Have you ever thought about how being frugal is not the same as being cheap? Are they just alike? While they’re kind of similar, they actually have lots of differences. Understanding these differences can be useful for your money plans.
To become independently wealthy, being both frugal and cheap plays a big part in that. These types of qualities should be key points in your personal finance. They have measures that you can surely follow when you want to climb the ladder of success in the finance world.
Today, we will discuss their differences, how you can be frugal, and how you can be cheap. You probably are doing some of these things. You just haven’t thought that this can be your cornerstone to becoming wealthy. Let’s get started!
What Does It Mean To Be Frugal?
To be frugal means to preserve your available resources, especially your money. Being frugal means being aware of our spending habits.
We must be fully aware and informed of our personal finances. This will guide us in making the best decisions not only in terms of quality and price but also in the context of our financial goals.
But does frugality only involve money?
Frugality is the awareness and the effort to make the most out of your money without sacrificing quality. Whenever you buy something, or you are looking for a specific service, you do your homework first before jumping at the first product you see.
You conduct your own due diligence on which product or service will give you the best return for your money.
Frugality is about spending money on things you value and not spending money on things that are not important. Contrary to what many people think, frugality isn’t boring, and you can still have fun while you’re frugal. You should see the beauty, importance, and impact being frugal would mean to your life.
Being frugal means that you’re just making sure where you spend your hard-earned money.
Do understand that being frugal doesn’t mean you don’t use your money. It just means that you spend it wisely.
The goal of frugality is to make the most of your finances, but you still get to have fun with your well-deserved money.
What Does It Mean To Be Cheap?
Many people confuse cheap as being frugal, but that actually depends on your understanding of them. When talking about cheap, there are always two meanings behind it.
To be cheap means someone who always goes for the lowest costing stuff, regardless of the quality of the product. All that matters to them is that the item is the cheapest one available for their consumption.
Another meaning of being cheap is holding back on spending money even though you have the means to do it. Even if it is a necessity, you try other means possible just to save some money. And there is an active awareness that you want to do it.
Here are some indications that you are cheap:
- You don’t like spending money on expensive items
- Quality is out of the question as long as the price is low
- Goes for the low prices most of the time
- Sale hoarder
- Good at bargaining
- Will instead choose repair than replacing items (appliances, clothes, etc.)
- Proud to spend so little.
Being cheap can be good, don’t get me wrong. You get to control your expenses, and at the same time, it makes you save more. As they say, living stingy is one of the quickest ways to financial freedom.
What’s The Difference Between Frugal And Cheap?
Sometimes being frugal means going for the lower price, but does that mean you are cheap? No matter what you think of that, there’s always a thin line between the two.
They both have the same objective, and that is to save money. Both can help your wallets and bank accounts. So what then makes them different from each other?
To be frugal is not about hating to spend money. In fact, if you’re frugal, you spend money on things that last and do not skimp on the quality. This means that you save on having to buy the same stuff over and over again since what you originally bought was maximized.
Effectively, your money was stretched, and you saved more because of this. Not just money but also your time and the environment.
To be cheap would be that just the thought of spending money makes you cringe, and you would instead go to a thrift store or haul on-sale items. And this if you really, really, really need to buy the stuff. You exert all effort to find ways of not spending your money, and if you do, you find the cheapest one available.
Cheap people choose the lowest price selection all the time, while frugal people go for the product with the better value so that their money was spent sensibly.
Here are several differences between frugal and cheap:
The Meaning Varies
Frugal is defined as being careful with the available resources you have, such as time and money. Frugal people try to optimize their time and money to ensure the highest quality of what they buy. And doing this is more fun since the thrill of being able to maximize your money means you get to save more in the long run.
And cheap is described as inexpensive, always going for the lowest price, and not paying attention to the quality of the items. They value money above all since they regard stuff as all the same. These can be fun, too, since you were able to buy stuff at the lowest amount possible. The thrill is in the finds, as they say, right?
Frugal People Are Resourceful
Frugality is being resourceful. They make use of their money and try to optimize and maximize that. It may seem like they are not economical since they are more absorbed in the idea of saving money.
Frugal people are keen to explore more options, and they exert maximum effort to find the best deal possible before they settle on one.
Frugality Allows You To Optimize Spending
Financial planning is one way of controlling expenses; this is where budgeting comes in. It will help you thrive financially and lets you reach your financial goals. To do that, you have to have the knowledge of budgeting the right way.
