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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Why Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Was Not That Good


Why Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Was Not That Good

I. THE INTRODUCTION: PIMPED KID, GOOD BUTTERFLY

I will never forget the first time I heard Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.

At that stage, I was already well versed with Kendrick's Section.80 debut, and I feel the same way about that release now, as I did back then. Overhyped. Flawed. An artist who was yet to find his style. But whatever greatness it may have lacked, it was still enough for me to keep Kendrick in my periphery, and when his sophomore followed, I followed, everyone followed, and the musical decade would never be the same again.

It was like listening to a dramatic autobiographical film come to life within my ears, built from the trademarks of an old school West Coast seasoning, except rearranged ever so slightly into a modernised impression which flowed like a conscious stream around cocky antics and unsettling skits. I immediately knew this was something special, and wasted no time in loudly preaching this to be the future of hip hop, an unequivocal landmark in the genre, forever and always, amen. What I didn’t predict, however, was that every listener would feel exactly the same way, and as we already know, it cleaned up the critic’s 2012 lists like a mop with a knife handle (hitting #1 on mine), recognised as an instant classic from back then until right now, five years onward. And I couldn’t be happier.

Such a rapid rise up the success ladder was dizzying for all of us to witness, but if I knew anything about physics (I don’t really), it was an ascension at that pace to such a soaring height surely meant an equally fast (if not faster) plummet to the ground. By all my music education, I accepted that the rules were the rules, and creating two masterpieces in a row was an impossible (or at least implausible) feat. Which is why, in 2015, when To Pimp a Butterfly was announced, the sadist in me was eager to see just how deep of a crater Kendrick’s body would leave. As it turns out, the crater was massive, but it wasn't his body that put it there. It was his warfare.

To Pimp a Butterfly shook the planet by total surprise, and unlike its predecessor, it did not stick to me instantaneously. Rather, it presented a complex puzzle of wires which taunted the listener with more experimental sounds; fiddling with jazz, aggravating the funk, and overflowing with soul whilst refusing to completely turn its back on Kendrick’s hip hop core. It didn’t revitalise any old school city flavours like he had done previously, but it did boldly create something brand new, far more intelligent and deeper than anything he (or anyone?) had done before. The promise of rewarded perseverance was always there, I could see it in the distance, and when I finally found my footing and crawled up to its level, the fact of the matter was undeniable: Kendrick had done it again. What’s more, he did it without doing anything he’d done before, which was a blissful period for all of us. Together, the whole musical world chimed in unison, hailing Kendrick as the long awaited saviour, just as the prophecy had foretold. I didn’t even care that this was popular opinion, because it never felt like an opinion whatsoever. It felt like a fact. Once again, it hit #1 on my end of year list, like so many others.

Everything that has happened since the crowning of Kendrick has been somewhat of a blur. untitled unmastered. darted past us fast enough, and as essentially a compilation of demos, the slightly subpar content didn’t phase me, because when you graded it on a b-side value, it was inarguably one of the greatest b-side albums hip hop has ever produced. Still, we can safely ignore this record as any true part of the man's catalogue, and move on to his official fourth album, released earlier this year. And that’s where the subject of this article begins.

He called it DAMN.
And I am finally willing to admit that I have problems with it.

But first, please do not misconstrue what I am about to say. Damn is a good record. Some might even say a damn good record, and I would never dare deny that. But the difference between this and the preceding monumental masterpieces was immediately apparent to me before I even listened to it, and it has only continued to grow sour the closer I inspected it. And you must believe me, I’ve inspected it really close up. I’ve picked it apart, I’ve read what everyone else is saying, and I’ve debated my stance to rooms full of opposing screams. Every day I questioned my sanity. What is it that I’m not hearing? Where am I going wrong? Because this was the immaculate Kendrick Lamar after all, and I would sooner blame myself over him for any misstep. And I did that for a long, long time, eventually drilling as deep as I could, yet still unveiling far more dusty rocks than any diamonds. I had to give up. I had to confess that I had been lying to myself, and the simple truth was this: I do not consider Damn to be a great record. So I stopped searching the album for answers, and begun to look into myself, until I found my own words and worked out how to place them in a proper order. And slowly, I began to articulate what was wrong.

Why Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Was Not That Good

II. WHAT WAS WRONG OUTSIDE OF THE MUSIC

The theme I will be visiting over and over again throughout this piece will be that of innovation—or rather, a lack thereof. And as I could already pinpoint several red flags with this album before I even put it on, the likelihood of another classic Kendrick journey did not seem promising.

I can break these external elements down into three parts:
The Title,
The Cover,
and The Track Names.
Let’s look at each one of these individually, shall we?

THE TITLE
Ok. So, DAMN. Not the worst idea in the world, certainly. It’s a good word we all use from time to time. It comes with a certain power, one which Kendrick has generously emphasised by hitting the caps lock and upgrading it into that special capital lettering effect, like a shouting teenager on the internet. And I don’t see why not.

Except let us compare the phrase DAMN. to that of the (admittedly annoyingly punctuated) Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. This 2012 title is a comment on Lamar’s youth, growing up within the troubles of Compton, and trying to remain a decent child when faced with the bad influences such a hood would provide. It’s a common story, wherein lies its beauty; a concept which could hopefully encourage any similar street youth to try and emulate the successes of Kendrick, as he proved that escaping into a thriving life doing what you love is achievable.

Following on from that, was To Pimp a Butterfly. Such a fantastic juxtaposition; the striking and dirty air of the term “pimp”, balanced out by the butterfly’s natural beauty, a more calm, cleaner side of life. “It represents using my celebrity for good. Another reason is, not being pimped by the industry through my celebrity,” was Kendrick’s official statement, and was a great indication that his ever expanding conscious mind refused to ignore how forcefully his stardom had been propelled into the stratosphere. He needed to address his newfound royal status directly, keeping his rhymes relevant to his immediate surroundings, and keeping his fans as close to his real life as possible, once again.

When recently asked about Damn, however, Kendrick stated “it just felt like that”. Which is fine, sometimes things just feel like things, I’m not going to tell him how to do his job. But when people start to look for some intelligent meaning behind all of this, that’s when I begin to smell the burning of trouble. Let me ask you this: if Katy Perry released an album called Damn, would you be surprised? What about Limp Bizkit? Wait, didn’t Ja Rule release a song called Damn in 1999? Didn’t renowned jazz musician Jimmy Smith release an album called Damn! in 1995? I found a band named ReTo who released an album called DAMN. last year, exact same grammar in every way. In fact, with a tiny bit of research, I was able to uncover 18 different singles/albums with this one worded title, released before Kendrick’s attempt even existed. Guess how many I could find called Good Kid, M.A.A.D City? And To Pimp a Butterfly? None, obviously.

THE ARTWORK
Designed by Vlad Sepetov, it surprised me to discover that this was the same mind behind the To Pimp a Butterfly cover. The reason for my surprisal has nothing to do with the font chosen (known as the most common typeface in history, Times New Roman), because I honestly quite like that style of fuck you. It also has very little to do with the careless placing of the parental advisory sticker, because once again, its intentions are recognised and appreciated. Rather, in order to grasp my dissatisfaction, I must implore you to go fetch your copy of Butterfly right now, and marvel over its artwork. Isn’t it incredible? The intense complexity and political charge of this one image told more than just one story, which not only perfectly represented the black activism inside of the record, but also that on the outside, as these social movements have become such an important topic of our newsfeeds in this upset age. The black community. The white house. The people. The government. Who we have been taught to fear. Who we have been taught to trust. It was like an onion. It was like a berry.

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, on the other hand, was less external, more an internal struggle; a record which narrated gang violence and the economic hardships of disadvantaged areas, a direct reflection of Kendrick’s experiences. And the accompanying artwork depicted this impeccably: a baby Lamar, his grandfather, and two of his uncles (one of whom was displaying the Crips gang hand sign), all in a single photograph, accentuating the priority of family and home and faith, especially in these troubled environments.

Now if we look at Damn, we will notice that it presents us with an image of Kendrick himself, looking all grumpy. I did a bit of research and there isn’t all that much of a deeper story here, sorry to disappoint. But, hey, at least we got some humorous memes out of it!

THE TRACK NAMES
One gimmick that came free with DAMN. was where every song followed the title’s suite. They were all capitalised. They were all punctuated by a full stop. And they were all one word. I like that last point, it’s quite a quirky little syntax style he did there. I also really enjoyed it when Cocteau Twins did the same thing back on 1984’s Treasure, or when Slint did it back on 1989’s Tweez, or when Prince did it back on 1994’s Come, or when System of a Down did it back on their 1998 self titled debut, or when Goldfrapp did it back on 2013’s Tales of Us... but why get into all of that? Rather, let’s inspect the titles themselves, and how unoriginally common they each were.

Here’s a very quick and non-exhaustive breakdown highlighting how many of Damn’s song titles have already been used as song titles from artists we recognise. Blood? This Mortal Coil and Editors. Feel? Robbie Williams. Loyalty? American Head Charge (Soulja Boy has a whole album called this, by the way). Pride? Robert Palmer and SOiL. XXX? ZZ Top. Fear? John Cale and The Behemoth. God? Tori Amos. Love? Oh, don’t even get me started!

What’s my point, I hear you ask? My point is Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe. My point is Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst. My point is The Blacker the Berry. My point is innovation. My point is ingenuity. And now we’re dealing with Yah? How much thought do you reckon went into these titles exactly? How creative are the titles he even chose? I wonder, how many of these 14 examples could be included in an average list of a baby’s first 500 words? Or, let me guess, that was the whole idea in the first place? It’s supposed to be a simpler album, right? It’s supposed to be an album for babies. Spare me, groupie.

Why Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Was Not That Good

III. WHAT WAS WRONG INSIDE OF THE MUSIC

Of course, all of these previous complaints are insignificant qualms, I recognise that, I really do. Plenty of classic albums have boring artwork, shallow titles, and unimaginative track names, so even if this was Kendrick's first time, what does that matter? The only factor which truly counts towards any album’s worth, is the content. The music itself.

