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Frugal vs Cheap – Does Being Frugal Mean you are Cheap?

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Just because you want to save a few bucks here and there… does being frugal mean you are cheap? Or does it make you smart?

Many times, this debate can become very heated over a holiday dinner conversation.

Are you frugal?

Are you cheap?

Frugal vs. cheap.

The debate can get heated between friends. 

The opinions on both of them vary differently, and honestly, it is because everyone puts a different meaning to the words frugal and cheap.

In order to bring a consensus to this debate, let’s dig into the definitions of each word – cheap and frugal. Then, look at a frugal vs cheap chart to review real life examples.

Because all in all, we want to know what does frugal mean and that we aren’t looked at being cheap.

We all know that being frugal can save money.

We will cover how can I be frugal without being cheap. That way you are saving money and living the lifestyle you want.

This is a must read for frugal living. I was worried that being cheap was becoming an obsession. After I took the cheap vs frugal test, I learned that I just want money saving tips. Does being frugal mean you are cheap? Learn how to be frugal without being cheap.

Does being frugal mean you are cheap?

Maybe. It probably depends on how you look at each of them. Do you have qualities of a cheap person? Or do you prefer to learn how to be frugal without being cheap (specifically looking cheap)?

Unfortunately, people look down on people who are cheap. Yet, in reality, they are just wanting to save money and live a little bit for frugally. For others, there is an obsession with being cheap and that will happen without regards to anyone or any situation.

What is the difference between being frugal and cheap?

We will cover the answer in this post. But, first, uncover your personal experiences on cheap or frugal.

Don’t think back to your cheap uncle or someone else within your circle. The reason why is you never know what another person desires in life. Is it to travel more? Retire early? Or enjoy stuff now? Being frugal could be part of their money journey.

Both are ways to save money. 

Most of the time, your perspective will influence on how you view being cheap or being frugal.

Interesting read… Being Frugal with Money – A Millionaire’s Case Study

What does frugal mean? What does being cheap mean?

frugal vs cheap

Too many times the definition of frugal and cheap get intermingled to mean the same. But, do they really have the same meaning?

Let’s dig into the definitions from Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Frugal:  characterized by or reflecting thrifty and efficient use of material resources

Cheap: (four possible meanings)

1: charging or obtainable at a low price (a good cheap hotel or cheap tickets) or purchasable below the going price or the real value

2 : stingy (My uncle was too cheap to pay for dinner.), of inferior quality or worth (cheap workmanship), contemptible because of lack of any fine, lofty, or redeeming qualities (feeling cheap)

3: gained or done with little effort (a cheap victory or talk is cheap)

4: obtainable at a low rate of interest

Okay, the very first thought is frugal has one definition whereas cheap has 8 variations of the same word.

That makes the conversation of being cheap much more complicated than the term of frugal.

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Frugal vs. Cheap

does being frugal mean you are cheap

Both mean ways finding ways to save money. These money savings tips help you long term.

In layman terms, being frugal with money means using the resources given to you wisely. It is being thrifty and making the most efficient use of your money. Many people may envy you (or reject you) for being frugal because they don’t understand the true definition of being frugal.

Being cheap with money means two very different things.

The first meaning is obtaining a low price on something you already planned to purchase. The second meaning is withholding spending money even when you have the resources to do it.

In order to be frugal, there are times it is wise to find a low price on something that you planned to buy. Then, does that mean you are you cheap? Or does that make you wise and frugal?

Honestly, it is a fine line between frugal and cheap.

Each day we get to choose how we spend or don’t spend our money. It is always best to make a plan for your money. That way you are controlling your money rather than having your money control you.

How do you want to be known? By being frugal? Or being cheap?

Frugal vs. cheap – the debate is real for many people.

Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to a Frugal Lifestyle

Frugal vs. Cheap. Find money saving tips to help you become more frugal and not cheap or stingy. Frugal living allows you to save money and not sacrifice.

Cheap vs Frugal Test

Where do you fall?

Do you tend to be cheap or frugal?

If you are not sure, then take this am I cheap quiz.

Going out to eat and ordering tons of food and then skimping on the tipGoing out to eat and ordering a meal you can afford and leaving a standard tip
Refusing to replace clothes that are clearly worn out.Shopping the clearance section at the store for clothing items to be replaced
Cheap people will not give money to causes or non-profit organizations.Frugal people give what they are able to causes and non-profit organizations that they believe will impact the good for society.
Cheap people think short term.Frugal people think long term.
By being cheap, it affects others.By being frugal, it only impacts you and your household.
Only willing to spend the cheapest amount possible on something.Willing to spend more money for quality items.
Spending the least amount possible is always the #1 goal.Spending less is great, but not when it sacrifices other values.
People see being cheap as offensive.People find being frugal to be smart.
Cheap means you spend money just because it was cheap.Frugal means you make smart choices with your money.
People don’t want to be around cheap people.People want to be around frugal people (in hopes they learn some tricks).
Cheap is ordering one drink with unlimited refills and splitting it.Frugal is ordering water and drinking water.
You drive to every grocery store to get the cheapest price on groceries.You pick one grocery store will the best sale and shop there. Thus, saving gas money, your time, and your sanity.

