March’s (F)RotM. You’re in Trent Hamm’s House.

Qwirkle. Belfort. Euphonia. These aren't even real words!

“Qwirkle.” “Belfort.” “Ingenious.” These aren’t even real words!

 

The biggest problem with Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar – aside from his repetition, impractical advice, stubbornness in the face of evidence that proves him wrong, unhealthy love of adverbs, repetition, comical overuse of the word “wonderful,” and repetition – is that there’s just too much to make fun of. We can read him only in spurts, then have to take a few weeks or months off or we’ll find ourselves making our own deodorant or recording awkward YouTube videos in one take.

Earlier this month, reader Kevin brought Trent’s latest to our attention and sucked us back in. A post called The Last Bit in the Container, which might be the quintessential Trent Hamm work. As long-winded calls to skimp (and scrimp) go, this one is the Trentiest.

It happens over and over again in life. You’re using a tube of toothpaste and you’ve used enough so that it’s becoming difficult to squeeze out the remainder. You’re eating a bag of chips and all that’s left are a bunch of crumbs at the bottom. You turn over your shampoo bottle to get a little for your hair and find that it’s not coming out very fast at all.

The container’s almost empty.

How is it possible that the biggest cheapskate on the planet can have no concept of economizing when it comes to words? You could take all the superfluous phrasing out of The Simple Dollar and use it to make another site. Several sites. The man has devoted terabyte after terabyte to saying more than the situation calls for.

The effort that he should expend on editing instead goes to arithmetic that tests the limits of his calculator’s display. Our own shows quantities no smaller than ±10-90. But if there’s a way to somehow save 10-91¢, Trent will find it.

I get 35 uses out of that shampoo bottle. If I stop right then, the shampoo is costing me 5.7 cents per use.

Trent is clearly slipping. He ratiocinated these figures to only a single decimal place. The Trent of old would never have admitted to paying 5.7¢ per brushing (excluding depreciation of the toothbrush) when he could avoid rounding down and claim to be paying 5.714¢ instead. Carnival of Wealth stalwart Paula Pant at Afford Anything observed that Trent made an egregious mistake, too. How can he contemplate spending 30 additional seconds in the shower getting an extra serving out of his shampoo bottle, while not factoring in the water he’s consuming during that time? Maybe he turns the water off while squeezing. Which would seem likely, for a man who counts out 9 squares of toilet paper per wipe. (We included a link so you could see the original source, but we warn you that that linked story Trent wrote is more than a little unpleasant. Let’s just say that the family that defecates together, gets visited by Child Protective Services together. Or should.) Trent isn’t done with measuring bathroom product expense per use, either:

Let’s say a tube of toothpaste costs $3 and provides a maximum of, say, 60 uses. This seems about right, since Sarah and I can get through a tube in about a month.

As Kevin put it, “It appears that he and the unfortunate Mrs. Hamm only brush their teeth once a day.  I guess this probably saves about 37¢ a month or so.”

Wait, we’re missing the big story here. This is the same hypocritical fat man who once wrote a post about how to save money by making your own toothpaste. (We already showcased that nugget of resourcefulness and ingenuity here.) Add stevia, cinnamon, peppermint oil, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide; buy a “small empty travel squirt container”, insert the former into the latter, and…

As soon as we’re done going through our backlog of toothpaste (purchased in bulk), I intend to use this as my only toothpaste.

He wrote that sentence 3 years ago, so if he’s telling the truth, that means he had at least 36 tubes of toothpaste in his pantry at the time. For him and his wife. As for their 3 kids, presumably they’re on their own.

When I reach a point where a squeeze doesn’t produce enough toothpaste to use, I’ll usually go down to the end of the tube and spend a minute or so rolling it up. I can usually get another ten or so brushes out of that tube if I do it.

We would have used the word “uses” rather than the misleading “brushes”, but then again we’re not the featured attraction at Financial Times Press, and that’s officially the most depressing independent clause we’ve ever written.

What kills us about Trent, every time, is that he couldn’t be more derivative yet thinks he’s being original. He seems to believe that he stumbled across this revolutionary new method of getting more toothpaste out of a tube – rolling from the bottom – and that his readers would stand to benefit from such a discovery. Just read this. Just freaking read this:

With no extra effort, I can get 50 uses out of the tube. That means my cost per use is $0.06.

For the last ten uses, I need to spend a minute rolling that tube up carefully to squeeze all of the extra into the end of the tube. This saves me $0.06 per use and I figure I’ll get another ten uses out of it. That means the one minute spent folding up the tube saves me $0.60. Is it worth it? I think so, since $0.60 per minute adds up to $36 per hour after taxes, a rate most of us would love to achieve.

