Over the years of running this website I’ve done a ton of research on frugal living and intense saving money ideas. Recently, I’ve had a couple emails come in about the differences between being frugal and just being downright cheap and it got me thinking what really is the difference between frugal vs cheap?

Both of these words describe someone who is trying to save money, but they are very different from one another. Being cheap is a mindset that starts when the line of frugal living moves a little bit too far.

From what I’ve learned over the years being cheap is only about saving money, regardless of quality; being frugal is about prioritizing your spending for things you truly want and not sacrificing quality to save a quick buck.

Let’s start digging into all the other differences between frugal vs cheap!

Frugal Vs Cheap

What Does Being Frugal Look Like?

When you’re frugal you are extremely conscious about how you spend your money as well as how you spend your time. A lot of people think that being frugal means that you’ll always just purchase the least expensive item, however, frugal people are more likely to care about the cost AND quality of an item.

Before purchasing a large item, a frugal person will do a ton of research to find the best quality for the cost while also making sure it fits into their budget.

Frugal living means that you are saving money without entirely sacrificing your lifestyle and sanity. A frugal person loves to save money but they will never do so at the expense of others, a great example of this is giving tips at a restaurant, a frugal person knows that people live off these tips and won’t skimp, but a cheap person might.

A huge part of being frugal is making plans for the future of your finances and having a ton of patience to wait for the things you want instead of sacrificing your financial freedom for short term happiness.

What Does Being Cheap Look Like?

When you’re cheap you are entirely focused on saving money regardless of what that means. You’ll sacrifice quality just to save a few dollars and will buy a ton of things on sale. A cheap person will feel like every single thing in the store is overpriced, regardless of quality.

If you’re cheap, chances are you’ve bragged to your friends about how you saved a few dollars by buying something at a garage sale or got it on super clearance. You may even go as far as talking down to your friends who spend their money in ways you don’t approve of.

A cheap person will try to save themselves money regardless of who it may hurt. For example, they may order a larger meal at a restaurant but they will skimp out on giving a tip that reflects it because they want to save a bit of money.

You may even see a cheap person participating in freeganism, a phenomenon where people will find food that has been thrown away in grocery store dumpsters that has gone bad.

Being cheap may even mean that you do things that are a little unethical (stealing a neighbours wifi?) just so you can save a few dollars. A cheap person also won’t buy things they actually need, for example, they may not go to a doctor or buy necessary medication because they feel it’s too expensive.

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How to Stop Being Cheap

Learning how to stop being cheap is not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. You really need to focus yourself on transitioning from valuing cost vs valuing value.

I’ll be honest, when I was in college…. I was cheap. I wouldn’t buy anything that wasn’t on sale and my entire wardrobe was falling apart. I’d wear an outfit maybe 5 times before strings would start falling out and I never realized that buying better quality items would actually save me money in the long run.

Take a few days to think about your life, you’ll probably see that your quality standards aren’t where you’d like them to be. Think about how far you’ve let them slip and slowly make transitions towards being more frugal.

Want more information on frugal living? Here’s a few articles that can help you get there: