Are you being cheap or are you being frugal? Are they derogatory terms? Would it upset you if someone called you frugal, or called you cheap?
Let’s first begin by looking at the dictionary definition.
Definition of cheap
- 1a: charging or obtainable at a low price – a good cheap hotel – cheap tickets
- b: purchasable below the going price or the real value
- c: depreciated in value (as by currency inflation) cheap dollars
- 2a: of inferior quality or worth : TAWDRY, SLEAZY – cheap workmanship
- b: STINGY – My uncle was too cheap to pay for dinner.
- c: contemptible because of lack of any fine, lofty, or redeeming qualities – feeling cheap – I felt cheap, full of shame and guilt
- 3: gained or done with little effort – a cheap victory – talk is cheap
- 4 of money : obtainable at a low rate of interest
Definition of frugal
- characterised by or reflecting economy in the use of resources
- economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful
Differences Between Cheap and Frugal
As you can see by the definition something is cheap when you buy it at a low price, or the interest rate is low. But, it can also mean it is poor quality. A person can be cheap by not paying their fair share.
On the other hand, frugality is the conscious decision not to be wasteful with resources. This includes everything from money to food. For example: saving money rather than flippant spending, or being careful with food purchases so that you don’t end up throwing food away.
Cheap has negative connotations of being dodgy; whilst, frugal has positive connotations of being resourceful.
In writing this there needs to be an acknowledgement that having a choice between being cheap or frugal often comes from a point of privilege.
An example is a person struggling to have enough money to buy a pair of boots so they buy the cheapest boots they can afford. Whereas, someone being frugal could opt to buy good quality expensive boots that last a long time.
In the end, the person forced into buying cheap items by necessity will need to buy new boots every year as poor quality boots do not last. Whilst the frugal person, even though they initially spent more money, will be better off over the longer term as their quality boots will last a long time.
The irony is that the person with limited money ends up paying more than the frugal person who has choice. (Of course, there are people who have a ‘cheap mindset’ even though they have plenty of money to purchase sustainable products.)
It’s also important to realise that the privilege of choice to be frugal is not a blanket permission to buy many pairs of expensive boots as an excessive consumer, as which is sadly seen all over the world and impacts the future sustainability of the planet.
Cheap Vs Frugal In The Home
Let’s now compare being cheap in the home, compared to being frugal.
Looking at the table below you will see a comparison between repeatedly buying single use or poor quality items, and reusable items that cost more initially yet will cost less over the long term.
Reusable items are also better for the environment as they are purchased once and used again and again, rather than bought once and thrown away.
|Cheap, buy repeatedly|
Costs more over the long term
|Frugal, buy (or make) once and reuse|
Costs less over the long term
|Disposable plastic razors||Reusable stainless steel safety razor|
|Paper napkins||Fabric napkins|
|Cleaning wipes such as Chux||Washable rags/cloths|
|Baby wipes||Face washers|
|Disposable nappies||Washable reusable nappies|
|Make up remover wipes||Washable reusable make up pads|
|Disinfecting wipes||Washable wipes dabbed with disinfectant|
|Disposable plastic gloves||Durable latex gloves|
|Plastic carry bags||Reusable fabric bags|
|Gift wrapping paper||Furoshiki, or reusable gift bags|
|Plastic party bunting||Reusable fabric bunting|
|Cling wrap||Containers, glass jars, napkins or beeswax wraps|
|Baking paper||Silicone baking mat|
|Aluminium foil||A baking dish with a lid|
|Patty pans||Greased and floured muffin tray|
|Snap lock bags, plastic lunch boxes||Stainless steel containers or bento boxes|
|Disposable coffee cups||Keep cups (some cafes give a discount if BYO cup)|
|Throw away plastic water bottles||Refillable, durable, stainless steel bottles|
|100s of plastic straws||1 stainless steel straw|
|Tampons||Reusable menstrual cup|
|Single use sanitary pads||Washable reusable sanitary pads|
As seen from the table, purchasing frugal items will cost less money over the long term as it is an economical and resourceful use of your hard earned dollars (as well as better for the environment).
Using this theory, you can extrapolate the frugal mindset to other areas in your life.
However, having the choice to be frugal is not the same as being excessive consumers of expensive products just because you can.
Do you consider yourself cheap or frugal? Please scroll on down to the comments box and share your thoughts!