did a really good job with the makeup.

Part Two: Innovative

Show everyone your bottomless wit by donning a costume SO RIDICULOUS that wearing it makes you the TRENDIEST guy (or gal) at the party.

1. The Housing Bubble: Everyone loves witty, topical costumes! Draw a picture of a house on a T-shirt, and then cover yourself in bubble wrap. Note: If I ever see people dressed in crap like this, I do my best to avoid them at all costs. So if you do choose this genre of costumes, don't talk to me.

2. Toothbrush: A person dressed as an object? Crazy!! Just get a big piece of cardboard and tape it to your back so that it extends up past your head. Then staple on straws for bristles and you're good to go.

3. Killer Whale: Take a black hoodie and tape white triangles to the hood to make teeth. Slap some cardboard on your back for a fin and you're in business. As a bonus, this costume kinda makes it looks like you are living in the stomach of the whale a la Jonah. This will play well with the hot bible study chicks at the party.

Part Three: For the Ladies

We all know that for many ladies in the crowd, Halloween is interpreted as 'International Dress Like a Slut Day'. But fortunately, dressing like a slut doesn't have to be costly either!

1. Lingerie Model: Just wear your lingerie. What, don't have any lingerie? I feel sorry for your boyfriend.

2. Cowgirl: Take a flannel shirt and tie it up for super cleavage action. Throw on some ass-hugging jean shorts and you're done. If you're lucky, there may even be several cowboys at the party to choose from.

3. Lifeguard: Yup, just chuck on the swimsuit and grab a whistle. Maybe you could even 'rehydrate' tired partygoers with some special concoction in a water bottle.

So as you can see, these are just a few of many easy, cheap, lazy Halloween costumes. And as a final note, if you do need to buy something to complete your costume, just get it at a thrift shop. And not some trendy thrift shop, a real thrift shop. (If you can't tell the difference, this will be the topic of an upcoming post.)

Folks, got any more last minute costume advice for my cheap and lazy readers? If so, feel free to comment.

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

Monday 19 October 2009

Ask The Tight Fist: Ducking Out of Sequels and Other Crappy Movies

Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season. An Instant Classic.

Dear The Tight Fist,

What do you do when all your friends are going out to see "Last of the Mohicans VI: You Thought It Was The Last?"

This is one of the most classically annoying situations. They say,"I know the movie is bad, but I'll just turn my brain off and it will be fun." But I'm thinking, "Dude, couldn't I numb my brain at home for free by watching the infomercial channel?" But I don't want to spend my Saturday night at home alone- what do I do?

Le Piano Man


Similar to the group dinner scenario described earlier, it can be a bummer when your crappy free-spending friends try to sucker you into wasting your money just to be part of the group. The long term scenario is clear: GET SOME NEW FRIENDS! Seriously, your life will be miserable if you surround yourself with money-wasting friends, because then you're always going to have to make the decision between spending money or being bored and alone.

But folks, there is really no reason to ever drop cash on seeing a crappy movie just so you can hang out with your lame friends. I mean, you don't even interact with your friends when you're seeing a movie anyway. So what the hell is the point of throwing away your money just to be bored in the presence of their body heat?

Transformers 4 Is Still In Early Stages

But don't worry, you can still make a night out of it. Have your friends pick you up like normal, and have all the 'crazy fun' that you kids have in the car nowadays. Experience the joy of the parking lot, and the scenic walk into the theater. But before you buy the tickets for "Transformers 4: Attack Of The Killer Segways", just hang back and tell your friends you'll catch up. Then bust out the trusty book (that you of course got from the library), and enjoy a free evening having way more fun than you would inside. When they come out, join up again for the obligatory post-movie fun of talking about how terrible the movie was. (Note, I'm sure you can join this conversation by just watching the terrible advertisements. "Hey, remember when Eddie Murphy farted? Hilarious!!!!")

Then, go find some real freaking friends. Maybe a Tight Fist social network is in order?

Have questions about frugality? Ask The Tight Fist at Don't be shy.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Tight Fist Tip #28: You Don't Need A Cell Phone Plan

Like, OMG LOL!!!!

Back in prehistoric times (ie the early 00s), there was an important transition in society that made is virtually impossible to live life without a cell phone. Basically, everyone you knew now had a cell phone and therefore gave up age old practices like making plans, meeting places at certain times, talking at normal volumes, etc. If you didn't have a cell phone you were going to be ostracized, and every time you used an archaic signaling mechanism such as a doorbell people would just open their windows to point and laugh.

