By Dan Ketchum
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Odds are you’re saving less than $20 a year snagging hotel shampoos and packets of sugar from your local diner. Here’s a look at how much you’re saving by being a cheapskate.
Confucius said, “He who will not economize will have to agonize.” And he was right. If you don’t live on a budget, you’re likely to suffer a great deal of stress and financial uncertainty in the coming years.
While there’s value in being frugal, people who are too cheap tend to cause agony for those around them. Whether you engage in five-finger discounts or take more than your share of mints from the communal bowl, at the end of the day, you’re simply stealing from business owners and sullying your image.
Additionally, these tactics probably aren’t saving you as much as you think. Odds are you’re saving less than $20 a year snagging hotel shampoos and packets of sugar from your local diner. Here’s a look at how much you’re saving by being a cheapskate.
1. THE HOTEL HEIST
Free hotel toiletries are among the many luxuries frequent travelers enjoy. However, thrifty folks sometimes cross the line by stealing extra soaps and shampoo bottles to take home.
If you have a habit of hitting up the housekeeper’s cart for extra bars of soap, you’re not only scamming the hotel, you’re also wasting your time. After all, the savings on a sliver of soap are hardly worth writing home about.
Your savings: You can buy containers of shampoo from 99 cents and four-packs of soap for around $4. Since you’re getting about five times the amount of product when you buy these items in stores, the savings are minimal. Expect to pocket 20 cents or less for every tiny toiletry you nab.
2. THE CONTINENTAL CHEAP-OUT
Speaking of hotels, there is usually plenty of food to be found at the continental breakfast. With Feeding America estimating that 70 billion pounds of food go to waste each year in the U.S., there’s no shame in clearing your plate or even going back for seconds at the buffet.
Most hotels don’t mind if you grab some fruit or yogurt to go, either. But you don’t want to be the person who comes to breakfast carrying a Tupperware container to fill with food to stash in your hotel fridge, it’s not a good look.
Your savings: You’ll save about 42 cents per apple and 29 cents per banana. On average, you can nab a pound of the latter for just 57 cents at the grocery store.
3. THE SUPERMARKET SWEEP
Everyone loves free samples. For some reason, food on a toothpick is just more appealing. However, sweeping the supermarket five times to fill up on freebies is not an acceptable replacement for lunch. It’s just being cheap.
And if you’re really focused on frugal living, remember that the entire point of samples isn’t to save you money, it’s to entice you to spend more.
Your savings: The value of this cheap trick varies depending on how much you sample and where you shop. However, the small portion sizes make savings minuscule. And at sample paradise Costco, you could get a real lunch at the food court instead of scouring the store for freebies. A quarter-pound hot dog or polish sausage and a 20-ounce soda will cost you just $1.50.
4. CREAM, SUGAR AND THIEVERY
Whether you’re visiting the local gas station or hanging in a hip cafe, indulging in all the coffee fixings is one of life’s little pleasures. From creamers to sweet syrups, raw sugar to honey, the flavor options at a coffee bar are far more extensive than the ones found in your kitchen, and they’re a great way to save on coffee at Starbucks.
However, sticking a handful of creamer cups in your purse won’t help pad your wallet in the long run. Moreover, you’ll be selling your dignity for chump change.
Your savings: You can purchase a box of 50 brand-name, flavored coffee creamers for between $5.49 and $6.99. So, for each creamer you pocket, you’re adding no more than 14 cents to your net worth.
5. THE GLASSWARE GRAB
Most of the time, what happens at the bar stays at the bar. That truth applies to awkward dating fails, dancing on tables and even spilling your umbrella-adorned drink on your lap. However, it doesn’t apply to stealing.
If you’re drinking at your local watering hole, taking home the glassware is a good way to ruin your reputation with your bartender, or server, if you’re at a restaurant. Alternatively, by treating your bartender well, you might be able to score free shots or drinks from time to time. Complimentary booze is worth more than a couple cheap cocktail glasses.
Your savings: If you’re the frugal type, get your glassware from discount stores like Dollar Tree or the 99 Cents Only Stores. Whether you want tumblers, wine glasses or mugs, you can get them for $1 a pop. And they haven’t been used by 10,000 barflies before you.
6. BAD TIPPING
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 2.47 million people worked as waiters and waitresses in America in 2014. And in many states, those same servers earn less than $5 per hour, and they make just $2.13 in 17 states.
In light of those numbers, there’s a good chance that the server who brings your meal is depending on the tip you give to pay the bills. When you don’t tip, you’re essentially stealing money out of his pocket.
Your savings: According to CNN Money, the standard tip amount is 15 percent. If you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip.
7. THE CONDIMENT CADRE
Most of us have some extra condiment packets floating around in our junk drawers. And if you find an extra hot sauce or mustard packet in the bottom of your fast food bag, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it for a rainy day.
However, jamming two handfuls of sauce packets into your pocket every time you go out to eat is basically stealing. Similarly, if you have a whole drawer dedicated to stolen condiment packets, you likely have a cheapskate problem.
Your savings: If you prefer getting your ketchup from a plastic packet, then you will be glad to learn you can score a box of 500 from an online restaurant supplier for just $7.19. Or you could keep stealing them and saving yourself 1.4 cents per packet.
8. A HANDFUL OF MINTS
If you think you might be a little too frugal, avoid grabbing free mints and hard candies by the handful. Whether you’re at the bank or your local Chinese eatery, it’s wise to abide by the rule of one mint per person. After all, the business is being kind by offering complimentary candy, and your mom probably taught you not to take advantage of kindness.
Your savings: When you need more than one mint, opt to buy a 10-ounce bag of them from your local dollar store. If the average hard candy weighs about half an ounce, you’re saving just 5 cents per mint by pocketing them. Try not to spend it all in one place.
9. PENNY-PINCHING PENS
Some pens are meant to be taken. In fact, companies use pens emblazoned with their logos to advertise their services. However, you shouldn’t take a handful of these writing implements or, worse, nab the one that your friendly neighborhood bank teller was using before your arrival.
Not only is it wrong to take things that don’t belong to you, but the savings on this five-finger discount are also basically zilch.
Your savings: Most of the pens found at businesses are basic ballpoints, not luxury writing tools. Since you can get a bag of 10 Bic pens for about $1.49, nabbing one from an unsuspecting office worker saves you only 15 cents on average.
10. LIFTED LITERATURE
There’s nothing wrong with reading that Vogue fashion article at the dentist’s office or scanning the headlines over lunch at your local diner. However, the fact that these businesses provide free periodicals doesn’t make it OK for you to stick them in your bag to read at home. Moreover, lifting literature like magazines, books and newspapers saves you less money than just about any other habit you might try to pass off as frugal living.
Your savings: None. You can read the news and access hundreds of free e-books online. If you don’t like reading on a screen, consider getting a library card. Your local book paradise can order almost any book or magazine you desire for nothing.