You are using an unsupported browser Please switch to a supported browser so you can get the best experience on this site
Need Help? Contact Us or Live Chat
A person clipping coupons and another weighing grocery costs

What's the Difference Between Frugal and Cheap?

Embarking on a journey toward frugality is a common aspiration, yet many find themselves inadvertently veering into the territory of cheapness. Navigating this delicate balance requires a nuanced understanding of where frugality ends and cheapness begins. 

In this exploration, we'll unravel the intricacies of distinguishing between the two, examine whether frugality holds virtue and provide insights on gracefully avoiding the pitfalls of being perceived as merely cheap.

Key Takeaways

  • Frugal living involves a deliberate, resource-conscious approach, emphasizing financial responsibility, sustainability, and simplicity in a consumer-driven world.
  • Cheapness centers on minimizing costs, often overlooking quality, reviews, and long-term consequences, with a primary focus on spending as little money as possible.
  • Distinguishing between frugality and cheapness lies in considerations of quality, sustainability, and long-term planning, as frugality is generally viewed positively for its conscious and strategic approach to financial decisions.

Cheap vs Frugal definitions

What Is Being Frugal?

A frugal person is about carefully using money.

In a world that constantly encourages consumerism, frugal living has become an alternative lifestyle that focuses on financial responsibility, sustainability, and simplicity.

What Is Being Cheap?

A cheap person typically cares only about the price. 

Cheap individuals don’t like parting with their money. That’s one of the main reasons why they might start making others pick up the bill, for example.

Frugal vs Cheap

Frugality is generally viewed as a positive trait, while cheapness is typically viewed as negative. At first glance, cheapness and frugality might seem like they have a lot in common. After all, both of the terms refer to how people choose to spend and save their money.

Differences between Frugal and Cheap





Frugal people appreciate quality but are not willing to overpay for it. That means that they will look for ways to lead a quality life without spending more than necessary.


Cheapness is about simply finding the product that has the lowest price. The reviews and quality of the item do not matter.



A frugal person is typically thinking about the future when making money-related decisions. When finding the best deal for a high-quality item, the individual considers the warranty that comes with the product and the overall service life.


When it comes to cheap individuals, they tend to live here and now. They aim to spend as little money as possible. And the chances are high that they will continue doing that throughout their whole lives.



A frugal person is a very conscious buyer who weighs all the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ before making up his mind. Thanks to this trait, frugal people do not produce as much waste as others.


Though cheap people don’t like spending money that does not mean that they can’t be impulse buyers. In fact, such individuals are more likely to buy an item that they don’t need simply because it is at a gigantic discount.


Quality of life

A frugal person might not grab every single opportunity that comes his way, but such an individual typically understands what he’s most passionate about, and is ready to spend money towards that.


As cheap people try to not spend any cash, they will avoid hanging out with people or going somewhere if it involves paying. Unfortunately, this can result in a boring and uneventful life.


Examples of Being a Frugal Person

If you have recognized yourself in any of the following examples, you’re most likely a frugal person:

  • You can splash out on things when the right opportunity arises (for example, by spending thousands on a vacation or a couple of hundred on an extraordinary gift)
  • You have been meal planning for quite a while already as you prefer to take lunch to work with you and have delicious dinners at home instead of dining out
  • You typically need a day or two or even longer to justify a purchase
  • You like to shop around and look for coupons and discount codes

Examples of Being a Cheap Person

Here are a few signs that indicate that you might be a cheap person:

  • If your coworkers are planning a party or a birthday surprise, you will avoid attending in order not to spend cash
  • You shop only on sales and you always buy the cheapest item you can find
  • Your household items tend to break down quite often
  • You have no master plan for your financial future

Frugal vs. Cheap

Why Choosing Frugality Triumphs Over Cheapness

Frugality stands out as an optimal approach for both saving money and strategically planning for the future.

In essence, embracing a frugal lifestyle entails leveraging all available resources—money, energy, or time—to their utmost potential. This mindful utilization allows for a comprehensive optimization of resources.

Adopting such a lifestyle gives you a heightened sense of financial control, precisely tracking where your money is allocated. This conscious approach empowers you to make informed decisions and fosters a greater sense of financial well-being.

Things To Avoid and How To Overcome Being Cheap

If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of frugality tipping into cheapness, consider these insightful tips to foster a more balanced and fulfilling financial approach.

1. Spend Intentionally

Cultivate thoughtful spending habits by aligning your purchases with your core values. Create a budget that reflects your financial priorities, and make adjustments where necessary.

Related: 9 Budget Tips to Spend Wisely

2. Avoid Penny-Wise, Pound Foolish Decisions

Resist the allure of low-quality items merely because they are cheap. Opt for higher-quality options that, in the long run, can save you from additional expenses on repairs or replacements.

3. Steer Clear of Illegal or Unethical Ventures

Resist the temptation to resort to illegal or unethical activities for quick financial gains. The potential consequences far outweigh any short-term benefits.

4. Tip Appropriately

Factor in tips when budgeting for meals out. Acknowledge the hard work of service industry professionals by including gratuities, and contributing to a fair and ethical spending approach.

5. Thoughtful Gift-Giving

Demonstrate your care through thoughtful, budget-friendly gifts. Consider DIY presents or invest time in finding meaningful, inexpensive items that reflect your understanding of your loved ones.

6. Value Your Time

Redirect your time and energy towards activities that enhance your skills or income potential. Investing in education or pursuing side gigs can contribute more significantly to your financial well-being than constantly chasing the cheapest deals.

7. Align with Priorities

Keep your goals focused, ensuring that your money-saving efforts contribute to a larger purpose. Define your priorities and use them as a compass to guide your financial decisions.

8. Craft a Financial Plan

Establish a comprehensive financial plan that encompasses your income, expenses, and goals. This plan serves as a roadmap for effective money management and provides a safety net for unexpected emergencies.

9. Tactful Money Management

While it's acceptable to ask for repayment, avoid incessantly nagging others. Evaluate your relationships and consider whether lending money aligns with your values to prevent future complications.

10. Enhance Emotional Intelligence

Develop emotional intelligence to curb impulsive spending tendencies. Practice active listening, self-awareness, and receptivity to feedback to create a healthier relationship with your finances.

11. Teach Responsible Financial Habits

Recognize the importance of imparting frugal, responsible habits to future generations. Strive to strike a balance between thriftiness and judicious spending, instilling valuable lessons in your children.

In the pursuit of financial prudence, it is crucial to transcend mere frugality and navigate away from the pitfalls of cheapness. By incorporating these strategies into your lifestyle, you can foster a mindset that values intentional spending, prioritizes long-term benefits, and embraces a holistic approach to financial well-being. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just saving money for its own sake but to secure a prosperous and fulfilling future.

About this blog

Browse through the Blog to read articles and tips on managing debt, improving your credit and saving more money!