Thrifty, Frugal, Stingy, or Cheap: Which One Are You?

Thrifty, frugal, stingy, and cheap. Do those all mean the same thing? Why do some of those words have negative connotations and some are seen as more positive?

What is the difference between those four? Here are some examples that will help you see the difference.

Examples of the Differences Between Thrifty, Frugal, Stingy, and Cheap

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Recently, a Redditor shared, “I told my mum that I’d rather park in a free zone in the city and walk three minutes to get to the destination instead of pay $15 per hour at a parking complex right next to the location.


She called me stingy. So I asked for examples to differentiate between stingy and frugal. However, all her examples could be both stingy and frugal.


Is there a difference? Sure, we can all come up with a fancy definition. But when it comes to giving tangible examples, most people break down.


They can’t provide an example specific to that word. So, give me examples of the difference between thrifty, frugal, stingy, and cheap.” Here are the top-voted responses.

1. Parking Garage Fees

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One user shared:


“Thrifty – you make $15 an hour, so choose to save money and park three minutes away.


Frugal – you make $50 an hour but choose to save money. So you park three minutes away.


Stingy – you make 0 an hour but choose to park three minutes away.


Cheap – you always get your passenger to pay; otherwise, you’re not going.”

2. Seeing the Value

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Another noted:


“Stingy: You want to avoid paying for things if you can avoid them, primarily concerning others. They see the value and don’t care.


Cheap: you buy the cheaper things. Usually without necessarily considering the longer-term cost. Off-brand for everything and doesn’t necessarily see the value.


Thrifty: finds ways to find increased value. For example, buy second-hand clothes because they are still in good condition, etc., rather than new, for slightly less money.


Frugal: Find the ways to get the most value out of everything -rolling up toothpaste to squeeze out the last drops. Sees the value and isn’t afraid to spend money but wants the most value.

3. Holiday Examples

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A third gave holiday examples:


“Stingy – the limit is $30 on gifts, and you only spent $5, but you get to enjoy your $30 gift.


Cheap – you’ve replaced one of the dishes for Christmas lunch with leftovers from the night before.


Thrifty – you made a nice heartfelt gift rather than spending money on a gift.


Frugal – you’ve used regular red napkins instead of the more expensive Christmas ones that are still red but have stars on them. They’re for wiping hands.


I don’t know where – “You brought a container to dinner to take some extra leftovers home with you” sits; probably cheap, maybe stingy.”

4. Using Coffee Economy

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Someone suggested:


“Thrifty – make your own coffee.


Frugal – only drinks free coffee.


Stingy – let others buy their coffee but won’t return the favor.


Cheap – only gets free coffee when it’s their shout (turn) to pay.”

5. Using a Beer Analogy

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Another volunteered:


“Stingy: goes home before their shout (turn) to buy a round.


Cheap: buys a round of Victoria Bitter when everyone else buys rounds of craft beer.


Thrifty: uses a mates membership card to get 10% off drinks.


Frugal: buys a case and drinks at home instead of going to the pub with mates.”

6. ChatGPT A.I. Response

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Another suggested, “This seemed like a good question to ask ChatGPT, so here’s the response:


Thrifty refers to being careful and economical with money and resources. It is a positive term that suggests being wise and responsible with spending and using resources.


Frugal also suggests being careful and economical with money. Still, it can also imply a level of sacrifice or simplicity in one’s lifestyle. A frugal person may be willing to forego certain luxuries to save money or live within their means.


Stingy refers to an unwillingness to spend money or share resources, especially when appropriate. For example, a stingy person may be reluctant to spend money on others, even when it is a kind or generous gesture.


Cheap refers to an unwillingness to spend money, especially on things considered necessary or essential. A cheap person may be unwilling to pay fair prices for goods or services or try to get stuff for free or at a meager cost, even if it is not appropriate or ethical.


In summary, thrifty and frugal suggest being responsible and economical with money. In contrast, stingy and cheap indicate a reluctance to spend money, even when it is appropriate or necessary.”

