This is a guest post by Ronnie C. is a screenwriter for The Frugality Game, a free online adventure that helps families improve their finances while having fun. In the game, you’ll follow the Frugal family as they explore the world in search of treasure. Along the way, you’ll find savings tips, discounts, powerful budgeting tools, and prizes up to $50,000.
Unless you’re among the wealthy and affluent, you either have to be frugal or cheap these days. Both adjectives have suffered some negative connotations throughout the years. Frugality, however, is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, while being cheap is still uniformly frowned upon.
So how can we be frugal, without coming off as cheap?
1. economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful: a frugal manager.
One of the main differences between being frugal and being cheap: putting in the work and effort to get a good deal. Look at it like this: one person puts the effort forth to look for a bargain on a jacket. She goes online, looks for the lowest prices, and eventually finds a printable coupon that will save her 50% off her purchase. She walks in, buys the jacket, turns over the coupon, thanks the cashier and exits the store with her purchase.
Another person does no research prior to her purchase. She just walks into the store, grabs the jacket and yells and argues with the salesperson about how she should be getting a better deal. Meanwhile, a large line is forming behind her, and the friend she came to the store with is turning a bright shade of red. People in the line are starting to bristle with irritation, and the salesperson, out of frustration and the sheer need to keep the line moving, gives her the bargain price. The person takes her jacket, and with her embarrassed friend, exits the store.
The second individual got the exact same deal that the first person did, so what’s the difference? The second individual caused a scene to get her deal, frustrated people, and probably lost a shopping partner along the way. It’s all about the cost to save a dollar.
1. stingy; miserly: He’s too cheap to buy his own brother a cup of coffee.
Frugality is the art of basing your financial decisions on the resources available to you. On the other hand, being cheap is the art of stinginess: the full-fledged averseness to spending money in any situation, even when the situation calls for it. Cheapness is usually at the expense of others, as well. Similar to the person referenced above.
A cheap person goes to a fast food restaurant to load up on napkins and condiments, so they won’t have to go to a store to purchase their own. A frugal person purchases their own, but won’t allow leftover napkins or packets from a restaurant to go to waste.
The frugal individual finds ways to reduce transportation expenses, and takes advantage of carpooling whenever possible. The cheap individual insists that others provide rides, to the point where people no longer want to give the person a ride. I think we all know somebody like this as well.
Finally, the frugal individual still possesses a spirit of generosity. Should the situation call for it, the frugal individual wouldn’t hesitate to chip in to cover a tip. The cheap individual would not only decline to tip, but may also not even bring enough cash to the table to cover their own meal, forcing others at the table to cover them. It’s a question of what’s fair and right.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think we’ve all been guilty of being cheap at one point or another. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But like I said before, the frugal individual lives within his or her means according to their resources. When the situation calls for it, a frugal individual isn’t deterred from straying slightly from their financial plan in the name of good etiquette. Being frugal doesn’t mean being miserly. But I know you’ve all got a lot to say about this, so let’s hear it!