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Frugal vs. cheap

Frugal vs. cheap

Frugality sometimes gets a bad rap, because it is often confused with being cheap. However, there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. In general, frugal actions are those that save money and/or resources, while not harming anyone else. In fact they usually benefit everyone involved in some manner. Cheap actions, on the other hand, usually occur at the expense of others. They may damage relationships as well. Here are a few frugal vs. cheap examples:

Frugal Cheap
Saving excess napkins given to you to use later instead of putting them in the garbage Stopping into a restaurant for the purpose of taking napkins so that you don’t have to buy them yourself
Getting your food to-go to avoid spending extra money on drinks, appetizers, etc, but still leaving a tip Refusing to tip or under-tipping
Getting your pet’s shots done at the local animal shelter to take advantage of their low rates Not vaccinating your pets to save money
Using up extra condiments given to you instead of throwing them away Loading up on more condiments than you could possibly use so that you don’t have to buy them
Using the computer at the library to access the internet, so that you don’t have to pay for internet access at home. Using your computer at work (without permission) to access the internet, so that you don’t have to pay for internet access at home
Regifting a present that was not your style to someone because you know they would LOVE the gift Regifting a present that was not your style because you think it’s ugly & you just want to get rid of it
Creating your own decorative wrapping paper for a gift Handing over an unwrapped gift because you don’t feel like springing for wrapping paper
Using buy one meal, get one meal free coupons while eating out and tipping on what two meals would have cost Using buy one meal, get one meal free coupons while eating out and tipping on the cost of just one meal
View Comments (12)
  • You’re so right. People don’t like frugality because they don’t understand the difference between it and being cheap. Thanks for bringing out the difference!

  • Seems that the primary difference between cheap and frugal is that “cheap” means unethical, rude or thoughtless behavior. It’s a shame frugality gets such a bad rap!

  • I had a friend who worked at a sushi restaurant and he said that when you tip on take-out orders it doesn’t go to the waiter, it goes to the restaurant. This might have just been that place but I haven’t tipped on take-out since then for that reason plus the waiter isn’t actually waiting on me. Just like I wouldn’t tip at a McDonald’s drive-thru.

  • The restaurant that took their waiters tips were definately not being ethical. A tip is always supposed to go to the employees. That being said you should never tip on take-out. A cashier is not a tip based job. Tips are for waiters and drivers who actually do something to earn the tip.

  • Hm, I don’t know that I agree with you guys about the tipping thing. At the (sit-down) restaurant that I go to, when I get take out the server goes out of their way to prepare everything for me and have it ready when I arrive. They make sure it’s packed so that the cold things stay cold, and the hot things stay hot. They also take happily care of my special requests. But, maybe that’s because I tip ;)

  • wascashier: Are you referring to the comment from someone who said that cashiering isn’t a tip-based job? I didn’t even mention cashiers in my post. I also don’t do anything to earn a tip at my job, but that doesn’t mean I’m lazy. It just means that I’m in a job where people don’t get tipped.

  • What makes you think cashiers don’t earn their pay? Basta!

    However, I never expected tips as a cashier … and I didn’t have to deal with drunks leering at me (er, usually). That alone kept me from making $300+ a night bussing tables.

    Anyway, I enjoyed being the one who was the face of the business (or voice) to the customer and who made sure everyone got what they ordered in a timely manner (no thanks to the yahoos on the sub bench, let me tell you).

    I don’t know where you get the idea that cashiers are lazy … maybe it’s the occasional run-ins with stupid cashiers that can’t count.

  • Here’s my tip AND a question: When I go to coffee bars, instead of buying their overpriced pastries, I bring a low-price granola bar that I bought at the drugstore (usually less than a dollar) & get a plain coffee (not a Latte or Frappuccino). I do take the extra napkins I don’t use & I also take 2 packets of sugar or artificial sweetener whether or not I end up using them–is THAT cheap or frugal? I got made fun of for taking the extra napkins I don’t use–by someone who brown-bagged his lunch every day at work so that he & his wife could save for a house. They ended up having enough $$$ for the house; meanwhile, I have a huge debt, no house —– but plenty of secondhand napkins (and sugar packets).

  • afrugal: I would think the napkins thing could be considered frugal IF you didn’t pick up “extra” napkins to take to work. If they handed you a few extra at your table or in your togo bad, it’s not as though you can take them back up to the counter later. However, the sweetner issue may be considered a degree of cheapness. You are essentially taking an extra condiment the restaurant is paying for to be used in their business, and using it at work because you don’t want to buy a box of sweetner to keep at your desl. Assume for a moment that everybody who used sweetner decided to take one or two extra ones with them. The material costs for the restaurant would go up and eventually get passed on to the customers (raised prices). Those people who didn’t use sweetner would asborb a cost increase because of it.

  • About the napkin thing, cheap people wouldn’t be buying coffees in the first place. They probably drink instant coffees… Cheap is when a friend who constantly offers to shout you a drink but never ends up doing so! Cheap people will go back to a store to refund back a piece of $5 clothing. Cheap people constantly says things that they will never end up doing. Cheap people makes you don’t want to hang out with them…. =(

  • Isn’t there something wrong with a country that allows employers to grossly underpay their employees so that they need tips to survive? So much for the American dream and land of milk and honey.

    In my country tipping is virtually unheard of, and tourists (especially from the USA) are usually astounded when tipping to find it handed back.

  • Great article. Cheap people are trying to take adavnatage of things that are free. I am frugal and proud of that but not cheap. I would never take extra napkins and ketchup packets just to avoid paying for them. To the person who brings a granola bar with them get your coffee to go. I do bring snacks with me whenever possible but I do not eat them at a place where they sell them. The movies yes but it’s dark. Some movies theaters now do a bag check. Just be discreet.

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