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Frugal vs. Cheap

Which one are you?

Hello frugal readers! I hope you all are enjoying the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having lately. There are so many cheap things to do outdoors in the fall when the weather is nice. Speaking of cheap, a few days ago I was called cheap by someone close to me and that got me thinking. I’m not cheap. I’m frugal. And there’s a big difference between the two.


Being cheap - People who are cheap usually have a little bit of a reputation for being tight with their money. They may even endure some teasing from family members and friends for being a cheapskate. People who are cheap want the absolute rock bottom price for an item or service and aren’t too concerned with the quality as long as they save money. An example of this might be buying the cheapest kitchen knife set available. Even though the quality isn’t that great, cheap people will still purchase the set even if they don’t last as long as the slightly more expensive, higher-quality set. Other items that you can find dirt cheap but often have poor quality are earbuds, shoes, tools, and some paper products like toilet paper. The prices are considerably lower but so is the quality.


The Disney character Scrooge McDuck, often referred to as Uncle Scrooge, comes to mind as being on the extreme side of cheap. Some people may not know his origin story, but he made his money in the Gold Rush. Each and every coin he had was precious to him, which resulted in him often being portrayed as stingy. Now I’ve already mentioned that I was called cheap this week. I was buying a Christmas gift for a child and had 4 small items that I planned to put in a cute box with a lid. Since only 3 of the 4 items would fit in the box, I simply put one item back on the shelf and didn’t purchase it. I purposefully chose the most expensive of the 4 items to put back in an effort to save a few dollars. This was noticed and I was called cheap for the rest of the day despite my efforts to justify my actions. I think most people would agree that my choice to put back the 4th item doesn’t put me in the same category as Uncle Scrooge. But I will caution you on how far you’re willing to go to save a few dollars.


Being frugal - People who are frugal are careful consumers. They might be called thrifty by others. They think about purchases before making them and typically weigh the pros and cons before spending a dime. Frugal people have a budget and plan out their spending. They don’t like to waste things and might even have some odd habits like reusing aluminum foil or not turning on lights in their house during the day. They buy used instead of new, bring their lunch to work instead of eating out, and take advantage of free resources like the library. They probably use coupons when they grocery shop and make a meal plan for the week. Frugal people spend money like everyone else but are more careful and strategic about where their money goes. This frugal teacher hopes that you fall a little bit more into this category than being cheap.


Whether you’re referred to as cheap or frugal doesn’t have to define how you approach spending money. Be smart about it and make informed choices. Do some research. If you want to try buying cheaper products to save money, try generic food items. You might not even notice the difference between the more expensive, name-brand foods and the generic options. Please don’t ever go for the cheapest option on items related to safety. Buy the better car seat. Buy decent tires. Spend a little more on quality bike helmets and protective sports equipment for your kids. Think about the quality versus the price and then decide what is right for you and your family. A Chiefland business owner recently reminded me of a famous quote made by Benjamin Franklin. He said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”


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