Be Frugal, Not Cheap, And Keep Your Friends In The Process

Be Frugal, not cheap

The comparison of a frugal versus cheap lifestyle is in order as there tend to be some misconceptions, which I will try to address in this article. In particular, I will give you my view on frugality, the distinct differences between being frugal and cheap, and the overall mindset of both ideas.My definition of frugality is living well below your means, practicing purposeful spending, and prioritizing savings.

According to Dave Ramsey’s advice, every dollar has a name. When you get your paycheck, funds get allocated to expenses, liquid reserves, and savings. Of course, each of these buckets may have multiple sub-categories, but the key to frugality is that it lends itself to the process of saving money.

Essentially, every paycheck provides a finite amount of money. The process of increasing savings necessitates reducing elsewhere, namely expenses. In order to reduce expenses, oftentimes, we have to make a decision on how to cut those costs, as some methods may be more drastic than others.

Frugal versus Cheap

Frugality is not the same as being cheap.

You may have witnessed the terms frugal and cheap being used interchangeably. Other than sharing some of the same characteristics, they differ in many ways. Let’s explore a few situational examples to provide a clearer view between the two terms.

Being Cheap

  • routinely going to dinner with a friend and expecting them to pay
  • expecting to get a deal on things and settling for subpar items for a good price
  • seeking the lowest price – always
  • shamelessly re-gifting or gifting used items
  • not bringing a dish to the potluck, but helps themselves to all the offerings


Being Frugal

  • eating out with friends less often or inviting friends over for home-cooked meals
  • willing to pay a premium for items that are of good quality
  • seeking value for the money – mostly
  • purchasing gifts well ahead of time to avoid going over budget or crafting do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts, if you have a creative side
  • bringing a yummy cost-effective dish to the potluck, like Simple Yellow Chicken Curry or Seasonal Veggie & Ham Quiche which can be adjusted in size and cost depending on the size of the group

Related article: A Woman’s Guide To Frugal Fashion

The Mindset

The main idea behind the distinction between cheap and frugal is the underlying mindset that drives each of the approaches.

The cheap mindset emphasizes the intrinsic value of money in and of itself. This approach would have one believe that money is to be collected and that great pains should be taken to keep it. This is a short-term mindset as there is no end goal.

money, money bag, giftOn the other hand, the frugal mindset emphasizes the money as a means to an end. It is not the money itself that is valuable, but rather the items or experiences that it makes possible. From this perspective, it is not a “crime” to spend money as long as there is value behind the expenditure. This is a long-term, goal-oriented mindset as frivolous expenses of the present are sacrificed for the more valuable expenses of the future.

Keeping Your Friends

This section is for the people who are curious as to why it’s easier to keep friends when you are frugal and not cheap.

One of my beliefs is that a genuine friend is there for you through thick and thin. Generally, you find this characteristic most often with family members – because you can’t get rid of them, right?

But to find a friend that will still be there when you decide to live a cheap lifestyle may be a task unto itself. This is why it’s more socially acceptable to be frugal and not the annoying cheap friend.


Because being frugal doesn’t affect your friends, and being cheap does.  

For instance, if a frugal friend shows up to dinner, they pay for their portion, and heck they may pay for yours too.

Alternatively, with a cheap friend they may show up to dinner and end up embarrassing you by doing a number of things to keep their end of the cost down – to the point that it’s not enjoyable to be around them.

Be Frugal, Not Cheap, And Keep Your Friends In The Process

Final Thoughts

This discussion is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach. There may be a time in one’s life in which being cheap is a necessity to survive. I know, I have been there. In time, these views may shift, and enhance the ability to live a more fulfilling life. Implement what works the best in your life at the current time, because this is a very personal decision that only you can make for yourself.

Get the comprehensive 11-question quiz + spending spectrum explanation + answer key to determine what level of spending you fall in. Get it by signing up below and share it with your family and friends!

Follow me @fulltimedollars on social media and sign up below for updates via email. Talk to you soon!

Get The Free Quiz!


Subscribe for the comprehensive spending level quiz + future freebies related to planning, budgeting, saving and much more. Plus, receive FTD content straight to your inbox!

No spam. I promise. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

What are your thoughts on my take of frugal vs. cheap?  Share your input in the comments below!

Original photo credit:  Pixabay

Last edited 11/7/2017


5 thoughts on “Be Frugal, Not Cheap, And Keep Your Friends In The Process

  1. I struggled with this for a while lol! It was hard because even from a young age, I didn’t feel I should ‘eat’ all my money away. I got older and I remember a friend wanting to go to a nightclub and to buy a liquor bottle was about $1000, which I said ‘hell no’. I always called it being smart with my money. Of course I spent money, But like you mentioned, I like experiences. I love to travel and never had a problem including that in my budget, but would I spend hundreds on dollar on liquor I could purchase for less than a tenth of the price? Nope!

    Great article I really liked it!

    1. Wow, $1,000 for a liquor bottle, now that’s something! I agree with you, at some point in time most of us FI people have cheap tendencies, but I have evolved since that time. I like to see it as working towards a goal but also being able to “live” while you get there. It makes my day that you liked my article. Thanks for sharing, Gabe.

      1. Yeah South Florida night clubs are insane…

        I agree about evolving as well. I don’t want to ruin too much because I plan on writing about it, but I believe the best way to reach Financial Independence is consistency, and the only way to stay consistent is by being realistic.

Leave a Reply