Frugal or Cheap? There Can Be A Big Difference

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In the past two months that Nancy and I have been writing this blog, I've thought a lot about the difference between being frugal and being cheap.

Now that I'm trying to reform my spendthrift ways, I wrestle with the value of my discretionary purchases. Is skimping on a friend's birthday present being frugal? Or is that just cheap? What about insisting on only paying for your meal when dining out with a large group of people? I asked some of our favorite bloggers for advice.

David Weliver of MoneyUnder30.com: I would define being frugal as protecting your hard-earned money by looking for ways to save on the things you need and want and getting the highest value from everything you buy. I would define cheap as spending as little money as possible, whatever the cost.

Somebody who is frugal would probably buy a used car instead of a new car, but would choose a high-quality vehicle and maintain it properly even though that maintenance costs money. Somebody who is cheap would look for the least expensive car without regard for quality, and they might choose not to spend money on maintenance. Both methods save money, but the frugal car-buyer will get a lot more value out of the vehicle thanks to their decisions. The cheap consumer might wind up with a car that breaks down on them once a month.

Julia Scott of BargainBabe: Being frugal is making choices to conserve money in your own life: riding a bike instead of driving, renting a movie instead of going to the theater, brown bagging your lunch instead of buying it. Being cheap is forcing your frugal choices on others: buying a gift on sale even though it is the wrong size for the recipient or insisting on ordering the cheapest bottle of wine at a restaurant.

Being frugal feels good. Being cheap leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

-- Ylan Q. Mui


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