Monday 30 November 2009

Tight Fist Tip #32: Black Friday Is The Black Plague

Black Guy vs White Zombies
Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

I know this is a couple of days late, but since I know that 'Black Friday/Cyber Monday' madness is just going to continue on until Jesus' birthday party, I feel I need to address the issue. The problem is that with all the 'amazing' deals popping up this week, novice Tight Fisters may get confused. Don't Tight Fisters just love awesome deals?

If you said 'Yes', please punch yourself in the face. Sure, Tight Fisters love great deals, but remember, when a shiny piece of crap goes on sale, IT IS STILL JUST A SHINY PIECE OF CRAP! For those of you with amnesia, you may have forgotten the ultimate Tight Fist rule: DO NOT BUY CRAP THAT YOU DON'T NEED. And yes, this applies even if the crap that you don't need is soooooo incredibly discounted. In fact, this logic is already well documented in my previous post on sales and promotions. Someone make sure to tell me if they ever have some kind of 'Black Friday' deal down at Tesco. 50% off discounts on veggies, chicken, and pasta? I'll line up for that! But I think I'm gonna pass on robotic hamsters.

You'd think that would pretty much end the discussion. But the problem is that in this case, you always get the following response: "But I have to buy presents for Jesus for his birthday! So since these purchases are necessities I may as well line up for the good deals." Oh man, as a silly little Jew I must have missed something important up there in the New Testament. Can someone point me to the passage where they say that you have to satiate Jesus' legendary appetite for plastic action figures and flat screen TVs by sacrificing these things to him at the altar? And who was the scholar who claimed that the preferred method of sacrifice should be "give to your bratty ass spoiled kids" and by altar he meant for some reason "put a freaking tree in your living room".

So look, I know I'm out of my league by trying to interpret the bible and understand Christianity, so if any Christians out there want to enlighten me on why buying completely useless crap makes Jesus so happy, please go ahead. (And yes, I understand that Christians are not my main audience here, but I know there are a few in the crowd.)

Let me just ask any of you Christians your absolute favorite question: WWJD? I find it completely baffling how anyone could think that a man who railed against greed and spurned worldly pleasures could possibly endorse the materialistic consumption-driven holiday that Christmas has become. If you ask me, he would be pretty bummed out on his birthday.

And finally, I know there are all you secular Christians out there who are going to say things like 'Gift giving is not religious, but it's tradition and nice and makes people warm and fuzzy and blah blah blah so it's a good thing.' Well unfortunately there is not enough space in this post for a general refutation of gift-giving, but stay tuned as it is the subject of my next post.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Tight Fist Tip #31: Do Not Order Rice

Swindler Extraordinaire!

While The Tight Fist strongly recommends that if you are having an evening at the home your should stop being lazy and cook for yourself, I understand that we all have moments of weakness. And sometimes this weakness results in a terribly shameful act: ordering in. But even if you're being weak, you still need to have your wits about you.

Here in the UK, the most popular delivery options (besides pizza) are Chinese and Indian food. When you first look at the menus, the prices seem pretty reasonable- usually around 4-6 pounds for a dish. Sure, you could slap together some Mystery-Meat-in-MSG-Sauce for far less than that but ok, I'll stop pressing the issue. On the face of it, 4 pounds for a meal isn't too terrible. So you get on the phone, make your order, and then the moment of truth arrives: "You want rice with that?"
At Least Eat The Rice!

Here is where you panic. Of course you want rice with your curry, right? I mean, even The Tight Fist Cooking Guide says that you should base all your meals around cheap carbs! And rice is cheap, right? WRONG! Instead, the rice will set you back £2.50, and leave you crying when you get the bill. There is nothing a restaurant loves to do more than marking down its main courses while marking up necessary accompaniments for which people don't even check the price. (On a similar note, check out Tip #21, about sodas.)At some restaurants, you can't even find the price of the rice on the menu. The bastards!

So how can you reconcile this seemingly contradictory advice? Am I telling you to base your meal on carbohydrates yet not letting your order them? Of course not, because the solution is simple: COOK YOUR OWN FREAKING RICE!! Even if you are too lazy to cook a meal, you never have an excuse to not cook your own rice. Just put it in the pot, and it will be ready just as your food arrives. And if you are lucky enough to have inherited a rice cooker, the easy gets even easier.

And what if you are seated at a restaurant and just realized that the price of rice is through the roof? BE STRONG, DON'T CRACK! Just order a noodle dish, or a biryani. These dishes usually don't cost any more than the rice-needing entrées, and don't require a separate order. The Tight Fist wins again!

