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.

The (F)RotM to end all (F)RsotM

From Occupy Grand Rapids. Yes, such a thing existed. Image used utterly without concern for private property rights.

From Occupy Grand Rapids. Yes, such a thing existed. Image used utterly without concern for private property rights.

Not literally, of course. We’ll run another one next month. But this one’s so good, so emblematic of what being the (F)RotM means, that we couldn’t wait for the 31st before bestowing the laurels upon this month’s winner.

From The Huffington Post, which evidently has standards as lax as the Yakezie Carnival’s, comes a soliloquy/possible suicide note from Dirk Hughes, who currently enjoys an uninspiring career registering students at the Grand Rapids, Michigan campus of ITT Technical Institute. That’s not our assessment of Dirk’s job, it’s his.

I have a doctorate. I have been employed full-time for the 35 years I have been of employable age with only a week or so between jobs. I have worked my butt off my entire adult life.

Well, there’s your first problem. What Dirk’s doctorate is in is unclear: his LinkedIn page states only that he attended Cleveland State University 22 years ago, without mentioning what he studied nor what degree he earned. There’s also no mention of where he took his undergraduate degree. Hopefully his Ph.D. thesis (we’re assuming his doctorate isn’t an M.D., or he wouldn’t be working at ITT) is more diligently researched and annotated than is his LinkedIn bio.

He dropped out of college twice (for most of you, once is plenty), attempted to write a novel, then borrowed money to attend law school at a superannuated age. Then he failed the bar. Thrice. But somehow he is, in his own mind, evidence that “hard work just doesn’t pay off.”

Once my wife graduated with her masters (Ed. Note: In human resources, the most vile occupation this side of baby seal clubber. Apparently a mere bachelor’s degree isn’t sufficient to qualify someone to leave condescending notes in the break room and coordinate homophobia awareness seminars) we moved to another city for her new job.

This was also the time for me to go back to school and for us to start having a family.

(Dramatic line break ours.) Hey Dirk? Excuse us – hey, Dr. Dirk? No, that was the worst time for you to start having kids. Raising a family on one income is hard enough. But raising an family on one income minus whatever your newly incurred tuition was? It doesn’t take an ITT certificate to know that expenses were going to run up against revenues, pass them, then take several victory laps while blowing kisses to the crowd.

Alright, maybe that’s an unfair generalization. If you were returning to school to get, say, a civil engineering degree, that’d guarantee you work and a great wage. Is that what you did?

I got my bachelor of arts in English

Oooooh, so close.

The wife’s career blossomed – one advantage, if you want to call it that, of today’s regulatory and regimented workplace – while Dr. Dirk’s faltered. He tended bar. He worked in sales. Neither of those jobs require a degree, or even a high school diploma, but Dr. Dirk had worse than just a high school diploma. His book-learnin’ bona fides consisted of a high school diploma weighted with a huge liability in the form of a useless bachelor’s degree from a school so embarrassing to have attended that today he doesn’t mention it. Again, the useless degree isn’t merely useless like an appendix or a vestigial finger. It’s a negative. A bachelor’s in the soft arts costs money, which thus paradoxically requires its holder to find an even better-paying job, despite him now being ill-equipped to do anything beyond a) pouring beer or 2) prompting secretaries across the Tri-County area to say, “Sorry, the purchasing manager is in Turkmenistan for the week. Why don’t you leave your card and I’ll get him to call you when he gets back?”

I finally landed a teaching job with one of those for-profit colleges you see on TV. I wasn’t a big fan of the corporate philosophy

He doesn’t mention that the college is ITT, and who can blame him? For a gifted academic like the Doc, that’d be like a Ferrandi graduate keeping his job as a Papa John’s pizza assembler on the down low.

Not satisfied with being overeducated and broke, Dr. Dirk is perpetuating the cycle for a new generation of same in his registrar job. Again we turn to CYC favorite Mike Rowe: “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist.”

The wife left the Doc, doubtless looking for a man who could support himself instead of a quixotic dreamer. By this time they had 2 kids, and the Dr. started working at a factory. He got remarried, turned 45, bought a house (“a few minutes before the housing bubble burst in 2006”), suffered a bout of congestive heart failure, and the only thing that stops this part of the story from turning into a mid-period Bruce Springsteen song is that our hero now decided he’d like to give lawyering a try. Again, he’s 45. 48, actually, when he failed the bar exam for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

Not cognizant of the part of the Universe’s plan that states “Dirk Hughes, under no circumstances, should be practicing law”, he took the exam again. And failed again.

It’s only with hindsight that we know that he bought his house at the top of the market, but Dr. Dirk can’t help but turn that fact into melodrama. (“Our home dropped in value every second.”) So did almost everyone else’s, but there’s nothing like a little personal projecting to make societal problems seem as though they’re exclusively Dirk Hughes’s. But at least, at least, he was smart enough not to take on any other stupid expenses, right?

The parent loans I had taken out for my now college-aged children were coming due.

The child is the father of the man, or something. Not content with mortgaging his own future, and seeing how well that turned out, Dr. Dirk decided to burden his kids with the same handicap. It’s much like how alcoholics teach their kids to be alcoholics and abusers instruct their kids in the fine points of abuse (whether directly or indirectly.) Yeah, he’s a bad father on top of everything else.

