Later in that same post she mentioned that she and her husband brought in their own cream cheese when they ate in at Panera Bread. That was when I had to chime in on the discussion.
To me, and I think many agree with me, doing something like bringing in your own cream cheese to sit and eat in a restaurant is appalling behavior. If saving $1 is that much concern, get the bagels to go, but don't dirty a table, use the restaurant's silverware and most likely their bathroom if what you're doing is really eating food you brought from home. It's that kind of behavior that gives frugal people a bad name and that nets us those dirty looks if we use a coupon for just the free item without purchasing anything else.
To me, cheapness is mean, penny pinching behavior where you're saving money just for the sake of saving money and watching the pile grow. It's Ebeneezer Scrooge and Silas Marner behavior vs. Ben Franklin (though he could be cheap at times too). Who watches A Christmas Carol and thinks that Scrooge has some good ideas! Probably no one who reads this blog, because that person most likely doesn't want to pay for internet.
I read an article in the New York Times that more clearly breaks down the difference between frugality and stealing. It seems a bit shocking to call it stealing, but that's kind of what it is in some cases. For example, when you're staying in a hotel, they expect you to take the soap and shampoos--it's built into the cost of the room. What's not built into the cost of the room is when you loot the housekeeping cart as you dash out of there, or if you take the lightbulbs and ice bucket. That's cheap behavior, I think everyone can agree on that.
Likewise people who go to expensive restaurants and save money by tipping poorly. If the service is bad, that's one thing, but when you go in there thinking you'll drop 10% or less no matter what just to save money, that's just not right. I hate the fact that Americans are expected to tip so much too; I hate the fact that servers are paid so poorly that they rely on tips to make a living, but I don't eat out very often at sit-down restaurants because I know that the meal is going to cost more than what's printed on the menu.
What I really like about the article is that it invokes a rule that's easy to remember and repeat if you're ever in one of those situations where you're not quite sure if you're crossing a line: "when you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking a person in charge if what you’re doing is all right" you may be veering into cheap territory.
I step a toe into cheap territory on occasion, I admit it. I frequently bring my own water when I go to the movies. This is because I don't often want to drink soda, and the bottled water they sell at the theatre closest to me is $3.75 for 20 ounces. That's ridiculous, but maybe they have to charge that much because of people like me. So I break my own rule because I see the sign that says "No outside food or drink" every time they rip my ticket, and I'm certainly not going to fess up. I could bring in an empty bottle and fill it at the fountain, which is what I used to do, but then I can only really get it half full since water fountains usually have poor water pressure and a shallow depression.
Maybe that's a grey area, or maybe I'm a total hypocrite. I'm not sure. What are your thoughts on this?