Living Below Your Means
Frugal or a Thief?

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By Commodore64
June 6, 2002

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RE: The thread about the "Most Frugal Person".

This might get a bit long winded (you have been forewarned :).

The "most frugal" person from the other thread appears to think thieving and cheating are the same as frugal, and this is certainly NOT the case.

If you use a false ID to get a lower rate at a zoo, that is theft (or at the very least, cheating.)

If you drag your parents in to get the "senior citizen discount" for something YOU are buying, its dishonest and it is cheating.

If you "appropriate" cans of paint from work, that is THEFT- (if you saw him STEALING the paint, just imagine how much he has STOLEN that you didn't see. I know its common for people to steal office supplies and the like from work, but it isn't "frugal" or a "fringe benefit", its THEFT, even if "everyone does it".

I am thrifty. My parents are so frugal they can make penny scream (I've seen it happen!)- they need to be, because their "M" in "LBYM" was pretty small.

However, if my mother got back from the store (after using a ton of coupons, of course) and noticed she had been undercharged or given too much change, she would ALWAYS go back to the store and "make things right", no matter how small the amount.

You see, she realized that shopping for bargains and cutting coupons was FRUGAL, whereas taking advantage of someone is simply dishonest and WRONG, even if you can get away with it.

When we were kids, we didn't have a lot of money for school supplies. We "recycled" old office scrap paper for note taking (still do that today- why throw away paper that is still clean on one side?). Of course, we occasionally got ribbed for using old paper when other kids had brand new notebooks every year.

When we got older, my mother took a job as a clerk/receptionist at an office. She was in charge of the office supply closet. When I was in high school, I once asked her to bring home a couple of notebooks for me to use at school- I rationalized that the company would never miss them, and they would sure look a lot less pathetic than scrap paper. She refused to do it- she said that if I wanted a new notebook, I could get a job and earn the money to buy one, then gave me a lecture about how doing wrong is does not become right just because you "can get away with it".

When my father's company went under and he got laid off, a lot of the guys he had worked with collected unemployment while working odd jobs (e.g. house painting for cash) on the side. My father reported his side income to the unemployment folks, even though he could have EASILY "gotten away with" not reporting it and collecting a larger check. He told me that it is WRONG to dishonestly take the money when you don't qualify for it, because that money comes from someone else- if you take more than you are entitled to, it is THEFT.

Anyway, bottom line- it is EASY to find ways to make/save money through dishonesty, cheating, and theft, but it is not right and has NOTHING TO DO WITH FRUGALITY. The guy in the other post WAS frugal, but he was also a thief and a cheat. We can admire the frugality, but we should NOT hold up dishonesty and theft as being virtuous*.


*- I'm not a trained psychiatrist, but I have the feeling that the subject of the original post may have had some mental problems- its not just the theft and dishonesty, but some people can take "frugality" to obsessive levels that aren't healthy.

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