The Tiki Principle

[Photo by Kevin Finneran on Unsplash]

What is it about the dancing light of a tiki torch that creates such a delightful ambiance? You see them at exclusive events, restaurants, beach parties, and my favorite – the backyard. Human fascination with fire may be one ingredient, our ability to control the uncontrollable, capture it, display it for all to see and reveal our surroundings during darkness. Cooking food on the open flame of a grill is a mans right of passage after all. Or maybe you see these tiki torch displays of dancing fire because its just pretty.

There are valuable lessons to learn from fire. “Don't play with fire or you will get burned” is one that pops into mind, but I want to describe a lesson I learned from the simple pleasure of brightening my night by tiki light.

I use tiki torches almost every night at home, it soothes and calms me after a rough day of work and livens up a party on the weekend. I use them so often I started to question how much I was spending on tiki torch fluid. After examination I was shocked that it came out to about 2 gallons of tiki torch fluid a month.

The least expensive tiki fluid I found comes in a 1 gallon bottle at about $10.98. Hold on, I'm spending more than $20 a month (have to add tax) on tiki fluid! Ok, that is only about $240 a year and isn't that bad. One night out with family (dinner/movie/sporting event) is usually close to that amount after you include drinks.

But it made me ponder if there were other alternatives to regular old Tiki torch fluid.

Fluid lessons

Upon my search for alternatives I had to understand what tiki torch fluid really was. Tiki fluid is a petroleum-based fuel, which means it is refined from crude oil. Specifically it is the hydrocarbons crude oil is made of that contain the energy for burning. Ok, now we are getting somewhere, there are lots of petroleum-based liquids that can be used as fuel. To name a few: gasoline, diesel, kerosene, hydraulic oils, aircraft fuel, mineral oil even WD-40.

Well, just because it is petroleum-based fuel doesn't mean it will work or be safe! “Don't play with fire” ring a bell?

In addition, tiki fluid sometimes has additives like Citronella, Lemongrass or Eucalyptus and essential oils to repel insects. Somehow the scent confuses mosquitoes and they find it difficult to find us from our breathe exhalation of CO2.

Enter Flash Point

What is that?

Flash point is the lowest temperature that a liquid will produce enough vapor to produce a flammable mixture in air. Think about gasoline in a can if its open there is actually a cloud of vapor hanging above the surface. This cloud of gasoline vapor will ignite with any kind of spark and go boom.

Some of the flash points of interest is:


Lower flash points (like gasoline) is more dangerous than the high flash point of tiki fluid. Actually I will just say this now **Never put gasoline in your tiki torch as fuel.**

Interestingly, Tiki Torch Fluid flash point is between 145 -275 °F (62.8 -135 °C) and Diesel, well diesel used on the road today is known as #2 diesel and generally the flash point of diesel fuel is between 125-180 °F (52-82 degrees °C). The flash points are pretty close and the price of Diesel per gallon ($2.66) to the price of tiki fluid per gallon ($10.98) is about 80% less expensive.

An interesting experiment no doubt.

From the picture above you can see I didn't fill it up all the way, but that is because I don't like getting fuel on my hands as it is not that easy to fill.


An interesting outcome occurred when I tried this option. The diesel flame had no perceptible difference from the tiki fuel. The fire still danced as beautifully around, lighting the night. It didn't stink or produce any more smoke than tiki fuel. (people think it will stink and soot up everything in the close area – well, not the case at all) . As it turns out the diesel burned slower so I went from 2 gallons of tiki fluid per month to 1 gallon of diesel per month (saving even more money) and the wick has not failed or become an issue at all. And after two years still going strong!

The Lesson

First off saving almost $200 per year seems trivial and I have to mention the adage “Don't sweat the small stuff”. But there is a greater lesson here. How many things do you consume or pay for that you have never looked at the bottom line regarding money spent?

If I can save 80% of my costs here with a tiki torch, where else am I blind to the consumerism and needless costs of not thinking deeply about my habits?

- Have you looked at your Home costs?

- Have you examined your automotive costs?

- How about insurance costs (home and auto)?

- Dining out a lot?

- Do you know how much tax savings you could have with 401K, IRA or HSA's?

The highest portion of monthly expenses usually come from housing, transportation, food and taxes! (Take a look at your expenses and the proof is right in front of your eyes)

Most of the small expenses are a wash and you should not “sweat the small stuff”, but when I examined my high dollar monthly expenses and applied “The Tiki Principle”, I have ended up saving over $2,000 per month. And that savings went into my investment & speculation funds :)