Frugality vs. Cheapskate: How To Know When You’ve Crossed the Line

There is a fine line between frugal and cheapskate- but how do you know when you cross that line?

Frugal living is excellent, but when does frugal cross the line to cheapskate? When do your frugal living tips become too cheap for everyone else to tolerate?

Someone asked on Reddit, “When does “frugal” cross the line to “cheapskate”?

Here are some of my favorite responses:

1. Not Tipping

Someone wrote, “Cooking at home is frugal. Not tipping is cheap.”

This is such a succinct way to sum up the difference between frugal and cheap that we can almost stop the list right here.

2. Engaging in Theft

“I knew a guy once who’d buy a package of lightbulbs or batteries, take the fresh ones out, replace them with the dead ones, then return them to the store claiming they didn’t work and get his money back,” wrote one person, “That guy hadn’t legitimately bought lightbulbs or batteries in years.”

Many Redditors agreed that behavior like that is straight-up theft. Once you are engaged in theft, then it is no longer frugal.

Related: 8 Common Frugal Tips That Are Actually Expensive 

3. Leaning On Other People

Using other people’s houses or utilities is cheap, not frugal.

Someone shared, “I have a relative who is too cheap to pay for trash service or to buy a dryer so she takes all of her trash and wet clothes over to her father’s house. This is a woman with a family and a house, not a starving student or something.”

4. Squeezing Pennies

Someone summed it up nicely: “Frugal is compromising and cutting out extra things in your life. Cheapskate is squeezing pennies on things you actually need.

For example, washing all of your clothes at once, maybe once or twice a week, and using a dollar store detergent is frugal. Wearing your clothes into the shower to wash them and you at the same time is a cheapskate.”

Related: 10 Greatest Tips for Living as Cheap as Possible

5. Losing Time

“When the time you waste or the quality of life you lose is worth more than you save in money,” wrote one person.

What a great way to put it! If you have a choice but decide to sacrifice your quality of life for a small amount of money, that makes you cheap.

6. Refraining vs. Saving

“My take is that frugal is refraining from a purchase to save money. Cheapskate is trying to avoid paying for something,” someone wrote.

7. Taking More Than Your Share

Taking more than your share to save money is cheap.

One person wrote, “Frugal is taking half your meal home from a restaurant to eat for lunch tomorrow. Cheapskate is taking half your date’s meal home from a restaurant to eat for lunch tomorrow.”

Related: What No Money Can Buy 

8. Pushing the Bills Onto Others

Always expecting others to pay or forcing others to pay by tricking them.

One Redditor had that experience with her boyfriend, “Boyfriend always “forgetting” his wallet when we’d go out to dinner. We are no longer together. A well known cheapskate.”

Why not just stay home?

Related: 10 Unpopular Opinions About Money. Do You Agree? 

9. Complaining

Complaining to save money when it is not justified or harassing staff to give you discounts to save you money.

One person wrote, “Complaining to a manager about perfectly good food, service, whatever, just to get a comped meal, handout or coupon. I know a person who does this, and it makes me sick.”

10. When Saving Costs You

“When saving money starts costing you money. I will fix this leak myself; two days later, a plumber is out because the leak collapsed the wall,” wrote one person.

Some things you really need to spend money on!


We hope you enjoyed this Reddit picks list of examples of when frugal crosses over to cheapskate. Did they get it right, or did you do something on this list? Also, check out these ten frugal things to help save big money.

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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.