This transition put Tight Fisters in a tough spot, because you couldn't just buy a cell phone and use it every time you encountered a broken doorbell (at least not in the US). Instead, the evil cartel the ran the cell phone industry made sure that the only way to get access to their fancy wireless communication devices would be to sign up for a two year contract at some ungodly rate. We were all screwed. (And no, I don't have any evidence to back up that cartel claim, but I can't figure out any other explanation as to why pay-as-you-go cell phones came to America 10 years after they were the norm in the rest of the world.)

But people, open your eyes, because the world has changed! Finally, the cartel has been broken and even in the backward USA you can get a pay-as-you-go phone. So DROP THAT $50 A MONTH CHARGE, NOW!

He Obviously Has Too
Many Free Minutes

But hey, there's more to this- because I'm sure some of you are crunching the numbers and coming to the conclusion that your paid plan is actually cheaper than it would be if you switched to pay-as-you-go. Who the hell do you think you are, Paris Hilton? Because the other great thing that has happened to us over the past few years is that the internet is now everywhere and has completely supplanted all needs for a phone. Just take a moment to think about the percentage of your white-collar life that you spend within a few meters of the internet- probably around 80%. So, here is a simple rule to go by: If you have access to the internet, do not use your phone. Using a myriad of services, you can call/chat/videoconference/sext, or whatever it is that the kids are using their phones for these days, all for free (or at least very cheap).

In the UK (and most other places, as far as I know), where Tight Fist friendly norms dictate that you never pay for incoming calls, this can drastically slice your cell phone bill. Then you can save your phone for important things- like drunk dialing your ex. However, in the US you still may be faced with tough decisions like whether or not to answer the phone when your chatty girlfriend calls you- what price can you place on the wrath of a significant other? But fortunately, technology comes to the rescue again in the form of Google Voice. This way you can make sure that calls get forwarded to your computer (using say, SkypeIn), meaning you always have the option of using a computer if you are near one. Awesome!

And finally, what do I have to say to those of you who want to pay $70 per month for one of those fancy 'smart' phones so that you never are away from your precious internet? Well congratulations, you have just paid $70 to make sure that you can settle bar arguments and ruin everyone else's fun by cheating at the pub quiz. Thanks, asshole.

Friday 9 October 2009

Tight Fist Tip #27: Join The Food Waste Police

5 Rules To Save Food From The Landfill

Telltale Sign Of Anorexia

Hey, here's a great idea. Let's buy stuff just so we can throw it away! According to this random article article in the New York Times, Americans waste roughly 27% of the food available for consumption.

Now I know nobody tries to waste food, but a true Tight Fister will take extraordinary measures to ensure no food goes to waste. Remember, any food that you stop someone else from wasting (by eating is) is free food for you. Double score! But I think you could use some more specific advice. Here are five ways to stop wasting food, and save a buck in the process:

1. Watch Over Your Fridge Like A Hawk: Make sure nothing ever rots or gets moldy. Everyone makes the occasional mistake, but you need internalize the seriousness of this offense. Letting meat rot means you killed an animal for fun. It's like drowning a puppy with your bare hands for the pure thrill of it. Think about it. You can avoid this horrible fate by keeping tight watch over your fridge and ensuring that you make food preservation a priority. Feel like a hamburger tonight? NO DICE! Because you have two pounds of spinach that are going to go bad, so it's all spinach all the time until it's gone. And don't be afraid to use the freezer. It there's any risk, chuck it in there.

2. Take One For The Team: What if you're at a restaurant and, although you've joined the clean plate club, your picky 'friends' are getting ready to throw their food away? Are you off the hook? NO! The moment your idiot friend decides to throw away their food, it is then technically your responsibility. No Tight Fister should ever turn down free food. But you can prepare for this situation by identifying early that you are with weak eaters, and order less food in anticipation of the free bonanza to follow.

3. If It Is Edible, You Had Better Eat It: Hey, you think you're too good for pizza crusts? Or the bottom of asparagus? Or those tasty morsels of chicken buried deep in the carcass? Or an apple peel? What, you don't like the bread ends? STOP BEING SUCH A FREAKING PRISS! You have no right to waste precious calories and nutrients just because you are picky.

Don't You Want to Just Punch
Him In The Face?