It is more than making a list and calculating your monthly expenses. Budget with an objective, and spend less. There are key elements that you can use when budgeting, such as income, lifestyle, money goals, and having a realistic goal.
Set your goals straight, optimize spending, clear your values, remember what’s essential, and save money.
Price Vs. Value As The Bottom Line
Cheap mainly depends on the price, while frugal focuses more on value. To be cheap has a sole purpose: to save money regardless of the quality and often at the expense of others.
You might have watched the TV show Extreme Cheapskates, and those are examples of being cheap on a maximum level.
Which Is Better: Being Frugal Or Being Cheap?
Is being frugal better than being cheap? Up to this point, I know you thought they were the same. However, their mindset on finances is totally different. There lies their main difference.
Cheap people have constantly set their minds on what’s in front of them, and they tend to focus on what they could get at the lower price and overlook the bigger picture. Their thrill is to be able to purchase their stuff at the lowest amount possible. No doubt this can save them money for sure, right?
A frugal person considers many factors when deciding on spending their money. Like perspective, long-term results, and value. They are aware of the importance of low-cost items but still consider value over price. This, for them, is the thrill of purchasing stuff.
Being frugal or cheap is not just about your spending habits but also how it affects the people around you.
A cheap person’s focal point is to lessen their own self-deprivation. At times they may forget how their decisions can negatively affect others. In contrast to that, a person who lives a frugal life is more aware of their surroundings. Nevertheless, they still make clever financial decisions for themselves.
Being cheap may lead to some adverse outcomes like being inconsiderate, short-sighted, and wasteful.
Frugality is more than just saving money. It is to control your money efficiently and adequately.
How To Be Frugal?
If you are still torn between frugal and cheap, why not try how to be one of them? In that way, you will get to know which one fits you. Here are some ways on how to be frugal:
Be A Frugal Shopper
What is the most considerable expenditure on your list? Grocery shopping! Most people would focus on spending more on food and less on other expenses, and we totally understand that! It’s hard to be stressed and hungry at the same time.
- Meal Plan
Making your own meal lets you get creative and saves you a lot. Eating out or buying food from a convenience store is not always healthy. Aside from that, you might not notice it, but you’re spending a lot more money that way.
It can be easier since you don’t need to do groceries and cook your food, which feels amazing. But you are actually paying for these services when you buy cooked meals since they’re a lot more $$$.
- Use the cashback app at supermarkets.
There are many cashback apps like Ibotta that you can use when you shop at your local supermarkets. While spending or shopping, why not get yourself some freebies when you shop?
- Buy In Bulk
Buying bigger packed tubs and things is cheaper than buying small ones. It’s definitely worth it when you’ve got big storage at home. Essentials such as detergent powder, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet rolls, and many more cost much less when bought in bulk. And these don’t expire quickly, so you can store them long-term.
Reform Your Finances
To be frugal is to take over your finances and manage your income and mindset. Keep track of your money; this helps you to save more. Check out these key factors to have healthy, frugal finance.
One of the key elements to having a healthy financial state is budgeting. In that way, you get to live frugally and manage your assets at the same time. To have complete control of your net worth, you have to have a budget. With this, you can balance expenses, make adjustments, and stay on top of your costs.
- Emergency Fund
Building an emergency fund means you are ahead of the game. When an emergency occurs, you won’t be stressing out yourself thinking about where to get money. It’s better to be prepared for possible cases such as car repairs, broken appliances, or accidents.
You will have peace of mind and be less worried knowing that you have a budget for such scenarios.
- Pay Your Debt
Paying your debt is a perfect way to start to live frugally and get one step closer to your financial freedom goals. So, if you still have remaining debt, make it a priority to pay them as soon as possible, especially for high-interest loans. The earlier you settle it, the less you will be dealing with its interest.
Get Things For Free
Think twice before buying something when you can get them at a low price or, better yet, for free. Things like newspapers and magazines can now be accessed online. You can read them on various news websites for free.
Or you can just go to a library near you. You can borrow books for free. If you’re not the paper kind of person, you can search for libraries that have an ebook selection to choose from. Try Amazon Kindle books too. They have unlimited free reading.
Aside from that, you can also get freebies on numerous websites, apps, and stores. You just need to know where to get them. Free toys for your kids, free magazines, free perfume samples for your parents, and even free air for tires. What a great way to save money if you know where and how to find them.
