The Difference Between Being Frugal and Being Cheap
How to Tell Whether Someone Is Cheap or Frugal
A lot of people might look at being cheap versus being frugal and say, "Isn’t that the same thing?" In fact, it really isn’t.
There may be some similar characteristics between being cheap and being frugal, but in my opinion, the two mindsets are totally different.
In my own experience, I know both kinds of people.
In fact, I think I’m one of the two choices—but more on that later!
Characteristics of a Cheap Person
People who are cheap can be described with an old-fashioned phrase like "tight as a tick."
What are some other characteristics that I consider cheap?
- Cheap people spend more time counting their money than spending it—no matter what.
- Cheap people tend to make spending mistakes simply because they buy on the cheap and then regret it for the rest of their lives. They won’t be replacing it because they are well—cheap!
- Cheap people make other people extremely uncomfortable because they dwell on how much something costs constantly.
- Cheap people really don’t know how to enjoy life.
- Cheap people hoard their money and only think of it in terms of having it.
- Cheap people do not share their money—with anyone—usually even when asked.
- Cheap people don’t see anything wrong with never tipping.
- Cheap people try to get other people "on board" by lecturing them. "Do you know how much that light being on costs? Turn it off!"
- Cheap people not only bargain for a better price, but they also pressure people ad nauseum into giving it to them and then get angry when they don’t get their way. It’s an entitlement.
- Cheap people seem as pinched as their pocketbooks. They are grumpy from dwelling on the state of their bank account. They do not seem capable of relaxing and being happy.
- Cheap people take vacations or go places, resent it the entire time they’re there, then dwell on how much they spent afterward. They immediately begin amassing the fortune they just spent as soon as they get home.
- Cheap people do not forgive if you’ve chumped them on a loan or in any situation. They remember it forever!
- Cheap people don’t even allow themselves hobbies because hey . . . that costs money.
- Cheap people eat less because let’s face it—food costs money, and why spend it? They need the minimum to keep themselves alive right?
Characteristics of a Frugal Person
What are some of the characteristics of a frugal person?
- Frugal people enjoy life. They look for the best possible way to get from here to there, but they embrace life.
- Frugal people enjoy spending money if it’s for something that is a fantastic buy.
- Frugal people will barter with someone but never make it an entitlement. If they "win," it’s gravy . . . if they don’t, it’s part of life, and they move on.
- Frugal people buy for value and don’t look at the price tag—much!
- Frugal people save in some areas and then allow themselves the pleasure of seeing their hard-saved money go for something that is enjoyable, like a wonderful vacation. They enjoy every minute of it because they’ve saved for it, and they see the value of the time they have.
- Frugal people put off doing some things in order to do other things first, but they generally get all that they want—just in a more disciplined fashion so as not to overspend.
- Frugal people can juggle many financial balls in the air. They can save in this envelope and have the foresight to slide it the next time into this envelope.
- Frugal people are happy people because they see the difference between saving money on everything and feeling the happiness in that but getting on with the business of living.
- Frugal people can let it go sometimes. If there’s a party and all kinds of lights are on for "no good reason," they can ignore it and enjoy the party!
- Frugal people are unobtrusive in their spending habits because they do not impose them on others.
- Frugal people are harder to pick out because they appear "normal." They go out, spend money, and leave tips. They just know which corners to cut better than some people.
- Frugal people are easier to live with or deal with because they are not unhappy about life or their situation. They look at it as . . . well, life! They do the best they can, and then they let it go.
- Frugal people might keep track of expenses or debts owed, but they won’t hold them against you—much. They will hope to be repaid, but it won’t keep them from being generous.
Frugal vs. Cheap vs. Conscious Spenders
In my own personal experience, I know several people who I would classify as cheap. To me, it’s a sad waste of one’s life to go through it so fixated on money or how much things cost.
Yeah, there's the whole saving money thing, and I'm definitely on board. I like to think I'm frugal, or better yet, that I'm a conscious spender! I like that term because it means that I'm thinking about what I spend, and what better way to save money?
But here are some examples of cheap.
Example #1 of a Cheap Person: A friend of mine needed new flooring in their home. They were planning on staying in the home for at least 10 years (they’re still there), but they didn’t want to opt for an "expensive" floor covering such as tile or wood. They were tired of linoleum. They talked to several people, got estimates, and then decided to go with fake wood flooring (pergo) simply because it was the cheapest thing they could find up from linoleum.
From the moment that they had the flooring put in, they were unhappy with it. It dented, it scratched, it looked old within a month or so, and they had to constantly keep coating it with floor polish to even make it look halfway decent. But it was the cheapest!
They’ve never been happy with it and still hate it to this day, but they would not replace it if it caught on fire tomorrow.
Example #2 of a Cheap Person: Someone near and dear to me is a bit hard to take. When you go for a visit, this person runs around every minute shutting doors, turning off lights, turning the heat down to 60 degrees and below . . . and we are talking in the wintertime. Everyone is bundled up in coats sitting at the dining room table drinking hot coffee to try to stay warm!
If you turn on the water and let it run for two seconds, he will step up behind you and shut it off.
If you turn on a light, you have basically five seconds to turn it off again. If you don’t turn it off, he does it for you.
Dinner is precisely enough pieces of chicken to "cover" the people sitting at the table and maybe one extra—for him. We’re all too fat anyway, right?
I grew up with this guy, and I know the anxiety factor better than most! The question comes up why we won’t stay with them when we visit and prefer a motel? I wonder!
Cheap people make me want to run screaming from the room. I’m sorry . . . I grew up poor, and I certainly know the value of a dollar. But life is too short to make money that much of a priority, in my opinion.
I’ve seen cheap backfire so many times it’s not even funny. I shake my head and think, "If only you’d thought it through before deciding on going the cheap route."
I believe in always getting the best bang for my buck, but I’ve decided that I will live my life by a different set of tenets than the cheapskate. I have to admit, though, my philosophies probably seem cheap to some.
I have someone else near and dear to me who believes that things have to cost a fortune to mean they are good or that they’re not "the best" if they’re not expensive.
I believe in getting everything on sale—period.
I believe in getting the best that I can for the best price, but in some cases, you just have to say, "That’s the best I can do," not regret it, and treasure your buy or your experience and be done with it. No looking back!
Frugality is all in the eye of the beholder, to be honest. You can save money and live within your means, and no one ever has to know about it.
Being cheap seems to be a personality trait that radiates from the person like a neon sign! Someone said somewhere, "Stingy is a way of life." That said, frugality is a way of living—and as you can see, these are two entirely different things!