frugal vs cheap

Frugal vs Cheap. How do they differ exactly?

Does being frugal mean you are cheap? In this blog post, I will share what it means to be frugal vs cheap.

You must have heard the word frugal being used a lot recently. It’s the new hype in town.

Most people have embraced this lifestyle. People are talking about and sharing their experiences.

Frugal living has a lot to do with the intentional use of money.

The aim is to get value for a product or service and avoid waste. Frugal people don’t just patronize because the cost of a service is cheap.

A lot of consideration goes into making a decision about a purchase.

Frugal definition

According to the oxford dictionary: Using only as much money or food as is necessary

Cheap definition

According to Oxford dictionary: Cost little money or less money than you expected.

Differences between frugal and cheap

Cheap people are unwilling to spend money, while frugal people are willing to spend only the necessary amount of money.

As life will have it, there is a wide range of cost for every single item you want to purchase.

You can opt for a cheap version and end up having to replace that purchase in a couple of months or years.

Or on the other hand, you can opt for a reasonably priced option and enjoy your purchase.

As a frugal person, you look for deals and can appreciate the value in something, a cheap person would never do this.

They would continue to buy an inferior product instead of looking for a better deal or spending more money.

It takes a lot of effort and patience to find just the right deal.

Sometimes, depending on what you want to purchase as a frugal person, you might have to wait for months for the item to be on sale so you can buy it.

It also means that you would have to research and compare different brands that manufacture the same product to see which one has more value for your money.

You, as a frugal person will spend your time, it could be weeks or hours researching a product.

And as usual, a cheap person will just buy on impulse because the product is cheap.

When does frugality become bad

Frugality although a good lifestyle can sometimes be bad. Too much of everything is bad.

Let me give you a scenario. You spend 5 hours researching online because you do not want to pay the original price for a baby bib which costs 10 euros in your local store.

You finally find a bib which costs 5 euros and comes with free shipping. The bib however will be shipped from China and will arrive within a week from the day of purchase.

You go ahead and make the purchase. A week arrives and the bib is nowhere to be found, 2 weeks pass by.

 After 3 weeks you start to get furious. There is no response from the seller even after you sent an email.

Finally, after a month it arrives and upon opening the package, you realize the bib is torn.

Can you realize the amount of time wasted and mental stress you would have experienced all because of saving 5 extra euros?

Frugal vs cheap. Am I a frugal or cheap person?

Frugal people are careful with their money, cheap people spend all their money on things they don’t need and sometimes barely use.

Just because something is cheap does not mean you have to buy it.

Frugal people are not reckless with their money, but cheap people would be reckless with how they spend their money because they don’t care about having money in the future or even now.

As a frugal person, you would buy secondhand merchandise because it’s an opportunity to get something for less money whether the product was used or not.

Thrift shopping is one of the easy ways to save money because prices are low and you can find really good deals on items like clothing, accessories, furniture, and shoes.

 It’s very common for frugal people to search out thrift shops, yard sales, and other secondhand venues.

Frugal people are willing to spend money on things that are worth it, but cheap people would never do that unless the price was right.

Frugal people aren’t materialistic but cheap people may be in order to fit in with the wealthiest in their social class in society.

Frugal people may buy new things when needed like cars and home appliances, but they will buy them at a reasonable price after some research about the purchase has been done.

frugal vs cheap

More differences between frugal vs cheap

Frugal people use coupons and shop sales to be able to afford the things they want in life like vacations and nice dinners out on the town.

You are frugal if you don´t have credit card debt. You don’t spend more than what’s in your budget. You pay credit bills off every month in full.

Consider yourself cheap if you buy as much as possible on credit. You are not be able to pay it back causing you to fall even further into debt.

You are a frugal person if you never buy anything just because it’s on sale, you wait for the right moment to get what you want.

Cheap people will only spend the least amount of money and still expect to have everything they want.

Frugal people are careful with their money so they can have enough for their retirement years.

Whereas a cheap person usually won’t have any retirement fund because they spend everything they get including all their raises and bonuses.

Frugal vs cheap. How the two lifestyles differ

As a frugal person, you care about your belongings because you only buy things that will last and take proper care of them so you can use them for a long time.