4. The Sneak Attack: What if you're at a restaurant and you realize the moron next to you left his fries or whatever untouched? Well, unless he was showing visible symptoms of swine flu, POUNCE ON IT! And for all of you who will try convince me that this is dangerous and unsanitary, just realize that this is far less dangerous than making out with all the skanky chicks/dudes that you meet on a night on the town. And far more nutritious!

5. Extra Catering Means Free Food For A Week: You know who loves wasting food? Caterers! If you are at a catered event and there is going to be food left over, this is a classic crisitunity. Yes, you have a big task in ensuring that all the food is not wasted, but there is big bounty to be had! In general, you shouldn't ask the caterers if you can take the food because they may give you some crap about health and safety regulations. Instead, just get a big tray, pile on as much as possible, and hoard it away somewhere safe.

And what of the complainers who say that following these rules is silly because they don't need to eat much food? Well, you have to remember this: the human body is an extraordinary energy storage machine! If you eat too much food at one point in time, your body is smart enough to store this energy for you (usually using some free space around the belly) for future use. How awesome is that! So as long as food is ever available, you can stuff yourself silly and feel satisfied that you are just building up your reserves for potentially lean times ahead. Now we're saving money, cutting out waste, and insuring ourselves against future starvation, all in one go. Now there's a plan I can work with!

Sunday 4 October 2009

Tight Fist Tip #26: You Smell Fine Without Perfume and Cologne

Yeah, This Guy Is Totally Getting Laid Tonight

For some types of products, like say a car or a computer, in theory an advertiser's job is pretty straightforward: you make some ad that stresses the features, quality, or price or your product, and maybe combine it with some gimmick like a semi-nude female or flashing colors and call it a day. But the problem is, this technique relies on your product having some type of defining feature that can be seens as 'better' than its competitors. In other words, you need to rely on some objective measure of quality. But what if you product has no objective measure of quality? Well, this is where advertisers need to get especially tricky, and where Tight Fisters need to be especially vigilant. One thing marketers can do is try to invent objective measures of quality by inventing new words, such as I wrote about with the wine industry.

But the perfume industry has a really unique task. When they come up with a new scent, it basically smells just like a million other products out there. I mean, how many variations of 'chemical-flower' or 'chemical-musk' can you really come up with? (As a side note, natural musk is derived from a gland near the testicles of a certain type of deer. Mmmm, deer testicles.) Also, flowery oil is pretty cheap, but companies want to charge a bazillion dollars for their smelly crap.
I Voted For Obama, But My
Scent is McCain All The Way
So, in order to launch a 'new' product they need to come up with some fancy marketing wizardry to convince the public that they have gone to far reaches of the earth (ie their lab in Indiana) to corral a scent so incredibly desirable it is like nothing you've ever smelled before. In fact, not only is this scent totally amazing, but it is so incredibly great-smelling that it will be like putting your nose on crack, and that everyone in a 50-mile radius area will want to simultaneously copulate with you. And also, it will make you smell just like...Celine Dion!

Wait, what? I don't know who the genius was that first decided it was a good idea to market perfumes by branding them with celebrity names, but thanks to them you can choose which celebrity you want to channel any given night. Is tonight an Usher or Carlos Santana kind of night? Oh, the tough choices we face in the modern era!

So with all these choices, how is the Tight Fister supposed to choose? If that is your question, you have not been paying attention, because only a complete idiot would waste their money by buying smelly oil to smear all over themselves. Look, if you smell bad TAKE A FREAKING SHOWER. Then you will smell fine- see how easy that was? If you somehow think that covering up your nastiness with a strong dash of cologne is going to get you laid, you are in for some serious disappointment.

I Think The Pheremones Came
From Never Showering

You would have to be a complete idiot to think that wearing P Diddy's scent is going to help you score, but it would of course be a different story if the commercials told you otherwise, right? I mean, why would commercials lie- no way they could get away with that! Well, that is the tack taken by the whiz-kids who run Axe Body Spray. Supposedly, mysterious 'sex pheremones' present in this cologne have super powers make women wet their pants at one whiff.

Never mind that scientist still don't really know whether pheremones are present in humans or what role they play. I'm sure those guys at Axe have it all figured out. But what's really interesting is that, according to wikipedia(for what that's worth), human sex pheremones are theorized to be secreted by men's armpits. So of course, the proper technique to attract women at a club is to use deodorant to block out all your natural pheremones, and then rely on the incredibly amazing synthetic ones that they put in Axe. Right, great idea.