Hey moron: You can’t extrapolate these piddling quirks of yours like that. It doesn’t work that way. He brags about how it takes him just 10 seconds to squeeze out another 6¢ worth of toothpaste (again, assuming that his cinnamon-stevia-hydrogen peroxide-baking soda concoction is still fermenting in the basement, and we can only hope there are a couple of ingredients in there that can chemically bond and turn Trent’s house into a mustard gas factory.) That’s not a functional $36/hour, unless you have 360 almost-empty tubes on hand and more teeth in your mouth than the standard 32. By the same logic, picking quarters off the street (assuming 3 seconds per pickup) is an effective $300/hour job. Why would anyone ever do anything else for a living?

This is what happens when you take a kid in a tiny Midwestern town, introduce him to fantasy role-playing games instead of teaching him how to throw a g.d. baseball, and leave him alone with his thoughts. He ends up becoming fascinated by minutiae, and the more minute, the better. Assuming the wife and kids exist (we’ve been skeptical, and would like to see tangible proof of at least one family member in those YouTube videos), how is he still at this obsessive point? How does the wife put up with it? Why does she put up with it? Does she consider the glass to be half full? (“He’s not smoking, he’s not doing drugs. [Of course not, they cost money.] I’m pretty sure I don’t have to worry about him cheating. I can deal with this. I’ll spend far more in therapy sessions than he’s saving in toothpaste, but I’ll figure it out.”)

Trent lives in Huxley, Iowa. When we find out his address, we’re going to break into his house one night, pour all the perishables down the sink, open all the windows so he’ll burn another kilowatt-hour or so of energy, then stand across the street and rub our hands with glee.

February’s (F)RotM

Guys, you may think your nonexistent student loan balances are a good thing. Today we'll learn what you're missing.

Guys, you may think your nonexistent student loan balances are a good thing. Today we’ll learn what you’re missing.

 

We haven’t done one of these for a few months, so it’s about time. The obstinacy and pigheadedness of these people deserves to be called out and made fun of at every opportunity. And here’s an opportunity.

Let’s start with a non-rhetorical question this time:

What would it take to convince you that you’re wrong? How big a mountain range of evidence would have to appear on the other side of an issue for you to at least perhaps think about the possibility that your previously held beliefs are incorrect? Even (or especially) if you have great incentive to justify those beliefs to yourself?

Meet Sally Bohlinger, staff Pollyanna at Young Adult Money and all-around naif. One thing about Sally though, she’s an original. She’s the only personal finance blogger on the planet who has incurred tons of student loan debt, then chose to write about and justify it. Nope, there’s never been another one. Sally is the first. A true pioneer.

With my six years of undergraduate college completed, the reality of loans definitely sunk in more than it ever had before, especially when I finally realized the extent of the loans I needed to pay back. Right now, I currently owe just over $72,500

Well, you can’t accuse her of burying the lede. 6 years? At what is presumably called a 4-year college, or a series of such colleges? It’s the latter, according to a second post that she links to:

 I was absolutely determined to have that little piece of paper and so dropping out was not something I was interested in

We’ll give her credit for understanding that for her, and millions like her, that diploma is indeed nothing more than its physical description.

Here’s our favorite part, the rationalizing.

that is only student loan debt and I’m very thankful I don’t have any credit card debt (and plan on never having it).

I smoked my way into lung cancer, but the good news is, I don’t have emphysema! (and plan on never having it).

She initially decided she wanted to work in a television newsroom. We speak from experience when we say that a) TV news departments are filled with the worst people on Earth and 2) you don’t need a college degree to work in one. You do need a gift for repetition and insipidity, however, so our heroine might qualify.

But hold on, then she decided she wanted to work with deaf people, albeit in some unspecified capacity. No wait, she changed her mind again and now wants to work in a college admissions department. Which is what she’s doing right now, at a school that gives her perks such as…

…and that ellipsis is insufficient to foreshadow the drama that’s coming…

…reduced tuition. For the master’s degree she’s now pursuing.

 the opportunities that will arise from being back far outweigh any negatives

This is militant justification. Now she’s not only not using that antediluvian undergraduate degree in the real world that it’s allegedly designed for, she’s wrapped herself in an academic cocoon. This is the ultimate comfort zone. “I’m already here anyway, and I’m reminded of this place every time I get a letter reminding me of my student loan debt to the penny, so I might as well make this my home. At least until I find a 4th subject of interest to distract me from this current one. It’ll happen.”

We instituted a rule at CYC several years ago: never read the comments on anything on the internet, under any circumstances. We do try to set an example with regard to that, by not allowing comments on this site. (Primarily because we’re not interested in what you think. Alright, that’s not true: you can email or tweet at us anytime and will probably get a response. But your opinions about our site don’t deserve to be shared publicly, especially right here of all places.)

