Extreme Frugality, part two


I wrote about Extreme Frugality once before and I had no plans on writing about it again. And then something happened and I have been thinking about what really qualifies as extreme and where one draws the line (I can’t talk about it yet as I have some thinking to do, but I promise I’ll tell you eventually!)

I will try almost anything to save a dollar but I won’t break the law.

We operate on the “it can’t hurt to ask” mentality. We have scavenged trash piles with property owner’s permission. We once asked a soapmaker for their scraps so I could use it to make detergent. We have traded physical labor for kitchen appliances. I have no issue asking friends, family and the general public for their discarded clothing, furniture and other items. I have used cloth diapers, heck, I have sewn cloth diapers out of old towels. I made my own deodorant, for heaven’s sake!

What I won’t do is steal, cheat or lie.

Early in our marriage Jason & I lived in this tiny little apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. Our unit was one of four in the building. One of our neighbors had cable television installed and it was quickly discovered by another neighbor that the cable company made a mistake and somehow connected the cable up to all four apartments. All we had to do was buy a $5 cord and we could have cable television for free.

Man did I want to do that. Jason worked two jobs and was gone from early in the morning until late at night. I didn’t have a car and I was new to the state and had no friends. I was lonely. I used to long for cable tv so I could feel like I was still in society, and so the girls could watch something that wasn’t on videotape. It sounds silly to me now that I’m in such a different place in life, but back then I REALLY wanted that cable.

I couldn’t do it. I thought hard about buying that cord and connecting my television but in the end I just couldn’t do it because it was wrong.

Now, my family has been in some real dire situations. There have been times when we had to use cloths instead of toilet paper. There are times when we had to eat popcorn for lunch. During those times we literally had nothing but the clothing on our backs and what was given to us through the kindness of others. The idea of stealing a neighbor’s water (they installed locked caps on their outside faucets, I guess they had problems in the past), or toilet paper from a public bathroom, or even cable television just didn’t enter into our brains.

A few months ago I watched an episode of a television show in which a man paid for one (or two, I forget which) plates at a Chinese buffet yet used those plates to feed a family of 6. That is stealing.

On another episode a man rummaged through the trash at a movie theater to find a popcorn bucket and cup, both of which came with free refills. He washed them out and took them to the concession stand for refills. That is stealing.

On a different television show a woman woke up super early so she could take her neighbor’s newspapers and take their coupons. She justified it by saying that they always threw them out anyhow. That is stealing.

The same goes with using counterfeit coupons or using coupons incorrectly. I used to extreme coupon (I’ll write more on that later) but I never, ever used a fake coupon. Not long ago I worked as a cashier for a big grocer and it was amazing what people tried to pull. It was commonplace for people to hand me coupons that had obviously been copied. One time a woman tried to buy ONE HUNDRED $1 sample pack of pain relievers by using a coupon that read “$1 off 24 count *pain reliver brand* or *pain reliver brand PM*”, she told me that because it read “or” the coupon didn’t require a bottle of 24 of the PM-type of pain relievers. And don’t get me started on “shelf clearers”!

So that’s where *I* draw the line. Where do YOU draw the line when it comes to extreme frugality?


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One thought on “Extreme Frugality, part two

  1. I’m with you on where the line is. I cannot bring myself to do anything that crosses it – I totally believe in Karma. I remember once while on a walk with my dad and sister there was a pear tree just covered in ripe pears. My dad told us if we wanted one we had to go and knock on the front door and ASK. So we did. Two little girls with pigtails very nicely asked if we could each have a pear (and one for dad) for our walk. We walked away with a BAG full.

    Those TV shows bother me because they show things that are illegal (one where a guy covers the price tag on his clothes with a ziploc baggie when he washes them so he can still return them) but it’s like a brag or a lesson. Not “this is NOT how society should work”.

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