Would You Do Something Immoral To Save Money?

Would You Do Something Immoral To Save Money?

We all want to save money. However, there are ways to save money that are frowned upon at best or walk legal grey areas at worst.

Photo by Tax Credits.

Chances are that all of us do something that someone else might consider unethical, such as using an open wireless network while we’re out, or taking a wallet you find on the street. Where is the line drawn though? As finance blog Get Rich Slowly points out, we all have one, but we don’t always agree:

I’ve received the following tip from several readers: “Costco offers a no-questions-asked return policy. You can buy something, use it, and then when a new model comes out, return it to get the new one.” I haven’t shared this suggestion because I believe it crosses an ethical line…

There are grey areas, of course. Is it OK to take your own food to the movie theatre? I do it, and so do many other frugal people.

What about you? What kind of rules are you willing to bend or break to save a bit of money? Is showrooming OK? What about buying items you know you’ll return when you’re done using them? How much money do you have to save to skirt the ethical boundaries?

Money and Values: When Frugality Goes Too Far [Get Rich Slowly]


  • This is the same as those people (typically women) who buy clothes, leave the tags on and wear it to a party, and then return it afterwards. Another related question is: what does the store then do with the product – do they put it back on the shelf and try and flog it off as “new” (well, in the clothes example anyway, but also tech, e.g. that time Dick Smith got busted for a HDD), or refurbished, or something.

    • I bought a ‘new’ router from Jb hifi only to find the manual had been written on by the previous owner which included a bunch of phone numbers, adsl and email usernames and passwords and other nonesense. Took it back and explained that they should do something else with it other than put it back on the shelf.

  • What, you mean like illegally downloading copyright material – which everyone does regardless of wanting to save money or not….?

  • Some things are alike ‘white lies’, I believe, as I used to be told. Lies that hurt nobody. Like pretending a family member is a year younger, so they can get a Kid ticket and save a few bucks. Or grabbing two concession tickets when in truth, only one of them is actually a student.

    Ain’t hurt nobody, and with sky-rocketing prices for luxuries like movie tickets, people will always tell a few lies to save a few dozen dollars here and there.

    • It does hurt somebody. That is less revenue for that purveyor of goods/services. Justify it to yourself if you must but don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt someone.

      Businesses that are operating right on the margin are the ones hurt most by stuff like this. At best, the cost of the policy might lead to it being rescinded, hurting all the people with legitimate little children.

      Jeez I mean I can be an evil and Machiavellian dude but at least I think through the consequences of my actions.

  • It’s unethical to bring your own food or beverage to the cinemas? Says who?

    It’s not unheard of for most people to drop by their nearest Coles or Woolworths before going to the cinemas.

    The food and beverages sold at the cinemas are way overpriced.

  • I would buy cinema food if i didn’t have to sell my kidneys on the black market to be able to afford it. Seriously though… popcorn and watered down coke syrup with ice…. how should that cost me $15 or more?!

    • It’s either pay for the food or pay more for the ticket tbh. At least you can choose to see a movie without heading to the snack bar.

    • Whilst I totally agree, as far as I’m aware, the cinema operators aren’t making a serious margin on the movie itself. They’d be making most of their profits out of the food sales.

      I’ll almost always avoid buying any food from the cinema, however.

      • Or how about 3D cinema tickets which include the price of 3D glasses, even though you purchased the glasses for $4 at a previous movie, you re-use them.

        They still charge you the full amount though.
        Then force you to throw them in the bin at the end of the movie so they can repackage them
        and sell them again.

        • The particular cinema that forces you to do that is hosing you quite nicely. Hoyts doesn’t operate that way (the main cinema in Canberra).

          As a former cinema worker I don’t think there is any grey line involved in taking your own food into the cinema. It’s completely acceptable. I used to rudely point this out to people complaining about prices (I was not great at customer service).

          It’s true that cinemas make most of their margin from the candy bar. That said you still have the option and it is a respected option.

          The only thing you can’t take in is hot food because of the smell. This is a rule I break all the time though because I am a cool rebel without a cause. Well… unless you consider the joy of fast food and a movie a cause.

          Which I do!

    • I don’t really get why people need to eat during the movie anyway. Surely you can go without food for 2 hours?

      • I honestly get restless without food… Snacks during the movie keep my hands and body entertained while the movie entertains my brain.

      • Going to the movies isn’t just about seeing a movie, it’s about the experience as well. Part of that is indulging in some junk food! Lol

      • I can go without. I don’t want to go without. Such is the life of someone living above the poverty line.

    • You wouldn’t want coke syrup that wasn’t watered down. It doesn’t taste as good as you think it would and if you get it on your hands it leaves a rash for a few days.

      I’d finish a shift with the strangest marks on my hands from syrup drips.

      You can get a watered down soft drink if the syrup bag that is connected to that faucet is empty. You can usually tell when this has happened while it’s pouring but you don’t always have time to watch or notice.

      You can definitely taste it and if you take it back nobody will refuse you. It’s actually helpful because it points the problem out to the staff.

      • Haha yeah I don’t think I’d be keen to try plain ol’ coke syrup by itself! I do prefer the post mix stuff than bottled coke though.

  • We do this at a local buffet place. There kids under 3 eat free, however my daughters 4 and we haven’t paid for her yet (we go there maybe half a dozen times a year). But really – if questioned we’d feign some surprise or something but around $10 – $15 for a child that eats maybe 1 or 2 nuggets and a few chips?

  • I think the biggest unethical money saver going around is illegal downloading. It’s almost ubiquitous, particularly amongst younger people.

    I used to not give this practice much thought however over the last few years I’ve found it to be increasingly troubling.

  • As long as its justified, people will take what they want! Which I suppose isn’t a good thing :0

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