Then, like the filthy hypocrites we are, we violated our own rule. But the comments on “The Debt I’m In” are too good to ignore.

Good luck and congrats on the free MBA!

Way to go! [...] free school is definitely the best- you’re very smart to take advantage of it!

Free school? How about a free job? Most employers will let you come in every day and earn money, and not even charge you for the privilege.

That’s great that you found a way to get your MBA for free

Christ, the comments on these posts are every bit as groundbreaking at the posts themselves.

I’m incredibly jealous! I couldn’t imagine having my education paid for like that!

And Ms. Bohlinger’s response:

It was simply too good to pass up! Especially because I won’t be adding to my student loan debt since it’s being paid for!

The exclamation points could have been smiley emoticons, so there’s that. We’re glass-half-full people here at CYC.

Great grad school set up! [...] Sounds like you have a solid plan…best of luck!

Actually, she has a liquid plan. Or a gaseous plan. It constantly deforms under shear stress and takes on the shape of its container.

That’s wonderful you found a way to essentially get paid to earn your MBA.

That’s from someone named Shannon Ryan, in case you’re wondering “Who sees the same comment written 50 times on a crappy blog post and decides to add it a 51st time?”

Good for you not incurring anymore (sic) debt in grad school and not letting your undergrad debt prevent you from pursuing a degree

This is like saying to a 600-lb. woman, “You haven’t gotten up to 610 pounds! Great job! Here, have this entire Key Lime pie, I’m not eating it.”

That’s a good deal you have for getting your MBA

Are you getting it yet? See post, leave repetitive comment, repeat. Wait, here’s the dippiest one yet, from “Blonde Finance”, and gals, if you want men to take you seriously, maybe you shouldn’t be the ones inviting us to define you by something as trivial as your hair color:

Congrats on getting your MBA without adding to your loan obligations! I know that the mound of debt you have accumulated stresses you out; however, as long as you are not paying an obscene interest rate (8%+), I wouldn’t stress too much about paying them off fast. I would rather see you build a robust savings account and plan for life than pay down student loans.

You’d rather see that? Then you’re in the running to be the March (F)RotM. The student loans carry interest, you flaxen-haired moron. Every dollar Ms. Bohlinger puts toward a savings account instead of her student loan debt costs her more than a dollar. We know women have a hard time with math, even the college-educated ones (obviously), but holy crap.

Sounds like a great deal with your MBA.

I would say well worth it!

And on and on and on and on and on and on and on it goes.

The reason we deride these debt bloggers is because they consistently ask for it. Their prospects for continued underemployment are as formidable as their originality, and dwarfed only by their delusion. Again, when hundreds of your cohorts are making an identical lament, for years on end, moving from their early 20s into their late 20s without ever having achieved a thing except an ever-augmenting capacity for delusion (and of course, that vital piece of paper), maybe, just maybe, you’re the wrong ones and everyone else is right.

But that can’t be! I’m college-educated! That’s the very definition of smart! 

Sorry. Our apologies. We defer to your superior intelligence, and how well your application of said intelligence is working out for you.

November’s (F)RotM, Now With Local Flavor

Not Amie Pellegrini. Close enough, though

Not Amie Pellegrini. Close enough, though

 

We’ve maintained on this site, again and again, that for most of us entrepreneurship is the surest path to wealth-building. It’s also the surest path to illiquidity and receivership, if you don’t know what you’re doing. And you probably don’t. Especially if you start a business for no better reason than you want to sell products that are, in your estimation, “cute.” Speaking of which, if you think “cute” is the overused adjective of choice among dippier females, wait ’til you get a load of this month’s (F)RotM and her overuse of it.

Meet Amie Pellegrini, a would-be transportation tycoon and founder of The Town Bike, somehow still in operation as of this writing. The only thing standing in the way of the realization of Ms. Pellegrini’s dream is a gaping hole where her business sense ought to be. We’ll start with the foreboding opening sentence in a Las Vegas Review-Journal story of 2 months ago:

Imagine Paris Hilton opening a downtown Las Vegas bicycle store.

Yes, except Paris Hilton has unlimited funds to indulge her fantasies. Ms. Pellegrini is operating a little more modestly:

Pellegrini debuted the shop this month, pouring $40,000 into [it]…

Laid off from her operating room medical device sales rep job, Pellegrini sold her Lexus for $10,000

Ms. Pellegrini can now go without the car because she works in downtown Las Vegas, where parking is relatively scarce. We’d say she can take one of her bikes to work, but her commute is too short even for that:

She lives above her store.

