Sunday, January 6, 2008

The line between frugal and cheap

I am starting to wonder where this line is. Where does that line get drawn for you?

To me, it seems that the line gets drawn when you become unreasonable. I dated a guy who negotiated prices on a lot of things. But, the were big items - furniture, appliances, etc. If he did this everywhere he went, it would cross the line from frugal to cheap.

I have seen downright embarrassing acts of cheapness. I have learned a lot about where this line is for me and I never want to cross it. In that spirit, I have written myself the Ten Commandments of Being Frugal (Not Cheap).

  • I will bring tupperware to my parents' for a holiday to take home leftovers. I will not bring tupperware to a party thrown by someone not related to me.
  • I will find a way to eat reasonably at a restaurant by ordering a half portion, splitting an entree or having a less expensive appetizer. I will not forgo the waitress' tip to cut costs.
  • I will look for a great deal on a deeply discounted bottle of wine to bring to a party. I will never show up to a party bearing Two Buck Chuck.
  • I will clip coupons to save as much money as I can on tin foil and will buy generic if it's a better deal. I will not wipe off and reuse tin foil. The same goes for ziplock bags.
  • I will shop at high end consignment stores that have very good resale brand name clothes at excellent prices. I will not give such items as a gift.
  • I will turn off or keep my heat on very low and bundle up while I am home. I will not insist all people visiting my house bring their own parka.
  • I will feel no shame in finding a great deal on something fun and funky at a garage sale. I will never in my life "dumpster dive."
  • I will cook something for a potluck that people will enjoy that will not cost much (can we say potato or pasta salad?) I will not cut costs by only bringing enough for half the people at the potluck.
  • I will research the lowest gas prices and carpool if it is every possible. I will not take turns bumming rides off people without reciprocating the offer.
  • I will look for opportunities to save money on purchases by buying multiples or bulk. I will not buy and live on Cheezit's for 3 months because I could buy them at 75% off if I bought 20 boxes.

That's it. That's the list. Feel free to add to it. But, please don't cross the line. If you do we all reserve the right ot make fun of you. It's that simple.


Mark said...


Just took some time to read your story. I'm sorry for the bind you are in...but you certainly do seem to have your hands wrapped around it!

As one who notoriously blows through budgets, I wish you all the luck in sticking to yours. If you ever need someone to bounce ideas off of when it comes to making $ online, just let me know.

Best of luck!

- Mark

Steve said...

great list!! I've often come close to be being cheap, but the fear of being labeled "cheap" is what has kept me in line. Look forward to coming back to your blog.

Anthony said...

It is a fine line indeed. I tend to define the difference as when your frugality starts to effect others close to you in a negative way. If you're trying to make budgeting goals though it's something that you really have to be open with and discuss thoroughly with your family and close friends. That way they can help you along the way and keep you encouraged!


Mommy said...

Funny, I usually abide by all those rules and then some! For so long I thought frugal and cheap were one in the same, that of course was when I was working full time and had tons of money. Now, I see there is a clear difference and being frugal should never mean cheap and should NEVER mean living poorly. You can live a great life without spending a lot of money, I am so glad I know that now and good luck on your frugal and financial goals!

Take Care

Anonymous said...

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wish you healthy, wealthy and happy.

Louise said...

this is a great post, I thiink that frugal is where I choose to save money in some way so that I can spend that money elsewhere in ways that make my life happier. For me thats travel, not really possessions, you still need to enjoy life otherwise what's the point.

I think cheap is where people just want to spend the least possible no matter the consequences, and cheap people don't seem to have a lot of joy if you know what I mean !

Little Dough Girl said...

Awesome feedback. It seems that if it affects other people, you should stop it. I think we can agree to that...

hmsweaver said...

Love your list. My grandma used to wash, dry, and reuse plastic bags. I chuckled remembering her when I read that part of your post.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with the last one! I feel like I see people getting "deals" like that all the time. "Kraft Mac & Cheese was on sale AND I had a coupon so I stocked up for the month!" Your kids love mac & cheese, fine. You buy cheap foods because their on sale and forgo nutrition? Eh.

However, I don't see why re-using tin foil and bags when you can is cheap. Really, it's just ... not wasteful.

Anonymous said...

Ack! They're, not their. Oh no.

Mrs. Micah said...

It sounds like you're drawing the distinctions pretty well. :)

My rich aunt reuses ziploc bags. Not because she's cheap---she's rich from her huge salary---but because she can't buy "real" ziploc bags where she lives (a part of Denmark).

Reusing ziploc bags didn't make her rich, but to her they're a much more valuable resource, like tupperware to us. Made me think more about just throwing them away.

Anonymous said...

I agree for the most part but I find nothing wrong with "dumpster diving". I've found some fabulous things in and around dumpsters (although I WON'T root around in utter garbage to see what is there).

Also, I wash and reuse ziploc bags not because I am cheap (I but them at the dollar store anyway) but because I refuse to fill our landfills with tons of plastic just because a bag held a couple of cookies or a handful of pretzels!


Monroe on a budget said...

I think you struck a nice tone of "this is how I choose to be in my everyday life" while keeping in mind what's practical!