Spending Decision Hacks:

When Being Cheap Becomes an Obsession?

cost of being frugal

Too many times, we want to save money so badly that finding a deal or getting something cheap becomes an obsession. You are willing to go to many lengths to be cheap.

For this continuing discussion, we are using these definitions of cheap:

  • Stingy
  • Inferior quality

That is how being known as cheap has gotten its bad rap.

Let’s discuss stingy. One of the first ways to being less stingy and cheap with money is to open your hand. Keep what money lands in your hand and let the rest fall away to someone else in need. You can do this by giving back. It can be with your time or your money.

See the benefit of helping others and not be known as an old miser of money. 

It is hard to be cheap when you are helping so many people and letting the extra money fall through.

If this concept is new to you, then read How to Start Giving Money when you Never Have?

Today, items are made very, very cheap. Many times that means the quality will only last a few times. Yes, you can score a deal for a dollar. but, would have it been wiser to spend a few more dollars on something that is quality and don’t break.

Think about what you replace most often. Is there a way to upgrade the quality and save more money over time.

A perfect example is clothing. Personally, I wear jeans and dresses that cost over $50 each. However, I wear them all the time! So, the cost per wear is probably in the pennies by now. Here is a resource to help you – How to Shop for Clothes on a Budget.

How Can I Be Frugal without Being Cheap?

Cheap vs Frugal Test

Being frugal means you are making wise choices with your money.

For many people, that is a hard choice to make.

Because it means you may have to start living within your means and not have debt. It means paying in cash vs. loans.

Think about what you could do differently with your money and how you shop.

  • Could it be buying items on sale at the grocery store instead of the full price strawberries? Thus, starting to save money on groceries.
  • What about a spending freeze to truly understand your wants vs. needs?
  • What about moving to cash envelopes for those overspending areas that temptation is way too great?

Here are 175+ of the best frugal living tips.

Many frugal tips of which the Money Bliss community implement in our daily lives. 

None of these ideas involve extreme frugality. It is just small ways here and there to start being frugal. In this post, I tell how we saved over $5000 by being frugal in one area. It is #6 on the list. There are times I still can’t believe I admitted it. But, it is true and something we still continue to this day.

What do you think? How can you become more frugal?

Next up: The Ultimate Guide to a Frugal Lifestyle

Bottom Line  – Where do you stand… Frugal vs Cheap?

frugal meaning

So, in all, being frugal means at time you are cheap (without the negative connotation anyway). You like to score a deal here and there. You enjoy saving money on purchases.

However, being frugal does not mean you are stingy with money. If you are, then yes you are cheap. 

Being a frugal person means you are savvy at finding money saving tips and willing to change your lifestyle to live below your means.

Personally, I think being frugal is great for saving money. In the end, every penny saved is one less penny that must be earned.

Frugal Resources to Help You:

If you want to save money, does that mean being frugal makes you cheap. Take our frugal vs cheap test to see where you fall. Frugal living means learning money saving tips and tricks. This I am cheap test is perfect for beginners. The debate of cheap or frugal goes beyond just reason to pay off debt, personal finance or life.

Know someone else that needs this, too? Then, please share!!

Did the post resonate with you?

More importantly, did I answer the questions you have about this topic? Let me know in the comments if I can help in some other way!

Your comments are not just welcomed; they’re an integral part of our community. Let’s continue the conversation and explore how these ideas align with your journey towards Money Bliss.

One Comment

  1. Hello – great article explaining the differences between being frugal vs cheap!

    In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with finding good deals. However, if you’re constantly looking to buy items at the lowest price, you’ll end up spending money in the long-term.

    As you say, being cheap in the long run hurts other people. If you aren’t willing to donate to other causes or tip properly, you’re negatively impacting people. What’s more, if you are seen as a ‘cheap’ family member or friend, you’ll impact your reputation. People may not want to invite you out to events if you end up embarrassing them or refuse to spend any amount of money.

    One important note to keep in mind is that not everyone has the privilege of practicing frugality by investing in higher-quality items. Being cheap is sometimes done out of necessity as millions of people are living paycheck-to-paycheck. As you say, sometimes people have to make a choice between paying in cash or loans.

    What’s your number one favorite way to be frugal and why?

    Again, great advice and information on being frugal vs. cheap!

    – Jani, Frugal Fun Finance

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