Sunday 20 December 2009

Ask The Tight Fist: Is It Cool to Mooch? And Frugal Generosity


Dear The Tight Fist,

Is it inherent that a Tight Fist must be a mooch on friends, family and society? Is there a fine line that distinguishes the Tight Fister from the general mooch? Examples appreciated.

Yours Truly,

Miserly in Manchester


Dear Miserly in Manchester,

Despite your friendly-sounding name, your question is so insulting that I'm almost forced to believe that you are one of 'them'. But in any case, I will ignore the bad taste in my mouth and attempt to answer you.

As the average Western shopper is so incredibly consumed by their own materialism, it is only a matter of time before they feel the need to morally justify their meaningless, vapid lifestyles. Surely it must be the will of God for me to spend my hard earned money on my 23rd sweater. (God loves sweaters!) And it must be our patriotic duty to stimulate our economy by purchasing thirty-six cents worth of plastic molded into $300 designer sunglasses. Because those who don't, they!!!
She Can Get Away With It...
For Now

Wait, what? If you're thinking that above logic doesn't make any sense, you're right! But it illustrates how insecure, unapologetic spenders attempt to claim moral superiority over the 'stingy', 'cheap', or 'misterly'. And one way that they can really push this argument into ridiculous territory is to equate Tight Fistedness with mooching. Mooching, of course, is when you take advantage of generosity of your friends by say, accepting free dinners, rides, etc. without ever reciprocating. And let's me clear: MOOCHING MAKES YOU A COMPLETE JACKASS! But the truth is, mooching is completely orthogonal to Tight Fisting (for you non-mathematically inclined, that means the two are unrelated). Mooching makes you a total jerk, and a moocher is likely to lose all his friends, get dumped by his girlfriend, and resort to fat, ugly prostitutes for sex. (Note, if you are a hot chick you cam probably get away with being a moocher with no consequences for a while. But remember, your looks will fade and no one will shed a tear when you get dropped for a trophy wife once you hit 39 and a half.)

In fact, if you had been paying any attention, you would know that I've addressed a number of potential mooching situations before, and have never, ever suggested taking advantage. For instance, let's consider that you're out on the town, and you hear one of your buddies say the dreaded words "I'll get this round." Well, a dirty sniveling mooch would just smile and accept, ducking out of the bar before it was his turn to buy. Said mooch will slowly get asked out less and less until he has to spend every Saturday night at home playing solitaire, eating Haagen Daaz, and masturbating. But a Tight Fist, since he has already prepartied plenty, will know that he only needs a drink or two, and will loudly insist on not joining the round. There's a similar story to tell about group dinners. Money saved, friends kept, everyone wins.

Since it's Christmas, let's address the mooching question that's pressing on everyone's minds. In my previous few posts (here, here, and here), I have carefully instructed that a good Tight Fist does not participate in gift giving for Christmas. But if you get gifts and don't recpirocate, doesn't that make you a mooch? It sure does, which is why you need to make it very clear to everyone that you don't want a gift and aren't going to get them anything. That way they know what they're getting into, and if they still insist on giving it's their own stupid fault.

And finally, a new scenario: let's say a dutiful Tight Fister is going to the store to get a beer, and finds that an entire case of said beer is super-ultra reduced: 30 cans for ten dollars! Well my friends, as a loyal Tight Fister is would be your sworn duty to buy that entire case of bargain beer, call all your friends, and tackle the case as a team. Because just as a Tight Fister refuses to let their friends sucker them into terrible money-wasting scenarios, he equally desires to share his dividend when struck with a bout of frugal luck. That my friends, is true Tight Fist generosity!

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Tight Fist Approved Christmas Presents: Charitable Gifts

But I Wanted A Zhu Zhu Goat!

In my last two posts (here and here), I lamented the entire institution of gift exchange, especially on Christmas. Please note that the easiest way to solve your gift-giving problem is to simply announce to all your family and friends that you are giving up the practice and will not be giving gifts nor expect to receive them. Done. Problem Solved.

But no, you're not going to do that, are you? You're going to be weak and guilt-stricken and feel obligated to participate in the crass consumerism of Christmas for no better reason than you think opting out would cause other pathetic idiots to stop liking you. So fine, I'll help you out, but it is against my better judgment.

