What's the Difference Between Cheap and Frugal?

A Millennial Grandma
by A Millennial Grandma

Many wonder what the difference between being cheap and frugal is. I'm going to share what it means to be frugal and what it means to be cheap, along with tips on frugal living that will save you money.

What does it mean to be frugal versus cheap?

Personally, for me, being frugal means being intentional with your money. It means prioritizing what it is that you're spending your money on. Whereas being cheap, for me, means buying the least expensive item without even thinking about the quality of that item.

When I was in university, I would browse around and buy the cheapest thing in H&M or Forever 21 without even thinking about if it was something that was going to last a few years.

Growing up and some years have passed, I've been thinking more about the quality of items that I purchased. Is the thing something that will last me for a long time down the road, so I don't have to repurchase that item?

Frugal vs cheap money saving tips

If you're being cheap, you're looking only at the dollar cost of that item. If you're being frugal, you're looking at the overall value of that item.

Another difference between what it means to be frugal versus what it means to be cheap is that by being frugal, you're prioritizing your spending, so you're thinking carefully about each item that you purchase versus cheap. You're not buying something on a whim just because you see it's cheap.

Frugal living tips for you to get started

1. Have a budget

First, start budgeting. Having a budget is crucial for your financial success. Early on in my financial journey, I didn't have a budget. I was spending money left and right, buying cheap items versus continuously assessing and reassessing what I needed and wanted. Now I have a plan for purchasing the things I want and how to get there.

Within your budget, you can prioritize things that matter and cut out things that don't.

Money saving tips

2. Sell things you don't need

Another frugal living tip is for you to sell things that you don't need. Take a look around your home, find items that you haven't used in the past few weeks or months and consider what you will be using down the road and things that you can pass along to someone else that will get the value and use out of it while earning money for you. I've used Facebook Marketplace in the past, but you could also use other sites or apps such as Poshmark or eBay to sell things you haven't used in a while.

3. Buy things you do need used

Try to see if there's anything that you need that you could buy used. You can go to thrift shops, antique stores, and Facebook Marketplace to see if anyone has an item you are looking for and buy it used instead of going to a store and buying something brand new. You can save a lot of money while getting excellent quality items that you wouldn't be able to afford new.

4. Know what's in your pantry

Another frugal living tip is for you to know what is in your pantry, fridge, or freezer. Knowing what you have makes you more likely to use it up before it expires or goes bad. I look at the vegetables I need to use up or condiments about to expire to try to incorporate more recipes that would use them. Knowing what I have in my pantry, fridge, and freezer makes me more likely to use it during the week. It ultimately saves me money because I don't have to go to the grocery store and buy an item I already have.

The difference between cheap and frugal

5. Evaluate subscriptions

Another frugal living tip is to evaluate your subscriptions. We can get so many subscriptions nowadays - from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Audible, food subscription boxes, makeup subscription boxes, etc.

It becomes overwhelming after a while, and you lose track of spending vs. what you're actually using. For example, at the beginning of this year, I saw that we had an Audible subscription deducted from one of our credit cards. I realized we didn't even use the subscription over the past year. I called and canceled it because it's not something we use anymore, and it was being charged to our credit card annually at the beginning of the year.

Look at your credit card or your statements and see if any deductions are being taken out for subscriptions, then see if it's something that you won't miss if you cancel it.

The difference between cheap and frugal

I've talked about the difference between what it means to be frugal versus what it means to be cheap and gave you some tips on how you can apply frugal living more into your daily life.

Remember, it's not just the cost of the things you buy that you should consider; it's the overall value for you long-term. Use the tips for being frugal without being cheap, which won't save you money in the long run.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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