Frugal Living Is Not The Same As Being Cheap

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Frugal living is often misunderstood.  Many people confuse being frugal with being cheap.  Let’s try to clarify this once and for all.

Being Cheap

For many people the word frugal seems to evoke images of Ebenezer Scrooge hunched over in a big chair rubbing two pennies together.  He is wearing those gloves with the fingers missing and he is rocking gently to and fro. He is mumbling bitterly to himself about Bob Cratchit and the Christmas bonus he has the nerve to ask for. He is eating cold soup out of a tin can.

Money Driven

Ebenezer Scrooge is a clear example of someone who is cheap.  He is the type of person who will do without basic comforts and buy stuff only because it is ‘cheap’.  His love is money and it is this unhealthy relationship with money that controls his behaviours.  He is blind to the joy of frugal living.

Being Frugal is Not the same as Being Cheap

Being Frugal is NOT the same as Being Cheap

Being Frugal

Enjoyment Driven

Frugal living is actually hedonistic and enjoyment driven.  Frugal living means knowing what brings you pleasure and making decisions that help you get more of the stuff that you love.  Sometimes it takes a while to find out what it actually is that brings one pleasure (there are oh so many distractions in a consumption driven society), but once the frugal-minded person finds it, they have a purpose.  They have found their reason for being frugal; the ‘end’ for their their means.

Focus on Value

A frugal person knows that the ‘cheapest price’ does not mean ‘best’.  Oftentimes you must pay more up front to get a good quality product, but it will serve you better and longer than an inferior product.  As such, it represents better ‘value’ despite the greater up front cost.  Frugal shoppers look for the best ‘value’ which is often not the same as the ‘cheapest’.

I will not buy cheap shoes, for example.  Cheap shoes are uncomfortable and don’t last.  Don’t be surprised if you see a frugal person who runs, stands, or walks a lot wearing excellent quality shoes – you should expect this.

If I remember correctly, Ebeneezer Scrooge wore stinky old boots with numerous holes in them and the soles were missing.  This is because he was cheap.  He put his love for money before his comfort and footwise enjoyment.  ‘Miser’able

Frugal Living Means Putting Those Savings to Good Use – Finding a Balance

So you have developed a frugal mindset that focuses of getting good value for your money.  What do you do now?  Well after you planned for things like paying off your debts, establishing an emergency fund, your retirement, other long-term goals, etc. focus on things that bring you joy and pleasure.  In fact you should be planning for the future and enjoying the things that you love simultaneously.  There is a reasonable balance that can be found.

Making Happiness and Enjoyment a Top Priority

Maybe you want to take unpaid days off to sit under a tree and read a good book, maybe you want to travel somewhere, maybe you want to help other people, maybe you want to have the best and latest electronic gadgets, maybe you want to collect PEZ dispensers, maybe you want to invest it for your child’s education, etc. etc.  It is up to you to decide how you wish to enjoy your frugal living dividend.

In short, being cheap means being driven by your love for money above all else. Frugal living is focused on seeking value and enjoying more of the things that matter to you most.  Call me frugal, but please don’t call me cheap.

What things bring you pleasure in life? What do you enjoy spending your money on?  LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW

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Author: Jason Milburn Google

Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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  1. Hey Jason, yet another great post here! I’ve gotta agree, being frugal definitely isn’t being cheap, it’s being smart. I love that you pointed out that being cheap is money driven while being frugal is enjoyment driven. Thanks for the great morning read!

    • Jason on August 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Hello Joshua,

    Thank you so very much for taking the time to share your comment. I’ve always been puzzled about why so many people seem to confuse being frugal with being cheap. I’m glad that you see being frugal as being enjoyment driven as well; that makes (at least) two of us that are enjoying it. I don’t feel quite as alone in my thinking. Is there anyone else out there? Hello … hello … hello … Calling all froogalists!

    Thanks again for taking the time to share, Joshua. I hope you’ll come back sometime very soon. I’ll see you over at CNA Finance.

    • Liz on August 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Well written. What’s your opinion regarding using a Groupon for a first date? Is that frugal or cheap?

    • Jason on August 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Hello Liz,

    Thanks for your response and for your compliment. Well … I think that using a coupon on a first date would indicate to me that dating was not a priority in the coupon-users life. This is probably NOT a message that you would want to send to most people on a first date. It sure would be amazing, though, if BOTH daters showed up with the SAME coupon. Then they could spend their money or time doing things that they both enjoy more than first dates. What do you think?

    Thanks again, Liz. Hope to hear from you again sometime soon.

    • Greg Laxton on August 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Nicely put. Being cheap is mindless stinginess, whereas being frugal is about balancing competing imperatives: budget, life goals, personal satisfaction, etc. as efficiently as possible. It is much more complex than merely being cheap.

    • Jason on August 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Dear Greg,

    You have put what I’ve been trying to say for 42 years into two beautifully concise sentences. Very well put. Thanks. Let me know if you would like to write a guest post and I’ll hook you up. I’m always on the lookout for great frugal-minded talent.

    Thanks for taking the time to write a response. I hope you hear from you again sometime very soon.

  2. “In fact you should be planning for the future and enjoying the things that you love simultaneously” Great point! The key to happiness is often finding the right balance; and like many endeavors, finding the right financial balance requires consistent reevaluation. As the factors that impact your financial planning change, so must you.

    • Jason on August 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Dear James,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You are right about financial balance being so important and that being in ‘balance’ is a continuous process that requires ‘consistent reevaluation’. Once you have a goal, you must monitor your progress towards reaching it and adjust as necessary to reach that happy balance. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts, James. I look forward to hearing from you again sometime soon.

    • Liz on September 5, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    🙂 you are funny! Thank you for your response,

    • Jason on September 7, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Hello Liz,

    Great to hear from you. I hope you’ll visit again very soon.

    Cheers, Jason (froogalist)

  3. This is SO true – especially about shoes. I love sewing and most of my clothes are either made from scratch or converted from charity shop purchases (sometimes I don’t actually have to alter the charity shop finds. Even better!) Yesterday I was wearing a skirt that I’d paid 50p for, a free jumper (from a friend) but my boots cost me £80 (and that was half price – I waited for the sales coz I couldn’t afford £160). Every year I buy a new pair of leather boots but because I have so many now in rotation some of my boots are over ten years old and still going strong.

    • Jason on March 1, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Dear Naomi,

    It was wonderful to read your message this morning. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    I think it’s terrific that you are so skilled at sewing. I can sew on a button, but that’s about it. It sounds like you have a lot of fun making clothes and altering stuff you find at charity shops. It would be great to be so skilled.

    Like you, all of my footwear is good quality and expensive (though normally, but not always, bought on sale). I have several pairs that are over ten years old as well and they still look great. One of the advantages of having several pairs in your shoe rotation is that you just don’t wear out the pairs that you do have as quickly. Cheap shoes are just not worth it as they are uncomfortable and do not last.

    I love being able to buy nice footwear. I love being able to do it without guilt because I live frugally in other ways so that I can buy the footwear that I want. It sounds like you do the same thing. It feels great doesn’t it? Ahhh … we are living the dream, Naomi.

    I also can’t help but chuckle when I get compliments on what I am wearing. The number of compliments I get seems to be inversely proportional to the price that I paid for what I am wearing. I love thinking about this when I go out shopping for new footwear 🙂

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment, Naomi. I look forward to chatting with you again sometime very soon.

    All the very best,


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