With all the talk about saving money that’s floating around online, I thought it would be worth talking about the distinction between frugal and cheap.
According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary…
1. economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful.
2. entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty.
1. costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive.
2. stingy; miserly.
To me, the most important distinction between the two is the concept of prudence that is inherent in frugality. So things like shopping smart, taking simple steps to save energy, etc., all fall into the realm of frugality. But it’s definitely possible to take things too far.
For example, buying your toothbrush on sale is frugal. But buying it used at a yard sale? Cheap. And more than a little disgusting.
What about saving water? Taking a page from a comment that I received earlier this month:
If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown… To the lawn?
Um, no. While I can live with the traditional version relating to “let(ting) it mellow” vs. “flush(ing) it down, ” especially given the drought that we’ve been suffering through in this part of the country, the above goes well beyond the limits of frugality (and, most likely, legality).
While the above examples are intended to be a bit (okay… entirely) over the top, there are many other facets of daily life in which we have to make this distinction…
For example, saving money by cutting back on basic maintenance tasks around the house? Cheap, not frugal. Buying store brands instead of national brands? Frugal, not cheap. Cutting your own hair instead of paying someone else to do it? That one really depends on your circumstances, your hair style, and your skills.
Where do you draw the line when it comes to frugality?