5 Signs You’re Frugal Not Cheap (Yes They’re Different)

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Frugal not cheap, what to say next time someone calls you the C word

Not that C word – geez, we’re a family-publication, although if you’re anything like me, being called cheap is almost as offensive.

That’s because I know I’m not cheap. I spend freely and give generously on things that are important to me. You probably do too.

But to an outsider, you deciding to skimp on something that they might not, puts you in a position of scrutiny. So the next time someone calls you cheap, here’s what you tell them.

1. Frugal is cool. Cheap is miserable.

There’s a reason a cheap person is called a miser. Frugality is admirable but cheapness is shameful.

Most people don’t brag about wearing their undies until they have holes in them (cheap and ewww), but they will let the world know they managed to buy high quality refurbished items for a fraction of the cost of brand new (frugal and awesome).

2. Frugal is selective, cheap is all-encompassing.

Frugal people have taken the time to decide what is important to them, and what simply isn’t.

When you’re frugal, you are prepared to spend on things that are important to you, and just as prepared to quickly eliminate any expense that gives you zero benefit.

Cheap is cheap always – nothing is ever worth spending money on.

3. Frugal buys quality once. Cheap buys junk over and over again.

Value over price.

When you’re frugal not cheap you understand that buying junk is a bad idea.

Buying a quality product usually means you’ll only need to buy it once and if it needs fixing, you’ve researched which manufacturers offer warranties and repair services. Frugal is smart.

4. A frugal life is one rich in experiences

Almost every frugal person I’ve met has life passions which fuel them to live frugally.

Mountain biking, trail running, travel, sailing, pottery. The list is endless.

These frugal friends realise money spent on junk they don’t need or love detracts from money they can spend on the things they love doing.

5. Cheap is not paying your dues, frugal is budgeting for them.

A friend of a friend visited the U.S. a few years back and told me this cringe-worthy story about tipping.

After the meal, the bill came and this woman and her friend paid the amount shown on the bill. They did not leave a tip.

After they left the restaurant, the server ran out on to the street after them asking if they had a problem or didn’t enjoy their meal.

“No”, they replied, “ Everything was lovely”.

“So why didn’t you tip?” asked the server politely.

“Because we’re from (country name) and in our country we don’t tip”.

I was horrified to hear this story and thought it to be the ultimate cheap act (and not one I would be proud of telling).

But suffice to say, when I took my parents to the U.S. earlier this year from a country that also doesn’t have a tipping culture, I prepared them for tipping. We incorporated 20% tips into our travel budget.

Because of that, we had nice servers and good experiences eating out and felt generally better about ourselves as humans.

I’m proud to be frugal, and my life is infinitely easier because of frugality. If you’re frugal too, great job!

If you’re interested in living more frugally, I have a bunch of articles you should read so that next time someone calls you the “C” word, you can hold your head high and tell them you prefer the “F” word instead.

More frugal living articles you might like:

About Emma Healey

Emma is a recognised family finance and budgeting expert and founder of Mum's Money. Her advice has been featured in Readers Digest, Yahoo Finance, Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, MSN Money and more.