Cheap Bastard

Phil Villarreal abandons all scruples in ascending the Parnassus of parsimony

Tightwad, cheapskate, miser, penny pincher—call it what you will. I've always been partial to skinflint, one of the truly great words for the sort of fool who ain't likely to be parted from his money any time soon. All of which are terms (and then some) that could safely be applied to this Villarreal guy.

If you're like Villarreal, then you prefer to go with the simple yet somehow kind of elegant moniker of stingy scoundrel. Which has a nice ring to it, if I do say so myself. But just who is this Phil Villarreal, and why are we to take stock in any of his pronouncements regarding the fine art of money-grubbing, tight-fistedness or whatever you want to call it?

As his bio notes, Villarreal's done some time as a freelance journalist. As anyone who's ever been involved in this august and noble profession (present company included) can tell you, it typically is not a great way to keep the wolf away from the door. As such, it's virtually a boot camp for turning out cheap bastards.

But enough of that. Let's turn our attentions to the esteemed tome under consideration. If you're hot to trot for some tips on how to save money, then you don't really need this book. Anyone with access to a television, newsstand or bookstore is chest-deep in this sort of muck already. It's the sort of thing there's no shortage of even in the best of times, but when the economy goes down the toilet, as we've seen lately, this crap is flung at us from every conceivable direction.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for advice from a churlish guru who positively revels in the glory of his immense cheapness and who abandons all notion of scruples, ethics, decency and fair play in his quest to put the pinch on a penny, then Villarreal's your guy. For God's sake, the guy even went so far as to write a threeword, all because he was too cheap to fork over for a proper foreword. Friends, that is some serious cheap.

To say that these are not your grandmother's money-saving tips would be a major understatement. The author himself cautions that in the course of implementing some of them you might face "dirty looks, slaps in the face, disapproving phone calls from parents, divorces, or, in some cases, confrontations with security guards or surly store managers." Well, if that's the price we must pay for wrangling a better price, so be it.

For ease of use, the author has divided these 100 brief excretions of wisdom into nine handy categories, among then Eating, Leisure and Entertainment, Corporate Cataclysm and the biggest section, Gross, Mean, and Just Plain Wrong—and Yet Oh So Profitable.

In this latter section we're presented with such shameless nuggets of advice as dressing like a homeless guy to score free eats, the old standby of forgetting your wallet on a date (which, of course, is only likely to work once per companion) or trying to scam airlines for a lower-cost bereavement rate so that you can jet off to the funeral of your dear (imaginary) departed.

A few of the tips tend toward time-honored standbys—and fairly obvious ones, to boot—such as grubbing off of your parents for free food, laundry services and perhaps even a place to live. A few actually seem quite sensible and don't require that you have your sense of shame surgically excised before putting them into action. Among these: negotiating a better rate with health care providers in return for offering to pay up front.

Ultimately, though, at least in my humble estimation, this book is probably as much a work of entertainment—and a pretty damned amusing one at that—as it is a practical handbook for saving money. Then again, how much monetary reward you'll be able to wring from Villarreal's big steaming info dump is probably directly proportional to how big a pair of you-know-whats you're sporting.

Or, as the author so neatly summarizes it, "Much of what I write will surely disgust you, but I'm sure a sizable portion is intriguing and perhaps you'll incorporate a few of my tokens into your daily routine."

Well said.

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