How to Save Money » Frugal Living

Being Frugal vs Being Cheap

Being Frugal.

Frugal or Cheap

Do you consider yourself to be frugal or cheap?

It seems that many frugal folks get the reputation of being cheap, when really, there is a big difference between the two.

Being frugal does not mean that you never, ever spend money!

You can be frugal and still go out with your friends. You can be frugal and still buy a new pair of shoes. You can be frugal and still go out for dinner once a week.

You can still have fun while living a frugal lifestyle. The difference between being cheap and being frugal all comes down to how and where you spend your money.

Frugality is getting the most bang for your buck. If you can buy a great book for a friend for her birthday and it only costs you $1 at the thrift store, what’s wrong with that? The book is in like-new condition and it’s the exact book your friend has been lusting after for months.

Is it wrong to buy your friend a gift that only costs you $1? Of course not. This is not being cheap – it’s called good money management.

Being frugal does not mean spending no money, it means spending your money wisely.

There are some things you should consider spending a bit more money on:

  • Mattresses
  • Pots & Pans
  • Undergarments
  • Infant Car Seats
  • Barbecue

Those are a few things off the top of my head, but there are many more. It all depends on your family and your lifestyle.

Just because something is very inexpensive, doesn’t always mean it’s a great deal and that you should buy it.

To be frugal and avoid being cheap, always:

  1. Have a set amount of money every month for entertainment – and actually spend it. If you don’t have fun in life, you will burn out rather quickly.
  2. Be sure to buy items that are of good quality. Just because it’s the cheapest, doesn’t mean it’s the one you should buy.
  3. Tip at least 10% when dining out. We always tip 10% for bad service, 15% for okay service and 20% for exceptional service.
  4. Buy or make thoughtful gifts. Don’t buy things just because they are on sale and hope the recipient will like them.

Being frugal is not a bad thing – as long as you’re doing it “right”.


  1. Emilie

    I’ve always considered being cheap is trying to scam money off other people. Like if you don’t put in your fair share when the cheque comes, you’re cheap, but if you had a great homecooked inexpensive meal at your home with friends, that’s frugal.

  2. Barbara

    I like the point you made about spending all your monthly entertainment budget. I think people trying to save money or be frugal think that they can’t go out and have fun because then they would be wasting money. It’s important to do fun things every once in awhile. Like you said, if you don’t you get burned out.

  3. Jax

    I must be really cheap. No bra, nice underwear, or car seat for me. My mattress is at least 10 years old; I just flip it over every couple of months. I did sell $19.99 for a nice pan for cooking. I don’t go to places that require tip much. If it does I usually round up. 6.54 to 7. or a nice .46 big ones. Bad at gifts too. Gave mother a $13.99(supposely retailed for $99) 8 piece cookware set last x-mas.

    • misskitty_79

      Ugh. Please tell me you’re not serious?! “Rounding up” is not “tipping”, it’s being too lazy to collect your change. I do hope that you’re aware that, in most places, people who work service jobs are paid a lower wage, because their tips are assumed to help bring that wage up to something reasonable. When people like you refuse to tip, you’re effectively stealing their wages from them. :/

      • Jimmy

        “When people like you refuse to tip, you’re effectively stealing their wages from them”

        I didn’t made them take a job that pays less than ‘something reasonable’. I didn’t decide to pay them the absolute lowest wage I legally can while making huge margins on food and especially drinks. Choosing a job that relies on charitable donations is a terrible plan if thats your only source of income. And let’s not pretend that people who work for tips don’t make much more money (tips included) per hour than others who work much harder and longer at tipless jobs. In fact, tips supplement their wages so well that serving jobs are highly desired among students due to their effectively higher pay per hour, thus requiring less hours on the job.

        Frankly, cry me a river about low serving wages.

    • Summer

      Seriously? Not using a carseat for small children is worse than cheap. It’s unsafe and illegal.

  4. crafter

    really like your comments about gifts.don’t feel so cheap now:)

    I often buy xmas gifts in Feb when they have huge deals online

    I used to make a lot of gifts but started to find I was giving a second store bot gift as well. I have to stop sabbatoging my frugal efforts. I’ve found that looking up similar prices on items on makes me more aware of the value of the handmade gift I’m giving.