Before I get into that, however, I would like to openly appreciate that music is subjective. God knows that if Damn has taught me anything, it was that I am very alone in a lot of what I’m about to say. Many people have written extensively about how this album’s theme is one of duality and human nature, as well as commentary on Kendrick’s personal experiences with fame, which is engaging enough. But even when considering these topics, we need to ask ourselves if the very music has the strength required to carry this message properly. And, thankfully, despite where you think I may have been going with this, I have no trouble noting that Damn does have some killer redeeming factors.

So how about that Humble, hey? Even when comparing to m.A.A.d city’s The Recipe or Butterfly’s i, I would happily label this track as Kendrick’s crowning lead single yet. When I was first introduced to this track via the music video, I nearly hurt myself I was so excited. Fair dues where fair dues are due, Humble is as good as anything the boy has ever put to tape, and as the first taste of Damn, I was blindly fooled just like everyone else that this would be a summary of the whole album’s overall quality. Unfortunately, no track quite lived up to its genius.

That’s not to say some tracks didn’t come close. In fact, I consider many of these songs to stand tall against the rest of his relatively flawless catalogue. What I found most surprising, was how much closer I gravitated towards the more mellow prizes on offer here. Yah and Pride were both 100% on par with the skill we’ve come to expect, and Element’s cool sexiness is easily one of the most impressive slots on the record. Adoration for DNA has been so universal that I don’t really need to worship it anymore (I do adore it, by the way), and yet it was the generally mediocre response to the Drakey Love which bewildered me the most, as no other song grew on me quite like it did after I’d already sworn it off. But the winning tracks would never be the problem here. It was the problem tracks. It was the fact that an artist who had worked his ass off to produce albums that never had any problem tracks, now had an album with problem tracks whatsoever.

Let’s start with the most obvious candidates which didn’t sit right with me. Feel was boring enough to put me to sleep, only to be awoken by Kendrick's signature aggressive final verse, which has become such a cliché trademark in his arsenal that it sounds like he is going through the motions rather than feeling anything at all. Loyalty was an even worse addition, an obvious desperate ploy to jump further into the mainstream, arguably the poppiest composition Lamar has ever regurgitated, only winning some admiration by shining a spotlight on Rihanna, who (all things considered), is the most painfully obvious choice on the planet if you want to snatch some extra radio play. I was also intrigued to find that XXX was a fan favourite, when it sounded like a jagged mess to me, featuring an awkward U2 sample that seemed to be included just for name dropping rights, in that “wow he features U2” hype-y type of way. Simply, these songs grated my fur the wrong way. And yet, they were not even the guiltiest parties involved here. Not even close.

In some ways, I consider God to be the class president here, the figurehead of problem children with below average grades. It’s not a terrible track, granted, but the trouble is this: Kendrick Lamar made a trap rap song.

If you’ve been paying attention this decade, you’ll know that this simple genre of music has become a forerunner of what mainstream audiences have developed a craving for. From Future to Gucci Mane to Young Thug to T.I., it is unmistakably a trend that has mustered an excess of momentum in recent times, and because of this, it often seems to be the escape route for artists trying to get higher up on the food chain. If a record label boardroom meeting hasn’t featured the phrase “maybe you should try a trap song” before, then I don’t know who to blame for what has happened in the charts today. Gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs made the change in 2015. Electropop princess Charli XCX has slowly started to flirt with that path since last year. 2 Chainz shamelessly called his album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music this year. Hell, even Danielle Bregoli AKA Bhad Bhabie (the girl who went viral at the beginning of this year with her Cash Me Ousside meme slogan) released a trap rap single last August, which has already hit #77 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and lead to a multi-album contract deal with Atlantic Records. Connect these dots, and it seems to me that if you want something to be “right now”, trap rap is the way to go. And I see nothing fundamentally wrong with that.

What is wrong is that Kendrick was never the one to follow the flavour of the month. He was an innovator. He paved the way. And while God still manages to pull off the catchy trap much better than most of its representatives (a testament to his holiest of talents), it still reflects badly on where the man is at in comparison to his usual pioneering ventures. Sometimes I wonder if people are so lost in Kendrick’s haze that they might even hear God and think Kendrick is doing something new, like he invented trap or something. Dismally, this wouldn’t surprise me.

But wait, there’s more! I have another really big bone to pick with the song Fear. The old school flows going on over here are an enjoyable casual ride, but at nearly 8 minutes long, it better have some advanced rhymes to keep it afloat, right? Unfortunately, it achieved the opposite, featuring some of the worst lyrics that have ever come out of Kendrick’s mouth. Observe:

Exhibit A:
I'll probably die anonymous
I'll probably die with promises
I'll probably die walkin' back home from the candy house
I'll probably die because these colors are standin' out
I'll probably die because I ain't know Demarcus was snitchin'
I'll probably die at these house parties, fuckin' with bitches
I'll probably die from witnesses leavin' me falsed accused
I'll probably die from thinkin' that me and your hood was cool
Or maybe die from pressin' the line, actin' too extra
Or maybe die because these smokers are more than desperate
I'll probably die from one of these bats and blue badges
Body slammed on black and white paint, my bones snappin'
Or maybe die from panic or die from bein' too lax
Or die from waitin' on it, die 'cause I'm movin' too fast
I'll probably die tryna buy weed at the apartments
I'll probably die tryna defuse two homies arguin'
I'll probably die 'cause that's what you do when you're 17
All worries in a hurry, I wish I controlled things


The Oxford English Dictionary definition of “probably” is as follows: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.
With that in mind, according to Kendrick, he will almost certainly die walking home, but also at a house party, but also from the cops, but also from the gangs, to mention only a few probabilities listed above. It’s contradictory, an insult to the language and, above all else, inattentive repetitive writing.

Was that too nitpicky for you? Ok, how about this, same song.

Exhibit B:
If I can smoke fear away, I roll that motherfucker up
And then I take two puffs
I'm high now, I'm high now
I'm high now, I'm high now
Life's a bitch, pull them panties to the side now


Rad, Kendrick. Deep. Real deep.

The final nuisance songs that I’d like to speak about would be the intro (Blood) and the outro (Duckworth). In both of these examples, Kendrick gets shot in a surprising manner, very sudden, interrupting the flow, in a flash I imagine was intended to provoke the listener into saying “oh, he got shot!”, I’m not sure. And this would be great, if it wasn’t that Kendrick has already pulled this trick before.

Remember Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst? Good Kid, M.A.A.D City? There was a line that went “and if I die before your album drop, I hope—” which is cut short by unexpected gunshots, stopping Kendrick’s verse immediately with a literal bang. I remember the first time I heard this just like I remember the first time I heard the male/female vocals swap over on Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe. I remember this just like I remember how a poem slowly unraveled itself, piece by piece, over the course of the entire To Pimp a Butterfly record. I remember you was conflicted. I still get goosebumps thinking about these techniques. Little stabs that I had never heard anyone do before nor even considered that someone ever would. These were the true quirks which made Kendrick a genius to me. It was never the conscious flows nor the well selected beats, because many artists can boast these badges. It was the little manoeuvres he pulled off like these examples which set him apart, and made him king. And so please, I beg of you, tell me where is Damn’s special trick? The surprise gunshots? Again? Twice on one album this time? The last one to actually end the whole record, unlike the arbitrary casual placement on Remember Sing About Me? In my opinion, this rehash was the greatest sin the album pulled.

Why Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Was Not That Good

IV. PLAY IT BACKWARDS

At some point during my struggle, I received some very hopeful news. “Dude!” the news said. “You’re listening to the album wrong! It’s supposed to be listened to BACKWARDS!” Omg, why didn’t I think of that? It all seems so obvious now!

In fairness to the theory, there were some little indicators which supported it. For example, at the very end, the tape sounds like it is suddenly reversing (a very common technique popularised by the Beatles in the 60s, but who’s counting) with a snippet of DNA and the intro thrown in for good measure. Some could consider that a clue. Personally, I had a thought that maybe Kendrick wants us to literally reverse the whole album and listen to every track playing backwards because maybe that would sound better? I’m not sure, I haven’t tried it.

Recently in an interview with MTV, Kendrick went on record stating that there is some truth to this pretentious lunacy, with the following:

“I think like a week after the album came out, [fans] realised you can play the album backwards. It plays as a full story and even a better rhythm. It’s one of my favourite rhythms and tempos within the album. It’s something that we definitely premeditate while we’re in the studio. I don’t think the story necessarily changes, I think the feel changes. The initial vibe listening from the top all the way to the bottom is this aggression and this attitude. You know, DNA, and exposing who I really am. You listen from the back end, and it’s almost the duality and the contrast of the intricate Kendrick Lamar. Both of these pieces are who I am.”

Talk about some wanky nonsense coming from the head of a man who has truly gone to it, but regardless, there are a few things I noticed which punches holes into the hypothesis, regardless of what the man himself claims to be true.

Duckworth definitely works as an opener, that much is true, except for one small overlooked issue: it ends at 3:57, with a customary 11 seconds of silence at the end of the album. This is a common technique. Many artists decide against ending their album’s finale abruptly, rather granting a brief period of breathing time for the listener to digest the project before their playlist jumps straight into the next unrelated song. It allows the music to settle, and leaves the experience harder to forget. The concern here, of course, is that this doesn’t quite gel with the backwards theory. Why would there be an 11 second gap of silence between the first and second song? What purpose would it serve? Is it “arty” and “cool”? Perhaps. But what seems more likely to me, is that Damn was primarily ordered to be played the way God intended it: forward. If the backwards run was on Kendrick’s mind as he said it was, it would still appear to me that he favoured the forward motion anyway, and refused to let the mischievous backwards idea get in the way of regular album formatting. Otherwise he would have, I dunno, put 11 seconds at the end of the first track too? Now that would have been something!

Ok, so let’s ignore this relatively forgivable neglect, because maybe this was the mixer’s fault? Or even those pesky CD printing companies who were just following standard procedure? Perhaps Kendrick is even furious about it, who knows? Instead, I’d like to announce my all important opinion that my participation with the backwards Damn was less inspiring than others have reported. Something you may have noticed (especially back in the day) is that albums traditionally start with their best tracks, and all too often, suffer by slowly going downhill, song by song, especially during the midsection. The reason for this is pure business: when someone picks up your album at the record store and gives it a spin to decide whether or not to purchase it, you want them to be hit hard and hit quick, so that by the time the fourth amazing song comes into play, they are already getting their money out of their pocket.

