Frugal Living

Am I Frugal or Just Cheap?

Many people who are trying to be frugal show signs of being cheap. While there’s nothing wrong with being frugal, being cheap is often considered to be a poor attribute. How do you know if you’re just being careful with your money rather than trying to get by the cheapest way possible without a care for anyone else?

1.You put money first

Brass Round 7 Stack Coins

That’s the number one difference between being cheap and being frugal. People who are cheap will put money ahead of people every time. Being frugal is not buying in a store vs buying on Amazon when online is cheaper while being cheap is telling someone a handmade blanket isn’t worth the money when you can buy “similar” at Walmart for a fraction of the cost. (I’m sure you’ve seen this story) People who are cheap will order a huge meal at a restaurant and then not tip because “they can’t afford it” while a frugal person will order off a special or value menu to include the tip in what they’re willing to spend.

2. You want it NOW

Frugal people look at the bigger picture. They want to know that by being smart with their money they’re keeping their quality of life in the future rather than sabotaging themselves by buying cheap. A cheap person will buy a cheap item because they want it now even if it will likely break soon, making them need another. The cheap person won’t look for more than a few minutes to find deals before moving on while a frugal person may compare repeatedly and monitor prices to strike when they’re ready for the best overall deal.

3. Price vs Value

fish, fish market, price

A cheap person is only looking at the price. They want the item at the lowest cost possible even if that cost sacrifices quality. A frugal person will balance price with value, likely not choosing the cheapest item if it means they will have to replace it quickly. A great example of this is workout clothes or leggings. Most girls will tell you that a $5 pair of leggings last a couple of months before they have holes and get thrown away. A more expensive brand name pair will, however, last months or even years. The frugal person chooses those instead of the cheap ones because they know they won’t have to replace them anytime soon while the cheap person will always choose the $5 leggings, spending more in the long run.

Another perfect example of this is sneakers. Sneakers loose their support and worth after a while which is why they get thrown out. Bad sneakers can ruin your knees and don’t protect your joints causing long term damage which is why you shouldn’t buy them at a thrift store, yet people will all the time rather than spend $50-100 a year on a pair of shoes that prevents this.

4. Priorities

A cheap person just doesn’t want to spend their money a frugal person doesn’t want to spend their money because they’re looking at a long term and bigger picture that not spending the money will create. Cheap people are afraid to spend money while frugal people will often spend big money if it means an investment purchase which will better their lives. Look at your reasons for buying the item at that price and not elsewhere – Are they frugal? Are they cheap? If you’re choosing on price only rather than because the cheap item is the best choice overall then it might be time to reevaluate.

5. Freeganism vs Clearance

disposal, dump, garbage

Dumpster diving, or freeganism, is something that many people are proud of. Asides from being disgusting there’s often a reason items have made it into the trash. If you’re willing to take an item from a dumpster (especially food or make up) then you should be examining your priorities because you’re putting the cost of the item (free) over your own health. Clearance items, even food, are often perfectly good as long as you use them quickly and this is a frugal choice for many people who want to keep their spending numbers down. Dumpster driving and eating trash is a level of cheapness that goes far beyond anything that could be considered frugal.

Similarly, if you’re the type of person who pregames then you’re being frugal, if you’re trying to smuggle food or alcohol into a venue then you’re just being cheap.

Frugality is a lifestyle choice while being cheap can often be a sign of other issues. Many people who have grown up poor are frugal by nature while others who were brought up rich might be extreme penny pinching cheapskates. While that’s a cliche stereotype it can be true. Make sure your choices are not just because of the money and take the bigger picture into account and you’re more likely to be making a frugal decision rather than a cheap one.


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