Frugal vs. Cheap

Partially inspired by Me(ghan)’s post.

Am I cheap or frugal? The answer to this question is an ongoing struggle for me as I tend to see myself through other people’s eyes. Of course everyone has their own opinion on how they spend their money but sometimes people have opinions on how others should spend theirs.

I’ve gotten a lot better at understanding what my definition of frugality is. When faced with a decision at Christmas I realized that frugality is spending money I have on things that will make me happy while opting to not spend on things that won’t positively impact my life. For instance ML and I recently attended an event at our local museum. It was to celebrate with his friends and since we have the funds to do this in our fun fund we purchased the tickets.  If we didn’t have money in our fun fund or room in the budget we wouldn’t have purchased the tickets. In my mind this is frugal.

I do have to guard myself against cheapness. When I purchased the Deadpool tickets I’ll admit to a pang as I spent $8 more for our tickets than if I had gotten regular tickets. That extra money was available in the budget and helped us have a better day as we weren’t rushing to get to the theatre an hour early to line up to ensure a decent seat. I’m sharing this because I’m insanely proud that I didn’t fall into budget fear with this or keep mentioning to ML that these tickets were more expensive. Knowing that we’d probably want to have something from the concessions I checked the budget and shared with ML that we had $10 available.

Cheap for me is preventing ML from getting popcorn because I don’t want to spend the money, in spite of the fact that it’s available, or not paying the extra $8 for tickets ensuring that we’ll be standing in line for an hour. If we didn’t have the $18 available to us then those wouldn’t have been cheap decisions. Since I did have the money and it was earmarked for date night I think these were frugal choices as in both instances they enhanced our enjoyment of the night.

One technique that has helped me walk the line between frugality and cheapness is putting leftover variable budget money into a fun fund. The money doesn’t go to one of my savings lines or debt payment instead it gets put into a savings line designated for spending. Knowing that this money is going to be spent on something a bit frivolous anyway helps me check my motives when I’m saving money.  The added benefit is that it’s a way to treat ourselves to great things without sacrificing our payments.

I think cheap vs. frugal depends a lot on how you rationalize your spending and saving.  The summary I like best is that frugal people care about value while cheap people care about cost.

What’s your definition of cheap vs. frugal?





8 thoughts on “Frugal vs. Cheap

  1. rozfrankie

    I see Frugal as someone who makes good financial decisions and habits that will save them money in the long run, whereas cheap is when you want to save the money immediately no matter what the longer term effects might be.

    Excellent blog post, I hope you enjoyed Deadpool. I went and saw it with my Boyfriend last week. Never heard a cinema laugh so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for reading!
    I loved Deadpool! I hadn’t even heard of him until Xmen and now I’m on the bandwagon. It felt like a family in that cinema. Everyone was in a good mood and ready to laugh.


  3. I think frugal has a value to it, while cheap is all about the bottom line cost. I made a frugal decision to buy a really good vacuum, it wasnt cheap, but the value is excellent cleaning, and it will last years.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely agree with your take on frugal/cheap, and think you made great decisions in your examples. I think your method of moving leftover money to a fun fund is a great system too. If you threw every leftover dollar into debt repayment, you might feel quite stifled in not being able to have a bit of entertainment.

    I described my own take on frugal/cheap in my post
    but similar sentiments to you and the other commenters – frugal is about the value rather than the bottom line dollar. Therefore I also noted that frugal means a mindset challenging the assumption that everything can be (or should be) purchased with dollars. This then opens up a whole world of DIY, sharing, buying second hand, making do with alternative options, etc. and really digging deeper as to why we want/need the thing. I imagine “cheap” would not necessarily question the “why do we want it” and simply go on a mission to get the thing as cheaply as possible. Which fits in with your summary, which I think is a nice clear and concise definition.

    Liked by 1 person

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