When looking at Damn played forwards (or “normally” as it has come to be known), our initial run is as solid as fuck. The uninspired (but definitely suitable) intro aside, when you hear DNA to the Yah to the Element, the album already has your on your knees with its fly down, as you scream “Kendrick has done it again, put your penis in my mouth!” which is exactly what I did. However, when listening to it backwards, some of the first songs we meet are God (hardly an accurate summary of the album’s overall sound, quite the opposite, in fact), the lacklustre Fear (with the worst lyrics he has ever written, as previously addressed) and the haphazard XXX. If these are treated as the album’s forerunners, it’s a very wobbly and inconsistent beginning, as if desperately trying to find its footing, except sounding more like an album winding down which we have dug out of the grave and slapped on stage first. Where are the coherent and punchy opening acts who set the tone? I’ll tell you. They are there when you play it forward. And that is my main stance of opposition.

I have my own philosophy when it comes to all of this, hear me out. When DAMN. dropped on Good Friday, there were an abundance of rumours that there would be a second companion album coming out two days later, on Easter Sunday. It even had a name, NATION. Together, these two albums would work as DAMN-NATION., and reflect the religious story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ok, now that would have been the Kendrick I remember! That would have been so Kendrick! However, when this didn’t happen, I started to realise that Kendrick’s fans had now surpassed the man’s own creative depths, as we were looking so intensely at the star to save hip hop, that he could no longer keep up with our collective ideas. I feel sorry for the guy, even.

The buzz and then anticlimactic absence of a second album should have been an early warning sign that Damn did not fill the bucket that his followers lusted for, but instead his fans were so blinded and undeterred that they started to look in other places for what they may have missed. This eventually surfaced in a headline that went something like “Kendrick Lamar did release two albums, but you were all too stupid to notice it”. And before you knew it, everyone was now listening to the thing back to front, reporting it was better that way or they had found a whole new perspective on hip hop or that they had visions of the Holy Spirit or something, while I only wondered how many albums you could listen to backwards to much the same effect. Regardless, once the news reached Kendrick, what was he supposed to do? Deny his genius? Deny his fans this joy that they had proudly discovered all by themselves? Or should he take credit for something he didn't exactly intend, with no additional cost, no harm done, and his brilliance still in tact? While this is all based on assumptions, I know what I would have done.

For arguments sake, let’s say I am being overly cynical and this was indeed his indulgent motive all along. If so, then he didn’t exactly execute it to the best of his ability, did he? How about ending a track with the beginning of the song that came before it? That way, in reverse order, two tracks would run into each other seamlessly, and that I would bow down to. Or how about an album with only palindromic titles? Or how about calling the album DAM without the “n” so that when you read it backwards it says MAD because that’s what you’ve all become.

You want to know my technique of making Damn sound better? Do this: reorder the songs backwards like before, except move every odd number forward two places. With that line-up, re-reverse tracks 4 - 9, then remove tracks 1 -14, and replace them with songs from To Pimp a Butterfly instead. I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant us to do all along. It’s genius.

(I am joking about that by the way, but it would make for a superior album, you know this to be true).

Why Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Was Not That Good

V. PUBLIC RESPONSE

Hello. We have arrived at the part of this essay which matters the most. You can just about ignore everything that came before this point, and only start paying attention now, because this is where my beef with Damn truly lies in agony.

As I’ve said before, Damn is a fine album. It’s fine! I like it! Certainly, as Kendrick’s most recent offering, I was blatantly let down, but as time goes on, I’m sure I’ll welcome it as another neat inclusion to his varied catalogue. If someone else made Damn I would be like “Damn! Where did this come from?”, but Kendrick Lamar made Damn, and as a follow up to two of the most important hip hop records in recent decades (read: ever), it fell short, in my humble (geddit?) opinion. Which isn't great, but also isn’t the worth getting too upset about. A lesser impressive Kendrick output was inevitably going to happen eventually. It happens to everyone. And even if I consider this album to be a stumble, I would never call it a fall whatsoever. I know I’ve been slating it for the past forever, but this was only intended to illustrate my biggest headache of them all: as rad as Damn is, the critical response was far too overblown.

According to review score aggregator site Metacritic, Damn holds the Universal Acclaim score of a 95% success rate. This is 1% below Butterfly, fine, whatever. But this is also 4% higher than Good Kid. Let me repeat that: according to this rating, which takes into account ratings from all walks of publications, on average, Damn is considered to be 4% better than Good Kid. Good Kid! M.A.A.D City! What type of unlawful atrocity is this!? I don’t even know how to type my reaction without the longest spew of expletives the internet has ever seen. Am I hearing different albums to everyone else? Damn better than Good Kid? How??

Let’s break this down further, and highlight those blasphemous heathens by name:

Spin Magazine gave Good Kid 8/10 and gave Damn 9/10. Equally, Rolling Stone Magazine gave Good Kid 4/5 Stars, and gave Damn 4.5/5 Stars. According to these two magazines, Damn is 10% better than Good Kid.
The Observer gave Good Kid 4/5 Stars and gave Damn 5/5. According to The Observer, Damn is 20% better than Good Kid.
And, finally, The Guardian gave Good Kid and Butterfly 4/5 Stars each. It gave Damn 5/5 Stars. According to The Guardian, this is the best album Kendrick has ever made. Do I laugh?

The list goes on and on and on, and that’s when I was reminded of this Tweet that goes:

Kendrick Lamar: "Hey"
RapGenius: "In this layered hypothesis, Kendrick attempts to discern the nature of fifth dimensional particle physics"


Really funny, but also a sadly accurate observation, and entirely the point of this article. Basically put, it feels to me that when Good Kid came out, those early listening suits who are deemed deserving enough to critique the music world, weren’t exactly sure what to make of it, and rated it with some decent score just to be safe. However, as time has passed on and the worship did not wane but instead grew louder and more widespread (globally hailing Good Kid as the genre defining classic we already knew it was), those same writers panicked that they may be losing touch. And now they are simply too afraid to call Kendrick anything but the Lord Saviour of Rap, all the while the clueless mass majority follow. The whole world is so dazzled by Kendrick as some messianic figure that anything he releases (just so long as it's somewhat above the average benchmark), will be automatically be kissed on the top shelf like some groundbreaking new entity. In the case of Damn, it even eventually went on to chart better than anything Kendrick’s ever done before, as the longest running Billboard #1 of 2017. And what’s worse... even Kendrick believes his own hype now, openly declaring Damn as his best work too in a recent radio interview with Big Boy.

In fact, the only notable publication who had the audacity to tell it exactly like it is, was Exclaim! who wrote the following:

“DAMN. is the first time in Lamar's career that he hasn't broken new ground, explored old themes in new ways or exhibited sonic growth. That said, it's a small blemish on an otherwise spotless catalogue.”

They gave it a 6/10 and I respect them for pointing out the absolute, undeniable truth. And I couldn’t agree more.

Why Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Was Not That Good

VI. CONCLUSION

I want to summarise by once again, ensuring that you fully understand what I have said here. I like Damn. It’s better than what most rappers could ever dream of achieving in a lifetime, and that goes for the really rich ones on TV too. It has done nothing to tarnish my opinion of Lamar. I still love him and will continue to praise his name most high as the greatest rapper on the planet to anyone who is willing to listen to my opinion. The previous harsh words do not mean I have betrayed my faith. I writhe in excitement to hear what he does next.

However, in the grand scheme of Kendrick Lamar, it’s honestly a pathetic album. Damn is a less unified contribution, a mere a collection of disconnected songs which don’t compliment one another or even follow the same vibe. They feel sloppy, rushed, boring, and even thrown together as if he just had them lying around. The daring plunge into re-flavouring old school techniques or pairing fast flows with experimental jazz licks are gone, replaced in favour of treading the surface of trap, RnB, and pop trends, leaving behind the most commercially viable and unchallenging piece of work he’s ever done. I tried everything I could to appreciate it. I read all the reviews. I spoke to the rabid fans foaming from their mouths. I played it over and over and over again. I even listened to the fucking thing backwards. And each and every time, I was more convinced that Kendrick got lazy, and nobody noticed.

The finish line of 2017 is coming, and I doubt there will be a single end of year list (other than mine) which doesn’t feature this album. I am even more certain that a large percentage of these critics will place it right at #1, because Kendrick Kendrick omg Kendrick. And when they do, I will knowingly nod in a surrender that I have completely lost touch with what the mainstream media and general music loving public consider to be brilliant. Because I have personally heard 50 albums this year which are better than Damn. And that’s coming from one of his biggest fans in the world.

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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

How To Save Money in 10 Easy Steps

The Adventurer's Guidebook

How To Save Money in 10 Easy Steps

Once upon a time, long long ago (a few years), I was just like you. A peasant! No offence. It seemed to me that whenever the gods blessed my bank account with money, it was always in a nick of time, pennies to my name, beans for breakfast, picking change up off the floor. Truth be told, money was not the enjoyable trading asset it was designed to be, but rather made my stomach feel like a pot bubbling with stressful mud. I never had enough and was always ridden with guilt when I spent it, and slowly my monthly value weighed me down like stones tied to my ankles. I realised I was drowning and knew at that point, there had to be a better way.

And that is where my personal adventure began. I was aware that "money" had become a very popular topic in the town, and by this logic, I concluded that there must be people with the same troubles as mine. And one thing I do know with all certainty, is that where there is mass trouble, there is always some sneaky hustler ready to exploit said trouble for their own financial gain. And I was right. It didn’t take more than a few clicks on the internet machine to discover an extensive underground community of people dying to stretch their paychecks further, with an abundance of knowledge in all formats readily available, far too much for any one man to digest in a lifetime. But I was hungry, and I gave it a go, devouring the freely available blog posts as well as purchasing various books (I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi standing as the most useful one, by the way) and I am proud to announce to you the following: I am still rubbish with money.

