Frugal is a Good Thing…Cheapness, Not so Much

Frugality and cheapness are related in a very essential way. Both traits are used to monitor and restrict the expenditure of money. While being frugal and being cheap might have similar purposes, there are great differences in how the two tactics are employed. In turn, other people in our lives and those who simply interact with us can readily distinguish between the two.

Frugality is generally regarded in a positive light, casting the frugal man as a good decision-maker who doesn’t waste money on frivolous purposes, and doesn’t flaunt whatever wealth he has. (Still, being frugal to excess is not a good idea.) On the other hand, cheapness is generally regarded with annoyance and ridicule, and can strain or even break a marriage or relationship.

Being frugal means getting bang for the buck. The frugal man makes good choices in many areas of daily life. Some decision situations follow, with noted differences between frugal behavior and cheap behavior.

Almost every product you seek is available from many different sources, especially now that the number and variety of online shopping sites has exploded. Many websites now offer free shipping, especially on higher-dollar orders, which eliminates cost add-ons that used to be drawback online shopping. The bottom line though, is that the frugal man does price comparisons using local store flyers, catalogues, and online shopping sites to find the best buy.

The cheap shopper is more likely to buy a low quality knock-off of the product that he really wants, or ignore a shopping need just to hold onto the cash. Worse still, a cheap guy will repeatedly borrow a friend’s possessions to avoid having to pay for them.

A frugal man also shops when looking for credit cards to carry, while not letting the fact of having a credit card affect purchasing decisions. Credit cards that don’t require an annual fee, but do provide paybacks for purchases are the objective. Credit cards that pay a percentage of cash back are best, but cards that pay back shopping credits are fine too. The other secret is to always pay the due balance every month, thus avoiding interest payments. Obviously, a man who never pays interest on a credit card doesn’t have to worry about what the percentage might be.

Being cheap usually means not carrying a credit card, and therefore being caught in situations in which there is no sufficient access to money. For example, if you decide to buy a beer on an airline flight, you are out of luck if you only have cash – it’s not accepted.

A frugal man will usually avoid being caught up in an extravagantly priced restaurant scene. Some very special occasions and situations may demand a temporary lapse, but it just makes sense to seek out great food in a moderately priced restaurant. There’s certainly nothing wrong with going for coupon reductions, nightly special feature meals and so on. In a multi-couple situation, frugality normally means paying a fair share of a combined tab, although almost all restaurants will bill couples by separate check. This avoids embarrassing bill splitting discussions.

It also prevents cheap friends from trying to equally split a bill, after they ordered from the highest end of the menu. This is a favorite tactic of the cheap guy or gal – get the best for yourself, then make your friends share the cost.

Frugal travelers know to try discounting services online to find the best prices. There are many such services, and they can be found by keying in “cheap flights” (for example) in the search engine of your computer. In this case “cheap” means the same as frugal, in other words inexpensive.

The cheap traveler will decide that flying is too expensive and will insist on driving regardless of the distance or driving time. The cheap traveler consequently deserves the sour mood that the trip produces in a wife or girlfriend.

Frugality does not mean no tipping or cheap tipping. However, it does mean setting the tip size on the basis of service quality. A frugal guy will check online for suitable dollar ranges for various tipping situations, and then tip high on the scale for great service, and low for poor service.

Cheap guys tip cheaply, or not at all, regardless of service. By the way, a true bargain meal or service deserves an elevated percentage tip. Simply stated, the base on which you are tipping may be very low, and the waiter or waitress deserves more than chump change.

The principles noted in the above examples can be applied to many other aspects of life. Frugal living makes sense (and dollars), but cheap living makes for unpleasant situations and relationships.