In college, students will do just about anything for money. Many kids try online gambling, donate blood, or participate in medical studies with potentially harmful side effects. When kids are in need of money, they are willing to go to great lengths to make money (even if that means using morally questionable techniques. Here are two short stories about how I was able to abuse the system in order to stay frugal as a college kid.
6% = ??
When my roommates and I moved into our new apartment, we needed lots of new furniture. So we headed over to IKEA, where we found everything we were looking for. As we headed over to the checkout, we noticed a sign offering a coupon for your next purchase worth 3% of today’s purchases if we used a debit card. Plus, if we waited a week before redeeming it, that coupon would double. Not bad, but for the $300 worth of kitchen supplies, it came out to only $18. Worth taking a separate trip? Probably not.
But then we came up with our grand scheme. Why not buy $5,000 in merchandise, get the coupon (for $300!), return all the merchandise, and keep the coupon?! It was a perfect plan, so we went around the store looking for the most expensive item that we could fit in our cart. We found comforters for $300 each, piled them into our cart, and headed back over to checkout. The plan worked perfectly. We had no problem returning the comforters just seconds after purchasing them, and we had ourselves a nice little coupon.
The next week, we headed back over to IKEA to pick up our kitchen supplies, bought our $300 in merchandise using the coupon, and suddenly we had a kitchen full of beautiful pots and pans without costing us a penny. We were proud of our catch, but did we do the right thing?
Free BBQ Sauce
At our local supermarket, my roommate found barbeque sauce for a dollar. Each bottle came with a coupon for 35 cents off a bottle, plus a special offer doubling the coupon, plus a manufacturer’s coupon for a dollar back with the purchase of two bottles. He quickly realized that for two bottles, we would actually make 40 cents ($2-$0.7-$0.7-$1). He brought me back later in the day and we bought about 60 bottles of barbeque sauce, for free!
Better yet, we came out with $12 in coupons to use on our next purchase of anything in the store. Needless to say, lunch and dinner that day were free (actually as college kids, it was more like a week’s worth of pasta and sauce). Illegal? No. But did we abuse the system to get ourselves over $70 in free food? (If anyone needs any barbeque sauce, I’d be happy to give you some of ours.)
Since starting work, I’ve made a pledge to get what I deserve, but not take advantage of other people. I’d like to think that I’ve grown, but maybe now that I have a job, I won’t compromise my moral integrity in return for a few dollars. If I lost my job and was tight on cash, would I revert back to my frugal college ways?