January 23, 2010

Being Frugal Does Not Mean Being Cheap


Money Pile

In this, ‘The Great Recession’, a lot has been said about people cutting back and spending less.  We’ve all seen the effects of this retraction from the free-flowing money days of just a few years ago.  Back then people thought I was cheap.  I’ve always had this seemingly abnormal fear of poverty.  I could blame it on my mom and spend years in therapy or I could embrace my cheapness.  Except, I wasn’t cheap!

Dictionary.com defines cheap as miserly or stingy.  These have a very negative connotation and I’m neither of these!  Sure, I may not want to spend $15 on a chicken sandwich for lunch but that’s just good sense in my mind.  I’m a bargain hunter, a deal seeker, a woman on a mission!  I’m not cheap, just ask my hubby.

So what does frugal mean?  Many people think cheap = frugal, so if you did then you’re likely in the majority.  Frugal has a bit of a negative tone to it but it sounds more 1960s June Cleaver-ish.  According to Dictionary.com frugal mean practicing economy, living without waste, thrifty.  Now that’s me!  I choose not to spend my money on things I can instead plan ahead for on my own.

Frugal people definitely do things a bit differently.  They tend to spend, consumer and give differently.  It is all very purposeful rather than just about the dollars.  Both the frugal and the cheap often have the same tendencies — buying things on sale, eating at home, packing lunch, etc.  The difference, though, lies in the reason behind the choice.

A cheap person buys on price alone.  A frugal person tends to buy on value.

A cheap person will go out to dinner and spend his last dime.  A frugal person will invite you over for a nice home cooked meal.

A cheap person will buy something because it’s on sale.  A frugal person will buy something on sale if they have a need for it.

A cheap person will spend $10 on a gift you don’t want.  A frugal person will spend $5 on a gift they know you really want.

A cheap person acts in their own self-interest.  A frugal person makes decisions that is best for themselves and their family.

A cheap person eats out and doesn’t leave a tip.  A frugal person orders so they stay within their budget which includes an appropriate tip.

A cheap person often doesn’t care about quality.  A frugal person will often spend more for a quality item and considering the long term cost.

A cheap person won’t care about throwing things away since they have no value.  A frugal person will research ways to make something last longer.

A cheap person will complain about money.  A frugal person will discuss ways to make money go farther.

These aren’t scientific facts, just my perspective and opinion.  Being frugal is about making informed choices instead of impulsively acting.  I know I can’t have everything, but I can plan so that those things I do have are things I really want.  Being frugal isn’t about depriving myself or my family or my friends.  Rather, it’s a way of life that focuses on finding out what is really important.  So instead of telling yourself ‘I can’t afford it’, use frugal framing (like that fancy psychology phrase I came up with?) and say ‘I choose not to spend my money that way’.  Remember, being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap!

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