Matt Brownell

Mo Money Monday - Local Celebrities (Tuesday) Edition!

With Kendall gone, Mo Money Monday just ain’t the same. We’ll give it out best shot here:

Local Celebrity Matt Brownell is back with a bang: Queer Eye for the Broke Guy

Get Rich…with Good Financial Habits, aka Get Rich the Boring Yet More Effective Way

Don’t Let Minimum Payments Make You Broke

Perk Street Financial Debuts on the Blog: Founder and CEO Dan O’Malley Drops Some Knowledge


Queer Eye for the Broke Guy

I enjoy clothes shopping about as much as I enjoy watching soccer, which is to say I do it begrudgingly about once every four years. But I recently got some unsolicited feedback on my clothes that suggested it was time to update my wardrobe. “Those jeans look like something my dad would wear,” said one friend, aghast. “And why are you wearing running shoes at a bar?” she continued, increasingly horrified. “Are those… tube socks?” she concluded, now on the verge of tears. I realized I was going to have to visit the mall and at least get a new pair of jeans. This was a troubling prospect, for a variety of reasons:

1. Clothing stores are an absolute nightmare. Have you ever been inside an Abercrombie & Fitch? Hell, have you ever just walked by an Abercrombie & Fitch? The air is thick with cologne, to the point that if you were to light a match the whole store would erupt into an enormous fireball like at the end of Die Hard 2. They play pounding techno and any pop music that managed not to make the cut at KISS 108. And everywhere you look there are enormous posters of chiseled, shirtless men that bear no resemblance to anything I will ever look like. It’s basically like the worst club you’ve ever been in, except that instead of overpriced drinks, they sell overpriced jeans. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Clothes are really expensive. “Think of it this way: you really only need one pair of jeans, and you’re going to wear them hundreds of times,” explained a friend of mine. “So you might as well spend some money to get a really kick-ass pair.” His logic seemed sound, so I went to a store that sold nothing but jeans. The cheapest pair they had was $80, and I was mortified to discover that instead of a zipper, the fly was just a column of buttons. I’m told this is called a “button fly,” and I’m not sure why it exists. They took one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century and replaced it with something stupid-looking and less functional. In fact, instead of replacing the zipper with buttons, why not replace the button with another, tiny zipper? Somebody sketch this out for me.

Anyway, all the other jeans were $100. It’s not even that I couldn’t find room in my budget, I would just feel like an idiot if I spent that much money on jeans. Who am I, Jay-Z? (I’m assuming Jay-Z wears expensive jeans; I’ll apologize if he’s out there rocking a pair of relaxed fit Wranglers.)

3. I have no sense of style. This has always been a problem for me. When I was a teenager, my standard outfit consisted of khaki cargo pants and a t-shirt of whatever terrible nu metal band I was listening to at the moment. As soon as they invent the time machine, I’m going to go back in time and kick my own ass. (Hey, someone else can kill Hitler; I have to beat the crap out of my teenage self for listening to Linkin Park.)

Things have changed a bit since middle school – my taste in music has improved (marginally), and I now make more of a conscious effort to dress in a socially acceptable manner. But I still tend to fall a bit short. Maybe I’ll get some nice shoes but wear the wrong color socks; maybe I’ll get what I think are nice pants, only to be informed that pleats are out, or in, or whatever. And I always seem to be a few years behind the curve on the big-picture fashion trends.

So I’ve always figured: what’s the point of braving the horrors of the mall and spending all that money, when I’m inevitably going to wind up buying ill-fitting and out-of-style clothes anyway?

So this time around I actually tried to make myself aware of what was in style. Specifically, I looked at what kinds of jeans guys on the train were wearing. If I liked what I saw, I went in for a closer look to see what brand they were. At the end of the day I wound up checking out a lot of dudes’ asses, but I guess sometimes you just have to look at a guy’s ass if you want to buy a good pair of pants. Or something.

Anyway, I wound up finding a good selection of jeans at the Gap, and got a decent pair for $55. It felt weird spending that much money on such a basic item of clothing, but I was pretty satisfied with my purchase, which isn’t usually the case when I try to go the cheap route. And I guess I did alright, because the other day someone told me my outfit (my new jeans, paired with a $6 t-shirt I got at Old Navy) looked nice.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is: if you see me in public in my fancy new jeans, feel free to check out my ass. I’ll understand.


Give me that fish

A few weeks ago, I stepped off the train at government center and was greeted with this astounding sight:

In case you can’t tell, that’s a giant inflatable census form, which the Census Bureau evidently felt was necessary to remind people to fill out their own (non-giant, non-inflatable) census forms. So that’s what the government decided to spend my tax dollars on, I thought.

Fast forward to later that evening: I walked into CVS to get contact solution, and walked out with this:

Yes, that’s the singing fish from the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish commercial. It was $20. For the record, I have never purchased an actual Filet-O-Fish sandwich, nor do I intend to; but I now own a mechanical fish who will endlessly sing on the topic.

