Many people often get confused about the difference between being frugal and being cheap. We all hear that it’s good to be frugal, but then we can’t help but feel, well, cheap. Thankfully there is a BIG difference. Through learning what the distinction between frugal and cheap is, you can save yourself from social embarrassment.

With today’s unpredictable economy, it’s a good skill to have handy, and you never know, you might actually save much more money than you anticipated! It’s easy to make the adjustment to become a dignified frugal person, you just have to know how!

A Lower Price Can Make You Cheap


The idea of frugality begins with the concept that saving money is the most vital part of achieving financial freedom.Being thoughtful as to how you spend your money is a critical part of successful living.

Frugal people will always look for deals and take advantage of sales and promotions. Whenever making a major or minor purchase, frugal people will always do some proper research and make sure that they’re getting the best bang for their buck. Cheap people on the other hand, will only buy the cheapest products available. They will often overlook the build quality, features, and brand name just to save money.

For example. Let’s say a cheap person decides to purchase a cheap t-shirts. After a month or so, they start to notice threads tangling, minimal rips, possible holes, etc. After the wear and tare, the overall quality of the shirt begins to shine.

The same idea goes for household items too. Buying the cheapest appliances and furniture will only create more headaches down the road. I learned this the hard way. You see, I’m a big coffee lover. I make coffee almost every single morning. So far I think I’ve been through about 3-4 coffee makers. It’s shameful to admit, but I’m fully guilty of being cheap (I’m much more frugal than I used to be).

I kept buying the $20-$40 coffee makers and after a few months, they’d constantly break on me. I used to think that spending $100-$300 on a coffee machine was absurd. But I finally realized that being cheap will only result in future problems. I finally decided to save up, do intensive research, and ended up buying a great coffee maker. 

Live Within Your Means

Very often a cheap person will underpay at a dinner with friends, or contribute less than he or she should. This gives people a very bad reputation, making them look like cheap money sucking sponges. Frugal people are mindful. They don’t dine at a restaurant they can’t afford.

They save themselves from potential embarrassment by being very clear about when they can or cannot spend money. There is nothing more unattractive, humiliating, and undignified than a person expecting other people to pay for them because they’re not willing to contribute their share of the pie.

Living within your means requires knowing what you can afford and what is out of the question. There are many benefits to living within your means, such as saving money and not getting yourself in debt.

Know When You’e Saving and When You’re Being Ridiculous

Sometimes, in an attempt to save money, people will go to ridiculous extremes. For example let’s say a person see’s a sale on jam at a grocery store. He then buy 30 jars of jam just to save himself money. What they don’t realize is by the time they have gotten through 10 jars, the other 20 jars of jam would’ve already expired. I know you may think that people can’t possibly be that dumb, but rest assured there are people in this world who can easily fit that description.

Cheap, is also the kind of person who will go to a restaurant, only to steal all the sugar packets on the table and take them home to refill their sugar bowl. There are others who will actually visit restaurants, gas stations, or retails stores to steal toilet paper. If your financial situation is that bad, then I can’t really judge you for it. However if you have the money, why can’t you purchase toilet paper in bulk from a wholesaler?

Wanna hear something chilling? There are actually people who use newspaper instead of toilet paper. This by all means is not being frugal or cheap. I would say this is simply idiotic. If you want to spend a large amount of money on medical bills, then by all means go for it.

A wise person once said: “Learn from others’ mistakes.” Thankfully, you now know that to be frugal you must be smart, conservative, and think creatively. The examples I provided in this article can also be applied to your professional life too.

Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos for Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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