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Cheap vs. Frugal and How Not To Be A Cheapskate

how not to be a cheapskate - moneySometimes, people consider themselves frugal, when in reality they’re just cheap. If you’ve watched shows like Extreme Cheapskates or Extreme Couponers, you know the ones I’m talking about — they’ll go on and on about how they like to save money. They’ll do almost anything just to save a dollar or two. There is a huge difference in the terms cheap and frugal, but how can you tell which one you are? Here’s the difference, and how not to be a cheapskate if you find out you are one.

Cheap vs. Frugal & How Not To Be A Cheapskate

This post has been written by our talented staff writer, Kimberly Studdard.

What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between being cheap and being frugal is that:

  • a frugal person likes to get the most value for their dollar, and
  • a cheap person doesn’t see the value, just the dollar sign.

For example, a frugal person will invest in a nice and slightly used car, even if it means paying a little more for the security and less wear and tear. However, a cheapskate will continue to buy junk cars every year or so just so they don’t have to shell out $10,000.

In the end, the frugal person most likely made a better decision, because the car will last longer. But the cheapskate won’t see it that way, because they’re only looking at the fact that the frugal person spent $10,000, when they could’ve spent just $1,000 on a junk car.

Related: What a Backpack Taught Me About Cheap Vs. Frugal

How Not To Be A Cheapskate

If you’ve realized that you’re a cheapskate, and will do just about anything to save a few bucks (like reusing paper plates for days on end), there are ways to stop.

Here’s how not to be a cheapskate:

Have Fun

The number one rule on how not to be a cheapskate is to have fun. Frugal people love to save a dollar, but they realize that family, friends, and a social life are important too. They invest in spending time and money with their loved ones. Cheapskates are typically unhappy, missing out on outings and fun just to save themselves some money.

Now, I’m not saying go out and spend hundreds of dollars on people you care about the most. Frugality doesn’t mean being miserable. There are many fun things that you can do for free or frugally. From parks to movie nights, there’s always something that you can do. It is important to have fun and relish in quality time with those you love.

how not to be a cheapskateSet Goals

Cheapskates only have one goal in mind…

…to hoard as much money as possible.

While saving money isn’t a bad thing, you have to have goals for your money. Frugal people understand the importance of saving. Whether it be for:

  • retirement,
  • big purchases, or
  • spending their money on things that matter to them.

For cheapskates, goals are non-existent. Many of them don’t seem to find the importance in money related topics like retirement. 

If you don’t want to be a cheapskate, set goals for your money and life.

  • It’s okay to want a newer and more reliable car.
  • It’s okay to want to take a vacation or two every year, as long as you can afford it.
  • And it’s certainly okay to spend more money on things that bring you joy.

Value Your Time & Space

If you’ve watched shows involving cheapskates, you may have noticed a few things. They spend an incredible amount of time and energy hoarding things they may never use, clipping coupons on items they don’t even like, and more. They don’t seem to value their time (which could equal more money) or their space. Many of them have cluttered homes, poor paying jobs, and even health issues in extreme cases, due to lack of care because it’s “too expensive”.

Being frugal means you want the most value for your money, and that means valuing yourself too. If you need a bigger home to store things you don’t really need, that isn’t saving you money in the long run. Instead, it could mean living in a smaller space so you can save more money and have peace of mind.

Instead of spending hours clipping coupons, you decide to shop at second hand stores or discount grocery stores to get the most bang for your buck, without sacrificing the quality of the items you buy. You choose to value your time and space, and make money decisions accordingly.

How Not to Be a Cheapskate – It’s Your Turn

There is nothing wrong with being frugal, but being a cheapskate is not only sad, but boring. This list on how not to be a cheapskate should show you that it’s not okay to sacrifice the quality of your life just to save a couple of bucks. At the end of the day, who died loving the fact that they never got to live?

Are you a cheapskate? Are you ready to start living a life of frugality instead?

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AUTHOR LaTia Longuemire

My name is LaTia Longuemire. I enjoy writing, singing, and cooking in my spare time. My passion is helping others. At this stage in my lifetime, I'm primarily focused on my children. They are everything that keeps my world spinning.


  1. Exactly. Being frugal is living the life you want to live and doing the things you enjoy, but in a way that maximizes your value and keeps as much money as you can in your pocket while still doing those things. Being cheap is just trying to get out of paying for anything.

    • Yup. I have to confess that I used to be cheap. I was the mooch that thought paying for nothing was the best way. Turns out…not so much. It’s actually fun to spend money and treat others.

  2. Being cheap is not wanting to buy a new mattress after a bed bug infestation……..(my mother).

    • Haha, yeah…that’s pretty bad. Some people spend too much, some don’t spend enough. There really is a happy medium in there.

  3. At times I find the urge to go out of my way to pay for things so as not to be perceived as a cheapskate. It’s our duty to be generous and helpful even as we build our own wealth.

    • There is a fine line there – I’ve noticed the same. Now that we have a bit of money, we’re able to pay for things or donate some funds to others that are struggling. BUT, after having fought our way out of debt and working our way toward wealth, I also find that I am more cautious about who I give a hand-out to. If they’re managing their money well and doing all the right things, definitely. If they’re continually stupid with money and that’s the reason they never have any…then I’m going to keep my wallet in my pocket…

  4. I think this is an important distinction that people often don’t get. Frugality is getting the most bang for your buck and being smart with your money – not necessarily spending the least amount possible. It’s about efficiency. I always present it this way: Frugal is only going to a restaurant on special occasions and making most of your food at home; cheap is leaving little or not tip to save on money.

    • Yup, you got it! Thanks for the comment, BC!

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