Owning a bike shop is the culmination of a lifelong fascination with and love for cycling, right? Not exactly:

“I don’t even know what bike shops are supposed to be like,” Pellegrini said. “There was a shop in New York I loved. I loved the way the bikes were put on display. It almost was like a runway for models. It was a cute store.”

Last Saturday morning, Pellegrini greeted a visitor while she was wearing a long pink dress and smoking a cigarette — not the conventional bike shop garb

Read the original article and you can hear its author, a competitive cyclist himself, holding back the laughter between keystrokes.

We saved the entrepreneurship chapter for last in The Greatest Personal Finance Book Ever Written. We explained how to set up a limited liability company, how to minimize taxes, etc. We didn’t explain what reasons you should have for starting your own business, mostly because they seemed too evident to mention. Fill a need. Look for an underserved market and serve it. As a business owner, you trade having one boss for having multiple mini-bosses, better known as customers. Make their lives easier, and you’ll succeed. Or to quote the Kinks, Give The People What They Want.

Ms. Pellegrini reverses the traditional wisdom here. You’re not going to believe this, but the hot blonde single chick thinks that her business should exist for the benefit of said hot blonde single chick:

I wanted to do something just for me

“Mr. Zuckerberg, why did you create Facebook?” “I wanted to do something just for me.” Carry on, then. It does not strain the limits of credulity to think that people have been doing things just for Ms. Pellegrini for most of her life, including the poor unnamed loser in this paragraph:

[Pellegrini] admits she doesn’t know much technically about bicycles. She bought three old bicycles, including a Schwinn Le Tour road bike and a beach cruiser.

“I took apart the bikes, but couldn’t put them together,” Pellegrini said. “I wanted to find out how they worked. I called a friend who helped me put the bikes back together.”

No mention on whether the friend is male or female, but we can take an educated guess. And if you think that’s unnecessarily sexist, might we remind you that

[T]here are bicycles on the floor, but they were picked because they look pretty. And besides the two-wheelers, frilly sundresses hang from a rack greeting patrons, and cute dog toys and bow ties sit in one corner.

We now introduce the story’s villain. He’s the regional sales representative for Linus Bikes, a California outfit that sells 3-speed touring cycles. He also knows a sucker when he sees one:

The fact that Pellegrini is an outsider to the bicycle industry is just fine with the Linus sales representative who sold her the bicycles[...]

“She’s been refreshing. She brings a new perspective. She’s not coming from a techie bike background, so she relates to our customers[.]”

“Ma’am, your showroom looks a little bare. But you know what would fill it up just right? 20 of our Roadster Sport bikes. 5 almond, 5 black, 5 olive and 5 marine. They’d really accentuate the sun dresses and dog toys. I can get them for you wholesale. And the retail markups on them are among our highest.”

“But I haven’t had 20 customers come in all month.”

“Just you wait. Once you’ve got these babies in stock, you’ll have to turn people back at the door.”

We’ve never changed the (F)RotM in mid-post, but this time we might have to take the honor away from Ms. Pellegrini and give it to her neighbor, Don:

My neighbor Don who lives on Third Street, for a year I walked by his house and would talk with him about opening a bike store [...] He came over and helped me put together a whole shipment of bikes once. He helped me move everything into the store. He helped paint the store. He spent three months building the store with me and never asked for a dime. He just wanted to help me[.]

Okay, now try beseeching Don’s help again, only this time be fat and/or ugly and see what happens. We only wonder at what point Don asked her out on a date. He must have run out of pretexts at that point, seeing as he already had her contact information and knew where she lived. We don’t know what his line was, but we can guess her response. “Oh, that’s so sweet! I really like you, but not in that way. Now [bats eyelashes] can you help me carry these Thule® racks upstairs? They’re really heavy.”

Just kidding, that would never happen. Bike racks are bike accessories, and Ms. Pellegrini doesn’t have the floor space to devote to such trivialities when there are sundresses and dog toys to display. She doesn’t sell tubes, doesn’t sell tires, and doesn’t have a repair facility on the premises. If you buy a fixed-gear douche ride from her, you’ll have to take it to another store for professional repairs. That other store will have packs, bottles, shoes and helmets available, and will preclude you ever needing to set foot in Ms. Pellegrini’s store again.

We saw this story back in September and figured she’d be out of business in 4 months. A smart gambler would have taken the under, as she was poised to last barely half that long:

On Tuesday, Amie Pellegrini posted on Facebook that she would have to close her unique downtown Las Vegas bicycle shop, Town Bike.

But it seems that some gullible guys on Facebook took pity on her, the kindness of strangers postponing the inevitable until the end of the year. Oh, and one more handy tip for prospective entrepreneurs whose businesses are crumbling before their overly mascaraed eyes: try not to get arrested for domestic violence the very week that your failing business is featured in the local paper.