  5. Rick Bradley

    I find that I can save a lot of money by frequenting the quick sale table. Always remember that the best before date is just that, not an expiry date. With fresh meat the margin is small but if you’re flexible in your shopping and meal prep then good buys are available. Most packaged goods have a huge cya factor built into the best before dates so while it would be imprudent to purchase goods much past the date you still ought not to discard items in the pantry that are a bit old. We had a 2 Kg jar of peanut butter which had lurked unnoticed at the back of the pantry for almost 10 years that was just as good as a new jar (we since switched to natural pb).

  6. Crissy

    I read Mr. Money Moustache as well….this is where the ‘blog’ came from, almost verbatim. However, I do agree with the principles. I’m introducing my guy to the art of frugality vice him being cheap…he almost always buys stuff cause it’s on sale, not because it is needed, but then, he refuses to buy something we really need because he feels it’s overpriced. He’s learning though.

  7. Sheryl

    I agree with everything except a 10% tip for bad service. I don’t give a tip if the service is bad. But if it’s decent I agree with the 15% and 20% for great service. If the server is bitchy, messes up the orders and doesn’t check on us to see if we got everything or need anything, I don’t see why they would deserve a tip.

    • Athena

      if the service is so bad that you can’t leave ANY tip, you should probably be talking to the manager. bad service tip 5%. if you leave no tip you should probably never return because it was that bad. and servers make mistakes or have bad days too.

    • Victoria

      I have been in the service industry for 10+ years and I have to agree with you. Tips are voluntary, not required (in most cases). The server is still getting paid wages, tips are an extra bonus. If I were to have an off day and provide minimal service, I would expect to receive little or no tip. Servers have bad days, everyone does, but when it reflects in your customer service, don’t expect a bonus. Those that tip regardless of service, do whatever you feel is right.

    • Summer

      To tip less than 15% is to take advantage of a person’s labor without renumerating them, and that’s the epitome of cheap. In fact, the standard is now closer to 18-20%. I don’t know about Canada, but in the U.S. servers are paid just $2.13/hr. (The employer is supposed to make up the difference if your tips don’t equal minimum wage, but since the employer is the one who reports how much you made in tips, guess how often THAT happens?) The server is also sharing her tips with the busser, bartender, and possibly others. If the service was exceptionally bad, I will consider tipping 10% or less, but not without complaining to the manager.

  8. mary

    Cheap is when you intentioanlly use other people’s time, money, skills to save yourself money when you have absolutely no intention of reciprocating. Don’t think for one minute that it goes unnoticed. Being cheap is mean-spirited abuse.

  9. Shyane

    I love this article. I have friends who don’t understand why I “waste” my time couponing every week or think it should be really embarrassing to haggle with a salesperson. They know we aren’t struggling but they can’t seem to understand that my couponing and haggling are the reasons why we can afford to go out to fancy restaurants and buy a new pair of boots on a whim.

    I feel that if a store or company is willing to give me their product for an outstanding price I will take them up on their offer. In return though I give back to the community. I cook for my family bi-weekly, making frozen meals to last 2 weeks, but always make 2 extra meals to give. Sometimes it’s to a mommy to be, someone whom just had or is going to have surgery or just someone that I’ve heard of is down on their luck. When RCSS has their spend $250 and receive a $25 grocery gift card rather than keeping it for my next shop I send it to the Ronald McDonald house asking them to give it to a family who has more important things on their mind than how they’re are going to afford groceries that day. I love that my frugal ways are keeping my family from living paycheck to paycheck and helping those around me too.

  10. KellyP

    I read once, and agree, that cheap affects other people, frugal only affects you. I liked it when I read it and still do.

    Ties into Mary’s “use[ing] other people’s time, money, skills to save yourself money when you have absolutely no intention of reciprocating” thought.

  11. Carmen

    Buying quality that is more expensive can be considered as being frugal as well. Not going to help you much if something that you use everyday like your wallet falls apart in a few months because you were cheap and bought something for a couple of dollars.

    • Cassie Howard

      I completely agree! There are a few things that I would never buy the “cheap” versions of (usually items that will see a lot of wear – coffee table, couch, mattress, jeans, pots & pans, etc.).

  12. Ren

    Serving personnel work their butts off and deal with difficult customers all day long. They also often take the blame and get the flack if the customers are not happy with their meal even when that aspect is up to the kitchen staff. If I can’t afford to tip, I can’t afford to go out.

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