We use the word frugal quite a bit here on SAHM, but how do you know if your frugality is really just you being cheap? With jobs getting harder to come by and money getting tight, the concept of being frugal is something that gets thrown around all the time. It’s easy to just be cheap while using frugality as an umbrella term for everything you do, but there’s a lot more to being frugal than just buying the cheapest everything.
According to the dictionary, frugal is defined as “the wise and intentional use of money.” The key word there is “intentional,” and I think that’s what really separates the cheapskates from the frugalers (which should totally be a word). In my own life, frugality is learning to get the most out of each and every dollar.
On the other hand, when you’re cheap you’re just reluctant to spend money at all, even when it’s on something that you really need. Other words you could use are tightfisted, miserly, and stingy, but they all describe the same type of person. Most people who are “cheap” are actually selfish, and can even be dishonest if it means saving a couple bucks.
Let’s put it to some examples to really see the clear difference between the two words.
A cheap person will buy the food that costs the least, even if it means disregarding all nutrition and health aspects of doing so. A frugal person will take their health into account and weight the pros and cons of spending a little more on something more nutritious.
A cheap person will go out to dinner all the time, but rarely tip for good service, while a frugal person will plan for the coming month to see when their budget allows for eating out.
A cheap person will buy something on sale even if they don’t really need it simply because it’s cheaper than it usually is. A frugal person only makes intentional purchases based on planning and necessity. They may buy a cheaper item, but only without sacrificing quality.
Finding a good balance between the two can be hard, especially when you see your bank account dwindling between paychecks. However, the most important thing to remember is that your health and comfort, as well as those of your family, are more important than having a few extra dollars to splurge with at the end of the month. You work hard for your money, so you should be able to get a sense of fulfillment out of spending it.
In the end, frugality is really about finding the centre line between being cheap and the opposite side of the spectrum, which is spending extravagantly. The key is proper planning, research, and budgeting, and with those you’ll find that your family has more money for “comfort” items at the end of each month.