Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Line Between Frugal and Cheap

As we walked the aisles of our local grocery store yesterday, my 3-year-old happily chirped “Buy one, get one free.”   It appears I’ve passed my spending habits on to my sons.  

I like to think of myself as frugal.  I combine BOGO deals with coupons.  I squeeze every last drop out of a toothpaste tube.  When a local department store went out of business, I bought so much discounted shampoo and conditioner that I didn’t have to purchase any more for a year.

But I struggle with cheap.  There’s a fine line between frugal and cheap.

Sometimes my husband or children will want something, and it’s a reasonable request.  My first reaction is “No.”  No reason. Just no, I don’t want to spend money.  I can really be a party pooper.

I did a little research: What is the difference between frugal and cheap?

According to my online dictionary frugal means “economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful”   

I like that.

Cheap means “costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive”  That sounded good until I read a little farther:  “of little account; of small value; mean; shoddy:  stingy; miserly”

So the Cratchits are frugal; Scrooge is cheap.  Got it.

It appears that the difference between frugal and cheap comes down to a matter of the heart.  Frugal people care about others while saving money and resources. Cheap people care only about money, even at the expense of others.

We’re cautioned against loving money: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10 NIV)  We’re counseled toward generosity: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,  and he will reward him for what he has done.” (Prov. 19:17)

I’ll never give up my penny pinching ways, but I hope that I’ll have enough sense to save generously.

Shalom y’all.

For more “frugal vs. cheap”:

"Crossing the Line: When Does Frugal Become Cheap" at
"Frugal vs. Cheap" at
"What is Frugality and Are We Frugal?" at

1 comment:

Terri Tiffany said...

I didn't realize you are in Jacksonville--I thought you were on the west coast for some reason.
I had a cheap friend and he taught us the meaning of frugal. A HUGE difference!