Frugal or Cheap: What Your Spending Habits Say About You

A Quora user wanted to know the difference between being frugal and being a cheapskate. Other users offered their opinions on this, and we have sampled some of the best comments and illustrations here.

Reluctance To Pay More for a Cup of Coffee

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Zapata illustrates this difference using coffee, “If you feel reluctant to pay five dollars a day for a cup of coffee, that’s frugal. If a friend calls you because he just got laid off and you don’t pay for both your coffee and his, that’s cheap.”

Stealing Sugar vs. Using Less Sugar

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Jain prefers to use sugar for her illustration, “Frugal is when you use less sugar in your tea because sugar is expensive. Cheap is when you pocket five sachets of sugar from Cafe Coffee Day at your friend’s birthday treat so that you can cut sugar costs.”

Frugal Brings Value to the Equation

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Saito has a detailed explanation, “I think cheap is when you try to pay the least, and there is not a whole lot of concern about what you get for it. If you wash your paper towels and plan to use them six times before discarding them, some might call you cheap. Frugal, on the other hand, brings value into the equation. Sure, frugal people also want the lowest price possible, but they also balance that low price with what they get for it. If X needs to be replaced once a month and costs $Y, they may alternatively consider product A, which needs to be replaced every three months, but only cost 20 percent more than $Y. In other words, product A represents the better value, but not necessarily the lowest price.”

Spending Less Does Not Mean You Are Cheap

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Pas illustrates how spending can bring out the difference between the two, “I’ve got a couple of friends. One flies budget airlines instead of non-budget, commutes to work 3 hours a day to pay lower rent, uses his electronics until they die before replacing them with new ones, and comes out for drinks with “the gang” once a month max. He is frugal.  Another one always shows up for drinks, always drinks the most, always “borrows” cigarettes, never has any cash on him, and his credit cards are somehow always maxed out. He is cheap.”

It Is All About Making Good and Bad Decisions

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According to Vanella, it all boils down to your decisions: “Being frugal is making good decisions and wisdom in what they acquire. Frugal is taking care of your things and making them last for years. Cheap often comes with ridiculous things like spending 25 minutes and $8 in gas to drive to the cheap gas station to save $5.”

Being Frugal Does Not Mean Buying Expensive Items

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Thompson says pricing is not a measure of how frugal someone is, “A frugal person sees the value in the items that they purchase. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will not purchase an expensive item. They will usually have an informed opinion before deciding to make a purchase. A cheap person sees the price as being the only important thing in purchasing something. They don’t see the value.”

Frugal People Do Not Want To Waste Money

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Hari notes that frugal people do not like wasting money, “I think the two approaches come from a different philosophy… Cheap people don’t want to spend money, but frugal people don’t want to waste it.”

Cheap Is Associated With Misery

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Chen points out that being cheap is not a good thing, “Frugal is being cost-conscious in a way that is beneficial to one’s financial wellbeing and/or the environment. Cheap is closely associated with “miserly”, refusal to part with money in a way that is unfair to other.”

Being Frugal Is Getting the Best Deal

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Wisnu points out that frugal people try to get the best deals, “Being frugal is paying $25 for good meat because it’s discounted from $50. Being cheap is paying $25 for any random meat because it’s the cheapest package in the store.”

Cheap Is Expensive

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Moyo drives this point home in one sentence, “Being Frugal is knowing that cheap is expensive…”

Frugal People Appreciate the Value of Things

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Gemici notes that frugal people tend to know the value of what they buy, “People who are smart about their money are frugal. They do not spend their money carelessly and appreciate the value of things. People who are cheap tend to be a little more ridiculous about how they save their money. Like going out to a restaurant and opting for a cheaper appetizer over a meal and then ask their friends for portions of their meal/leftover.”

A Cheap Person Charges His Friends for Dinner He Hosted

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A user gave a typical example of how cheap people act, “A frugal man invites friends to dinner and serves a hearty lentil stew. A cheap man has friends over to dinner, serves roast beef, and then charges the friends for the cost of the ingredients. I have a friend who does this!”

Being Frugal Is About Prioritizing What You Spend

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Kajaria notes that being frugal is all about knowing what to spend your money on, “I think being “cheap” is about spending less in general. No matter what, when, why – you just don’t like to spend money on anything, may it be of value to you or not. However, I think being “frugal” means you prioritize what you spend, based on what you spend it on, and what value you get out of it. You spend less on the things you consider won’t add too much value to your life in order to save up and spend enjoyably on the things that would.”

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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.

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