He also confused “levy” with “levee”, but if the Huffington Post’s elite team of proofreaders doesn’t think homonym confusion is important, who are we to bring it up?

Also, Dr. Dirk lives 30 miles from work. ITT gave him a $150 gift card and he spent it on gas.
The strangest thing about his lament, other than a would-be novelist having so unsophisticated a command of English, is that he still doesn’t get it. By that, we’re not talking about his insistence that a college degree is economically critical. Lots of people can’t figure that one out. What we mean is that he should seriously be grateful that his law school aspirations never made it to the completed stage. Dr. Dirk later finds out that a friend is working as a bankruptcy lawyer for considerably less than Dr. Dirk’s registrar salary. Shouldn’t the takeaway from that be “Thank God I failed the bar exam repeatedly”? It isn’t, or if it is, we couldn’t find his articulation of it.

Dr. Dirk likes to talk about how hard he works, which is meaningless; millions of other people make similar boasts. But he offers no solutions to his predicament, no hope, and, even at 50 or so and with plenty of academic credentials, no evidence that he understands how the world works. Fortunately, we do, and in the unlikely event that he’s reading this we’re willing to help him out.


No one gives a damn about your effort. They want only results.

Your humble blogger’s last (and hopefully final) 9-to-5 gig was at an advertising agency. Such workplaces often pride themselves on their looseness (no dress code, wacky knickknacks adorning the hallways), and God knows we took advantage of the looseness. Need to meet with the client? Well, let’s do it on the client’s turf, not at our office. Maybe the client will spring for lunch. And if the meeting should take 2 hours, schedule it for 2 p.m. At that point, are you really going to come back to the office from the other side of town just to leave again? After a while we started getting cocksure and setting those meetings for even earlier in the afternoon (or later in the morning, as you do.)

All told, we probably spent 25 hours a week in the office. And were out of there at 5 p.m. every day, like it was a religious imperative. Meanwhile our contemporaries got there early, stayed late, came in on weekends, and bragged about it. But we got more work done than anyone in the department, typically completing thrice the assignments of an ordinary worker bee.

Not because of a heroic work ethic (see above.) Not necessarily because of personal efficiency. But rather, because we knew what to do, did it, and understood the unrepealability of Parkinson’s Law. The self-congratulatory cubicle soldiers screwed around all day, but they did their screwing around at the office and could be persuaded to look busy at the appropriate times. We were more interested in whittling the pile of assignments down as fast as possible (but not at the price of shoddiness, of course.)

Hardest worker in the office? Hell no. Worker who produced the most results? Yes, especially per unit of time spent.

The moral? How hard we worked was of no interest to anyone. Right now, you could grab a shovel and spend the next 8 hours digging holes. Then, spend the following 8 filling the holes back up. Do that 7 days a week and we guarantee your back will ache, your mind will atrophy, and you’ll be the hardest-working person on the block if not the county.

But if you’re expecting a reward for that, you’re even dumber than Dr. Dirk.

You didn’t do anything, or at least nothing that anyone wants and is willing to pay for. Effort for its own sake is a waste of time. And by that measure, Dr. Dirk’s life has been squandered.

At last count 378 fellow idiots had chimed in in the comments section, sympathizing with Dr. Dirk and laying blame on everyone from the Koch Brothers to the Walton clan of Walmart fame. We’re a little surprised that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld avoided the commenters’ wrath, but at least they reminded us why we don’t and never will run comments on this site.

The rules for building wealth are simple, unambiguous, and posted here almost every day. Buy assets. Sell liabilities. Look at each transaction from the other party’s perspective. Leave emotions out of it. Dr. Dirk sold assets, bought liabilities (God, did he ever), looked at transactions from his own perspective only, and continues to emote all over the place, everywhere. He deserves to be poor and struggling, especially because of his refusal to adapt to circumstances instead of fighting them. You want to be like him, or do you want success, independence and the capacity for affluence? The choice is easy, the work it takes to accomplish said choice not much harder.

Dr. Dirk’s story is part of a series on the Huffington Post about losers who failed and are blaming society rather than themselves. If we’re feeling inspired (don’t expect miracles, you already know we’re lazy) we’ll write about some more of them.

May’s (Financial) Retard of the Month

Apparently we take requests now. A fellow blogger, who seems judicious and thus almost certainly doesn’t want us to use her name, suggested today’s Retard of the Month honoree. Her recommendation has plenty of the characteristics you’d want in a RotM:

  1. A first-person story about all the money he’s made? Of course not. How about a first-person story about all the debt he’s incurred? ($50,000 in this case. At least he claims to have paid his debt off, unlike almost all of his indistinguishable contemporaries.)
  2. “Debt” in the URL.

That’s about all you need to qualify to be RotM.

It’s a strange phenomenon, and one that might be particular to North American* society: digging oneself a hole, jumping in, then climbing out to reach level ground, is somehow nobler than never having dug the hole in the first place. It’s no different than praising fat people who undergo laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery (or even those who use the more ethical and lasting diet-and-exercise method) to get to a normal size, while denying accolades to the conscientious people who never descended into gluttony in the first place. For example:

Chris Christie

“Looking good, Governor Christie! Have you lost weight?”


