Money Saving Tips from a Grifter, Hustler and Con Man

23 September 2014


Forget the honest dollar, some people always have an angle, none more so then those who make their living on the other side of the tracks.

Sure, what they do may not exactly be legal, but that does not mean that they aren't correct sometimes when it comes to their attitude about money and the way the world works. It's for this reason that you can borrow a few things from the grifters, hustlers and con men of the world. Particularly when it comes to their mentality around keeping money in their pocket.

After all, these slick, nefarious characters are experts at separating people from their money, but have you ever wondered how they keep the money they “earn” once they have it? The magic of any con is to not take your money by force, but to do it through persuasion. To make you think that you're in control of the situation and that handing over your money is your idea.

Unlike taking things by force, it takes very little effort on the part of the con man to get what he wants So, if that person can get money in a way that makes you volunteer it because you want to, then he must be just as effective at holding onto his cash once he has it, right? Read on to find out:

Don't Carry Baggage

In this capitalist society we live in, so much stock is put in possessions and things that spending seems to be out of control. According to Huffington Post, household debt is poised to hit a record high by the end of 2014 at $28,853.

But grifters and con men aren't held down by material possessions. In a 2009 article from Men's Journal, “What I learned from My Father the Grifter,” Pat Jordan writes that his father Patrick Michael Jordan (born Pasquale Michele Giordano, or Patsy, as most people called him) didn't believe in “things.”

“There were no mementos in our house. No things from the past that had been passed down from one generation to the next,” Jordan wrote. Jordan's father did not keep or save anything because he saw all that as baggage from his past. As he'd always say, “Baggage caused you to miss the next train out...baggage held you back.”

Of course, you probably won't go to the extremes that Patsy did and eliminate all physical trace of your past and use everything you have for only its necessity, but we could probably all take Patsy's advice a little bit and divest ourselves of our things and clutter that's holding us back. Part of that also means not acquiring more things and tying our self-worth to them and as we all know, the less you acquire, the less you spend and the more you save.

Be Skeptical of Institutions

Patsy also did not trust institutions. Perhaps it was because he spent his childhood in an orphanage, but he told his son that there was nothing hinky taking place at the orphanage itself. He just didn't trust them. He called life insurance, "blackmail, like a protection racket.” He never invested in the stock market, never had a credit card and never put his money in a bank because, as his son put it:

“He believed only in the cash in his hand and in his ability, his wits, to make more money out of that cash, or maybe lose it all, he didn't care, as long as he didn't entrust that money to forces and people beyond his control.”

Obviously, investments, credit cards and bank accounts are useful tools, but everything has its place and if there is anything the lemmings among us can learn from Patsy and other hustlers, it's to not trust our entire financial future to a third party. The 2008 recession should've told Americans that no bank is too big to fail and Pasty's lesson underscores that if you want something done right, you still should do it mostly yourself.

Too many people simply hand over their financial future to a financial advisor in it for the commission. If Patsy's habits can be applied at all, we recommend doing your homework before trusting your money to anyone and try to know as much as your financial or insurance advisors before they try and sell you something you may not actually want or need.

Don't Live Beyond Your Means and Give What You Can

While Patsy may have come by his money dishonestly, he never spent it on himself. Instead, he spoiled his family while he wore simple outfits to fool the “suckers” into thinking he was just an absent-minded professor.

“My father always dressed shabby Ivy League, like an absentminded professor, which was part of his con. His cronies even called him "Ivy League,” wrote Jordan. The only time Patsy spent money on himself was “every 20 years or so to buy a new navy blazer with brass buttons from J. Press Clothiers in New Haven.”

The rest of the time, he showered it on his family, taking them out to dinner every Sunday night, buying his wife mink coats and his son professional baseball gloves. They never wanted for anything and if his son ever needed money, forget the piggy bank, all he had to do was ask his father. Yep, Patsy spread his money around -- always slipping the Maitre ' D some cash or making the coatcheck girl's day with a c-note.

Sure, do that enough, as cavalierly as he did, and saving money will be the last thing you'll be doing. Still, if you look deeper, Patsy had a point. If you live within or below your means as he did, you'll be able to afford to treat the people you love to something nice every so often. Although, you probably don't want to go about it exactly like Patsy did:

“It was a lesson he had learned in the orphanage: You make people happy by giving them what they want. And if you are lucky, they give you back a crust of affection,” wrote his son.

“For my father, love was to be conned out of people by his wits.”

Photo credit: Jose Manuel Rios Vallente

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