Is frugality unethical?

I remember growing up and doing things to save money that I now would not consider ethical. My most unproud act is sneaking beer into bars.  I’m not a complete jerk, I would buy my first one (the same kind I snuck in) and then I would casually slip out the second one after finishing the first. I was caught one time by a friend. “Hey, why didn’t you get me one when you went to the bar? Wait a second, you haven’t moved from your seat.” This all being said, I think it’s really important to keep a perspective of what’s right and wrong when you are scrimping and saving to pay down debt or build up your savings.

You shouldn’t have to decide between your savings rate or your soul…

  1. Stealing. Even though I collect shampoo at the end of my hotel stay, I’ve never taken the extra roll of toilet paper. It’s expected to take home the half used travel sized toiletries, it’s not ok to grab hand fulls from the housekeeper’s cart in the hallway.  
  2. Poor tipping.  Whenever you eat out consider adding 15% to the menu price before ordering. If you can’t absorb this price, consider getting a cup of soup. No matter how stingy I’ve been in the past I’ve never tipped less than 15%.  I typically tip around 20%. 
  3. Being unfun! If you can’t afford to go out, make alternative suggestions. Board games at home, hanging out a free venue, boxed wine in the backyard, museum, etc. If your friends insist on going to expensive bars, be amazing and declare yourself the designated driver.  
  4. Imposing on others to save you money.  The airport drop-off is one of the most obvious ways I’ve annoyed the people I love.  Sure the cost for my friend to drop me off at the airport costs about $3.50 in gas. The real cost is in the time it takes them to drop you off and then go home.  I’ve come up with an equation that makes it reasonable for me to ask for a helping hand. I will have to be gone at least 4 days before I will ask someone for a drop-off. It costs $5.50 to park in the uncovered lot, so saving $27.50+ is worth annoying a friend for a ride.  
  5. Always taking the charity of others. Bringing Tupperware to parties when you weren’t asked to take home leftovers.  I remember as a child grabbing Tupperware out of my mom’s purse at a wedding.  “What are these for mom?” She has become more tactful since those days.  Now she always has it in her car, as soon as a host says “I don’t know what I will do with all of this extra food?” My mom quickly replies with, “I can help you, I need to grab something from my car.”
  6. Hoarding instead of sharing.  I was recently at a conference that was handing out really nice pens.  I heard across the room, “Ooooh look how nice this pen is.” I made my way across to grab one of these “amazing” pens.  Nope, the person before took the last HANDFUL.  Sigh, oh well.  My lecture started and when I went to grab a pen from my purse I found none. Really, selfish lady, now I can take notes because of your greediness.  I was unable to learn because I was seething the entire time.
  7. Manipulating situations so you never pay your fair share. We’ve all had that one friend that always seems to get out of paying for things. This is the friend who always “forgets” to add tax and tip when splitting a bill.
  8. Haggling on an already cheap item.  I’ve seen neighbors negotiating over $1 at a garage sale on an item that was already marked incredibly low.  (Guilty of this in my 20’s while vacationing in Mexico.)
  9. Wasting people’s time for your benefit. Having a small business spend time and effort finding you the right product then buying it cheaper online.  I will admit, I went to a running specialty store (I don’t run) to help me find the right shoe.  This employee spent 20 minutes watching me walking, teaching me how to properly tie a shoelace, and then reminding me to point my toes forward instead of inwards.  The shoes were $110.  While waiting to check out, I did a quick look online and found the SAME shoes for $89. I took a deep breath and handed the cashier the shoes and my credit card. I’m not a hero but I sure felt virtuous. This would be the ultimate difference between cheap and frugal.

I’ve seen many comparisons between cheap and frugal.  The one that I feel is the most accurate is this: Your frugality affects you, your cheapness affects those around you. 

Don’t be cheap to meet your financial goals.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I love this.

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