However, that is not the point! The point is that I have reached new levels of consciousness and I now know exactly what I am doing, sort of. The turmoil I used to experience has been cured like placing the ointment of knowledge onto my crusty skin. Every month is no longer a desperately wary crawl towards the next lump of income, but rather, a game, one where I distribute my resources intelligently and laugh at those who are broke all the time, ha ha ha. Which is why I felt like I was in a worthy position to write this blog. The best position, some might say. Because I am not a money wizard like those others who mumble fancy jargon and conduct lengthy abbreviations as if casting spells in reverse Latin. No! I am but a simpleton, and simpletons speak the language of simpletons, which is probably your language. I read some stuff. I tried some stuff. I noticed what stuff stuck and worked for me. And if these simple techniques worked for me, they can work for you, no problem.

My only concern is how much of this article will suffer due to my objective of making something timeless and globally relevant. This held me back from going higher grade and revealing what hot deals are available to you right now, because once this script is released to the world, I doubt I will ever be assed to update it again. On the plus side, however, this means that these tips and tricks should remain somewhat relevant even 10 years from now, and that’s pretty cool, I guess. As for anyone undertaking the mission outside of the United Kingdom, do not fear! Simply ignore the mighty pound sign and replace it with your own currency’s symbol. No one will get hurt.

Furthermore, this article was written with monthly paydays in mind. Do not let this bother you either, as even if this does not apply to your income patterns, you will still find many words of value on offer and enjoy the awesome read you have before you. Believe me, it’s amazing, I would know, I wrote it.

Finally, I understand money can be a boring or even petrifying topic. Which is why I do not want you to treat this as a finance text book. This is not an investment guide about stocks or bonds or mortgages, nor is it a system which promises to double your money in 30 days. What it is, is an adventurer’s toolbox, filled with magic tricks and shiny weaponry which will train you up on how to fight the scary money beasts that come in many forms, and expand your pouches without having to earn any more dough than you already are. With enough courage and valour, you too can become a warrior sorcerer just like me, and one day, you will hopefully accept me as your king. But that’s a different story.

All Step images created with this Magic The Gathering card generator, thanks!


Step #1: Escape the Debt Quicksand First and Foremost, or You Shall Never Play the Game

This imperative first step of your mission may be (for some) slightly tedious or even obvious, but just in case you haven’t yet mapped your strategy, allow me to spell this out to you in no uncertain terms: if you’re in debt, whether it be a loan or a credit card or both or many of, do not even fuck with saving money. You need to get out of the quicksand which is filling your pockets with dirt and cleaning them out, and you need to do so immediately.

If you’re not entirely convinced, you are stupid, but for the sake of argument, remove your calculators from your potion belt and let’s ponder over some simple maths. Say you carry a mere £500 dent on your credit card with a standard UK average APR of 18.9%, and you are currently stabbing at it with the minimum monthly payments of around 3%. This would mean that by the time you’ve finally escaped the debt pit, you would have paid an excess of £189, a burden which would have also cast a shadow over your head for four years (which isn't even considering whether or not you were silly enough to get a loan with annual fees, yeech). We are looking at a decent chunk of coins for a very moderate story, all of which you could be putting away to work towards the thing you love the most. This cash and so much more can all be yours by simply striking your card as hard and as fast as possible.

JUST A TIP
Work out your own specific scenario by using Money Super Market’s nifty little calculator tool here.

Naturally, not everyone's quicksand is going to be of the same depth, and there will always be those rare examples when the urgency to crawl away from this pesky obstacle won’t apply. Perhaps you are still knee deep in a student loan with 0% interest rate, in which case, it isn't of the same critical mass of bleeding cash, but nevertheless, it's still worthwhile to regularly hack bits from it for your own peace of mind. Even less likely, is that you have somehow acquired such a low credit card APR rate and/or high interest rate savings account, that the interest lost vs. interest gained still works in your favour if you are saving money at the same time. Nicely played, if so! However, even if this is your situation, you are still not fully reaping the benefits of your mighty savings account, as every penny lost in the debt abyss could rather be multiplying over there instead. Use your calculations wisely, and no matter who tells you anything, always listen to me: keep this sacred step as your foremost priority regardless of the path you come from.

For the most part, however, we are all normal people with normal accounts, which makes this debt cavity a much more dangerous cancerous growth. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Damnit Jared, if it was that simple to pay off my debts, I would have done it already! But my credit cards/loans are really big and scary so I think I’ll just ignore them until they goes away”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that because people want what they are owed and nobody cares about you. Except for me. I am the only one you can truly trust. I’m here to help, so listen.

An obvious (and highly recommended) solution would be for you to google different ways to get out of debt, because my advice is a one-size-fits-all type of deal, and there might be a slight variation somewhere better tailored to your body type. However, one thing I can urge you to do that so many adventurers overlook, is to pick up your phone-device and call your credit card provider, as the difference this can make is what fairy tales are made from. Tell them that you’ve decided you want to pay off your owings as fast as possible and you would love for them to lower the APR (monthly interest/annual percentage rate) for you. If you’ve been paying on time (read: always pay on time, or your worth will be penalised beyond recognition and your credit rating will weep blood) and are a longer-term customer, use these facts as mini-spells to work in your favour, hopefully wooing them into submission. Tell them about other cards you’ve seen with lower APRs (do some research, better if you can name them by name) and gently threaten them with these findings if needs be. This whole performance is not guaranteed to work every time, granted, but it does work some of the time, and you have absolutely nothing to lose.

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
The first time I called up my credit card company and asked them to do this, they lowered my 31.9% APR down to 23.9% in a few minutes. Literally one phone call, people. One phone call.

Another (slightly more courageous/foolish) plan, is to locate a card specifically designed to transfer your debt onto. These are called Balance Transfer cards, and often have a muuuuch lower (or even sometimes, non-existent) APR rate, which bandages up the wound that weeps excess cash whilst you tackle the problem in a more secure corner. Another option could even be getting another loan elsewhere to pay it off, but either way, idea remains the same: you find someone/something willing to give you a load of money to pay off the big debt monster (always tackling your biggest debt first, of course), and as long as the helpful borrower has a lower interest rate, you will save money in the long run. But be oh-so-fucking-careful with this! Some cards do come with a transaction fee, and even worse, your previous credit card may have a penalty system in place for doing so, which is why you should always always read the fine print, or at very least google it. It’s a somewhat dangerous game, rife with complex terminology and secret greedy hands that are trained to snag you along the way, so be 100% sure of what you’re signing or the bad men and women will get you. They always do. It's their job. Their sole purpose in life.

However, if all else fails, you could just do it the old fashion way: pay off your debts, bit by bit, as often as possible. And that’s where the rest of this article comes in. I will provide you with many techniques and examples which serve to collect up slivers of money which you can shove into your debt’s face until you suffocate it to death. And what’s more, you will learn how to play the credit game in a much smarter way to safeguard you from this ever happening again. But for now, what I suggest you do, is to get out your trusty pen and paper, read the rest of this blog, and make note of every single cent you save over the next month or so. You want to know how much of these savings you should be putting towards your debt? All of it. No questions. No excuses. Because once you’ve liberated yourself from this evil quicksand, that’s when the real fun begins.

JUST A TIP
After you’ve destroyed your credit card issues, call your provider and cancel them. Don’t just cut your cards up like they do in the movies. An empty card with no activity can negatively affect your credit score, and there is no reason for that.

On a final and related note: you should seriously consider cancelling your overdraft right away, especially if you find this is your natural place of habitat. You are living in it for one reason: it’s there. If you tell people that "it's for emergencies", then why do you have an emergency every month? Are you ok? Yes, certainly there will be a period of hell following as your finances balance themselves out and you have to learn to live within your means again, but once it all stabilises, only then can you start abiding by one of the most important rules of having money: don’t spend cash that isn’t yours.

We will be taking a much more advanced look at all of this in Step #9, but for now, you are simply not ready. Baby progress, let's move on to this now:


Step #2: Everything You Spend Should Be Traceable

So now that you are well wise about the dangers of debt, we can actually begin today’s lesson. Welcome to the true heart of my system, you’re going to hate it.

What you want to do, from now until the rest of your life, is keeping track of every single bit of money you spend. I know, I know, this sounds like a total exhausting mission, right? Well, I have news for you: it may very well be a total exhausting mission, but a worthy mission of the highest calibre, potentially the seed of most potent growth, wrestling back control over the personal inventory you once had. Here, take my hand, and I will guide you through how I approached this step, and maybe you’ll find something here that will work for you too. We’ll take it slow. Let’s tackle the first month together.

What you are going to need, is a place to document all your spendings. A pen and paper might be your preferred technique, and that’s fine, especially if you’re a granny. But in this modern day and age of wonderment and smartyphones, you might want to download an app to make your life a little easier and more portable. Go ahead and google “finance manager apps” or “expense tracker apps”, because I never did. I simply settled for the first one I found, which was called Toshl. I still use this app regularly because it’s simple, it’s free, and it did exactly what it said on the tin. And what the tin said, was this: when you purchase absolutely anything, you punch the total amount into Toshl, give it a tag to remember it by, and then submit it, providing the app with everything it needs to neatly save a little database of your spending habits to mock you with later. If taking out your phone every time you go to the bar feels a little embarrassing to you, another quicker method would be to always ask for the receipt. Place said receipt into a pocket you’ve reserved for receipts, and then once a day or so, transfer those numbers from the paper ink into the world of digital Toshl. What’s important here is that you should recycle your receipts, because you want to be a better person. But what’s also important here is that you do not, I repeat, do not, skip the recording of any expenditures, no matter how small. Otherwise, this won’t work, buddy!

Once your first month is up, Toshl (or whatever app you decided to go with, as long as it includes this feature) should provide you with a nice little pie chart clearly illustrating what the biggest black holes in your wallet may be. For example, my top five worst troubles were: Bills; Drinking; Party Tickets; Food; and... (drumroll please)... the all informative label titled Misc. I have no doubt in my mind that Bills will be on your list too, so we will be addressing that hurdle separately in Step #5, ignore that one for now. Rather, you are left with your own personalised selection of four monsters which you are going to have to learn to fight waaay better. Maybe they are the same as my monsters. Maybe they are not. It doesn't matter, as all monsters can be fought and weakened in much the same manner.

The next step of our program is entirely dependent on you knowing who these enemies are, so please do ensure you have some idea of what I just told you to do, or at least pretend.


Step #3: Chopping Flesh off of Your Scariest Monsters

You have now acknowledged the four biggest monsters which are attacking your bank account. You know your enemy. And this can very well be your greatest asset to winning the war.

