I think that there are always going to be times on a financial journey when you have to question whether or not you are making frugal choices or are just being cheap. I also believe there’s a fine line between the two.
For me, I feel that the difference between being frugal and being cheap is cost verses the value of something. A cheap person only looks at the cost of something, whereas a frugal person looks at the value of the item, as well as the cost. A cheap person is more limited to the short term, whereas a frugal person looks at the bigger picture.
But, the difference between them is really straight forward; you have to make your choices count.
What I mean by that is ensuring the financial decisions you make on a daily basis are choices that will benefit your life from that point forward, without having a detrimental effect on another area of life, or indeed someone else’s. Every single decision should mean improving your life in one way or another, otherwise why would you choose it?
One scenario is buying a new mattress for your bed. A cheap person would go for the least expensive option, regardless of the quality of mattress, because the price dictates the sale. A frugal person may spend more on their mattress, but would choose one that is better made and therefore will last longer. In the long run, the frugal person wins because they spend less overall on their mattress; the cheaper mattress will wear through faster and probably become more uncomfortable and need replacing a lot sooner than the more expensive one. The cheapest option is definitely not always the best one, and this comes back to making choices that count, including your finances.
Another place where cheap verses frugal comes into play is when you’re dining out with friends. A cheap person will want to pay the least, irrespective of others, including scrimping on a tip. They may spend more on their meal overall, but not leave any tip whatsoever. A frugal person may spend less on their meal overall, but never scrimp on a tip. They might choose to have water instead of soda or alcohol, or only have a starter and a pudding, but leave a % of their bill as a tip. Tipping isn’t as common in the UK as it is in other parts of the world, but I always feel that if you’ve had good service in a restaurant, then it is only fair to leave a tip. Another choice; putting people over saving a few pence/pounds is much more important.
Making all of these decisions, where you are prioritising your spending in order to make positive steps to ensure you have the life you want, are all about making it count. The frugal person will make short term sacrifices, so that the long term goals are met, that dreams can be accomplished and life is much less complicated. A cheap person will sacrifice the long term in favour of making and saving a quick buck, regardless of the consequences. In terms of our frugal journey, I am more and more conscious of the decisions we make and how they will impact us on the long term. This includes minimising our general spending and questioning what we need in our lives, and what we can do without.
There is a fine balance between being frugal or cheap and sometimes it is easy to lose sight of what the long term aims are. But, if you make your choices count, then you are already on the right path.