Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cheap versus Frugal

I have been thinking recently about the difference between cheap and frugal.  There is a stigma associated with the word cheap.  I once read that someone who is frugal will reuse the same teabag for themselves, whereas someone who is cheap will force a guest to reuse their teabag instead of offering them a fresh one. 

I call myself cheap sometimes, but I really think I am frugal.  I joke and tell people that the real reason I was able to nurse our daughters as long as I did (8 months and 12 months) was because I saw the cost of formula and realized that what nature provided me with was free. 

When I think of cheap I think of the toys from the dollar stores or the dollar aisle.  They are not quality.  They usually last a day or two then break.  Because they only cost a dollar I don’t feel bad about tossing them when they break.

I think that couponing has a stigma of being cheap.  I disagree with that and say that couponing is being frugal.  I see couponing as a way of saving money on everyday things so that I can splurge on other things.  It is a matter of how you want to stretch your buck.  I can wait until I find a really good sale, match it with a coupon and buy several boxes of my favorite granola bars for $1 each or less, or I can buy a box or two every week for $2.50 each.  I prefer to buy 10 boxes at one time for $1. 

I admit I may sometimes come across as cheap, but I still feel that it is frugal.  When we travel I take a case of bottled water with us so that we don’t have to buy expensive bottled water on the road.  I also try to pack snacks like dried fruit, crackers, nuts, and cookies.  I hate having to pay double to triple the everyday price at a convenience store or a hotel gift shop.

I have stopped, for the most part, buying bread.  Some people may think that is cheap.  “A loaf of bread isn’t that expensive, why not just buy it?”  I started making my own bread because it does save some money, it tastes better, and the house smells really good while it is in the oven.  I also have a KitchenAid stand mixer that makes it a rather easy task.

I really think that frugal is the new trend and that it allows you to decide your spending priorities.  I would rather spend $10 on 10 boxes of granola bars versus only 4.  How about you, what do you think?  Do you think there is a difference between frugal and cheap?  Do you have an example of how you are frugal and others think you are cheap?


Miriam said...

I agree there is a difference. Right now my brain is too tired to think if there's any way that I'm considered "cheap" where I think I'm frugal...

I agree, "a" loaf of bread isn't that expensive, but cheap bread is just that - cheap. And for a tsp. of yeast and a couple cups of flour (the most expensive parts of homemade bread), what, a homemade loaf MIGHT cost $1?? And tastes so much better than a $1 storebought loaf :) I think making bread is not cheap - I think it's frugal.

We often use the word "cheap" where we really mean "inexpensive." Example, I could say I got cheap razors, shampoo and mouthwash at CVS - I paid $.20 OOP. But they are Gillete Sensor 3 razors, Aussie Shampoo and Crest Pro-Health mouthwash... not cheap items at all! I was just able to get them inexpensively.

I'm rambling and need to go to bed! LOL!!

Lissa said...

In the dictionary of my brain, cheap has a "selfish" aspect to it. Frugal has more of a "wise" connotation. If someone accuses me of being cheap, I take offense at that, because what it seems they're implying is that I'm somehow taking advantage of others to get what I want, whereas if I'm being frugal, then I'm just saving money where I can. I guess I would be willing to call items on sale "cheap", or things that break easily "cheap", but not people.

One thing I like about being frugal, is that it helps us hold our worldly possessions loosely. We also shop at thrift stores and yard sales, and I find that when it is time to get rid of something I purchased there (even a quality item I got for "cheap"), it is much easier because my monetary investment was much less. I realized this the other day when I wanted to get rid of a pillow we've had for *years* that I really don't like any more, but it is hard for me! I paid almost $40 for that dumb pillow! So, there it is, still sitting on my sofa. :O)

Kelly said...

I would also describe myself as being frugal. I get a lot of comments on my coupon shopping tactics, some good and some bad. Some people are amazed by how much money I save and want to learn how to do it themselves. On the other hand, some feel like I am being cheap and think because I am a pharmacist I should just splurge on whatever I want.

I am happy with my money saving strategies because I have much more in my pantry now than before and spend much less money. I only wish I had known about all the "secrets" earlier... it depresses me to think about all the money I have wasted over the years. My 6 year old helps me gather coupons at the stores now and has fun helping me shop. I hope I can teach her well, so she will be able to live in abundance, too.

Saving money in this area helps us to splurge on other things that we might not be able to otherwise. So, to me it's not being cheap... it's being smart.

Ann said...

Thanks ladies for you comments - I agree with all of your points.

Miriam - I am more likely to say "cheap" when really I mean inexpensive.

Lissa - I agree with your definition of selfish (cheap) vs. wise (frugal). BTW - I too would struggle with the pillow situation. I would probably end up putting it somewhere else, but because of the monetary value I would have a hard time giving it away.

Kelly - I wish that I had known more of my couponing secrets earlier. I agree that people think that because pharmacists make a decent salary that we shouldn't have problems spending money. For me it is a matter of priorities. I would rather save on everyday things so that we can enjoy a special treat when it comes around.