7. Spending Money Rundown

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One user explained:


“Frugal- only spending money on things you need. E.g., bringing your lunch to work instead of buying food every day, taking the longer route to avoid tolls.


Thrifty- spending as little money as possible on things you do need. Like buying second-hand, comparing prices between stores, and waiting to buy things when they are on sale.


Stingy- not spending money on things you need, even if you can afford them. Like going to the dentist or sending your kids on school excursions. Many people suffer because they can’t afford these things. If you can but still withhold, that’s being stingy.


Cheap- wasting money on poor-quality items, buying $5 shoes from Kmart that only last a month instead of $50 on a good quality pair that will last you years, or eating instant noodles for every meal instead of buying food that will give your body the nutrients it needs.”

8. Butter Understanding

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Another person used butter to explain their definitions of the terms:


“Thrifty: doesn’t need butter. Note it’s on special grabs one anyway.


Frugal: buys x3 butter purposely on special.


Stingy: needs butter, waits till it’s on special, however many weeks it takes. It insists the kids can scrape enough for a slice of bread off the sides if they try hard enough.


Cheap: use home brand margarine every time.”

9. An Attitude Analogy

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Someone suggested:


“Thrifty: being very smart to extract the most value, i.e., buy gift cards from a website that gives rebates X1, get gift card discounts/bonuses from the merchant X2, and get credit card points X3.


Frugal: only want to open the wallet if necessary, i.e., die, sleep on the street, etc.


Stingy: usually towards others, always want to spend the minimum on them without being banned / unfriended / attacked / verbally assaulted.


Cheap: an attitude, wanting to spend the least on everything.”

10. Buying Differences

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Finally, one noted:


“Thrifty: bargaining or shopping around whenever you can to get the best price.


Frugal: not buying things you don’t really need.


Stingy: not giving gifts to loved ones when you are in a financial position to do so.


Cheap: replacing something you broke with something the same but cheaper and of lesser quality.”

We hope you enjoyed this Reddit breakdown of the differences between Thrifty, frugal, stingy, and cheap.

Frugal vs. Thrifty

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I have some thoughts regarding the difference between thrifty, frugal, stingy, and cheap. I believe frugal living is a virtue and being thrifty is a good thing, while being stingy and cheap are not good ways to live your life.

First, let’s talk about frugal vs. thrifty. While people sometimes use these terms interchangeably, there are actually some key differences between the two.

Being frugal is all about being smart with your money. It means finding ways to save money without sacrificing quality or enjoyment. Frugal people may look for sales, clip coupons, and shop for the best deals. They also are mindful of what they are spending and may make a budget to help them stay on track.

On the other hand, being thrifty is all about making the most of what you have. Thrifty people may reuse and repurpose items, shop at second-hand stores, and find ways to fix things rather than replace them. So, while being thrifty may involve some initial investment (such as buying a sewing machine to repair clothing), it can ultimately save you money in the long run.

While being frugal and thrifty both involve saving money, there are some key differences between the two. For example, frugal people are often more focused on getting the best deal for their money, while thrifty people focus on making the most of what they have. Both of these go hand-in-hand. Frugal people are often thrifty, and thrifty people are often frugal, although not always.

Stingy vs. Cheap

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Of course, not everyone is frugal or thrifty. Some people may be stingy or cheap instead. So while these terms seem similar to frugal and thrifty, they actually have quite different meanings.

A stingy person is someone who is unwilling to share or spend their money, even when it would benefit others. They may be overly protective of their resources and may avoid giving gifts or helping others financially. On the other hand, a cheap person prioritizes saving money above all else, even if it means sacrificing quality or convenience. They may look for the cheapest possible option, regardless of its quality or suitability.

Differences Between Thrifty, Frugal, Stingy, and Cheap

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In contrast to being stingy or cheap, being frugal and thrifty can help you save money without sacrificing quality or enjoyment. By being mindful of your spending and finding ways to make the most of what you have, you can achieve your financial goals while still living a full and satisfying life.

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This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved.


Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.