Obviously your top four money suckers are there for a reason, you’ve probably even grown somewhat fond of them and probably don’t want to (or cannot) completely get rid of their presence. This is fine! But we can hack them up so viciously that they lose an arm and a leg, rendering their efforts of crippling your financial bricks much harder on their part. Draw your sword, let’s get medieval.

The plan of attack may be a word you fear, or a word you already subscribe to, but your emotional human reaction is irrelevant. The simple truth of the matter, is that every single money saving guide ever written throughout history will tell valuable tales of this defence. Bitch, you gotta budget.

Luckily, we have grown so much as a society that those images of your mommy scribbling in an accounts book are no longer relevant to our funky new age options. There are so many modern platforms promising to help us live within our goals, and I’m sure it won’t take long for you to find one perfectly suited to your needs. That said, I am personally recommending Goodbudget, partially because it’s free, partially because it works on your phone, and partially because they have this cute little envelope mascot who I have developed feelings for.

Download this or that or whatever, and set up your envelopes. What are envelopes, you ask? These are the sections of your life which are in the most dire need of budgeting, and thanks to Step #2, we already know who they are. Your four big monsters. Your true adversaries. Stick each of their names on a different envelope, and then calculate what you should be spending on them over the course of the next month. Once again, if you followed the previous step correctly, you should already know the amount of money each monster swallowed the month before, which brings us onto a system I have developed all on my own. You won’t find this anywhere else in the world, so appreciate that I am actually losing time and money by giving this away for free so that you can save time and money.

The trick here is to set each separate envelope budget to the same amount you spent on their corresponding monster the month before, except subtracting £10 from each. Now it’s as simple as taking note in this app of every penny you spend within those categories, and keeping a diligent eye for when your phone warns you that you are headed to bust one of these limits. With a tiny bit of caution, you should hit your next payday within your budget rather easily, because, let’s be fair, spending only £10 less than the month before on food or clothes or travel or whatever, is not a lot to ask. And there you go. You will have saved £40 extra in one month with such a minute adjustment that you didn’t even notice the difference.

But you don’t stop there. The next month? Subtract £10 more. The next? Subtract £10 more. The next? Yeah? Do you get what I’m doing here? I’m not asking you to suddenly change your lifestyle or run head first into your monsters with guns blazing. I’m asking you to make slow, gradual alterations to your spending, from month to month, so you can reap in massive benefits without even being aware of any behavioural changes. And the benefits are fucking massive. How massive? Glad I asked.

Let’s look at it this way: if you keep up this £10 a month deduction process for a mere four months, based on your initial spending habits, you would have saved £10 (first month), then £20 (second month), then £30 (third month), then £40 (fourth month). That’s £100. Multiple that by four (for each of the monsters), and that’s £400 extra saved in four months. £600 in five. £840 in six. Depends how low you can go, really.

As before, the only slight annoyance is that you will have to continue keeping track of everything you spend for the rest of your life. For some, this may seems like an exhausting exercise, but it doesn’t have to be, especially once it becomes a habit. As soon as you buy something, quickly plug it into your Toshl app or shove a receipt into your reciept pocket, and deal with it later. Once every few days or so, spend 10 minutes getting your budget planner app up to date, recognising which monsters are becoming dangerous (or which ones you can spend more on if you like!) and then living freely without the weight of money worries on your adorable brain.

Inevitably, however, there will come a month when you simply cannot duck under an envelope's budget. You’ve hacked the monster to the bare minimum and you can’t seem to slim it down any further. This happened to me, and will happen to anyone, when the bar has simply been pushed too low for your preferred lifestyle. But if you’re 100% honest with yourself and you feel proud of how much you’ve managed to chop off anyway, perhaps you can accept that you've hit your cement point and are ready to chill. Consider not lowering the budget anymore. This is your fixed budget from now on. Stick to it.

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
Story time.
This practice can also be altered if you suddenly have a larger expense charging on the horizon, like a holiday or a festival or repairs to your car. This happened to me not so long ago, when I was about to embark on a three week trip from France to Spain to Portugal. I essentially work to travel, so when it came to money, I did not want to even think about budgeting while I was on my holiday. So I devised a little plan...
For three months leading up to the excursion, I halved my alcohol budget. This meant I could still drink, but had to be way more selective about when and where. Furthermore, when I did buy a beer, it caused me great regret and grief, because I knew that was one less beer I could have in a much more exciting environment. Perhaps I am an alcoholic, and perhaps my motivation was alcohol, but the point of the story is... I failed every month. I always went over budget.
However, the looming limit did keep me in relative check, and by the end, I had a few extra hundred quid at my disposal, completely guilt free holiday cash to spend on whatever I wanted, and I had such a wonderful time. The beer did taste much better over there, actually.
Alcohol, drugs, take out, restaurants, taxis ... these are all things you could cut drastically out of your expenses, and would probably add up to a fuckload more money saved if your life is as disastrous as mine. I also do Dry January every year, and the alcohol cash I save from that is sickening.

There are a few other paths you could explore, depending on how deep into the forest you want to go. I went pretty deep and have a spreadsheet where I record every single cent I spend too. It’s a great pedantic reference point if I ever want to keep track on how much more I am spending on vinyls this month or how much I could have saved if I only quit smoking a year ago. Perhaps you consider this to be overkill, and then by all means, don't do it. But you should still consider keeping a brief monthly diary of your adventures, updating it every payday to evaluate what went well the month before, what didn’t go so well, and what goals you should strive towards going forward. It doesn't need to be exhaustively detailed and should even be a fun exercise, not only because its associated with the glorious feeling of payday tradition, but also because it will fill you with pride and only encourage you to improve your situation as it goes on. This is a game!

Above all else, I can promise you this: by simply keeping track of your finances, you enter a higher state of money awareness. An economic third eye, if you will. Everything you purchase will have to be cleared through a much stronger security system in your mind, because you will hesitate and consider whether your budget envelope can withstand the blow. Just by doing this alone, you will save money, guaranteed.

Finally, I want to bless you with another small move I utilise to keep me in check. Normally a week or so passed payday, I look at how much money is in my account, and then divide it by the number of days left until the next amount of money is coming in. The resulting number is exactly your daily allowance, and should hopefully scare you straight into touching your finances as little as possible. This can actually be very rewarding, because each day you don’t spend that designated money, you are kinda earning more cash, in a roundabout way. Think about it: if you have £20 left per day for 20 days, and you don't spend anything today, your daily allowance becomes £21.05 tomorrow, increasing as it gets the cut of what was left over, whilst being split over less days. This can become very exciting, because with a bit of care, the closer you come to payday, the number of days sharing the profit becomes so small that the excess handed over grows like mad. I’ve had (rare) months when I managed to get my daily allowance up to £30 a day with four days left. That means that if I don’t touch it, it becomes £40 a day with three days left like a fucking snowball of money. Recently I walked into my paycheck with £200 spare, bang, straight into the savings, didn't feel a thing.


Step #4: Chopping Flesh off of the Bill Monster

Without a doubt, the biggest common enemy we all have to face is the Bill Monster. He is a central figure in all of our bank account’s list of antagonists, mouth gaping wide and inhaling cash like he deserves it or something. His infamy is so far reaching that most of his victims simply accept his presence as a part of life, like some immovable force we have no control over. But that is a weak attitude, and you need to be a better fighter than that.

As like before, the best way to defeat your enemy is to pick apart the elements that make it whole. Calculate how much you’re spending on each individual bill, divide, and then conquer. One of the best ways to do this, is to actually get the monster to fight itself until it knocks the shit out of its own face and you come out slightly more victorious. And this is how you do that:

Pick a bill, any bill (gas, electric, phone, internet, contact lenses, whatever) and then shop around for another company offering the same service, except at a better rate or at least with some fancy introductory offer included. Then call up your current provider and tell them what you’ve been thinking about. If they value you as a customer, they will try beat this offer or at least try and gift you some other fancy thing you may like. If they don’t value you as a customer, then why even waste your strength? If you want to be the best warrior you can be, you need to sever all loyalty and go with the more beneficial option, because trust me, in one way or another, everyone is ripping you off. That’s how they make their money.

If you’re anything like me, this concept may fill you with fear, as I loathe the telephone, but if any financial book has taught me anything, it’s that by simply making a call, you’ve just gone forward with a move that 99% of people won’t do, which puts you in a much higher league of soldiers—a league which is so rare, in fact, that these companies actually have it in their budget to deal with you, paying you off to go away. And just like before, if you only manage to cut off £10 from four different bills, that’s potentially £480 a year from just four phone calls. And I reckon you could do a fuckload better than that.

JUST A TIP
Keep a spreadsheet (or whatever) where you document every call you make to these types. Note the the date, the time, the company, and the representative's name who you spoke to, as well as whatever the call was concerning and the general outcome. This can be useful if you ever need to call again about a related issue, because as soon as you start name-dropping with an associated time/date, they will be very quick to realise they are not dealing with an average customer. They will sit up straight and pay attention very quickly.

There are other ways too, best illustrated by examples:

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
When I, for the millionth time, joined up to a gym, I had very little faith in myself that I was actually going to use it (based on my past success rate). Which is why, with this torch of reluctance, I signed up for a 3 month rolling contact rather than anything more permanent, which cost me £76pm. Too much!
After a few months rolled on by, I realised I was surprisingly committed to the gym now, and so I phoned them up and asked if I could sign a new contract, this time for a whole year. Naturally, they were more than happy to have a confirmed paying customer for that guaranteed length of time, and my monthly bill got knocked down to £67. That’s £9 saving a month, £108 savings a year. Pretty decent for one phone call.
I then discovered that my job at the time offered a voucher (more on this later, see Step #8) which allowed employees to knock a further few % off of their gym memberships. I excitedly told my colleagues about it, and they confessed they had no idea this even existed. Anyway, a quick email sent to my gym, they applied the voucher, and my monthly bill got knocked down a bit again, now standing at £60. That totalled to a £16 saving a month from the initial amount, £192 a year, from just a little bit of research, one phone call, and an email. Easiest money I’ve ever made. Maybe.

I have another story actually, one second.

