Ever since I have been more passionate about personal finance and managing my money, I have noticed that there are different definitions of being cheap and being frugal, depending on who you talk to. When my wife and I started telling people that we couldn’t go on vacation, because we were paying off debt, or that we don’t use credit cards, they looked at us funny. When we clip coupons and go to the $1.50 movie theater, some people laugh at us. We’ve never been heckled about it, but we’ve definitely heard the “you only live once” line when we tell people that we are saving money or paying off debt before we spend it on a major purchase.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s my definition of frugal and cheap
- Looking for deals and taking advantage of sales and promotions when you were already planning on purchasing something
- Delaying pleasure and instant gratification to make a big purchase
- Not making a point to tell friends and family every time you saved money
- Not obsessed with brands
- Does not sacrifice quality to buy something only because it is cheaper
- Your cheapness affects the quality of life of others such as spouse or family
- Your basic needs are of lesser quality
- You never splurge a little when you have the money to spend
- You will sacrifice quality to buy what is the cheapest
I think the most important aspect of frugality is the last bullet point. When you are willing to identify what items are worth spending more money on to buy a better quality product but you do everything you can to get the best deal on it, that is frugal. When you refuse to spend more than $100 on groceries when it’s not feasible due to the size of your family, you’re being cheap. When you clip coupons, and purchase items to make meals from scratch, that is being frugal. When you won’t spend money to perform routine maintenance on your car or home, that is being cheap.
A good example of being frugal in my own life is when we bought a Dyson vacuum. We had gone through two other vacuums in two years, because we have a dog that likes to shed. Our rugs started to stink in our new house, because we knew that our old vacuum wasn’t picking up all of the dog hair. We had heard great things about the Dyson vacuums, but we couldn’t get ourselves to spend $400, much less on a freakin’ vacuum! Once we had a couple of hundred extra dollars in savings that we wouldn’t notice was gone, we started looking for a Dyson. Instead of going out and buying the new $400 model at Target, we purchased last year’s model on Amazon for $329, and we used a gift card that my brother had given me the previous Christmas. We were frugal about a purchase we already planned on buying.
What are your thoughts on this? What is your definition of cheap and frugal? Do you think cheap and frugal mean the same thing? Do you have any examples of being frugal, rather than being cheap?