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.

Trent Hamm, Genius. Trent Hamm, Lunatic

Who's the most handsomest boy at the board game convention?

Who’s the most handsomest boy at the board game convention?


See? He’s not the only one who can change his mind by 180º in a single motion. And honestly, he is something of a genius in that someone this, what’s a good euphemism – single-minded can attract tens of thousands of devotees despite having only one personal finance tactic at his disposal (“spend less.”)

If you’re unfamiliar, Mr. Hamm is the “creative” force behind The Simple Dollar, an amateurishly written website in which he repeats himself 14 times weekly. He’s been a favorite of ours for a very long time. His advice is insipid, his syntax more stilted than Roy Maloy. From Mr. Hamm’s latest post, here’s an example of the excruciating detail he entices his readers with:

The first morning we were [at a relative’s house for Thanksgiving], I grabbed some clothes and headed for the bathroom to take a shower. Just like I do at home, I turned the hot water to full and turned on the cold water just a little bit, waited about fifteen seconds, and stepped in.

No mention on which body part he used to turn the water on with, whether he closed the shower curtain behind him, or if soap was involved, and if you think we’re being funny you haven’t seen the depraved depths of specificity to which he’ll go. The shower turned out to be too hot for his soft white underbelly, so…you won’t believe what he did to address the problem. Any guesses? Come on, you can do this.

I turned down the hot water and turned the cold water up quite a bit until I found a good balance

This is how you become a great blogger, kids. Write things your audience can identify with. Who among us hasn’t gotten in an unfamiliar shower and found it too hot? More importantly, who among us has found it noteworthy to mention such an occurrence?

Afterwards, I was talking to the person who was hosting us

Trent goes to disturbing lengths to camouflage the identities of the bit players in his inexorable stories. Earlier, he refers to this home as that of “some of our extended family members.” Because “my wife’s uncle” or whatever just conveys way too much information.

Anyhow, the person who was hosting the Hamm clan (or, if you prefer concision, the “host”)

told me that he, too, turns on a mix of hot and cold water for his shower, as does his wife.

This isn’t an atypical post for Trent Hamm. Every one of them is this dull, pointless, and dizzyingly simple in its progression. If you were visiting kin and discovered that they drank beer with breakfast, dried their clothes in the oven, or tossed their trash in the neighbor’s yard, that would be worth mentioning. But that they “tur[n] on a mix of hot and cold water for [their] shower[s]”? You know, like everyone else in the civilized world does? To you, our readers, this is as pleonastic as information gets. To us, it’s something to make fun of. But to Trent, it’s critical to the plot.

[Finding out that these people shower with a mix of hot and cold water] threw me for a loop.

I was…shocked.

We only wish that Trent’s shocked-by-the-shower story had involved someone throwing a toaster in standing water while Trent was scrubbing down his orcine body, but no such luck.

We’re not going to parse every line in Trent’s Typhoon Haiyan of a post, because if we did we’d be here for months. Fast-forwarding, the unidentified male family member explained that they keep their water heater temperature high to prevent disease.

Where do these people live, Calcutta?

The good part, at least for Trent, is that this conversation gave him another triviality to obsess over.

At about 50 degrees Celsius, which is what we keep our hot water heater set to, you have a drastically higher chance of Legionella living in your hot water tank. Instead, [The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases] recommends keeping it set at 60 degrees

God forbid he’d multiply the Celsius values by 1.8 and add 32 to accommodate his American audience, but Trent has a knack for paying attention to meaningless details only. Although he’d probably never given Legionella a 2nd thought in his life, he was now confronted with a whole new series of economic tradeoffs to calculate cost-benefit analyses for:

The problem with that temperature is that you run into some danger of scalding. The solution there is to have anti-scald devices at the faucets and showers

[…]I raised our own tank temperature up to about 140 F. We already had these anti-scald devices installed

So, does Trent’s post have a point? Of course not, this is Trent Hamm we’re talking about. By the way, the cheapest anti-scald device we could find sells for $42. Trent Hamm, who regularly tells his readers to save money by making their own toothpaste instead of dropping $1 for a tube of AquaFresh, and who literally counts the number of times he shakes salt or pepper onto his food, threw away $42 on an additional shower valve instead of just playing with the hot and cold faucets like a normal person would. The net result of Trent raising his water tank’s temperature to unfamiliar heights? Again, by now you should be able to guess this easily.

The water in the shower…does come out warmer than I like, meaning I mix in some cold water with my showers.

Every 12 hours, this psychopath manages to hunker down and squeeze out another post. Which sounds like it’d be hard to do, at least in terms of time expended, until you remember that he can burn multiple paragraphs on the subject of his preferred method for finding a comfortable temperature each time he steps into the shower (which, judging by his appearance on those YouTube videos, isn’t all that frequently.)

