Frugal or Cheap? How to Tell the Difference and Avoid the Miserly

The core of frugal living is finding all the best opportunities to save money; if you can avoid purchases and do well without them, the better for you. However, going overboard and inconveniencing other people with your frugality is cheap.

He Thinks He Is Frugal

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For instance, someone posted in the “Frugal” subreddit stating that he was about to cut off a friend who is so tight with money. This friend loves to get lunch specials but never tips. He also owes OP $40, which OP has decided to write off as a loss.

Do you have any instances when people think they are being frugal, but they are being cheap and miserly?

Here is what some Reddit users had to say.

Showing Up to Parties or Home Dinners Empty Handed

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Many users agreed that buying flowers, wine, dessert, or aperitif is a social norm when invited over for dinner or a party. Refrain from showing up empty-handed.

One commenter said, “I invite you over for dinner, and you show up without beer or wine. I invite you again, and you do the same thing without extending an invitation. The other way is to say, I ain’t going to be calling you again.”

Communicate Your Expectations

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Another user agreed people should not show up empty-handed but added that hosts should communicate their expectations, “If any guest comes to a host’s house empty-handed, let him be anathema. But really, I wish hosts would be direct and communicative up front on their expectations for what guests should bring instead of relying on unwritten social norms and being passive-aggressive if a guest doesn’t bring enough/bring an item that someone doesn’t like.”

However, from the comment section, It turns out that this is majorly a cultural thing. Some people were raised to get the host something, but some commenters were shocked that some hosts expect guests to show up with small gifts.

Not Paying People What You Owe Them

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OP said he would be dumping their friend but will not try to get back his $40. Loaning money to miserly people will almost always end in a loss. They may have you pay for something and promise to pay you back, but they never will.

OP said, “My friend said he didn’t “get paid yet” as we went to a drive-through restaurant; he went ahead and ordered food and said he’d pay me back. He proceeded to order quite a lot of food. He is just a friend, not a BF, but he’s having problems dating, and I can see why. Personally, if I didn’t have money on me, I wouldn’t have ordered food. I would have just waited till I got home to eat.”


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Another commenter added, “Not paying people back and not tipping isn’t being frugal; it’s being inconsiderate.”

Another user added that not giving back some favors is also cheap and miserly behavior. He said, “I had an old college friend reach out to me a couple of months ago by text, and I met up with him for lunch one weekend. I offered to pay for our lunch, and we had a nice time too. Then the next weekend, we hung out again for lunch, and when the check came, the dude said, ‘Two checks, please.’ Way to return the favor, dude! Some people just don’t get it.”

Not Tipping

The hand of the waitress takes the tip. The waiter girl receives a tip from the client at the hotel bar. A bartender woman is happy to receive a tip at work. The concept of service.
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Many users agreed that not tipping was just downright cheap and unethical behavior. One commenter said, “Wanting to save a few bucks and skip out on lunch? Frugal. Wanting to go out for lunch and then not tip? Cheap.”

Another commenter had something to say about the difference between the two, “Frugal is when you’re willing to inconvenience yourself, cheap is when it starts to inconvenience others.”

Some things, like giving tips, paying people back in time, and returning favors, are social norms. A lot of people, however, ignore these in their attempt to save some money and end up inconveniencing other people.

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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.