Frugal or Cheap - Have you Crossed the Line?

Whether you are being frugal or cheap is a very interesting topic with everyone having their own opinions. Some people think that being frugal is a great way to save money but others believe it is a waste of time. Is there such a thing as being too frugal? Is this considered cheap? Where do you draw the line?  Let's look at some detail...

Benefits of a Frugal Lifestyle

Frugal Being frugal is definitely a skill worth mastering as it prepares us for bad economic times and there is no harm in saving money where you can. Recessions can have a negative affect on many people’s lifestyles so being frugal allows us the opportunity to extend our money where we need it most. By living a frugal lifestyle you can save money towards big goals such as retirement or luxury holidays. If you’ve never tried to be frugal then you may not know where you can cut back on expenditures and you’ll never find out where you’re wasting money on things that may have never crossed your mind before.

Frugal vs. Cheap - What are the Differences?

Whilst being frugal is great you must ensure you don’t cross that line and turn your frugality into cheapness. Being cheap is ok when it is really necessary but being cheap in general is not an admirable trait to have. Being frugal means you are sensible with your money and not spending cash on things you do not need. Frugal people always try and get the best deals and will spend money on things that they value. Being frugal can mean you stay at home and cook dinner rather than going to a restaurant or having a movie night at home with the family instead of an expensive cinema trip.

CheapNot every frugal deed is classed as frugal; sometimes it crosses the line at being just plain cheap. Being cheap is being petty over every last penny spent. It’s having the money for food, but rooting through the bins at the back of your local supermarket. Being cheap is not using toilet paper or splitting double ply rolls in half to get twice as much. Not tipping your server in a restaurant to save money after a decent service is also cheap and not acceptable. Anyone who does these things and convinces themselves they are frugal is wrong - they are just being cheap! If you’re completely out of cash then being cheap has its place but otherwise it is best to be avoided.

Here are some example scenarios of the differences between being frugal and cheap in our opinion:

Food Shopping:

  • Frugal - Buying high quality flavoursome food that is on sale and searching online for some vouchers to save a bit of money.

  • Cheap - Buying the lowest priced food you can find with no regard for the quality or how it fits in with your families diets

Dinner Parties:

  • Frugal - Offering to bring a dish or a bottle of wine that is within your budget.

  • ​Cheap - Turning up empty handed.

Eating out:

  • Frugal - Budgeting in a set amount of money for dining out each month. Looking online for any restaurant discounts or choosing 2-for-1 meals from the menu and splitting the cost with a friend.

  • ​Cheap - Not tipping your server in order to save money.

Clothes Shopping:

  • Frugal - Buying items in the sale that you need even if it is full priced. An example would be essential school uniforms for the kids. 

  • Cheap - Buying an outfit for an event then wearing it with the tags still in. Returning it to the store the next day.


  • Frugal - Turning the thermostat down in the evenings by a few degrees to save money.

  • Cheap - Leaving the heating off completely and disregarding the comfort of everyone who lives in the house. 

Are you Being Frugal or Cheap?

Frugal Vs  CheapIt can be hard to tell if you’re being frugal or if you’ve crossed the line into cheapness. You may think that tipping your waiter or waitress less in a restaurant will save you some money but as we mentioned before this crosses the line. The best thing to do to understand which category you fall into is to ask yourself if someone else did the same thing to you, how you would feel about them. Would you be shocked if one of your friends didn’t tip for their pizza delivery? You need to discover if you can justify your ways or if it’s slowly becoming clear that you’re being cheap. You could always ask friends or family members if the actions you are taking seem frugal or cheap to them. You may need to explain the differences to them first in order for them to understand and make a fair decision.

How to Tell Others They've Crossed the Line

This can be a very sensitive topic if someone you know has crossed the line into being cheap and you want to tell them about it. You need to be careful not to hurt their feelings. Some people are cheap and always will be and they may be fully aware of it so there is no use trying to get them to change their ways. Tactfully ask someone if they believe what they are doing is cheap rather than being frugal and see what their reaction is. You could help them see other ways of doing things or saving money that doesn’t cross the line. Suggest frugal alternatives to the cheap actions they are doing. A great example is if they don’t tip take-away delivery drivers; why not suggest picking the take-away up themselves? Ask them how they would feel if they were on the receiving end of the cheap action; tell them how you would personally feel as it may change their perspective. Try not to make it personal and tell them you are only trying to help them out.

What is the Verdict?

MoneySavingPigWhere do you draw the line? What do you consider being frugal vs being cheap? Do you think you will be putting some of the above into action?  We love feedback so please use the comment section below. 

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