10 Things I Just Won’t Do to Save Money
Hi, I’m Paul, and I have a confession. I’m frugal. Sometimes, really, really frugal. You only have to ask my long-suffering wife and kids for confirmation. But although I have been known to buy only items on clearance, with coupons, I am also someone who has frugal morals as well. I won’t steal; I have yet to pop a grape in my mouth from the produce section, although I see many people doing that. I won’t con people, or do any kind of “severe bending of the rules.” All in all, I keep my frugality above board, even if it means I spend a few extra dollars here and there. Here’s my top 10 sins that I won’t commit in the name of being a money-saver. (See also: The Ethics of Free: Is It Wrong to Get Free Stuff?)
1. I Won’t Ask For a Cup of Water and Then Get Soda
Well, these days I’m almost completely off soda anyway, but even when I was a sodaholic I would cringe when I’d see people ask for water, then fill up at the soda fountain. OK, so the restaurant does make a very sizeable profit from selling sodas, which means some people think they have the right to rip-off the restaurants. That’s just wrong though. In fact, when the restaurant gives you a free cup for your water, they’re losing money — those cups aren’t free to them. So when you add insult to injury, and start filling those free cups with whatever you like, it’s just not very sporting at all. Some restaurants have had to resort to putting in a big WATER button instead of the usual small water switch under the lemonade, because it was way too easy for people to get away with the stealthy “free drink” switch. Don't do it. But please, just drink water anyway. It saves you money, it’s better for you, and your conscience will be clean.
2. I Won’t Cram Hundreds of Free Ketchup Packets Into My Pockets
Staying on the restaurant/fast food theme, I overheard two people in line talking about how they never have to buy ketchup any more. “I just grab a few handfuls of those ketchup packets every time I’m in here, and squeeze them into the bottle at home!” Well, yayee for you! Although these packets are there to be taken, and thus “free,” they are not supposed to be there to help skinflints save a few bucks on a bottle of ketchup. If people continue to do that, we’ll soon be at point where “would you like to add ketchup to your order for five cents?” will be a standard question at the checkout.
3. I Won’t Take Home Toilet Paper From Work
Or lotion. Or coffee filters. Or plastic knives and forks. I won’t do it because it is literally stealing from your employer, which is wrong on so many levels. But it also makes everyone else pay the price for your own selfishness. When things start being “liberated” from work, the company takes notice. And they can take measures that remove those privileges from the rest of the staff. Nice toilet paper is replaced with the nasty waxy stuff that’s about as effective as a sheet of aluminum. Coffee is no longer supplied. Hand lotions and sanitizers must be provided by the staff. And all because a few rotten apples are too cheap to get their household supplies. Don’t be a work thief, please.
4. I Won’t Be An Extreme Couponer
I’ve written a whole article on this to explain my reasoning, but in a nutshell I think it’s a horrid mixture of greed and obsession. I’m not going to clip coupons for eight hours a day and spend four hours checking out. I’m also not going to clear the shelves of hundreds of items I don’t really need, or will ever use, just to save some money or see $1.24 on the register after ringing up 100 bottles of shampoo. The sooner these coupon manufacturers put limits on these things, the better.
5. I Won’t Under-Tip at a Restaurant
I have never been a server or worked behind the bar. I never want to do either. It has to be one of the toughest jobs out there for the money. Most of the time, these people are run off their feet all night and get paid less than minimum wage, because the tips will make up for the shortfall. Well, not if really cheap people don’t tip. I’ve heard stories and seen photographic evidence of people leaving tiny tips, like $1 on a $50 check, or even worse, leaving advice. That’s nasty, and it’s completely unfair. I will tip a minimum of 20% on the check, more if the server is really good. And if I have a Groupon or coupon, I always tip on the amount before that is deducted. Only if I get really, really awful service do I reevaluate. So far, in my 11+ years in the USA, I have yet to tip below 15%, and on the few occasions I did go that low, the service was pretty lousy. But who knows if that person was having a crappy day and has kids to feed.
6. I Won’t Use My House as a Piggy Bank
I have seen way too many people get burned in the refinancing and home equity traps. They get a little bit of equity in their homes, and they instantly refi and pull out that cash. Of course, when the market crashed, so many people got in real trouble due to their refinancing mistakes. Well, I won't do it. I will refi to get a better rate, of course, or to use the equity my home has built to eliminate mortgage insurance. But I won’t dip into the home equity fund. My only exception to that rule would be to do something that would add that equity back into the house, like a basement remodel. However, most of the time, those projects do not put back into the home what you have taken out.
7. I Won’t Risk “Dodgy” Food
Sell-by dates are not all they’re cracked up to be. Usually they err on the side of extreme caution, and you have several days as a buffer. There are other ways to detect the quality of the food, and if I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be off, I bin it. I have risked it before and have suffered some nasty food-poisoning episodes because I refused to throw out a few bucks worth of chicken or ground beef. Honestly, if in any doubt, throw it out. Bad smells, strange colors or hues — they are big danger signs.
8. I Won’t Avoid Flushing the Toilet
I’ve heard that you can save a bunch of money by not flushing your toilet after every use. What’s the old saying? Ah yes — “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Well, I did a little digging, and yes, not flushing every time can save you money. According to The Simple Dollar, it’s roughly $7.66 per year! Now, that is a savings, but I’d rather give that up than have to live with the nasty odors emanating from the smelly toilets in my home.
9. I Won’t Wash My Own Car
What?!! Is this really coming from someone as frugal as myself? Well, yes. Here’s the thing. I have to figure the cost of washing the car and the time it takes, and then figure out what kind of money I can earn by doing freelance writing. It takes me at least 45 minutes to wash the car. A car wash is roughly $10-$15. I earn considerably more than that when I freelance. And when I’m not working, which isn’t often these days, I like to spend time doing stuff with my family (and sometimes, dare I say it, on my own). I’d rather be out playing in the park, or at a movie, or coloring, or anything other than washing the car. Now, if the family actually wants to spend time together soaping the car down, fine. But usually, we have better things to do. I do mow the lawn. That takes me 10 minutes, and it’s not anywhere near the same kind of hassle.
10. I Won’t Underuse My A/C and Heating
I find it so odd that people pay thousands to have A/C installed, and then never turn it on. Or they set it to some silly temperature like 79 degrees because it saves money, and then put fans all over the house. In winter, I have visited friends who have a cold house and wear sweaters and two pairs of socks. When I ask them to turn the heat up for the sake of my kids, it’s like I asked them to hand over their first-born. Now, I know when money is tight, you have to take some tough measures. If I were living alone, I would probably have no problem using a fan instead of A/C, or wrapping up warm in winter. But when the family — my family — is involved, I am not going to cut corners in those areas. I definitely monitor the A/C and heating use, but I will not deprive them of a comfortable home environment.
So, that’s my list. Are there some things you just will not do to save money? Do other people mock you for these beliefs? Let us know.