Cheap people won’t even bother to try to fix something if it breaks because they don’t care about their possessions as much as frugal people do.

Frugal people will shop around to find the best deals and compare prices, while cheap people only go to the first place they see without checking other places.

When cheap people find a cheaper price than what they originally wanted to pay they will still spend the money because they think that they got a good deal even if it’s not.

Cheap people will take any job to keep them afloat, while frugal people wouldn’t accept a job unless the pay is worth the hours and to have enough free time for things like family or hobbies.

Frugal people can afford to pay for things they want, while cheap people need someone else’s money in order to buy anything they want.


Cheap people think that frugal people are being wasteful with their money because they spend it on big purchases, some cheap people would never dream of buying.

Even some more difference. Frugal vs cheap

Frugal people agree that you should spend less than you make, while cheap people think that you should try to get as much as possible from your money.

Frugal people would save a little bit of their paycheck each month, while cheap people don’t.

Cheap people won’t spend their money to help others even if they need it, while frugal people would help someone out if they have a little bit extra.

Frugal people usually have what they need and a little extra, while cheap people always need more whether it’s for themselves or their family.

Cheap people usually don’t go on vacations because it costs too much money, while frugal people can afford to go on a vacation every now and then.

Cheap people will only buy something if it’s the lowest price possible, while frugal people would buy the object because it’s something they need and will use often even if it’s not on sale.

Frugal people usually have a savings account and invest their money in order to get a better return, while cheap people don’t invest anything because they think it’s not worth the extra effort.

How can I be frugal but not cheap?

If you want to be frugal, try to set some money aside each week or month for something special

Be willing to pay a little bit more for something of better quality if it’s going to last longer than the cheaper version.


Buy things on sale but only if you know that you will use them and they are a good price.

Don’t be afraid to spend a little bit more on something if you know you will use it and get your money’s worth.

Try to avoid paying full price for some things, even if it’s going to go on sale later. Just wait until it does so you don’t have to pay the extra tax.

Buy clothes that are on sale, make sure you like the color and design as well as the quality and it’s something you will actually wear.

Try not to spend all of your money on something right when you get paid, save some for bills and an emergency fund.

If you get more income try not to spend it all on things you want, save some.

If you are frugal try to have a savings account so that when an emergency happens you will have the money you need.

Be willing to wait until something is on sale or if it’s not worth buying because of the price then just don’t buy it at all

Frugality vs cheap. Which is the best?

From all the comparisons I have made in the paragraphs above, I bet you can make a conclusion by yourself. If you still cannot, do not worry, I am here to help.

It is of no doubt that, a cheap person is inconsiderate most of the time. A cheap person is usually wasteful. 

A cheap person has only her interest at heart. She saves money but not resourcefully.

On the other hand, a frugal person is more about intentional money management. 

She thinks about how her actions concerning purchases will potentially affect herself as well as others and in most cases, the planet.

The difference between being frugal vs cheap is crystal clear.

Frugal vs cheap. Which are you?

Take this quiz to find out if you are frugal or if you cheap

Is frugality a bad practice?

To answer this question I will go ahead and tell you NO. Living a frugal lifestyle is not a bad practice.

There are several lifestyles people choose to live. Frugality is one such. As a frugal person, you are being intentional about your finances. It is a very good thing.

Money is not the easiest thing to come by these days. Also learning to be grateful for your finances and using them wisely is a great thing to continue to do.

Is it offensive to be called Frugal?

If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have answered yes. I knew I was careful with money.

I got teased because of that. I was offended when I was called “chisel” (this is a slang word used for frugal people by some Ghanaians).

After years of research, I came to the conclusion that my frugal lifestyle was not an abomination after all. It is indeed a thing.

Today, I claim the word “chisel”, I carry it with pride because I know the importance of being intentional with my finances.

So my answer, it is not an insult to be called frugal.


I hope you enjoyed this article and also I hope I have educated you today about the difference between frugal vs cheap.

The frugal lifestyle is a great lifestyle. As I mentioned earlier in this article, too much of everything is bad.

So have a balance, if you are overthinking a financial decision and trying hard to save every penny, sit back and breathe.

Evaluate the situation and decide if it’s worth it or not. Don’t be hard on yourself. Live and enjoy life and enjoy the frugal lifestyle.

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