There is a plot twist. About once every couple of hundred posts, Trent goes iconoclast and stops praying at the altar of the great goddess Parsimonia (boldfacing his):

Frugality isn’t worth the risk of a significant increase in the likelihood of Legionnaire’s disease or other bacteria-borne illnesses in our home.

Again, what 3rd-world backwater is he living in? Last we checked, Huxley, Iowa was nowhere near the Gaza Strip. Granted, he lives with kids and kids are filthy, but so filthy that even 120º isn’t enough to stop the microorganisms from claiming another victim? The only people Legionnaire’s disease has killed in this country in the last 30 years all lived in nursing homes. Trent isn’t yet so immobile that he needs a health-care worker to wash him down with a rag on a stick, but you can’t be too careful.

This advice wouldn’t be so bad (though it’d still be plenty bad) if it weren’t coming from the same tool who bars the door against Legionella but goes out of his way to recommend other fun ways for incurring disease:

If your recipe says “Preheat the oven to 400º” and then later says “Bake for 30 minutes,” don’t preheat the oven at all. Instead, put your food in the oven, then set the temperature to 400º. Then, add about half of the preheat time to the cooking time. Why? When you open a preheated oven to put in your dish, it’s no different than opening the oven to check the food near the end of the cooking time. You lose that 2¢. (Ed. note: 2¢ being the amount Trent figured out that it costs to open your oven to check on food. That’s not a joke. Nor is it a joke that he apparently had no clue than turning on an oven light could have saved him 1.994¢ or so of those precious pennies.) 

Keep your shower’s hot water relatively cool to save money. No wait, raise its temperature so you don’t get an extremely rare disease. But it’s okay to risk a more common (if less fatal) disease if it means saving 2¢, or .05% of the price of an unnecessary anti-scald device.

Trent Hamm is an abomination. If you read him for anything other than the (admittedly small) amusement value, you’re throwing your life away. If you’re contemplating buying his book, please buy ours instead before killing yourself.

July’s (Financial) Retard of the Month

He claims to have a wife. The hundreds of board games on the shelves would indicate otherwise.

He claims to have a wife. The hundreds of board games on the shelves indicate otherwise.


Yes, him again. If you’re tired of our repeated honoring of Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar as Retard of the Month, and want us to broaden our scope, we remind you that we don’t obsess on him anywhere near as much as he obsesses on his sole topic of interest, frugality.

But wait! Things have changed. Trent recently showed us his other side. His profligate side. In a post entitled “Five Frugal Things I Don’t Do.” They’re perfect, every last one of them. We’re going to break them down in increasing order of ludicrousness, and we can’t get wait to get started. Here, this is only his 5th-dumbest non-frugal tip:

I don’t save condiment packages from restaurants.

As we’ve said before, it’s not Trent’s cheapness that gets us. We’re not above crumpling up a piece of paper and using it as a cat toy instead of buying a $12 Martha Stewart®-branded feather attached to a stick. It’s Trent’s endless inconsistency that makes us want to vomit. This is a man who:

  • Advocates taking buses everywhere, yet owns a vehicle.
  • Says you should buy cheap shampoo and use it sparingly, but says you should make your own shampoo instead.
  • Gives workout advice, yet appears to be closing in on 300 pounds.
  • Calculates his homemade meal prices to the penny, yet eats in restaurants.
  • Saves money by collecting ordinary rocks for his kids to play with on their summer vacations (not a joke), yet appears to have dropped at least $10,000 on board games.

And dozens of other examples. But what burns our grass the most is his use of the lazy literary device known as the imaginary friend. Conveniently, Trent has a friend who…well, we’ll let Trent explain:

One of my friends always asks for extra condiment packets at restaurants and always grabs a fistful whenever they’re available. He then takes them home and, when he’s doing something like watching television, he opens them and puts them into the respective bottles.

Were this person to exist, and of course he doesn’t, it’d at least be understandable why he and Trent would pal around. But as bizarre as it is to hoard ketchup packages, even assuming someone was going to do that, why on Earth would he then open them up and squeeze them into an awaiting bottle?

Trent and his circle live at the intersection of cheapness and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But as we stated, Trent’s condiment-rearranging friend is 100% mythical. As long as you’re pilfering the mustard and Sriracha sauce to begin with (does Sriracha come in single-serving packets? Oh that’d be awesome), why wouldn’t you keep them in their sealed containers? The short answer is because then Trent wouldn’t have a fictional anecdote to expand upon:

Food cross-contamination issues sincerely worry me and when you do this, you’re doing lots of potential cross-contamination.

Also, we’re willing to bet that there are several dozen condiment packages taking up space in Chez Trent as we speak. Cake icing, full-fat tartar sauce, all the usual suspects.

Somewhat related to the phenomenon of hoarding condiments,

I don’t use public restrooms unless I have to.

