Friday 23 April 2010

Tight Fist Tip #38: Travel to Cheap Countries

Come For The Food and Weather,
Stay For The Low Prices!

Welcome to the second in The Tight Fist's series on traveling. (You can find Part 1 here.) There's a common myth that traveling is expensive, but this is because most people foolishly just jet off to whatever place bought the most billboards in their home town. The great thing about traveling is that if you pick the right place, even poor, frugal, Tight Fisters can live like kings!

Let's think about some 'normal' places where stupid people in the US or UK like to travel, and think about Tight Fist alternatives.

1. Hey, wouldn't it be great if you could go on vacation to a beautiful place with warm weather, mountains, and great parties without ever leaving the comfort of the US? You sure can- it's called California. But for some reason that is beyond comprehension, people decide that it's a phenomenal idea to waste hundreds of extra dollars to instead fly to freaking Hawaii. Five extra hours in the air? Hundreds of extra dollars on the flight? Everything twice as expensive? Annoying pictures or people wearing grass skirts and smiling everywhere? SIGN ME UP!!! If you're going to fly all day, why not head south of the border to sunny, beautiful Ecuador?. It's 25% closer (to Chicago) than Hawaii, and also boasts great beaches, rain forests, and volcanos. And every night is dollar beer night!
I'll Bet That Cost Under A Buck

2. There are some Americans who are a bit more adventurous. They want the immersive cultural experience that can only be found at an all-inclusive beach resort. They can't wait to brag to tell their shocked friends about how they they couldn't drink the water. They want waiters (not just cooks and bus boys) with accents. They want Cancun! There is something especially painful about going to a (relatively) cheap country like Mexico but instead wasting your money (not to mention any remaining shred of decency) at Senor Frogs. But if you ever suddenly awake from hazy stupor and find yourself on a flight to Cancun, fear not! All you have to do is drive up or down the coast from the shudder-inducing isthmus to find little pieces of paradise such as the gorgeous Tulum. Or even better, skip Mexico altogether and head for the Tight Fist paradise of Honduras. Yes, for mere pennies you can plant yourself in a beautiful beach hut, eat fresh fish, drink coconut water, and love life.

3. I can guarantee that if you are a British man aged 30-50 and have a bit of a gut, your idea of absolute paradise is the South of Spain. Where else could you possibly travel abroad and find tons of other pudgy middle-aged British guys to hang out with? And where else would have real British pubs serving real British food (shudder)? And where else could you find real British prices? Quick, run, book those package holidays before they dry up! But if you're in England and you have any sense, you'll realize that for just a few extra pounds you can make your way to India, where you can live like an absolute king. India (where The Tight Fist is curently located) is any Tight Fist's dream. While The Tight Fist generally forbids taxis, the 15-minute ride from my home to my office only cost 35 pence. And while I forbid buying lunch, I'll take my hot curry for under a pound. And my 10p samosas. I will even allow the guy to come to my house every day to clean and do laundry when it only costs 6 pounds for the month. Living like a king, I tell you! Now if they could just get this country a giant air conditioner...

The guidelines are actually pretty simple. If you live in the US, avoid Europe or the Carribean and instead head to Central or South America. The flights will be similar, and your vacation will be awesome and easy on the wallet. If you live in the Europe, get the hell out of the Euro Zone and instead jump to India or Southeast Asia.

Confused which countries qualify as Tight Fist friendly? Here's a rule of thumb. If a beer at a bar costs more than a dollar, you're in the wrong place. Better luck next time!

Monday 19 April 2010

Tight Fist Tip #37: Always Take A Doggy Bag

Proof of a Hard-Fought Victory!

As I've written earlier, if The Tight Fist ruled the world wasting food would be a crime punishable by denailing. In general, avoiding food waste is pretty simple: just take as much as you need and eat it all. But sometimes restaurants can throw you a loop by serving unexpectedly large portions that you just can't stomach.

Of course the solution is simple: just pack it up in a doggy bag and you've got tomorrow's lunch covered. In most situations, this solves the problem and there is no more to say. But what about the following nightmare scenario:

Dude: Excuse me Mr. Waiter, can I have this packed up?
Waiter: I'm sorry sir, we don't allow that here.
Dude: What do you mean?
Waiter: We love killing animals for fun and then insisting on throwing their cooked flesh into the trash. For us, it is the greatest pleasure on earth. Giving you a doggy bag would deny us this truly magnificent opportunity.
Dude: ...?

