Finances & Money Frugality

I’m gonna hug you, then PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE!

Have you ever wanted to both hug something, then punch them square in the face for the way they act? Recently I got to reading “Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel: 100 Dirty Little Money-Grubbing Secrets” by a colleague Phil Villarreal over at The Consumerist and a few of his tips just really got me steaming. For example:

How an ice cube can multiply your fry order

Phil goes into how he gets fries from a fast food joint, along with a drink. He then eats a few fries, then throws an ice cube from his drink into his fries. It makes the fries soggy, then he goes and complains about the fries to get new ones. He then eats the soggy fries AND the free, unearned fries.

Having worked in fast food for a few years in high school and college, I wonder now if anyone pulled this trick on me. If I found out, I think there would be some “extras” included in the new fries…but then I guess that would earn me a punch in the face.

How to “win” at potlucks all the time

Basically, this tip involves such tactics as avoiding the signup list for office potlucks, or signing up for something someone else already signed up for…and then not bringing it. He’ll even buy something he knows no one will eat and then return it to the market the next day. This is a fast track to a PUNCH IN THE FACE from yours truly!

The art of the well-timed breakup

Ok, seriously, breaking up with or having a big fight with your partner right before a major holiday or their birthday just to save on a gift? Would you date this guy or girl? Ok, so I just happened to have a fight with a girlfriend about 15 years ago right before V-day, but that was unintentional, and I got her a gift when we reconciled anyway. But to purposely screw over your relationship for a couple bucks for flowers? That deserves A PUNCH IN THE NUTS!

However, I will admit that Phil has some great, HONEST, frugal ways to save money and NOT screw others over (for the most part). For instance,

Watching women’s sports

No, this isn’t sexist, it’s frugal. Phil has a point that women’s sports cost a mere fraction to attend compared to the men’s counterparts. Granted, there’s no pro women’s football, but when it comes to women’s basketball or soccer, you can have a very cheap date, watch a good competition and earn brownie points with your lady (unless she’s a huge sports nut that only wants to see the guys). My recommendation…women’s indoor volleyball. Phil agrees too, but you’ll need to read the book to find out why 🙂

Dorm kids’ trash is your treasure

At the end of the college semester, drive around the dorms and find loads of barely used furniture, books and what have you for free, all near the dumpster. I say “near the dumpster” because you need to make sure someone just didn’t leave stuff by the curb while they get their car.

Here’s a funny story. Back when I first moved to the DC area and my wife and I were renting an apartment, I was walking down our hallway when I noticed our neighbor had a nice pair of strappy heel shoes next to a tied up bag of garbage. I figured that both were destined for the garbage chute, so I snagged the shoes…which were just my wife’s size. Little did I realize that our building was full of Asians whose custom is to remove their shoes outside of the apartment. I didn’t realize this until years later, and by then I would have no idea who that neighbor even was.

We still have the shoes, and they look great in her summery dresses 🙂

Same story goes for this same building when I found a perfectly good Dirt Devil vacuum next to the garbage chute on our floor. Turns out the cleaning lady probably just left it there while she worked on another floor! Gulp!

Ok, I’m a bit cheap myself, so I’ll give props where they’re due, but some of the “Stingy Scoundrel” ideas are just plain illegal. Things like taking ketchup packets to fill your ketchup container at home sounds exactly like stealing, no matter how you rationalize it. And I would think swapping your scratched up DVDs for new ones from Netflix goes against their terms of service, and again it’s stealing. (although Netflix does decontent their DVDs so you’re getting less features on your “new” disc).

So Phil, I’ll give you a big, manly hug for all your good ideas at saving some moolah, but I’ll warn you, if I ever meet you in person, I’m punching you right in the face. Then you can find a way to steal from a hospital when you have a broken nose and jaw.

(Oh, and yes, I really did enjoy the entire book for both its entertainment and educational value, regardless of how wrong some of the ideas were).

About the author

Clever Dude


  • My sister-in-law will often pour water on her fries when she needs to force herself to stop eating them, but I’ve never heard of actually using the water/ice as a scam. Seems like a lot of trouble.

    We used to go dorm hunting at the end of the semesters. I’m pretty sure we never took anything that wasn’t meant to be taken though. My roommate got the biggest haul when he found a vacuum cleaner that someone pitched because it wasn’t working, and the fix was replacing the belt for $1.19.

  • If you took Phil’s book as instruction, rather than tongue-in-cheek indictment of the lengths to which folks can go to get by in today’s expensive world…welp, you’re the one with reading comprehension problems. Please review his body of work as an author at before you choose to punch him in the face?

    • Hey, Phil already knows the potential reactions from the victims of his frugality scams, so he should be prepared for anything, including fighting dumpster divers.

      I guess I should have mentioned that Phil sent me the book to review, I read it knowing much of it couldn’t possibly be accomplished by a single person, or anyone with a conscience, so my own response is a bit “tongue in cheek”. Don’t worry, I don’t think I’ll be punching anyone anytime soon. I just like saying “Punch in the face”!

  • Wow! This guy is a thieve – plain and simple.

    I can understand:

    reviewing your auto insurance annually to ensure you are not over paying and receiving all the discounts you qualify for

    unplugging appliances when not in use to reduce electric bill

    Park your car and buying a bus pass

    Paying off credit cards

    Using only cash

    Eating out of your pantry before grocery shopping

    … but this guy here, oh wow, ugh! Yep, a punch in the face (two times) is in order.

    “He who will not apply himself to business, eventually discovers that he means to get his bread by cheating, stealing, or begging, or else is wholly void of reason” ~ Ischomachus

    P.S. Too funny about the shoes and vacuum.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Being frugal is one thing, but acting in dishonorable way is another. If the fries were bad because they were served that way is one thing, but making them bad and then complaining about is poor form.

    The pot luck lie is a real bad one also. Here you have a group of welling meaning individuals, your co-workers in this example, that wish to share, and this scum bag thinks, with pride, that it ok and even funny to screw them? With friends like this, sure don’t need any enemies!~

  • Oh man! I don’t think I could do any of these things. Didn’t Phil’s mom teach him that lying is wrong. It’s one thing to point out a product / services error and then ask for your money back or a discount it’s a whole other thing to create a defect!

  • I agree that watching women’s sports is frugal (and definitely not sexist). It’s the same here in the UK with the football (or soccer as you call it on your side of the Atlantic) – women’s is much, much cheaper to go see… but also takes place in much smaller venues and there’s generally not the same atmosphere, which is unfortunate.

    Making your fries soggy is really hideous… some employees could actually end up getting in trouble for that as well… kind of a selfish, mean thing to do to get free fries!

  • I had a friend who would at restaurants order a water (free), with a big bowl of lemons (free), and then use the sugar packets already on the table to make his own lemonade. What do you think? Smart, or jerky?

  • @Lady Mint. I used to do the same thing, and the waiters knew why. I stopped doing this though because the acidity from lemons gives me problems…oh, and it’s on the verge of stealing (i.e. taking advantage of a free offering by taking more than you should).

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