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Sunday 8 November 2009

Tight Fist Tip #30: Multi-Vitamins are Multi-Crappy

Which Is The One That Makes My Mother Love Me?

Hey wouldn't it be great if every morning you could take a special pill, and that amazing super-pill would prevent all kinds of nasty diseases? And even better, what if that pill improved your concentration, made you stronger, and helped you please that special someone? Man, that would be so awesome! Well, you're in luck! Because there are tons of companies out there that will sell you such a pill, and their claims are totally backed up by 'science'! What is this magic pill called? A Multivitamin!

But what exactly is it that these vitamins do for you? Well, for the latest in nutrition breakthroughs we had better trust the experts working for the high-tech lab that is the Centrum Health Center. Let's take a look of some of the amazing features that a multivitamin will give you:

1. Vitamin A can help keep you smiling and at your best by supporting your immune system and protecting epithelial cells that line your entire body.*
2. Vitamin C, when combined with Vitamin E, helps optimize antioxidant power and can help support immune health.*
Eating Food Is For Suckers

3. Did you know that great skin starts from the inside? It's true: The right combination of vitamins and other nutrients can help you maintain healthy skin.*

And those are just drops in the bucket. Man, this multivitamin thing is a total no-brainer! But wait one second, what's the deal with those little stars after every single health claim. Could that provide some useful information?

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Wait, what? But, what about all that "supporting immune health" and "protect cells from damage" business? That has nothing to do with disease prevention? If multivitamins are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, WHAT FREAKING GOOD ARE THEY? (Maybe they taste really really good?)

Obviously, the brilliant folks at Centrum just hope no one reads the fine print. Although it seems pretty clear to me, maybe I can just clarify this fine print 'legalese' for the rest of us out there. I'd say any of these following would also suffice

*The above statements are exactly vague enough to completely mislead you without getting us sued. Our lawyers slaved over them for weeks.
*The above statements are intended to fool stupid people into buying our snake oil. If you are smart enough to read the small print, you've figured us out. Nice work!
*These above statements are complete bullshit.

Now look, I'm not trying to argue that vitamins and other micro-nutrients aren't necessary for health. I'm just saying that if you do crazy things like eat a variety of foods, you're going to be just fine. But bar a few exceptions, taking vitamins along with a healthy diet has never proven to have any beneficial effect.

If anyone is interested in this type of topic, I highly recommend you check out the blog (and associated book) Bad Science, which is written by doctor and journalist Ben Goldacre. For some fun posts on vitamins, check out here, here, and here.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Epic Feats of Frugality: Thoreau, Walden, and the Simple Life

Tight Fisting It, 19th Century Style

This article is part of the 'Epic Feats of Frugality' series, which calls attention to innovative and inspirational Tight Fisters from around the world.

Walden, by Henry David Thoreau is a towering classic of American literature. Most people are familiar with the basic story: middle class Thoreau leaves society and goes off to live by himself, extolling the virtues of a simple, natural lifestyle. In the book, he describes his life in the woods and (favorably) compares his life to that of those engaged in modern society. But what may not be completely obvious to you is that Thoreau is a TOTAL LEGEND OF TIGHT FISTEDNESS. If you read the book, you will see that this guy is constantly dropping inspirational nuggets of wisdom that are still relevant to we Tight Fisters today.

Thoreau is not the first (nor the last) to promote ditching society and living out in the wilderness. But these days, those people tend to be a bit off their rocker, and not exactly shining example citizens. But even if you don't feel like rushing off into the woods and plotting your revenge on society, you can still take lessons in Tight Fisting from Thoreau.

Let's start with a perfect example. When Thoreau decides to move to the woods, his first order of business is to build himself a house- everyone needs a house, right? But if you're a true Tight Fister like Thoreau, you cut down your own trees, negotiate with locals for materials, and build that bad boy yourself. In fact, Thoreau was so pleased with his house that he was able to smugly proclaim,"I intend to build me a house which will surpass any on the main street in Concord in grandeur and luxury, as soon as it pleases me as much and will cost me no more than my present one. " Take that, city snobs!

Sure He Lived In The Woods, But I
Think Ted Missed The Point

How much exactly did it cost Thoreau in total? $28.125! And before all you econ nerds weigh in on the differential value of money in 1841, I'm pleased to inform you that this is worth a cool $552.465 in 2005 dollars. Go ahead, try to build a house for under $600. Let me know how it goes.