Money Making Apps
Enough with the saving part; it’s time to earn some extra cash! There are several ways to earn money with apps:
- 40 ways to earn extra money through side hustles
- Get free money on PayPal instantly
- Sign up for high-paying survey sites
Do The No-Spend Challenge
Challenging yourself is a way of learning the process of sticking to the plan or pattern. If you are having trouble with your spending habits, there are ways to avoid them, do yourself a favor and start doing the no-spend challenge; you will be glad you did it.
If you don’t know where to begin, you can check out our ultimate no-spend challenge guide, saving you time and money.
Get Clever With Your Cleaning Supply
Being creative and crafty lets you save tons of money on high-cost cleaning products, for example, by making your cleaning supply. You’ll be surprised at how it turns out cheaper and uses fewer chemicals too.
The good thing about doing it on your own is you get to use the leftovers to make other stuff. How great! This is one of the best ways to save money.
How To Be Cheap?
Cheap does not literally mean compromising your way of life. You still get to live well without wasting a lot of money, and you will have to have a lot of determination and discipline to do that. As you tend to look at buying differently, you can maximize your money with this.
Let’s check out some ways how to live cheaply. Once you get used to it, you’ll be able to live with contentment with just a tiny amount of money.
Find Out Where You Spend the Most
If you know where you spend your money the most, you will be able to make adjustments easily. We all know the common expenses that we pay monthly: utilities, housing, clothing, food, medical care, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Among those things, which one is the most expensive? Once you discover that, you can start making adjustments. Know where these are, and you can make the necessary changes to your life.
Cut back on those expenses that you don’t value spending money on. In that way, you get to save on many things per month. And the money that you do save will help you improve your personal finances. So start saving more money now.
Buy Used Items
To be cheap is to always be on a tight budget, so new products are out because they are expensive. Go for the used ones. Instead of buying new clothes, you can always get the same quality in boutique stores or thrift shops.
If you check inside your closet, you’d probably find that you don’t need new clothes at all. Call it what you want, but I haven’t bought any new clothes over the past 3 years.
My clothing ban reminds me that I have what I need to wear and don’t need anything new to feel good.
Besides clothes, chairs, tables, or desks are also good examples of buying used items. You can find plenty of these on Craigslist.
Always Shop With A List
When shopping for food, it’s best to make a list. That way, you will not wander off and get items that you don’t need.
If you don’t have a list, you tend to check out other products; that’s fine. However, your grocery bill can become double the usual amount. Purchasing on impulse does not have a positive result.
Some quick tips are:
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry; you always grab the food you think you want and never notice your basket is full.
- Use coupons when you shop; you can find them on supermarket brochures or on-site.
Haggling is an art of negotiation, so when you master it, everything else follows. Cheap people are known for bartering; you can find them on Goodwill or online flea markets.
You can also check out Facebook Marketplace. They have a barter community where you can exchange items with the same value or go to the buy-and-sell groups and check out their offers.
Use Free Gift Cards
Another way to live cheaper is to use free gift cards. Because less money means more savings. Use the free gift cards when you buy things, and surprisingly, it is very simple to earn them.
Take Advantage Of Free Community Resources
Your community often has sponsored free events, and you can make use of them. Free exercises, yoga classes, food sampling, flea markets, movie nights, or free admission to the museums.
Not only will it save you money, but you get to expand your connections as well. You may find some like-minded people, such as yourself, so you may get new tips on how to save more money as well.
There are plenty of things to do without spending money and still having fun.
You just have to check out your local bulletin or go to your city hall for upcoming events that you can take advantage of.
As A Result of the Frugal Vs. Cheap
To be frugal or to be cheap? No matter how much you explain their differences, the decision of which one to be is still up to you. Depending on your financial circumstances and your wealth goals, either of them can help you achieve it.
So know yourself first and understand where you stand in your life and your financial goals.
You might have to think about which one suits you better, which one will be easier for you, or which of the two will reach your goal faster. Being frugal is knowing the importance and value of money, while being cheap is beneficial since you save more money upfront when you purchase stuff at a lower price.
Regardless of which one you choose, both have benefits that can suit your personality and overall goals. Your ultimate motivation is that you want to become independently wealthy.
By doing this, you just might reach this goal and forget you had to first choose between being frugal or being cheap.
Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
- Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
- Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
- Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.