The point, I guess, is that we all buy stupid crap from time to time, whether it’s your humble blogger or a federal agency with an excessive marketing budget. Anyone who’s purchased a Snuggie, or pulled Black Knight out of the bargain DVD bin at Target when they were only there to get toothpaste, knows what I’m talking about. Also falling into this category: anything advertised on an infomercial, anything you purchased ‘ironically,’ and anything sold at Brookstone.

Anyway, you can probably see where this is going: email me at and tell me about some of the Stupid Crap you’ve purchased. I want to hear what you bought, how much you paid for it, and whether you regret it. As always, I can keep you anonymous if you don’t want everyone to know that you bought a Bumpit.

Finally, today’s Cheap Recipe comes from Stewart:

Fake Spaghetti Ragu

1 one-pound bag Market Basket Spaghetti
1 packet beef boullion cubes
1 tube highly concentrated tomato paste

(feeds one person for approximately 1 week. Cost: less than $5.)

Cook spaghetti to preferred tenderness. When cooked, drain very carefully almost all the water into the sink, making sure not to lose any precious spaghetti noodles down the sink (noodles are money, as the saying goes). Return spaghetti to the burner and add preferred amount of boullion cube to the remaining water, while stirring vigorously. Heat on medium for a few minutes until cube is totally mixed in, then stir in a squeeze of tomato paste. Cook for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

And there you have it: eat Italian every day for a week, for less than a dollar a meal.

Thanks, Stewart! If you’d like to see your own cheap recipe featured, just email it in to the Tips line, preferably along with a Stupid Crap submission.


Guest Blog: Fiscal Fermentation

When I put out my initial request for cheapery stories, everyone understood that this meant to send me a few sentences about a little thing they did to save money. Everyone, that is, except the one knucklehead who sent me a rambling, 900-word screed about… something.

That knucklehead is Nick McBurney, a guy I went to high school with. He works in New York City but lives in Hoboken, which instantly establishes his credentials as a cheapskate. I’ve decided to go ahead and publish his response (almost) in full, and call it a guest blog.

Dear Matt,

First of all, I love your blog, and your hot body.

[Editor’s note: at this point I had to cut a couple paragraphs, as things got a little out of control right out of the gate. We pick things up once he calms down a little.]

…I will admit it: I love to party. I can’t stop. I won’t stop. But, after a few too many buckets of red paint were liberally splashed all over town, I found that my finances could not support my social agenda: a six pack of beer for the pre-party, a round of shots at the bar, a cab uptown for some late-night Chicken and Rice. My bank account was being pillaged by four little words: “This one’s on me.” Even though times are tight, no one, especially in New York City, wants to be called “cheap.” It’s a big scarlet letter on your reputation that makes everyone think you are only out for yourself. If you’re not contributing to the party, you might as well toss out your cell phone, because no one is going to be calling on Friday or Saturday night to see if you want to grab a drink at a watering hole or two.

“But how can I save money and still appear to be ‘hip’ in the eyes of my peers?” you may be asking. I submit to you and your readers my moment of cheapery: homebrewing.

I started brewing beer in college for the same reason anyone does anything in college: chicks, man. I thought my demonstration of resourcefulness combined with my ability to provide decent beer at a moment’s notice would be valued qualities to members of the opposite sex. I hadn’t yet considered the financial benefits of my endeavor until I graduated and moved out on my own. At an average $6 for a pint in The City (and we’re not even talking the good stuff, people), a night out of drinking can easily run you $25-$30 (or more, for that all-night wild child out there). Homebrewing your own beer can yield you between 45 and 55 bottles for the same price, excluding the initial investment in equipment. Sure, depending upon the tech you want to use, equipment kits can range anywhere from $75-$125. But like any worthwhile investment, the more you use it, the cheaper it gets.

I spent around $100 in total on my kit and I now have pretty much everything I need to create a variety of styles and flavors. Since I began in September of last year, the two batches I’ve made so far have netted around 90 delicious beers. The total cost for ingredients and equipment was around $160 (that’s just over $1.75 per beer). Were I to whip up a third potion, something I am planning to start this month, the cost per beer drops to just under $1.50. Try and find me a bar anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon that serves better than PBR at that price. Sure, the six weeks of waiting while your beer ferments is like a Siren call that would have even Odysseus tied to the mast. However, having a solid cache of beer ready at a moment’s notice is well worth the wait. I’ll never again show up to a party empty-handed.

Alright, Matty. I hope my moment inspires your readers to save money without abandoning their social lives. Keep on keepin’ on, friends.

Your pal,

Long time reader, first-time contributor

Well, there you have it. I’ve entertained thoughts of taking up homebrewing and filling my apartment with the sweet aroma of hops, but I’d never considered the financial angle until now. It may be time to take the plunge.

If you’ve got any thoughts on homebrewing or beer in general (I’m always happy to talk about beer, even if there’s not a financial angle), email me at And if you’ve got any cheapery stories – preferably shorter than this one – send them to the same address. And don’t forget to submit your best budget-friendly recipes while you’re at it. Basically, just email me about any old thing you want to talk about, and I’ll probably find a way to get it in the blog.

See you in the funny pages…