That’s Not Frugal, It’s Theft!

There are a lot of things that people will do in the name of frugality that I wouldn’t call frugal at all.  In fact, I think there is definitely a line where frugal crosses into unethical, and in some cases downright illegal.  That’s when being frugal can become stealing!  What do you think of these examples?


Bringing Extra Snacks Home From Work


The basket of organic goodies available at my office.

My office has a basket of snacks available to employees that is kept well stocked on the kitchen table. In fact, they are actually all expensive organic snacks that I am generally WAAAAY too cheap to purchase for PoP consumption at home.

But what if I wanted a nice organic raw energy bar, or a bag of Stacy’s organic pita chips with some kale dip for dinner? Well, if I were working late, I would have no qualms about eating that at the office for dinner. But to bring some home with me to eat later? Or to put a KIND Bar in my gym bag for a post-workout nut craving the next morning? I’d no sooner do that than I would stick a ream of printer paper in my bag to use with my home printer. Either way, it’d be stealing from my employer, which isn’t cool.


Downloading Unlicensed Media

By unlicensed media, I mean illegal copies of music, movies, tv shows, e-books, etc. For most music and current tv shows, there are ways to get free-to-you legal ad-supported content – like Spotify or Hulu. Movies, books, and audiobooks are mostly at your local library. But at some point, isn’t it okay to pay for content that you enjoy? Don’t content creators have the right to seek compensation for their work, whether it’s through ads or sales?

Filling Free Water Cups With Fountain Drinks

Think you’re being frugal by using one of those tiny water glasses (or, worse, your own bottle) to fill up at the soda fountain at your local Panera Bread? You’re not only being super tacky, you’re also stealing. Don’t try and use the profit margins on fountain drinks as an excuse. Why would stealing a high margin good be any more morally sound than a low margin good? There is always free tap water at any restaurant as the restaurants are required to have it available. No excuses for this one.


Using the Hotel Pool When You’re Not Staying There

Same goes for resort provided beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. Legally, the beach is for everyone, that is true. But if a hotel has chairs, umbrellas, towels, etc out for their guests taking those areas away from paying guests is wrong. That said, if the equipment is unused at the moment, I’m not above saying to an attendant, “Hey I’m not staying here, but do you mind if I sit down and catch my breath for just a minute on this chair.” I can’t imagine someone saying no.


Taking Towels Home From the Gym

If you can find where in your gym membership contract it entitles you to free hand towels, then go ahead and take all you want. But until then, if you accidentally bring a gym towel home (it happens to everyone occasionally) wash it and BRING IT BACK. Just like that. So easy, and not stealing. You borrowed it accidentally and cleaned it. =)


Stealing Sections of Newspapers From Unsold Piles

There is nothing more annoying than buying a Sunday paper for 2 sections (the Real Estate section and the Sunday coupons) and finding one of them has been stolen. And it’s not the RE section that gets stolen.

I’ve actually seen someone in the grocery store pick up 2 papers, pull the ad/coupon inserts out of one, put them in the other, and then purchase the double-insert paper. Now I’m not coupon obsessed, but really? That’s insane! And she did it with her kid sitting in the cart – what a fabulous example. Next let’s go over to the cereal aisle, and since the boxes are only usually 2/3 full, we can fill one completely by opening another and pouring it in! Then we’ll pay for our new “extra full” box! yay!


Jumping the Tunstyle at the Metro Or Using Someone Else’s Monthly Transit Pass

The happiest place on earth (that’s Disney World for you non-FL folk) apparently had so many people swapping tickets for free entry that they now take your fingerprint to get through the gate with the ticket. In general, transit passes explicitly say they are for the use of 1 person for a given period of time. Sharing them violates the terms… so you may as well be jumping the turnstyle. Which I think is pretty clearly stealing.


Turning Your Movie Into A Double Feature

If you paid to go see one movie, you get to see one movie. Hopping into a second theater when your movie is over wasn’t part of the deal. Would you walk out of the grocery store with two loaves of bread because you paid for one? BOGO sales aside, of course you wouldn’t. Buying the one of something doesn’t entitle you to a second for free.


For what it’s worth, I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect.  I think all of these actions are stealing, but that doesn’t mean I never did any of them when I was young and had less to lose… and I did know I was wrong to do them at the time.   


What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? How many have you done, or better yet, still do? I’m sure there are many more that I failed to include, so feel free to add them in the comments!

72 comments to That’s Not Frugal, It’s Theft!

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