Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tight Fist Tip #43: A Cheap iPhone in 3 Easy Steps

I Just Can't Get Enough Of This 'Tastes Like Fried Chicken' App

Man, it just seems like everyone who is anyone is carrying around a shiny new iPhone these days. All of us luddite dumb-phone owners can't shake the feeling of inferiority whenever all our friends are cooing over the latest Instant Orgasm app. In moments of weakness, we may even consider joining the club. While official Tight Fist advice still maintains that you should always buy the cheapest phone possible, if you are going to purchase a shiny smart phone, at least do it the right way. Here is the Tight Fist approved strategy for owning an iPhone (or other smartphone of your choice.)

1. Buy A Used iPhone: Did you catch a glimpse of the hordes of Apple zombies who waited in line for the new iPhone 4? Anyone want to fancy a guess at the percentage of those people who were buying their first iPhone? I haven't done any primary research, but I'm pretty sure then number is somewhere near zero. All these Apple maniacs probably lined up for the first iPhone, the 2G, the 3G, etc. Any what the heck are they going to do with these old iPhones? That's right, they sell them to people like me. The iPhone 3G was pretty damn nifty when it came out, and guess what: it still is. But now it's hundreds of dollars cheaper. Just ask around on eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, etc. Easy peasy.
New Boyfriend?
There's An App For That

2. Unlock the iPhone: Having a cheap iPhone is just one piece of the puzzle, since most of the costs come from those crazy multi-year data-required contracts. Therefore, you need to untether yourself from whatever phone company Apple has decided should hold the monopoly in your area. Unlocking an iPhone is pretty straightforward, and since you just bought a used phone you don't have to worry about invalidating your warranty. There are tons of tools to do this- you can look around on Google, and with a bit of perseverance you should be able to get it done. If you're not the technical minded type you can pay someone to do it for you, but make sure not to get ripped off. I'd recommend heading to a shady cell phone store in Chinatown (or some similar place) and haggling like crazy. Remember, with their software it will take them about 7 seconds to unlock the phone, so you should pay accordingly. If you don't live in a place with immigrant neighborhoods where you can find shady cell phone stores, save this step for your next trip to the big city. Or just move.

3. Buy a Cheap Pay-As-You-Go (Prepaid) SIM: Once your shiny phone is unlocked, you can now shop around for a cheap prepaid phone plan. Since you already have a phone, you just need to buy a SIM card for any GSM carrier and pop it into the iPhone. Here in the US I grabbed one from H20 Wireless that charges 6 cents a minute for calls and 2 cents per text. (I've even heard that you can use H20 Wireless without unlocking your iPhone since it runs on the AT&T network.) But you'll have to shop around depending on your country of residence. The best part is that now if you travel you can always just pop in a cheap SIM from whatever country you're in and your iPhone will be good to go without crazy roaming charges.

The astute among you may have noticed that this scheme does not allow you to use your iPhone to surf the internet over the cell network. That is because it is just not worth a billion dollars a month just to check what's number one on Reddit or prove to your drunk buddies that the dude on Cougar Town tonight really was Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. You can definitely settle that important argument via email at a later date. However, for the internet addicted, you can still use the above strategy and then just use the cheapest data plan you can find. (Pretty good comparison of US data plans here.)

In fact, I'm convinced there must be a way to justify getting a data plan if you can figure out some non-Apple-approved way to make all your calls over VOIP. And also you could use the iPhone as an internet connection for your laptop when on the move. When I get all that figured out, you will all be the first to know.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Ask The Tight Fist: Making Money without Working

This Works, But I Think There Are Better Ways

Dear The Tight Fist,

You talk a lot about how to prevent spending money. I was wondering if you have any ideas or tips on ways to make money - or into the process of career planning.

Le Piano Man

Dear Le Piano Man,

Making money? That's pretty easy isn't it?

1. Go to college and join the richest frat that will let you in
2. Get a suit and work for the uncle of one of your stupid 'bros'
3. Get an MBA because you don't know what else to do
4. Find some other crappy job to pay off your useless MBA
5. Mid-life crisis

Easy, right? Oh wait, did you want to both make money AND have your life not suck? Well, you should been more specific. The great thing about being a Tight Fist is that you really don't need much money, so you don't have to suckify your life by becoming a corporate whore. (Unless, you know, you're into that kinda thing.) One thing you could do is get a cool job that you actually like, but plenty people "accomplish" this through pure delusion. ("Dude, Junior Assistant Managers get all the chicks!") Much better would be getting paid to not work at all. It's hard to get paid a lot to do no work, but it's surprisingly easy to get paid a little and that's all a Tight Fist needs. Here are some ideas:
Soy! Soy! Soy!

1. Medical Guinea Pig: All you have to do is pop some pills and you get paid. What a great deal! But you should try to get involved in a late stage clinical trial. Because otherwise you might end up like the Elephant Man
2. Sell bodily fluids: There is great money to be made selling your zygotes. Way easier (and more fun!) for the guys, but more lucrative for the ladies (especially those with high SAT scores). You can also sell plasma and platelets for about $50 buck a pop. This trick is beloved by hobos everywhere.
3. Investing: If you know what you're doing, you can take a little bit of money and turn it into a lot of money through sound investments. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure how this works, but I'm pretty sure you just have to grab a bunch of papers and run around the trading floor yelling "SOY! SOY! SOY!" Or something like that.
4. Get stuff for Free and Sell it: You can find tons of free stuff available for pickup on Craigslist from people who are too lazy to sell it themselves. Get this stuff and sell it on Amazon/Ebay = Easy money.
5. Grad school scholarships: Finally, we get to a subject that The Tight Fist knows perfectly well. I don't understand why people work crappy jobs or, god forbid, pay a ton of money to go to school when there are people out there who will pay you to go to school. If you decide to do a Phd in any moderately useful subject, odds are you can find some source of money to pay your way. And once you've got that, you're taken care of for years! People in the 'real world' always make fun of old PhD students who never graduate, but they don't realize that these guys are living the dream. Take that, working stiffs!

Remember, adhering to the rules of The Tight Fist makes it easy to have plenty of money, since you need so little of it. Man, life is sweet.
Questions about Frugality? Ask The Tight Fist: thetightfist@googlemail.com

Epic Feats of Frugality: Fish Fillet Millionaire

Tight Fist Legend

Want to become a millionaire? Conventional wisdom says you'll have to be a rock star, sell lots of drugs, or (shudder) work long hours in a suit to achieve this goal. But no, you can be an ordinary working stiff and save millions with pure Tight Fisting. Today our inspiration comes from Verna Oller a Tight Fist extraordinaire from the American heartland who worked an hourly job filleting fish her whole life yet managed so save 4.5 million. (Ok, it also helps the she was a savvy investor.) Here is the story from ABC.

I don't really have much to add to the story, but let me call your attention to a few key points:

  • Verna never went to a hairdresser- she always cut her own hair. (Maybe she read Tight Fist Tip #19)
  • She did all her clothes shopping at thrift stores. (Tight Fist Tip #29)
  • When her shoelaces broke, she replaced them with a zipper from an old coat.
  • She cut her own firewood until she was 90.
  • Although Verna was making millions trading stocks, she read the day-old newspaper from her neighbor since she didn't want to pay for her own subscription.
What a legend! Verna Ollie, on behalf of all Tight Fisters around the world, I salute you. You are a true inspiration.