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
For a while back then, I was hosting four websites, which cost me something like £80 each a year = £320, just to have my amazing pages up and running. For an embarrassing amount of years, I just paid that without thinking about it, because they were my babies and I’d do anything for my babies.
To skip to the end, one day I eventually noticed that each one of these sites were hosted with an “unlimited amount of storage space”. Obviously, that’s a lie, but if we had to take them on their word, that would mean I had infinite webspace four times over, which is stupid, because as with anything in life, one infinity is enough. So I emailed up the company and asked if I could host all my accounts under one roof, and then just pay for the separate domain names instead. They seemed surprised I’d never asked to do this before, and happily set it up. So now I pay for all four sites for the price of one. Such a stupid oversight initially, and doesn't say much for my savviness, but the lesson is a good one: sit down, look at each bill, refuse to swallow any of them as “just the way it is”, and make a plan. In this example I am saving £240 a year for literally half an hour of effort.

Ok, but let’s be real for a second. You don’t have to tell anyone, just whisper the answer to yourself: Are you even using your gym membership at all? If not, cut that bill out completely. Or if your vanity fears that this action will be surrendering into a fat defeat, do a little calculation. How much does a day pass at your gym cost? Multiply that number by the amount of times you’ve been to the gym in the last three months, and then divide that total by three to get a fair monthly average. Is that number lower than what you’re paying for your contact? If so, there is some free money right there for you if you want it.

Maybe this specific scenario doesn’t apply to you because the gym sucks, but you can apply the logic to anything you like. Signed up for a porn website you hardly ever wank at? Subscribed to a magazine that has the same content online? Sports channel you watch once a month? Insurance for a phone that you’ve not busted for over 3 years? Slice those bastards off at the roots, and it your riches will add up substantially.


Step #5: Collecting Enough Coins to Obtain the Junk You Want

Up until this point, all the money coming your way from me (you're welcome) is a slightly lengthy automated system that requires patience for your stash to be rewarded. But what good does that do you in modern society, as a player who is undoubtedly craving instant gratification, salivating over the idea of having more stuff right this instant.

Well, maybe you should just chill out a bit, ok? By following steps 2 - 4 and keeping track of every coin you part with, you should develop a natural awareness and fear of spending anything, and that alone can become a very profitable bonus immediately. However, money is only the skeleton of true power, because why we actually want money, is to trade it for tangible things. Shiny things. Heavy things. Things that we hope will bring us some happiness, despite what Buddha tells us. And that's what Step #5 is all about: the best way to accumulate possessions during your adventure without making so many holes in your nest that your eggs fall out.

The trick here may not be any hushed secret whispered on the wind of oak trees, but it is a science that requires hefty elaboration in order to stitch together a proper protective blanket. Simply put, you need to look for deals. If you have your eyeballs fixated on something, don’t just click them buttons on Amazon in a feverish haste, because the chances are, you can find it cheaper somewhere else. Google the thing you want. Look at stores which specialise in the type of item you are hunting for. Even if you can shave £3 off of the shipping, that’s easily a free lunch right there. And who says no to a free lunch?

A good place to start is to research bargain sites and then locating one which homes the object of your desire, pausing to look left (ensure their price is lower than what Amazon is offering), and then right (ensuring that the provider is trustworthy according to unrelated sources), and then left again (ensuring there is no print so small that you need to increase your screen resolution just to read it). But an even better ally in this quest, would be the previously uttered magic words “introductory offers”. Perhaps a shop that stocks this object will offer you 20% off of your first purchase if you sign up to be a member. So do that, order the item, and then NEVER USE THEIR SERVICE AGAIN WITHOUT THE UTMOST CAUTION, because there might be some hidden clause that fucks you once the initial pampering has expired (a tiny bit more on this later in Step #9). Mark their emails as spam, and move onto the next item, the next shop, the next introductory offer, perpetually stealing money from those hardworking companies. It’s fine, they’d do it to you in a second. They probably already have.

However, this is still a war, and you can’t say warning without war, so please do pay heed: if you don’t play your hand with a strategic restraint, you may get burnt and lose a life. Looking for deals is fine if you already know what you want. But if you have a compulsive shopping disorder, there are traps everywhere designed just for you, throwing glitter into your eyes and charming you with colourful fonts until you are giving out your bank details to a complete stranger. Do not buy stuff for deals' sake. You might end up with a billion glowsticks for half the price, but you never wanted glow sticks in the first place, so where did you save money there exactly?

Another devious manoeuvre the enemy likes to play, is that of comparison sites. You may think you’re being smart by taking this initiative, and in some ways you are, but be very wary. Even comparison sites are businesses (key word) who make their money by telling you which competitor is offering the best deal. But where do they think they are getting their money from? Are they doing this out of the honour of their hearts? Or maybe, just maybe, is there some sneaky bribe taking place? Some underhanded payment which ensures their partners get to the top slot on their list every time? I believe so, which is why I trust these guys as much as I trust anyone. Which is not a lot at all.

Is any of this helping? If not, I have some other tasty goodies which may interest you, right this way.

Take a brutal look around your room. Do you really need all of this crap? What haven’t you used for a while? That old thing? Sell it! Sell it for such a low price that it’s a steal! Because even if you don’t get that much, what does it matter, you weren’t using it, and it’s just a gulp of extra fuel from a completely free resource. On that topic, do not be so up your own class that buying cheap knock-offs or second hand items is below you. If you find the thing you are looking for with an exceptionally reduced price, even it isn’t 100% what you want, you should go for it. Not only will you be saving money, but you will also be saving the environment from having to deal with more junk being birthed into it. Or an even better idea (if you are this way inclined): find something that could be quite different from what you want, or even the raw materials for it, and put it together yourself. It will take more time, and time is money, but with this approach you will have a one-of-a-kind-custom variation of something you barely paid for, not to mention an end result that you will have loads of pride associated with. Maybe your friends will see it. Maybe your friends will want it. Maybe you will start to sell them and become rich. If that happens, please buy me a beer.

JUST A TIP
If you're planning on going holiday anytime soon, or even if a good friend is, it might be worth looking into how much the item of your eye costs over there. What happens next might surprise you.

Finally, here is a super gangster trick I heard over at Money Saving Expert, but please keep in mind that I have never tried it, so I do not exactly approve of it by experience. It sounds legit though, so it’s worth mentioning. You know how some shops guarantee that “if you can find a better price, we’ll beat it!”? Apparently, sometimes this promise works even after you have already bought the product, and you have about a month to claim the deal, to which they pay the difference. So here’s how you essentially commit fraud: come Xmas time, buy all of your presents from a shop that offers such a promise. Naturally, after New Years, almost everywhere in the world drops their prices as they clear non-purchased stock from the Xmas rush. Simply find another shop doing a clearance sale that sells an item you bought previously, and then bring that figure to the original shop who made you the “we’ll beat it” deal. In theory, free money, but I’d be a little bit careful with this as it might not work and you might go to Hell.

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
This literally just happened! It's so good that I had to share!
A few days ago I ordered a Macbook from Currys, and it arrived impressively promptly, all in one piece, fully functional, shiny and new.
The only downside was that literally the next day, the Currys website lowered the same Macbook's price by £150! I couldn't believe it. What were the chances?
I started to toy with the idea of triggering my return policy, getting my money back, and then repurchasing the item for the discounted price (and I totally would have), but decided to first give them a call to get their opinion.
I spoke to a very lovely lady named Gwen, who totally agreed with me that returning the machine would be a lot of unnecessary effort and paperwork for both parties, and she refunded me the £150 within 10 minutes. Done. Much appreciated Currys, here is some free promo for you.
The lesson even I learned here is this: if you make a big purchase, always check back to the website you bought it from. If the price is lowered within your refund date, threaten to exercise this right and they'll more than likely bend the knee without questions.

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10 Reasons to Become Vegetarian

Step #6: The Age Old Penny Pinching Legend

Do not underestimate this pistol in your holster, for while it may seem like an insignificant array of tiny bullets, with enough of them, you can still tally up quite a few hits of severe damage. Because if you think about it, shaving £5 off of a grocery shop every week, totals to £260 extra savings a year, which is quite a lot if you want to runaway from home.

Some of these tips may seem obvious to you, but do you do them? DO YOU? For example: if you buy a tin of spaghettios every week, and there is a deal which allows you to by six for the price of five, that's a no brainier, buy that instead. Yes, you spend a bit more this week, but then each shop after that is a little bit cheaper, you dig? Two for one, three for £5, half price ... these are the smoke signals you need to develop your ESP for. Buy in bulk, and freeze things that you won’t be using immediately. However, as like before, if you never intended to purchase said product in the first place, do not be fooled by their dazzling cuts. That’s how the monsters trick you. Move on.

Another important defense you need to become aware of, is that brand names cost more because you are paying for the logo and the packaging. The few extra quid you pay them goes directly onto their advertising, which is the only reason you know of them in the first place. You are literally paying them to convince you to buy their products, which makes no sense. Now, I appreciate pride plays a part and it’s always slightly embarrassing when you have guests over for dinner and you whip out a no name mushroom sauce to feed their pompous mouths with, but if you do a bit of research, you’ll often find that what’s inside the box ... is exactly the same no matter what’s on the outside. It is even likely that the products were made in the exact same factories, packaged differently, and shipped off to be labelled at completely different prices. You can shave off pound after pound per each purchase by avoiding the fancy colours, and that’s where the magic in this step lies.

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
I have a great story which illustrates this even better, sit down, bitch, be humble.
I adore Uncle Ben's rice. ADORE. For those of you who don’t know, these yummy offerings are packets of rice that come in all sorts of amazingly tasty flavours, which cook in just two minutes and then you’re super happy and everyone is impressed. I used to buy a few every week and felt no shame.
The only problem is that they (currently) cost £1.69 per 250g, which is supposed to be two servings, but I used to eat that shit one shot because I have the metabolism of a gazelle.
However, once I started my ninja money training, I began to realise this was probably not the smartest attack in the greater scheme of richness. I found out that normal Tesco brand Everyday Value plain long grain rice was £0.45 for 1kg. That works out to 11p for 250g, which is £1.58 cheaper than what my uncle was offering. So let’s say for argument sake I ate exactly 250g a week (I eat loads more than that, by the way), that would mean a savings of £82.16 a year. ON FUCKING RICE!!
So, yes, it takes a bit longer to cook. And, yes, it doesn’t ever taste as good. But just for shits and giggles, I did a little check, and for that price (as I type this) I could fly return to Lisbon, spend a night in a dodgy hostel and buy a beer without even touching my bank account because I ate some rice that was a bit plainer. Do you think I would be mourning Uncle Ben’s? Do you think I'd be thinking about rice at all? Hell no, I'd be Lisbon.