And finally, if the desire to waste money on smelly water in fancy little bottles is just irresistable, at least don't throw your money down the toilet just to buy a smell endorsed by a celebrity or some brand. Instead, go for one of the knockoff 'smells like' fragrances. Really, these things smell just as 'good' as anything out there and cost a fraction of the price. No one will ever know the difference, and even if they do no one with any intelligence will care. And if you want to pull an extreme Tight Fist move, just hit up a free sample at a department store before you head out. It's still stupid smelly water, but at least it's free!

Friday 2 October 2009

Epic Feats of Frugality: The Double Wal-Mart Return

Who's Smiling Now, Biatch?

This post introduces a new feature here at The Tight Fist entitled 'Epic Feats of Frugality'. This feature is meant to honor those Tight Fisters out there who are truly inspirational with their frugality, and to spread their stories. Do you know of an Epic Feat Of Frugality? If so, make sure to let me know so I can spread the legend.

If you've even been to a mall in middle American around Christmas time, you have probably notices the preponderance of specialist carts selling all kinds of crazy crap that no one on earth should ever want or use. But if you paid attention, you may notice that some of these stands selling strange, exotic products are staffed entirely by Israelis. Now, what would a group of Israelis be doing in Middle America around Christmas? That's right, scamming hapless Christians desperate to fulfill their utterly useless and wasteful gift-giving traditions!

But look, I'm not here to pick on the Israelis hawking overpriced crap to mall denizens, because the whole purpose of malls is to sell overpriced crap to gift-giving idiots, so really the Israelis are no different than any of the shopkeeps. Instead the truly inspirational part of the story is how the Israeli carts run their operations to maximize profits. This is the story of a mall-cart operator named Gozzle, and how he turned aromatherapy pillows (!) into big bucks.

Free Flat Screens? I'll Take Three!

Gozzle knew he had a great business idea: selling aromatherapy pillows that he bought at about a dollar each to innocent Midwesterners who were just dying to be convinced that smelly pillows are worth 50 bucks. But staffing the stands was an issue. Since the strategy was to sell the products at whatever they thought the mark would pay, he needed good salesmen. And to align incentives and keep costs down, he wanted to pay only commission. To do this, he certainly couldn't hire Jonny Jones from down the road. So why not import some smooth-talking Israelis with promises of easy money reaping the fruits of Christmas? Great Idea!

But this idea had one problem: to entice the Israelis to spend six months in crappy Missouri, he had to hook them up with a phat pad. And the place needed to be furnished so his workers were comfortable. Now, if this was a long-term business he'd be fine, as the furnishing costs would be inconsequential in the long run. But this was just a six-month pre-Christmas operation, so if he bought new furniture for three apartments this was going to erase all his profits.

Enter the Tight Fister's favorite soul-crushing corporate entity: Wal-Mart. In an effort to seem warm and fuzzy to its customers, Wal-Mart has a very generous return policy: "Everything in the store can be exchanged or refunded with a receipt within 90 days of purchase." So, the obvious strategy is to just buy all the furniture and return it when you're done. But you see, it's not that simple, and this is where the genius enters the picture. Wal-mart has a 90 day return policy, but Gozzle needed the things for around 180 days. So what did he do?

Well, our hero decked out his employees' apartments with all the latest furnishings from Wal-mart (and also some stuff from Target and Costco, which have similar return policies). We're talking beds, mattresses, dishes, towels, blankets, stereos, flat screen TVs, etc. Everything. He kept all the receipts and packaging, and also a careful list of what he had purchased. After 90 days, he packed up everything, drove back to the local Wal-Mart and returned it all, for full refunds. Wait, did they really accept mattresses and bedsheets that had been slept on for three months? Sure! What about the microwave that was completely crusted over with three months of food nastiness? You bet!

Then, after visiting the returns department of the Wal-Mart, Gozzle proceeded to walk directly back into the Wal-Mart, and repurchased all the same items he had just returned. Every single item he had just returned, but brand new. On the same day. From the same Wal-Mart. Who was going to notice? He then drove home and refurnished the apartments, and after another 90 days, the operation was over and everything was returned again.

Gozzle made out like a bandit, making huge profits off of his incredible aromatherapy pillows. And is anyone in the crowd shedding a tear for poor, abused Wal-Mart? Gozzle, on behalf of all Tight Fisters out there, I tip my cap to you sir. You are a true inspiration to us all.