Frugality has become very popular over the last several years due to the economy, job market, and rising cost of things like groceries and utilities. A change in a person's living situation, or simply a desire to be debt free or spend less can set off a chain of events that lead to an examination of lifestyles and ways that money is being spent. Frugality is a mindset. It is a way to look at the money you have available to you, what you desire in your life, and using your resources wisely. Unfortunately, sometimes, people can become overzealous with their frugality and go over to cheap. What's the difference? For some people, it's semantics. One person's cheap is the other person's frugal. My personal definition of cheap is when your actions take away from others or from your or someone else's quality of life. While it's great to save, moderation in all things is best.
So how do you know the difference? Here are some examples below:
Frugal: Buying paper towels on sale with a coupon.
Cheap: Hanging up paper towels to dry that have been used for “wet only” items.
Frugal: Using a 2-for-1 coupon to purchase meals at a restaurant or splitting a meal.
Cheap: Failing to tip the server or only tipping for the 1-meal price.
Frugal: Using wrapping paper from the dollar store or buying it on sale after Christmas and storing it.
Cheap: Using birthday, wedding, or happy anniversary wrapping paper for Christmas because you’re too cheap to buy more.
Frugal: Having a pot luck meal, making the main entrée, and asking others to bring sides.
Cheap: Having a pot luck meal and assigning things to bring so that you don’t have to do anything except set the table…. And then keeping the leftovers.
Frugal: Agreeing to dinner and then splitting the tab.
Cheap: Agreeing to split a dinner tab but ordering an expensive meal, drinks, appetizer, and dessert while the other person bought an inexpensive entrée and drank water.
Frugal: Purchasing an outfit on sale, at a thrift store, or by using a discount coupon.
Cheap: Buying an expensive outfit, wearing it, and then returning it to the store.
Frugal: Agreeing to carpool to an event and splitting the cost of gas.
Cheap: Agreeing to a carpool and then not chipping in for gas when everyone else does.
Frugal: Buying vegetables on sale or that are marked down and close to their expiration date to be used immediately.
Cheap: Going home and exchanging your fresh vegetables you just bought for ones that are starting to go bad and then taking them back to the store and demanding a refund, claiming your fresh veggies went bad too quickly.
Frugal: Buying an item on sale, and enjoying it to its fullest extent, being sad if that item tears up or becomes defective after receiving a lot of use from the item.
Cheap: Buying an item, using it well, then having it tear up. Going into a store, buying the same item but repacking the well-used and broken item in the box, claim it’s defective, and then demanding your money back.
Frugal: Saving leftover condiment packages such as ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, etc., from carryout or drive through meals for later use (i.e., items that were voluntarily given to you along with your meal).
Cheap: Entering a restaurant and stuffing your pockets with sugar, salt, pepper, plastic utensils, napkins, ketchup packets, hot sauce packets, etc. (i.e., not given to you but offered to go along with meals in a restaurant and putting the restaurant at a disadvantage by taking them).
Frugal: Using coupons to get discounts at a restaurant.
Cheap: Going to a restaurant and asking the cashier to use coupons other people have turned in.
Frugal: Learning to cut your family's hair.
Cheap: Taking your kids to free haircut days at JCPenney, having the kids' heads shaved so they can go 3 months without having a haircut, and then failing to tip the hair stylist.
These are but a few very real examples of things that people have done in the name of saving money. You have to decide for yourself how far you are willing to go to save money, but keeping the above examples in mind can help decide if you're being truly frugal or cheap.