There are plenty of other systems in which you can collect up your coins to build a wall. Looking out for coupons is a great start. Another is to check if your local favourite grocery (or any) store offers a rewards card, and sign up right now, before you even finish reading this article. Every time you buy something, you essentially get the tiniest portion known to the whole universe back. It may seem pathetic at first, but if you use it enough, you often receive some free shit at the end of each month, or even offers to make more points, which definitely adds up. I usually get at least one free lunch out of this a month, and it’s a good day every time.

In a similar blood stream, I only recently realised that I've been a complete moron because I'd never used cashback websites. Stupid! Believe it or not, there are sites that literally pay you money for buying something you were going to buy anyway. It completely depends on what you’re looking for, but in my case, in one month I bought a couple of books, some vinyl, and a rubbish bin—all things I was going to buy regardless—and I got just under £5 back. I checked Amazon (which I always urge you to do matter what), and the prices were identical, except I got paid by going elsewhere. One of the shops even allowed me to order a book to a branch of their store, which I did, and picked it up on my way home from work, saving about £2 on shipping. Which all adds up to a really nice free lunch! There are various cashback websites to choose from, but the one I use is obviously for the UK, called TopCashBack. I get additional money if I refer a friend, so if you’re feeling kind and grateful for all of this free advice I’m giving you, a nice way you could return the favour would be to sign up through my personal link here? Thank you! You won’t regret it! I love you!

Another great way to pinch pennies is to literally pinch pennies. My method is this: any change I get below 50p, goes straight into a little money box, forgotten about, making friends. I don’t even think about or even miss them, because as singular units, they are rather useless. But maybe once every four months or so, a big bill might fuck me or I simply must get on a plane, which leaves all my budgets under serious threat. That’s when I bust out the box, take the contents to one of those coins to cash machines, and watch as them clangy bits of copper get spat out as real paper moneys. I’m talking probably about £40 or more every time I do this, which if you’re desperate enough, could pay for your lunch every day for the whole month maybe.

Finally, speaking of lunches, do you take your own into work? I can't even tell you how much money I save by doing this. It’s one of those things everyone tells you to do, but damn, the amount of quids you can shave off this way is forceful. Make extra food at dinner, and that’s you sorted. I often put together a massive pasta or rice dish that lasts me days. It’s really down to what’s more important to you: taste variation or money. My guests don't let me feed them anymore.


Step #7: Stashing Your Riches

In some meandering way, this step is the heart of the whole approach here. Because the most important thing to remember above all else, is that this scripture is about saving money. The previous steps gave a grand guided adventure through the forest of obtaining more coinage to shove into your pockets, but if you are a fool who carelessly treats this additional power as merely a larger source of expendable income to go into circulation, you will very quickly grow comfortable within spending that dough as fast as your last stream of revenue, and then you’ll be back to the first square. In fact, it’ll be an even worse consequence than that, because you would have exhausted every attack I have taught you, and it will be very difficult to get that back.

The magic move here is this: once all debts are gone, every cent of money you’ve managed to save from this article should be put away. The reason is because your life will remain exactly the same, but your special nest egg will only continue to grow. As you put these ideas into practice, you should get into the habit of taking note of how much additional cash you have managed to avoid spending, and that amount should be exactly how much you are putting away. It doesn’t matter whether you are saving towards a goal or if you just like to look at big numbered statements, the whole very purpose of your mission is to learn to hang on to it. Which brings us to the unfortunate truth: the best way to create a sturdy structure for your empire is to utilise the corporate banking system. This is because, if you play them right, you can get even more money for your money.

For the most part, this whole step has only been included in order to create a full body of resource, but most of this information will not be news to you. However, on the off-chance I am writing these words for an eight-year-old, there is a thing called an APR (annual percentage rate) which is how much interest (money) a bank will give you (or take away from you, in the case of debt) based on how much cash you have (or don’t have) chilling in your account. Now, I could sit here and list which companies offer what, but that would run the risk of damaging this article's timelessness or international appeal, as all the confusing combinations and weird laws come and go and change at such an alarming rate that it would be a full-time job keeping this text relevant, and I'm not willing to do that. Instead, I leave it up to you to research your own local banks with the one mission in mind: who is offering the best deal?

However, there are some factors which completely depend on your circumstances that should help you make the best decision. Here are some pointers you should consider on your search:

If you do not need your money instantaneously because you are saving up for a rainy day or something massive, the best bang for your buck will always be a Fixed Savings Account. These will only allow you to access your cashish after a certain of period of time, but they always come with a much more delicious APR.
If you want your money to be ready whenever, you will probably find yourself considering just a regular savings account, because they have the word “savings” in it. But then again, there is always the chance that your current account actually offers a much higher APR, which is often the case right now in the UK. Worth a look.
And finally, if you think the bank you are using are actually using you, it could be in your best interest (geddit?) to look out for another bank that not only offers a better APR, but also offers you other stuff as well. Some banks will actually pay you to switch to them, which is like taking free money from the money machine's mouth. That said, be verrrry careful of nasty penalty charges which may occur when the bank you have abandoned grows bitter from the rejection and strikes out with its angry hand.

The most difficult aspect of all of this, is how abundant the amount of information is out there. It can be very overwhelming and scary because it’s been designed that way to keep you confused and ignorant. However, there is a trick to learn everything you need to know from the people who know it all, and it won’t cost a dime. Simply go into any bank, tell them you’re looking for a place to keep your money with the best APR, and they will gleefully sit you down and go through what they offer. You might even get a free cup of tea with it, who knows? They will answer any questions you have, they will explain everything in a language you understand, they will even desperately list the ways in which they are better than any competitor you name, and then when it comes time to sign on the dotted line... DO NOT SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE. Politely tell them you are 100% interested in this deal, but you simply cannot make the decision before talking to your husband/wife/dog/cheese sandwich first. Shake their hand and be on your way to further your research armed with a brand new set of understandings, free from the manipulations that they are trained to rain down upon you. Do not feel bad, for while these are people and we must love all people, by profession, bankers are the human disciples of financial demons. And if you do what they say, they will take a cut of whatever you agreed to.

Great! So now that you’ve armed your mind with protective gear, get ready for the real kick in the head: unless you’re already really rich (and I doubt that, because here you are), the money you’re going to make from interest is never going to be astounding. If you have £1000 saved at a (somewhat UK average) 1% APR, you’re looking at £120 a year, which is awesome free money, don't get me wrong, and hugely worth your while exploring, but it also relies on so many other boring factors (Are you leaving your money alone? Does your account actually offer as much as 1%, because many don't?). However, what can often equate to much more beneficial outcomes, is the hidden little gems your bank can offer you. They are normally very proud of these things and every bank has them, so go to their website and take a look. It might be deals on purchases, or cash back options, or even free money, all ready for you right now while you’re sitting there letting it slip through your fingers like sand.

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
A good example of this would be when I discovered an interesting offer from Barclays Bank, so strange to me that at first I didn’t really believe it was true.
If you have a current account with some direct debits going out of it (which most people do), they can set you up a separate account called Blue Rewards. What this account does, is automatically takes £3 from your current account every month and then puts it into itself, along with an additional £4 from the bank.
If you work that out, it’s £48 free money from the bank every year. Then if you consider it with the additional £3 from your account that you won’t even notice is gone, you can end up with £84 a year in an account for no real reason.
I can’t tell you how many times it’s been the day before payday and someone wants to go out drinking and then I suddenly remember this magic account I have. I tap my phone a few times in the right spots, and the money is instantaneously in my account. Voodoo shit that is.
I’ve told people who have Barclays accounts about this before, and they had no idea it existed. Ever wonder what else you might be missing out on?

I want to end off by acknowledging that we are all human, for the most part. There will come days of desperation that for whatever reason, you will simply be forced to dip into your savings. As an occasional measure, that is actually ok, because that’s what it’s there for. But for the love of Money, keep track of what you have stolen from yourself and make it your next priority to pay it back in full along with whatever your other monthly amount is by this point. Because we want to be rich one day, yeah?


Step #8: Pillaging Your Job

This step is primarily pointed out for those of you who are currently employed permanently, usually in a company, the bigger the better. If you are self employed or unemployed or contracting or freelancing, you could probably skip along passed this section quite happily without losing too much valuable advice, even if it pains me. But for everyone else who is caught in the miserable 9-5 rat race of the corporate world, there are methods you can use to wring your job for every penny you’re worth.

To get this done requires a bit of action on your part as I can’t do everything for you. Read your contract. Read the company’s handbook, if they have one. Speak to your colleagues or HR, any resource you can find, with one question on your mind: what can they do for me? Because, much like anything, jobs usually offer some perks to their committed employees, and it is your duty to suckle on every teat until they run dry.

The most obvious and popular scheme you will find, is the pension. Even if your job doesn’t offer one, you should consider starting one up independently, because by contributing even just a small % of your monthly salary and forgetting about it, it will only grow, duh. In my opinion, the best pensions are what they call "Lifestyle Funds" in the UK, because they will automatically be invested in stocks and bonds which directly correlate to your age—a higher risk when you’re younger and a lower risk when you’re older—which makes perfect sense and also means that when you do eventually retire, you will be able to buy all sorts of lunches with it. However, what makes your job involvement so special is the common practice of today’s companies matching what you put away, within reason. Do not fuck around. Max this opportunity out to the nth degree with everything you can muster. If they match 3%, put 3% away. If they match 5%, put 5% away. If they match 20%, put 20% away, if you can. Do whatever is in your power without breaking the bank. Because if there ever was such an idea as free money—especially a substantial amount of money—this is it.

Let’s do some maths! The average salary in the UK is £27,271 a year. That about £1,803 a month after tax. If you put away 5% of that, that’s £54.09 a month. If your company matches it, that’s £108.18 a month. That’s £1,298.16 a year. That’s £12,981.60 after 10 years. Say you retire in 30 years, then you’ll find yourself with a cool £51,926.4. And that doesn’t even include whatever interest you are earning along the way, which I imagine is a lot, I don't know. Basically, double your fucking savings, just like that. Look after your older self.