I know for my American readers this situation is unimaginable, but in backward countries (such as the UK) it is disturbingly common. How do you deal with such ridiculous insolence? There is only one answer: MAKE A GIGANTIC SCENE. There is nothing snooty resturants hate more than a loud, obnoxious jerk making life miserable for all the other customers. This is an argument you will win. In case you're having trouble, here are some foolproof techniques to save your meal from the trash can.

This Is One Way To Let The Waiter Know You're Serious

1. Start calm, but slowly escalate. "Please give me a doggy bag. It is unacceptable that you won't let me take home my leftovers. I AM GOING TO START THROWING SHIT!"
2. Ask to speak to the manager. Spineless waiters can always hide behind some 'Sorry, but I might get fired if I break policy' type of excuse. But the manager will have to engage your mental chess game. And if you can't win a debate with the assistant manager of Applebees, you don't deserve your doggy bag. In fact, you don't deserve to eat. Ever.
3. Start to Cry. If gentle whimpering isn't doing the trick, kick it up a notch with some heavy wailing. While this is a tried and true tactic for females, it may even be more effective for men given the added shock value.
4. Bring your own tupperware. If you are going to a restaurant that you fear will not pack up your leftovers, take matters into your own hands. Bring your own tupperware and pack it yourself. If anyone at the restaurant complains, calmly explain that they will need to pry the tupperware from your cold dead hands.
5. "You want me to throw away Bambi?"

In all the above situations you should make it abundantly clear that there is no way you are paying for the meal without getting your leftovers. They'll come around eventually.

Friday 9 April 2010

Tight Fist Tip #36: Wealth Managers Are Charlatans

Ask The Experts: Bear Sterns is Fine!

After over a year of practice, I must now assume that my readers are getting pretty good at Tight Fisting. While your foolish friends are out wasting their sorry lives and money on coffee, fine wine, and gym memberships, you dutiful Tight Fisters are out there biking, cooking, and living the good life. But if you have a job, all that unneeded money is probably starting to pile up. We all know if you have a pile of money lying around you're supposed to like, invest it or something. But how the heck do you go about that?

Fortunately for you there is a whole industry designed to 'solve' this problem, so why not leave it to the 'experts'? Certainly people whose whole life's work is in 'investment' must know what they're doing, right? I mean, why else would
private wealth managers and investment advisers and hedge fund managers exist? They must provide some value!

Well folks, if you still think that just because someone is willing to take your money they must be offering a valuable service, we should talk! I'd like to offer you an amazing hydro-homeo-accu air bath that will make you healthier, better looking, and help you learn Swahili! And it's a great deal!
This year I invested in pumpkins.
They've been going up the whole month
of October and I got a feeling
they're going to peak right
around January. Then bang!
That's when I'll cash in

For the rest of you, the lesson is simple. Wealth managers are simply complete charlatans trying to take advantage of peoples' ignorance about finance. No matter what type of fancy education they have, some 32-yr old yahoo from citibank does not hold the key to easy money in the markets. Because if he did, why the hell would he waste his time giving the advice to you? He only became an investment advisor because he was too stupid to become an investment banker anyway! (Not that I think bankers are really any better.)

The facts back me up. There are a million articles on the subject, but it's pretty clear that 'active management' (meaning someone who picks certain investments) does no better on average than 'passive investment' (meaning just buying index funds). I'm no expert on the literature, but here, here, and here are a few papers.

Any decent study on active versus passive management deducts the manager's fees when calculating managed funds' return. So maybe the answer is to simply do the active management yourself. No problem! After a long day's work, just come home and log onto the computer and spend hours researching companies and market trends. And after all that, you might get lucky and make a little money. Sounds great, right? I WOULD RATHER SHOOT MYSELF IN THE FACE!

Sadly, there are people like this. If you are one of them, please never speak to me again because I might die of boredom. The joy of being a Tight Fist is that you never have to worry about money. Spending all your time obsessing about money is completely against the ethos of being a Tight Fist.

Instead, just find a low-cost online investment firm (such as E-trade or Vanguard) and chuck your money into some indices. And just relax. Happy investing!