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Frugal vs. Cheap Part Two

Ylan Mui

We've gotten a lot of great comments from readers and other bloggers about what they see as the difference between being frugal and being cheap. There seems to be some consensus that being frugal involves skimping on yourself and being cheap means skimping on others -- whether in terms of money or thoughtfulness.

Here are two more responses that we wanted to share with you. And keep 'em coming!

Sharon Harvey Rosenberg of The Frugal Duchess: For instance, I love muffins, and as part of my daily routine, I used to pick up a tasty corn muffin from a little café near my home. Of course, anyone watching my regular trips to the muffin shop might wonder about my commitment to thrift. Shouldn’t that muffin money be saved?

But here’s my secret: I believe in living well. I believe in delicious corn muffins. And I love spending money on trips, trinkets and people I enjoy. I just don’t believe in wasting limited resources (time, money and the environment). Quite simply: I’m frugal, not cheap.
I hunt for bargains and save up for the things I really want. I also cut back on various expenses based on priorities and long-term goals. For instance, when I buy a muffin, I’ll brew gourmet coffee at home. Or I'll go out for a coffee, but I'll eat a brown bag lunch filled with homemade treats. I’ll purchase an expensive skirt — ideally at a deep discount — but I’ll cut back on the use of our central air conditioner when I’m home alone. It’s all about choice and values.

Kathy and Emy of MoneyUnderYourFuton: Frugality is taking simple measures to save money, while cheapness involves going through great lengths to save a little bit of money, often at the expense of others. In the former category I would include using coupons and exercising restraint and not buying things that aren’t necessary.

Cheapness, on the other hand, describes actions like under-tipping under the assumption that others in the group will put in more money when the total amount falls short without noticing that it was your fault, or figuring that the waiter won’t notice until you’ve left the restaurant; unpeeling onions and picking grapes out of the stem in the grocery store so that you don’t pay for the peel or the stem (how much money can you really save doing that?! Does it really add up?); and arguing with your roommate that the monthly water bill should be pro-rated because he had a friend over for a night who presumably used water. None of these examples are hypothetical, by the way – I have actually met people who have done at least one of these things.

By Ylan Mui  |  June 2, 2009; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  Faces of Frugality , Ylan Q. Mui  
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