In order to devise some Tight Fist approved gifts, we have to start by getting inside the head of an irrational gift-purchaser. For instance, you might say, "Can't we just give cash?". But no, that would be too easy! Even though most gift giving is just a competition to see who can buy more useless crap, the gift giver needs to be deluded into thinking that whatever they are buying is thoughtful, and totally proves how incredibly well they know and care about the recipient. "Oh, I know Mary is really into baking! I'll show that I remembered this minute fact by buying her an oven mitt. Because there is no way that someone who is soooo into baking could possibly have a sufficient amount of oven mitts!"
This Christmas, Help
Those Truly In Need

I know Tight Fisters hate spending money, but in order to satisfy that 'Christmas is all about giving' hoopla, we're going to have to spend a little money. However, it is important that we don't have to use this money to buy into the cycle of useless consumption. Instead, why not give the money to someone who really needs it by making a donation to charity in the name of the friend/relative for whom you need to get a gift. The great thing about this is that it allows you to satisfy the 'prove how much I know about you' necessity of gift giving, and also allows you to spend exactly your desired amount. Basically, you just need to find a charity that support some cause that your friend really cares about. Still scratching your head? Here are some specific examples for friend types:

The Bleeding Heart Liberal Hippie
: Help them fight for the most important social cause of all- LEGALIZE IT! (

The Rich Right Wing Conservative: Keep the government out of their bank accounts, and hide the guilt with 'economics'. (

The Tech Nerd: Holy Crap, they don't have Blackberries in Africa? (

The Sports Fan: Make their fantasy league a reality. (

The Pet Lover: Show you love your dog by chopping off its weiner! (

Your Creepy Pervy Neighbor: Set His Desires Free! (

The Development Economist: Slay middle class guilt with statistically signficant interventions. (,**

And so forth. If the spirit of Christmas is all about giving, we may as well give to people who really need it rather than giving another rich person some piece of molded plastic they don't need. And also, this avoids the horrendous experience of having to go to a mall during December, which is about at fun as gouging out your eyes with a rusty spoon.

Merry Christmas!

**As a development economist myself, I am embarrassed to say that I actually don't know which charities do programs with useful, measurable, statistically tested programs. The two links I gave above were just random. Does anyone know some good ones?

Friday 4 December 2009

Tight Fist Tip #33: Stop Exchanging Gifts

Hanging Out For The Holidays

As the weather gets cooler and the Thanksgiving tryptophan hangovers wear off, our minds inevitably start to drift to the festive joys of the holiday season. First and foremost: wasting money on useless pieces of crap to exchange for crap you don't really want. Woo Hoo! In my last post I talked about the futility of buying crap on Black Friday, and why holiday gift giving makes baby Jesus cry. But the problem remains is that people, for some reason, just love receiving totally useless crap.

So, what is wrong with the practice of gift giving? Well, potentially there is nothing really wrong with it. If you just bought something for a friend that they really needed, and they reciprocate by getting you something you really need, then it would be ok. Imagine the following unfamiliar Christmas scene:

Jonny: Oh man, I'm so excited to open my christmas present!
Julie: Oh, go ahead!
Jonny: (Opens Present) Holy crap- just what I wanted! Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs! I can make these for dinner tomorrow!
Julie: I'm glad you like them! Now, I wonder what you got me? (Rips open packaging) oh my God! A bus pass! Now I can get to work! This is amazing!
Jonny: I love you!
Julie: Let's make babies!
Is This Meant To Induce Suicide?

And....Cut. But no, that's not really how it happens. If you actually gave useful gifts and got some sort of special joy out of the gift exchanging process (that managed to outweigh the inefficiency of having to guess what your friend really wants), then gifts could really be a great thing. But this is not how it happens in real life. In the real world, it goes something like this:

Jonny: (Opens gift) Oh, what a nice sweater!
Jonny (internal monologue): Oh wow, this would be really great at keeping me warm...IF I WAS FREAKING BUCK NAKED AND DIDN'T ALREADY HAVE A CLOSET FULL OF GODDAMN SWEATERS ALREADY.
Julie: I knew you would appreciate the stylish orange stripe across the front! And now, let's open mine. Oh wow- a new TV! This is awesome!
Julie (internal monologue): Yeah amazing, now my TV viewing experience will be a full five inches wider. It would be just like I had pushed my couch forward one foot and left it there forever. HOW FREAKING ROMANTIC.
Jonny: Now hon, do you want to...

Exceptionally obscene are the stores openly specialize in gifts. How can this make any sense? If you consider your items as gifts, this must mean that THEY ARE TOO INCREDIBLY STUPID AND USELESS FOR ANYONE TO EVER BUY FOR THEMSELVES. Yes, I'm talking to you Pier 1 Imports. And you, Sharper Image. You too Skymall. If a dedicated Tight Fister accidentally gets lost and finds himself in one of these stores, it will require years of therapy to rid the trauma from your psyche.

I won't even get into the disgusting dependence on Christmas gift-giving that keeps millions of terrible, useless strip-mall shops open indeterminately. Or the heartbreaking debt and sacrifice that some families endure to keep up with social norms of gift giving. These things just depress me beyond belief.

But despite all this, I know that many of you out there are not strong enough to break the cycle of gift giving all by yourself. You're going to want to know what kinds of gifts you can give that The Tight Fist will approve of. Grudgingly, I will provide that in my next post.