There are two extremes to frugality. On one end, life is painfully meager and sparse with short, cold showers, freezing rooms, and scratchy toilet paper, all in the name of saving money. On the opposite end, the world is so fabulously full of freebies that little consideration is taken for other people and their livelihood. People become tools in an agenda and life becomes about gathering lots of stuff as cheaply as possible.
While definitely not immune to either extreme--I've lived at both ends--my question is more about living in the center. Where is the line between being frugal and being unethical? This conundrum surfaced in my mind when the discussions started over this week's free money at CVS. For those of you not into coupon gaming, CVS has a glucose monitoring machine on sale for $29.99, that when purchased, will generate $20 worth of Extra Care Bucks to be used on the next shopping trip. Well it turns out that a booklet available at the pharmacy has a coupon for this same machine that makes it free while still generating the $20 ECBs. On top of this, the deal can be run up to 5 times, giving the lucky winner $100 in ECBs for spending nothing.
This deal is completely and totally legal, but I guess that something about it just doesn't seem right to me. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right. I'm not a diabetic and I don't need this machine, let alone five of them, but there are folks out there who do. If I go to CVS and work this very legal deal I will gain $100 but I may very well be depriving others of something that is not just nice to have, but necessary for their well-being.
I admit, this was a hard line for me to draw. On the one hand, free money looks really good. But on the other hand, I am a follower of Jesus Christ Who says an awful lot to me about loving my neighbors and having a self-sacrificing love. I also know that there are tons of rationales for this deal. "If I don't do it, someone else will." "There's nothing wrong with it." "Diabetics can buy a different machine." All of these are true, and I don't think ill of you if you feel totally justified. I'm just saying that for me, there is a line. Knowing my own weaknesses, to cross it would be quickly swinging me to the outer edges of frugality, choosing my money over my God.