It’s Trent’s iconoclasm that makes him a winner. While the rest of society can’t wait to rush out of their houses just so they can sit on unfamiliar toilets with unknown histories, Trent turns conventional wisdom on its head and – get this – urinates and defecates at home whenever possible. Weird, isn’t it?

That being said, before today we were certain that Trent’s home contained functioning toilets only because building codes require it to. All that unnecessary porcelain, just adding to the price of Trent’s house. Anyhow, back to his radical idea of not using traditionally filthy public toilets, something none of us had ever thought of before:

An old coworker of mine use (sic) to go to the bathroom like clockwork just before leaving for the day, theoretically to save on toilet paper, water, and soap at home.

Like the guy who empties ketchup packets into a Heinz bottle, this old coworker is a figment of Trent’s dull imagination. At the absolute least, and giving Trent way too much benefit of the doubt, a coworker might use the work bathroom only because he’s facing a 50-mile commute home or something. But no human outside of the Hamm household is going to take toilet paper, water and soap savings into consideration when excreting.

Again, while this can certainly save a bit of money on water, soap, and paper products,

No it can’t, unless you’re measuring bits in hundredths of cents.

I tend to avoid public restrooms for sanitary reasons.

Sanctimony punctuated by earnestness. Trent seems to legitimately believe that his readers could stand to learn from his real-world observations, including the one that your bathrooms at home are going to be under greater personal scrutiny than public ones.

(If you’re following along with Trent’s public bowel movement of a post, we’re not going through his list in order. Instead we’re building to a crescendo.)

I don’t reuse aluminum foil.

Earlier in the post Trent mentioned that he will, however, wash Ziploc bags. If there’s a significant difference between the one and the other, we’re too dumb to see it.

I know at least one person who will flatten it out and save it for use the next time.

Oh, you liar with the aroma of a public toilet. So now Trent has casually mentioned, within the space of single blog post:

  • a friend who reuses aluminum foil
  • a (different) friend (alright, an ex-co-worker) who makes it a point of going to the bathroom at the end of the workday, to save money on soap and toilet paper. Oh, and water.
  • a (3rd) friend who not only saves extra ketchup packages, but then transfers the packages to a bottle while he’s watching TV.  

How amazingly fitting. If those people really existed, then Trent would be only the 4th-cheapest person in East Rectum, Iowa.

I don’t buy the low end version of something I know I’ll use.

Why the hell not? As for our own frugality (CYC confessional time), our local WinCo sells 2 brands of milk – one from the local dairy whose name we can’t remember, which goes for $3 a gallon or so, and the store brand which is usually around $2. We’re not sure why anyone would buy the former, or even why buying the latter counts as an activity worth mentioning, but then we’re not Trent. Here’s his rationale for not buying the low-end version of something he knows he’ll use. We give that rationale to you in its entirety:

I am quite willing to spend more on an item that I know is going to receive regular use around my home.

If I know something is going to be used a lot, I’m more interested in purchasing a reliable version of that product than I am buying the absolute least expensive version. I will buy the “cheap” one if I’m not sure how much I’ll use an item, but when I’m replacing something and I know I’ll use it, I will always look for the best “bang for the buck” version of the item with a strong eye toward reliability. That often means a pricier version than I might have otherwise purchased.

Trent hates detail almost as much as he hates throwing out Ziploc bags, which is a quirk (of his myriad) that we can’t begin to understand. He doesn’t cite a single example of an “item” or a “product” that he does this with? You know, so his readers might have a clearer illustration of what he’s talking about? Towels. Silverware. Thumb drives. Garden tools. ANYTHING. But no, he gives us nothing more specific than items and products. It’s like his bogus mailbag submitters who write, “My husband and I live in a major city in the Southeast region,” because identifying such as Atlanta or Charlotte might mean too much disclosure.

Finally – we were saving this – his grandest indulgence of all:

I don’t constantly negotiate.

Here is a man who expresses concern that opening an oven to check on food will “waste” 2¢ (and who only later discovered that technological marvel, the oven light), yet who will presumably leave hundreds of dollars on the table because negotiation is either déclassé or overly stingy.

“So, Mr. Hamm – and is it OK if I call you Trent? A special discount just for you.  I don’t do this with most customers, but you look like an honest man who appreciates the value of a dollar. That’s why I can get you into this Prius today for just $48,000.”

“Sounds good. Where do I sign?”

Trent Hamm never had anything interesting to say to begin with, and after 6 or so years of sharing his microthoughts with the world it’s only gotten worse. Yet there are 100,000 Feedburner subscribers who go out of their way to let him tell them that he prefers his home bathroom to public ones – and not only that, but that his reason for doing so has an economic basis. Mohamed Morsi got deposed this month, yet Trent Hamm’s confounding reign continues. There is no explanation.