John Hickenlooper

“Better keep an eye on that waistline, Governor Hickenlooper. You don’t want to start getting fat.”


Presenting Debt Roundup, another in the inexhaustible yet exhausting parade of debt bloggers. At least this one isn’t also a mommy blogger. This entry reads like a paid post, or at least like a public relations firm’s latest press release on its exciting new client, an up-and-coming Minneapolis-based national retailer, and let’s see if you can guess which one:


Target owns my wallet and my soul

That’s right, you heard me.  I shop at Target more often than I care to admit. My wife and I both are owned by Target


Maybe they should sponsor this blog.  Hey Target, get in touch with me if you want a sweet sponsorship deal!!


Target has been our store of choice ever since we moved into our house 7 years ago.


We shop at Target at least once a week, but probably more. (Ed. note: You can’t shop at a store more often than “at least once a week”.)


I always advocate shopping with a list.  We do it at Target, but for some reason that list seems to get longer as we stroll through the aisles.  Usually I wouldn’t deviate from the list, but I just can’t help myself there.  I turn into (Ed. note: HACKNEYED METAPHOR AHEAD) a little kid in a candy store and just want to grab things and throw them in the cart.


I joined their Pharmacy Rewards program, we have a Target Red Card (debit, not credit), and we use their coupons all of the time.


The Target stores around us are clean and very efficient. One of the pharmacists even knows me by name


One of our biggest reasons why we shop there is because is (sic) saves us time.


We just cut and pasted almost the entire post, but what the author was getting at (we think) is that he likes to shop at Target. First of all, guys shouldn’t like to shop anywhere. Maybe Cabela’s or Bass Pro, but that’s it.

We should have made this a chapter in the book. Fetishizing going to a department store is about the saddest activity we’ve ever heard of, even worse than playing fantasy baseball. Our subject claims that he paid his $50,000 in debt off in 4 years, which seems incompatible with making multiple weekly visits to Target (and claiming to be unable to ever buy “just…one item.”)

Our threadbare but still critical motto is Buy Assets, Sell Liabilities. Of course, clothing and groceries are exceptions in that a) they’re never going to appreciate in value, and b) if you don’t buy them you’ll starve and/or freeze to death. Consider their purchase to be the price of staying alive. But again, what is the point of telling your readers that you like to shop? And that you like to do so at Target?

Those questions weren’t rhetorical. Here’s the self-confessional epilog added a couple days after the initial post, stock in trade for today’s sensitive man:

It was pointed out to me that I didn’t provide any teaching moment with this post.  While I originally just wrote it to show my human side and how I too am tempted to spend, I am here to help out others.  That being said, My wife and I need to learn how to deal with this Target issue.  We do plan on implementing a set number of trips in order to stave off the spending urge.

Jesus H, how about growing a pair? Exactly what at Target is so tempting? Ooh, Nate Berkus sheet sets! Our hero doesn’t mention a single specific item he buys at Target, thus lending credence to our paid-post theory.

Debt Roundup guy, we’re here to help others too. Many of the others that we’re trying to help don’t see it that way, but that’s their problem. We’re going to help you by telling you to act like an adult and stop buying stuff you can’t afford. (We’re assuming you can’t afford it, otherwise you wouldn’t have moaned about buying it in the first place.) But seriously, your strategy is to restrict yourself to a fixed number of Target visits? You just said so. Time for an old-fashioned debuttal:

  1. Bull. So we’re supposed to believe the following scenario is feasible in your household?”Honey, let’s go to Target.”

    “Sorry, we’ve already gone 6 times this month. You remember our agreement.”

    Counting the number of times you visit a store is symptomatic of a far deeper problem.

  2. Just like Earth Hour, Ramadan fasting, and No-Spend Wednesday, the result of such a stupid plan is obvious and inevitable. You’ll just end up piling up the grocery cart on your permitted visits.
  3. Stop patting yourself on the back. This isn’t “helping others.” You want to confess something, go find a priest.

Even with increased online taxes on the horizon (Thank you, U.S. Senate!), shopping on Amazon is superior in almost every way to shopping at Target. This isn’t an anti-Target screed, it’s an anti-retail screed. Heck, even the guy who runs Debt Roundup (his first name is “Grayson.” Of course it is) has retailers he dislikes. Or in the case of Walmart, even “hates.”

People who profess to hate Walmart always crack us up. The company sold $469 billion worth of merchandise last year. Someone must like it. But yes, pat yourself on the back for being so much more refined than the working-class slobs who patronize Walmart’s 9000 locations. We’re sure the Honey Nut Cheerios and Oral-B dental floss you buy at Target are superior to Walmart’s in every way.

Guys who enjoy shopping, we have no advice for you beyond gender reassignment surgery.


*Which is shorthand for “American and Canadian society.” It seems that the Mexicans, Greenlanders, and Saint-Pierrais/Miquelonnais whom we share a continent with don’t fall for that foolishness.