According to Thoreau, one of the major benefits of a simple life is that if you stop consuming luxuries, you no longer need to work hard and long for money. (This concepts has a lot of parallels to the ideas found in our very own Tight Fist Manifesto) In a telling example, there is a passage in the book where Thoreau happens upon a poor but hard-working neighboring farmer, and he tries to open his eyes to the virtues of living without luxury. He illustrates their lifestyle differences in the following passage:

I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them; again, as I did not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it cost me but a trifle for my food; but as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and milk, and beef, he had to work hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard he had to eat hard again to repair the waste of his system — and so it was as broad as it was long, indeed it was broader than it was long, for he was discontented and wasted his life into the bargain

So obviously the farmer must have seen the error of his ways? But alas, it is not so, as he had fallen under the trap of consumerism: "and yet he had rated it as a gain in coming to America, that here you could get tea, and coffee, and meat every day."

We all know that giving up luxuries will free you from the bonds of money, but Thoreau is takes it to the extreme- giving up even minor luxuries such as tea, coffee, butter, milk, and meat. (And before any snooty vegans chime in, make sure you first take a look at your tofu and tempeh bills.) Sure, Thoreau was lucky enough to be able to go fishing when he wanted a delicious meal, but his restraint is impressive nonetheless.

I could keep going, but if you're looking for more 19th century inspiration, you may just have to read the book yourself. But here's the good news: thanks to an expired copyright, it is available for free on the internet. A book on Tight Fisting, available for free? DOUBLE SCORE!!!

Henry David Thoreau, inspiration to Tight Fisters everywhere for a century and a half, I tip my cap to you.

Do you know someone who is an inspirational Tight Fister? Do they perform Epic Feats of Frugality? Email The Tight Fist at

Monday 2 November 2009

Tight Fist Tip #29: Shop At Real Thrift Stores

Vintage Retro Super Fun Time!

In my last post, I mentioned that the best way to buy costumes was to go to a thrift shop. Certainly you wouldn't need to be a genius to figure out that you can save money by buying your clothes second hand, so you may at first think that there's nothing to write about here. But there is a worrisome problem regarding used clothes: in certain circles (think hipsters), they are trendy, and with trendy comes rising prices.

But how can this be? Once, people only wore old used clothes because they were cheap. Then hipster trendster types decide that for some reason old clothes were suddenly even cooler than that band you don't even know about yet. If hipsters want a certain (effortless?) look, they will go to all ends of the earth to make it happen, including spending tons of money on their clothes. But their cool, effortless look would be completely destroyed if their hyper-judgemental friends were to figure out that they bought expensive clothes. So what to do? Well, enter the 'vintage' clothing shop, a second hand store that sells crummy used clothes for new clothes prices. What a great idea! This way, trendsters can successfully waste their Jamba Juice salaries on some stupid-looking expensive skinny jeans, and then before any of their catty friends ask how much they paid, they can flippantly remark how they got it second hand.

But with all these fake thrift stores popping up to serve the hipsters, how is a true Tight Fist supposed to discern between a real second hand store, and a pretentious 'vintage' hell hole? Here are some tips to figure it out:

1. Does the name of the store contain the words 'vintage' or 'retro'? If so, get the hell out of there. If you were to look up these words in a dictionary, you should find the following definition 'adjective used to describe items that are old yet inexplicably expensive'. (Note that this is also the definition of the word 'antique'.)

Way too Hot = Way too Expensive

2. Is the person behind the counter young, wearing nice clothes, and/or even remotely attractive? If you want to sleep with the cashier, you are in the wrong place. Real thrift stores have elderly volunteers behind the counter, not aspiring jeans models.

3. Is there music playing that was made in the past 10 years? If the music is designed to lure in hipsters and their fat allowances, you have lost your way. Instead, you should look for music designed to remind poor old people of happier times. (Maybe this one?)

4. Is there lighting that is not big flourescent tubes? Fancy lights just add to your costs. Decent thrift stores do not blow your savings on lampshades.

5. Are the clothes freaking cheap? I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but a lot of peoples' perceptions of what clothes should cost are totally out of whack. So I suggest the following barometer: the Marshalls/TJ Maxx test. If the (used) clothes cost anywhere near the price of the same (new) thing at Marshalls, you would be a complete idiot to purchase it. Case closed.

So have fun shopping, but not too much fun. Even if you find great clothes at a real cheap thrift shop, the eternal Tight Fist rule of 'Don't Buy Crap You Don't Need' rules supreme. Just because you find a cheap pair of jeans, you are not allowed to buy it if you already have a perfectly good pair at home. Case closed.