I’m Not Cheap, I’m Being Frugal There’s a Difference

I have to say this first off I absolutely love the personal finance blogging community! It’s a great group of people being frugal minded (sometimes) and sharing their great (and not so great) experiences with money as they go through life. I’m the new kid on the block when it comes to all of this, (though money has been a passion for me since I got my first allowance) but what I have found is a few common links between many of us.

  • They love talking about money (earning, investing, budgeting, paying off debt)
  • They are awesome to connect with
  • They share openly and honestly about things that most others don’t talk about
  • They are on their own journey discovering new things about money and wealth
  • They hate debt with a passion
  • And One Other Thing…

The word Frugal shows up a lot…I mean A LOT!

Like… on almost every site the word frugal shows up. All of us in the Personal Finance world wear the “frugal label” like a badge of honour.

It’s a point of pride and it should be, in my humble opinion.

However some of us outside of the personal finance blogging world (and maybe some in it, that I have yet to stumble across) world have another word for our less-than-decadent lifestyles. (Sigh) There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll just spit it out….


Maybe it’s just me but when I hear the word “Cheap” it provokes the same nerve-grating-feeling I used to get when someone would scratch their fingers on a blackboard. You know what I’m talking about.

I don’t consider myself cheap. Though many who know me may disagree. They see that I don’t splurge at every opportunity andBeing Frugal Proud think I may be a “tightwad”. Terms like Thrift and Frugal never show up on their radar. If you don’t buy every little thing you want… well to them you are CHEAP.

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I’m not Cheap, I’m Being Frugal there’s a difference

I look at myself as being frugal. Cheap is the word that goes around when you get a good deal. That’s the good type of cheap.

Other times it’s when you are being told to get over the price of something like “Quit being so cheap”. That one always gets me.

Personally Cheap is (mostly) a dirty word to me, but being frugal, well-being frugal is a point of pride. Being frugal takes thought and effort.

A quick look at the definitions of the two shows the following:


sparing or economical with regard to money or food: he led a remarkably frugal existence.

 • simple and plain and costing little: a frugal meal.


(of an item for sale) low in price; worth more than its cost: they bought some cheap fruit | local buses were reliable and cheap.

• charging low prices: a cheap restaurant.• inexpensive because of inferior quality: cheap, shoddy goods.

• N. Amer. informal miserly; stingy: she’s too cheap to send me a postcard.

• of little worth because achieved in a discreditable way requiring little effort:her moment of cheap triumph.

• deserving of contempt: a cheap trick.

So what’s the real Difference?

Here’s how I see it.

Cheap is a dirty, Frugal is a point of pride.

Think about it another way would you rather have something that was made cheap? Or something made frugal? Personally cheap conjures up images of wheels falling off a car, whereas frugal makes me think of time and effort being used to make something for a low-cost. Frugal is something thought out, something that requires planning and restraint.

Frugal is wise. Frugal is good.

As for myself

I consider myself to be part-time frugal. I really, really, really, like my money. I don’t like parting with it unless it’s for a good reason. I’ll happily use no-name or off-brand products in my cooking and use a coupon when I can, so that I can save that extra money.

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Because that means I can use that money for something else that matters more to me.

Don’t get me wrong I love some of the brands out there. But paying an extra buck for the sake of saying “I buy the “fancy” butter”, is not really necessary. Because I know that by being frugal,  those dollars add up and allow me to do, and buy, other things that I want with that money, like travel and invest.

That doesn’t make us cheap

It makes us frugal. It would be easy to pay full price on satellite radio. However with the money I save  by asking for a better price, I can invest, travel or get something that matters to me more than paying full price.

Remember it’s your money, you deserve to keep it.

What about you? What are your thoughts on the difference between cheap and frugal?

4 thoughts on “I’m Not Cheap, I’m Being Frugal There’s a Difference

  • When I’m called cheap, I refer them to the character Uncle Frank in the movies Home Alone 1 & 2. The cheapskate uncle who tried keeping the airplane crystal as a “souvenir” and couldn’t say no to free trips. Not only is he cheap, he’s a cheapskate!

    • Josh I absolutely love the movie reference. We were just talking about Home alone yesterday. Perfect time of year to pull it out and watch it. Do you get called cheap often, or are most of your friends “frugally enlightened”?

  • I love being frugal. I buy what I need, when I need it, but I also buy items that will last me a long time. My friends joke around and call me a tight wad but they understand that investing is more important to me than owning useless stuff. I actually think of living below my means as a game, one that I am winning now that I know the rules. Bottom line I no longer care what others think for they have no impact on my financial independence.

    • That’s a great place to get to. I’ve recently come to the same conclusion, in the end if you are spending to impress people it passes quickly, then that money is gone forever. I like the idea of looking at it like a game. Makes it more fun and manageable!

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