Money. Minimalism. Motherhood.
Savvy tips to help you save money, declutter your home, spend time outdoors and thrive in your season.

Are you frugal or are you cheap? Why the difference matters.

A white piggy bank

Frugality tends to get a bad rap. It can be mistaken for being cheap. A term that no one wants to be labelled by.

We all know someone in our lives who likes to skimp out on paying their fair share of the meal or skimps on putting money towards a present. They don’t own a car to save on forking out the bills but expect you to pick them up and drive them places. They might cry poor but you know they earn just as much as you, if not more. It’s stingy behaviour. It’s not cool.

So what exactly is the difference between being frugal and being cheap?

What frugal is?

Being careful with your spending

Finding creative ways to save money

Making ends meet

Reusing wrapping paper, ribbon and gift bags

Making food from scratch

Bringing your water bottle rather than buying one when out

Buying items on sale, clearance, or secondhand

What frugal isn’t:

Borrowing money from friends and not paying it back

Paying less than the agreed amount for a present

Taking free things that you don’t need

Not tipping or not tipping enough

Being an embarrassment to friends and family when you are out

Never wanting to go out because you don’t want to spend money

Choosing to buy the cheapest shoes and clothes only to have to replace them regularly because they break

How then, can you ensure that you are living a life of frugality rather than being cheap?

It can be a fine line between being frugal and being cheap. What matters most is your intention.

Are you trying to save money because times are tough or are you deliberately trying to get away with not paying your fair share?

If people are feeling awkward or embarrassed when being with you, that is a sign that you might be cheap.

If you cannot afford to eat out or tip, then perhaps you shouldn’t be going out. Stay home for a bit. Pick the most important events that you want to get to. Ask for gift cards for presents for clothing or experiences that you can use. Utilise coupons and discount vouchers to save money when going out.

Choose to go out for coffee rather than a meal. You could always bring a thermos or invite them over to your home instead. Look out for lunch or dinner specials. Ask for tap water with your meal and opt to have dessert elsewhere.

Scrimp on what you need to so you can spend guilt-free other times. It’s ok to save money. I’m a big believer in saving money to achieve your financial goals. It’s just not a good look to look miserable doing so or to do it at the detriment of someone else.

Consider getting a second job or side hustle if money is super tight. It can be stressful and just plain awful when the money coming in doesn’t cover what is going out.

I know for me, I’d prefer to work outside the home and side hustle to reduce the stress that comes from not having enough money.

For some people who have been injured, have a disability, a debilitating illness or condition, caring for someone or elderly, this won’t be possible.

Some readers might be isolated. Not have a car. Far from work opportunities. Life is really hard.

Serina talks about this in her book The Joyful Frugalista: Grow your cash, be savvy with your money and live abundantly. She discusses how although she is frugal, she is not cheap. There is a big difference.

In her first book ‘The Joyful Frugalista,’ Serina explains the difference between being frugal and being cheap.

The Frugalwoods have an amazing story. They have intentionally chosen to live an ultra-frugal life which has provided them with financial independence. The Frugalwoods have paid off their house and property and have retired early. They are worth following on social media and signing up for their weekly email list.

There is nothing wrong with being frugal and careful with your money. In fact, many millionaires built up their wealth by living frugally, and continue to live this way even though they could afford to spend more once they’ve made it. Thomas J Stanley looks at this in detail in his book, ‘The Millionaire Next Door.’

You might choose to bring your lunch and forgo takeaway coffee to enable you to travel overseas each year.

You might choose to catch public transport to work instead of paying for parking to enable you to save up for a newer car.

You might choose to use apps like ShopBack or Cash Rewards to receive discounts and cash back when you shop online.

You might choose to buy clothing from op shops and accept hand-me-downs from friends to enable you to save up for a new laptop.

Frugality might appear as if it is restricting your life. In actual sense, it is the complete opposite. It means you can sleep at night knowing you have savings in the bank. Knowing that you are consumer debt free. Knowing that your future is bright.

Going forward, you can make a conscious effort to choose frugality over being cheap. Being frugal can enable you to live your best life. Saying no to the frivolous and unnecessary frees up cash to do what you really want with it.

No one wants to be labelled as cheap. You can avoid this by still being generous with your time, resources and money.

When our focus is on the relationships we have rather than the money that is in our wallet, and the balance in our bank account, our life can be fun, full and fabulous.

Cheapskate Quiz

Take this quiz to see how you rank on our cheap scale:

  1. You take all of the tea, coffee and sugar sachets from hotel rooms.
  2. You take home the shampoo and conditioner bottles, even though you have plenty already.
  3. You avoid putting in money towards gifts at work.
  4. At an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, you eat until you can’t eat anymore, then wrap more food up in serviettes to take home for later.
  5. You attempt to haggle everything to get items at the lowest possible price.
  6. If you live in a tipping country, you avoid tipping when you go to restaurants or pay the lowest amount you can get away with.
  7. At Christmas lunch, you find the cheapest item to contribute.
  8. When buying a Kris Kringle present, you spend less than the specified amount.
  9. When leaving a dinner party, you take home any unopened snacks or drinks that you brought with you, rather than leaving them for the host.
  10. You enjoy listening to a busker play music but walk off without giving them any coins.

Scored between 0-2: A little cheap

Scored between 3-4: Pretty cheap

Scored between 5-7: Embarrassingly cheap

Scored between 8-10: Cheapskate

How did you fare? Leave a comment or I’d love to connect with you over on Instagram or Facebook.

Melanie Wegener

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