The Fine Line Between Frugal and Cheap

There is a fine line between being frugal and cheap. The two terms mean very different things to me and I find some people often get them confused. To me, living frugally means not necessarily going without but rather finding a cheaper alternative. Whereas the term ‘cheap’ I define as being more unwilling to pay one’s way.

Sometimes being frugal can earn you a bad wrap because some people automatically confuse this with being cheap and here, I intend to explain the difference. I like to consider myself to be fugal, I like to minimize my expenses where possible however I am always happy to pay my way and contribute my fair share. I do not strive to ‘sponge’ off other people or try to get out of paying at all.

I have recently experienced some examples of cheap vs. frugal living which is why I thought it timely to finally put pen to paper so to speak. A couple of weeks ago I made a last minute dash to the supermarket on a Saturday evening (about twenty minutes prior to closing). Now I grabbed what I needed and also had a quick look to see if any of my regular purchases happened to be on quick sale (being that it was nearing the end of the day- this is often when markdowns occur). Unfortunately on this particular occasion, I was out of luck with finding a good bargain. But I did witness something which I found to be rather shocking. Another customer appeared to be having a go at the Deli counter manager because none of the hot chickens had been marked down/reduced. I couldn’t believe my ears! Now, finding items that have been marked down is a combination of timing and pure luck (a frugal approach). The woman I witnessed was clearly being cheap. Abusing an innocent staff member for not having reduced chickens is purely a case of just not wanting to pay. Being that it was late in the day, this woman was expecting to find a cooked chicken on sale and became rather aggravated when she did not. I find the temerity of this woman simply astounding as she was not willing to pay the regular price (I noticed on her way out of the store her basket did not contain a chicken).

It’s situations like this that I believe can sometimes give frugal people a bad name. But that woman’s behavior is just not an accurate reflection of a normal frugal persons’ actions. I too was looking for a bargain markdown, however when I could not find what I was looking for at the price I wanted I paid full price for the items that I needed and walked away from the items that I could wait for a sale at a later date (I was willing to hedge my bets here).

I am frugal and definitely not cheap. Sometimes when I travel I will fly with a budget airline or try to buy a discounted airfare. However this does not mean, for example that when on a cruise ship I will not pay staff any gratuities they are entitled to. It is one’s actions that determine whether someone is frugal or cheap. Whilst I choose to live frugally where possible, I do not wish to be cheap and impinge on anyone elses’ life, choices or spending.

How do you differentiate between being cheap and simply living frugally? What situations have you ever witnessed?