Frugal Vs Cheap: What's The Difference & Why Does It Matter?

I wanted to explore money-spending habits and try to understand the difference between being frugal versus cheap.

I always thought of myself as more frugal than cheap. With a little bit more insight into the difference between frugal and cheap, I realized that I am more cheap than I am frugal.

Couple drinking wine

I was talking to my husband about being cheap versus frugal and he told me that I am cheap. He said being cheap is buying a pair of $10 shoes so you don’t have to spend too much, but then having to buy new $10 shoes every few months. This type of spending definitely reflects me and my spending habits.

My husband thinks of himself as a frugal spender. He will spend $200 on a pair of shoes and keep those same shoes for years and years. Now that I’m spending time thinking about frugal vs cheap, I’m realizing that it is much wiser to be frugal than it is to be cheap.

Being cheap versus frugal often leads us to buy inexpensive products that are poorly made and low in quality. Ironically, when you buy cheap products you end up having to spend more money. If you’re buying something that is poorly made, you will be losing the money you thought you saved when you have to constantly replace whatever it is.

I used to love getting my nails done. It made me feel pampered and beautiful. I haven’t gotten my nails done in 15 years because I wanted to save money. I decided that this was an example of me being cheap rather than frugal, so I decided to treat myself to a manicure. I couldn’t believe how much it lifted my spirits. Sometimes, spending that seems unnecessary, is actually more beneficial than we realize.

When it comes to clothing shopping, I don’t mind spending more on nice clothes for my kids, but I never buy nice things for myself. I have a lot of trouble rationalizing the purchase of highly-priced items for myself.

To take a page from my husband’s book, I decided to check out some clothing stores that I love that have high-quality clothing.

Clothing store

I’ve been avoiding shopping, or even entering these places for years, but now I’m starting to realize that spending a bit more for better quality can save money in the long run. I ended up shopping in the sales section and buying some great clothing.

Clothes for sale

Frugal vs cheap

Here’s a good cheap versus frugal test for cheap spenders like me. The next time you see a crazy discount and want to buy something because it’s cheap, ask yourself some questions.

Ask yourself if you need it. Then ask yourself if you love it enough to pay full price for it. Lastly, ask yourself honestly if you are willing to manage the extra item that you will be bringing into your home.

I am going to be focusing on questions like these and really consider each purchase. This will help me switch my habit of being cheap, to become frugal.

Did you know the difference between being frugal and cheap? Do you think you are cheap or frugal? Let me know in the comments section.

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2 of 6 comments
  • Patricia Patricia on Jan 18, 2024
    I wait until higher end stores have sales, it’s so beneficial. People often ask me where I got beautiful items, I’ve had many for several years that are classics. I buy pure silk blouses, marked down from $299.00 to $39.00 and the list goes on for many other items.
  • Avi30704729 Avi30704729 on Feb 12, 2024
    I am very frugal & maybe sometimes cheap. I love Chico's clothes as one example. So when I see something in a store or online at their site, I immediately copy the description and go to Ebay. No one believes the low prices I pay, as usually the item is found or another identical style but different print. Easy peasy. Same for many other items. Also DealWiki is a terrific site- they apparently scour sites to find the best prices on items & then list them. A great site for me! Thanks for your suggestions.