But the treats from your company may not even end there. Savings on groceries, special gym membership deals, medical aid, dentist bills, tickets to things, gift vouchers... don’t ask, and you’ll never know.

A TALE FROM THE ADVENTURES OF JARED
Something pretty cool happened when I was writing that last line.
I remembered that I had signed up to a Health Plan at my work which covered all sorts of medical bills, and I hadn't looked at it for a while.
So I double checked my package, noticed my contact lenses were included, sent off a receipt and got £100 dropped into my account after a few days. POW!
It's almost like I got paid for writing this article after all!

Of course, the whole “job thing” is a two way street, and when it comes to employment, you are still getting paid to do something, which may leave you a little low on the ladder without too much weight to throw around. That said, you are still an important snowflake, and the more your company knows this, the better your cash situation can get.

Here is the main thing you need to understand. Pretty much everyone’s job description is exactly the same, and it reads it this: Make Your Boss’ Life Easier. If you focus on this primarily, it won’t take long before your role becomes more crucial, or even indispensable. Get your work done to a good standard, volunteer to help whenever you can, and then keep a diary of everything you did right, because you are going to use it for your advantage later.

Later, as in right now. You should demand a salary review/appraisal at least once a year. Use your list of amazing achievements as ammunition. Check salary comparison sites to see if you’re even earning what you should be earning for additional firepower. And then blast them (nicely) with everything you got, fearlessly asking for an increase way beyond your wildest dreams, so that even if they only meet you halfway, you’re still a fucking spaceman.

If this all works in your favour and you get a raise, here is the true golden key: as with everything, you are already surviving without it. So any additional money placed into your bank account should not be spent, otherwise you’ll eventually begin to live within those newfound means again, and you'll have no idea where that raise even went. Instead, take the newly granted excess and put it away, watching it grow like a baby made out of dollar signs.

If this doesn’t work in your favour, however, and your company refuses to play ball, then I can only recommend that it’s time to pack your bags and say bye bye. Start by spending 10 - 30 minutes every day working on your portfolio, writing your CV, refining your cover letters, and sending them around. With a little determination and research, you should find yourself in a much happier place that pays you a substantial amount more, and that’s when you’ll find that being valued and respected is the most important thing there is.


Step #9: Not All Cards Were Created Equal

And now we get into the more higher grade side of this article, so please, do not even attempt to venture down this road until you have extensively travelled those that came before and you are absolutely prepared for it, because with great power comes great responsibility, and without the proper care, this move could very well topple on top you and then crush your pretty little skull with the rubble of immovable debt.

This step is all about bringing them evil credit cards back into the game, but rather than viewing them as the weighty logs we did in Step #1, we shall be sharpening them into weapons for our own gain. How to do this is to locate a credit card which rewards your spending. Do not even concern yourself with the interest rate here either, because sometimes the worse it appears on paper, the better the prizes can be at the end. Use your google machine and unravel a card that offers you something you could make use of—whether it be flight points (like me!), groceries, or even cashback—and then apply. It can be fairly insane what these guys will offer you for absolutely no money, so take a look around and take your time.

Once you’ve managed to convince a credit card company to agree with you and send you the card of your desires, the object is to use it for literally anything that doesn’t charge you for its use. Any direct bills you can set up to be paid from here? Any online purchases on the horizon? These are the scenarios where your card becomes the go-to numbers to punch in.

JUST A TIP
Never draw cash out of a machine with a credit card, they will charge you lots of money and sadness to do so.

BUT HERE IS THE THING YOU SIMPLY CANNOT FUCK WITH: every time you make one of these purchases, move money from your current account into a different account (whichever one has the highest APR benefits for extra score) as if you were paying for these things from your current account anyway. This will not only help you keep track of what your credit card’s damage is looking like, but you will also run no risk of accidentally spending that money, rather keeping it safe for you to summon later. And summon it, you shall! When your monthly credit card payment is due, you draw that money out and pay off whatever credit debt you’ve racked up IN FULL. Anything not paid will be charged interest, and you lose money. And if you miss a payment, may the gods be with you, because you are about to brutally attacked by the most vicious of APR monsters you’ve ever faced, complete with penalty spells and a black marker to scribble all over your credit rating. However, if you follow my instructions to the letter and have cleaned up the debt in good time by using the money you’ve already put aside for it, you are charged nothing whatsoever. What’s more, you will reap whatever rewards your card initially promised you. Which. Is. Free. Stuff.

And, of course, this naturally does wonderful things for your credit rating. Before you know it, you’ll have credit card companies literally drooling at your feet, any card you like just an application away, potentially with even better rewards? Unlikely. Either way though, perhaps this is the moment you can say you’ve truly won the battle? Haha, just kidding, you can never win this battle, we will all be slaves to the capitalist system until we die, but you know what I mean.

JUST A TIP
As a rule, you almost always want to refuse those cards they send you in the mail though. I don't even understand the point them, their APRs and rewards are always rubbish, and you just know they are hiding some very vicious hooks at the best of times.

While we’re talking about credit ratings, I do understand that some of you may have fucked yours up so badly that no company would dare touch your leper reputation, and you can see no easy way to play this step, which is a shame. However, there are ways to slowly fix this. Check out these dudes called Credit Building/Repair Cards which are designed to do just that—repair a tattered rating. Grab one of those, use it sparingly, pay it off in full every month, and your blacklist should gradually start to grow more grey. You can also improve your overall score by getting on the electoral role, not moving house too often, or even getting married, which may not be the best reason to do so, but I know some people who got married for worse reasons. If you are curious to know what your credit score is right now, I’ve heard via the vine that Experian (UK only, soz) lets you request one for free now without damaging your score, which is usually a concern. But whatever cautious means you use to find out your worth, you should always keep in mind that there is no such thing as one big black credit rating ether that potential lenders can dip in to and out from. Every single place will do their checks with their own parameters, no two credit scores will judge you equally, so do not fear too much if one place tells you that you're buggered, but maybe still fear it a little bit. Regardless, it’s still a good thing to do, because sometimes your rating may have taken a hit due to some incorrect details, and simply by updating someone’s database, you can become a more stable entity.

Ok, so we’ve looked at little ways to get little things, but what if you want something big and you want it NOW!? Well, once again, if executed with respect, credit cards can come to the rescue as a valuable ally rather than the cursed plague some of us recognise them as. You see, in the olden days, if you wanted something expensive, you’d save up for it, but this can come with a risk where, by the time you’ve finally got enough money, the price has only increased massively (read: flights!). Rather, we can now do the whole process backwards, pay for it now whilst it’s cheap, and then “save up” by paying it off in exactly the same manner. There are so many credit card companies offering purchase cards with 0% interest for months upon months as an introductory offer, and so if you pay it off bit by bit ENSURING you pay it ALL off before the 0% APR runs out, you have been charged no excess whatsoever. A total free loan. Never pay interest on anything ever. Excellent.

And once that free period runs out? Get rid of the card. Call them up. Cancel it (always!). Cut it in half. Find a new one. Start again. Credit rating on steroids right here. Just play safe, kids.

I want to end off by driving the point as hard as I can that not all cards are created equal, and there is one card above all else that you must NEVER EVER TOUCH, otherwise your skin will go scaly, you will age much faster, and you stand to lose so much money it will make your mother faint. And these are called Store Cards. Legend tells us that they were once fused by the devil himself, disguised much like your run of the mill credit card, except only used in the specific store offering them. They often try seduce you with an introductory offer which will grant a discount off of your first purchase (which isn’t something I’m totally opposed, just so long as you ONLY EVER USE IT FOR THAT OFFER), followed by an interest rate so big that it makes your average credit card look like a petty pickpocket. It may create the illusion that you’re walking into your favourite store and purchasing whatever you fancy with just the tap of a card, all cool like, but behind the scenes in Hell, they are charging you up to 30% interest you don’t pay it off immediately. That's pretty much worse than anything, they should be illegal. Avoid these with the strength of the bear.


Step #10: Choose Your Own Adventure

This may be dubbed the 10th and final step, but it isn’t really a step whatsoever, rather me giving you my blessing and wishing you well on whatever you choose your next steps to be. You have listened well, and I am confident that you will use your new found knowledge for good rather than evil as you dance along your own way.

Perhaps you have been inspired to keep the momentum running, and if this is the case, you may want to consider the trip into stocks and bonds, but that is a whole different ball game which we won't be playing now. Perhaps you are looking to get a mortgage or find a faster way out of one, and then I can only hope the tools I have provided you with here, will provide the blueprint for the stairs you build. Or perhaps you are more like me, a simple human with simple tastes, aching only to jump on a plane and fly far far away. Whatever happens next is now in your capable hands, but if I could leave you with one last potent bit of advice, it is this: no matter what you decide to save money towards, someone has walked this road before you, more than likely been completely violated by horrific monsters along the way, and as a result, have found the most painless and cheapest method of getting there. The information available to us right now is endless, and the sooner you get in the habit of googling every money move you make before you make it, the sooner you will smile every time the ATM spits your receipt at you.

JUST A TIP
Some quick travel bits while we’re here (and I have nowhere else to put them)
Don’t use travel agents, they take a cut.
Packaged holidays usually mean cheaper flights even if you don’t use the hotel included.
Always order your currency online before you travel.
Use local currency when you draw cash in a foreign country because different places make up different exchange rates.

And eventually, there will come a day when this blog will be of no more use to you. You may find you have run out of idea steam and have oiled and tightened up your machine so well that you actually have become sick of the whole process. That’s where I am at now. Money is no longer a burden or a scarce resource, but an automated set of mechanics that hold together independently and are always doing their best to turn a profit out of everything. And that’s why I got off the horse here, and feel no massive urge to take my journey any further (for now). Perhaps your breaking point will be before mine, or perhaps much further on, but whichever way you go, I wish you nothing but the best of luck at becoming the financial wizard you were always meant to be, Harry. And who knows? Maybe these 10 steps are only the beginning...

JUST A TIP
Spend your money on cool shit, and you will never regret a thing.