Frugality can be a funny thing. Sometimes we think we’re frugal since we pinch pennies in certain areas of our life, but we spend quite a bit in others. In other cases, what we consider to be frugal might pass as overspending to others. Clearly, sometimes frugality has some gray areas.
This can also extend to the ethical side of frugality. It seems like sometimes we have rules for what we consider to be right and wrong behavior, but occasionally might let it slide by when it comes to saving a few bucks (or pennies). Rationalized behavior abounds!
There have been some cases of extreme frugality that I’ve witnessed. In a few cases, I’ve done a few unconventional things to save money. Case in point: my approach to saving money on coffee at the drive-thru. Yes, it wasn’t my finest moment (and it was a few years ago), but I’m cool with admitting it. I wouldn’t do it again.
There have been other cases where I’ve actually witnessed others going too far to save a few bucks. I’ve written quite a few posts about these instances in the Squirreling Gone Wild series. Check out that category to read those posts about extreme frugality, some of them were quite eye-opening in my view anyway.
All that being said, when trying to save a little bit of money, I follow what I call the “would you want it publicized” rule. It simply involves asking yourself this question:
Would you feel okay with this frugal behavior being publicized?
In other words, would you be cool with your entire network of friends, family, and even co-workers knowing about your approach to saving money on something? That is, feeling okay with them knowing the frugal approach you took in a given circumstance?
If we don’t want others to know, or we would be ashamed to broadcast it, then it’s probably not something we should be doing in the first place.
Here are few things I’ll own up to doing:
- Taking a couple of extra napkins from a quick-serve restaurant. I have no problem saying that I’ve done this on occasion. Never hurts to have a few in the car, just in case.
- Sneaking candy or snacks into a movie theatre. Yes, I’ve done this before too. I’ll admit it, though I’ll also say that I don’t do this anymore.
- Picking up pennies outside a drive-thru. Okay, I’ve done this too, as discussed above :) Again, I’ll own up to it despite refraining from such behavior (and avoiding drive-thrus) these days.
These are, to me, gray area moves. But that’s as far as I’ll go.
Going further than this would be actions such as taking silverware from a restaurant, towels from a hotel room, and so on. To me, that crosses the line and I absolutely would not do such things. Yet some people quietly do such things even though they wouldn’t broadcast it. There’s a good post on Making Sense of Cents on which I commented, which includes some related discussion.
If we wouldn’t want anyone else to know about something we’re doing to save money, then there’s probably a reason: we shouldn’t be doing it in the first place!
I’m actually at a coffee shop now typing this. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a couple of recycled napkins to grab….
My Questions for You
What do you think about the “Would You Want it Publicized” rule for frugality?
How do you determine what’s going too far when it comes to efforts to save money?
Do you have any examples of others (or yourself) going too far crossing the line to save?