Difference Between Frugal vs Cheap: 10 Ways Saving Money Is Stingy or Smart

Do you want to learn the difference between frugal and cheap because many people misuse this term? People think both words have the same purpose and meaning, so they use them interchangeably. The reality is that there is a big difference between them and words related to spending money habits. 

In our daily routine, we listen to both terms. Nobody wants the title of cheapskate because people feel it is an insult. People must understand both terms to become good in money-related matters.

This post will provide complete information about what frugal means, frugal synonyms, cheap stake meaning, cheap meaning, and definitions. So read the content to explore valuable information.

Frugal Definition

Careful and economical in the use of resources or money.  

The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that frugal was derived from the Latin word frux, which means “value” or “fruit.” Secondly, it was used by English speakers in the 16th century. The word frugal also relates to the Latin word “enjoy.” 

Cheapskate Definition

Individuals are being criticized for not spending money and not enjoying a lavish life due to miserly or stingy with money behavior. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary states the ugliest picture of cheap men. However, in literature, Ebenezer Scrooge was a well-known cheapskate. He claims to collect the wealth at any cost regardless of sacrificing their friendship and comfort.  

What is the Difference Between Being Cheap and Being Frugal?

Being cheap relates to spending money in the short term. It means spending a small amount of income on expenses or other costs in that period. They buy cheap products without knowing their quality, whether they need them, or are suitable for their health.

Secondly, cheap people always try to buy products without paying a single dollar. They are stingy because they refuse to tip, haggle over every buck, and do anything to save a single penny. They feel bored and have no fun in their life.   

Examples of Being a Cheap Person:

  • Skimping on personal hygiene
  • Always see the lowest-priced items while shopping. 
  • Pick sauce packets and napkins from restaurants
  • Purchase particle-board furniture
  • Change their way while driving to save a few pennies on the gas gallon.
  • Eat expired or overdated food.
  • Buy products only due to the running discount or sale.
  • Take different office supplies from workplaces
  • Buying a cheaper pair of shoes
  • Buy items with a motive to use them and return them
  • Refit the worthless items

On the other hand, being frugal means spending more money without sacrificing quality and that have a long life. For example, frugal people save money using coupons and buying bulk-quality products.

Compared to cheap people, they are more intelligent and can save money by bargaining during shopping. And keep aside some extra money for rainy days. You must want frugal people as a friend because they are generous and help others in their time of need. 

Examples of Being a Frugal Person:

  • Watching movies at home instead of going out
  • Use and keep old electronics 
  • Shopping for second-hand products from consignment shops or thrift stores
  • Drinking alcohol at home instead of going to a club
  • Cooking meals at home instead of going to restaurants.
  • Collecting credit card points and bonuses
  • Buying off-brand products
  • Using local library 
  • Regularly monitor the usage of home electricity
  • Not buying a gym membership
  • Eating leftovers to save money on groceries
  • Turn off extra lights
  • Wash clothes on cold
  • Install ceiling fans
  • Lower your thermostat

Cheap vs. Frugal: Quality

Quality is essential in determining the difference between cheap and frugal. Quality is not the preference of cheap people because they only consider and find the cheapest options. The quality of cheap products is not always good because they easily break, get damaged, and don’t last in good condition for a long time. 

On the other hand, frugal people are always concerned about quality and spend more money to buy high-quality products. They know that high-quality products work for a long time and save money or time. For example, they often go outside to purchase new items and avoid headaches while bargaining in supermarkets. 

Cheap vs. Frugal: Quantity

Quantity is the second factor determining the difference between frugal and cheap items. It refers to the number of items they purchase. Cheap people buy the desired products in bulk quantities because they think the per unit cost is lower if they buy large quantities.

The negative side is that instead of saving money, they waste a lot of money because they don’t use all the items simultaneously, so many of their products go in vain.  

On the other hand, frugal people are very clever, only buying the product if needed and only in the desired quantity. Their cost could be more per-unit, but it will save enough money in the long run. 

Cheap Definition

A cheap person always looks for cheap items without comparing them with other products. Laundry detergent is the best example to understand this term. For example, if you buy a cheaper gallon so it will give you fewer loads. On the other hand, using the branded gallon can get double or triple loads and easily wash more clothes.

Cheap isn’t always Bad:

Cheap is not always bad because it depends on the individual’s financial condition. We could not consider someone cheap because of their shopping choices. For example, if someone’s financial situation is tight, it is good to live as cheap. Secondly, if you don’t have enough resources and money, a low-quality pair of shoes is better than no shoes.

cheap or frugal

The Cons of Being Cheap

People May Take Your Advantage:

The downside is that people may take undue financial advantage from you. For example, they can ask you to shop with us and bargain with the owners. It will waste a lot of your time and energy.

Miss Out On Experiences:

There is also a possibility of being cheap that you miss out on the fun and other enjoyable moments in your life because you don’t have a habit of spending money.

People May Think Less of you:

Due to your nature and sting behavior towards people, there is a possibility that they think less about you because you are always looking to save money. And people don’t like this kind of behavior at all moments.

Live a Less Comfortable Life:

Another problem with being cheap is that you cannot enjoy life comfortably because you don’t have a spending habit and do not spend money on clothes, eating out, housing, food, etc.

Miss Out On Opportunities:

There are many memorable moments in life, and if you are cheap, you miss this opportunity because you don’t like spending money on that moments or events.

The Pros of Being Frugal

Save Money:

It is a reality that when you are frugal, you don’t like to spend much money and want to save more for the future at a time of need. 


Frugal people have a lot of money and resources because they know how to save money and have an idea to find the best prices on their desired product.

Not Materialistic:

They are not very materialistic. After all, they don’t like the latest and greatest designer clothes, gadgets, and other expensive stuff because they think these items do not have any value or matter.


They are very practical and don’t like to buy trendy items only because other people have them. They only buy them if they are needed. Hold their purchase, wait for a good time when the sale starts, or find a good deal.


Frugal people are disciplined with spending, and this habit assists them in other life mediums. For example, they know how to make a budget, save money and stick to it. 


Compared to the cheap, frugal people are independent because they don’t rely financially on others to buy something. 

No Need Much to Be Happy:

To live a happy life, they don’t require much money or resources because they do not chase materialistic products to fulfill their desires. They feel good while remaining simple. 

Fewer Possessions:

Frugal people have fewer possessions and less stuff in their houses. Due to this, they require less money for the repair and installation of that items.

Less Likely to Get into Debt:

Another advantage of being frugal is that they don’t have more outstanding debt amounts because they don’t like to buy unnecessary things on credit.

Teach Others About Frugality:

A frugal individual has a lot of financial knowledge, so they can earn money by teaching others and changing their life. 

frugal vs cheap

How to be Frugal Instead of Cheap?

Are you heard from your friends that you are too cheap? Finding happy moments is difficult if you are cheap or frugal. The following section will provide tips for adapting to a frugal mindset. 

Make a Budget and Stick to It:

The first step is knowing where your money is going if you want to become frugal. For example, track your monthly spending and cut unnecessary expenses to save money. Secondly, make a good budgeting plan and follow it strictly to achieve your goals.

In our daily routines, we have many times when we spend more than our budget plans, and this thing disturbs our budget. However, if you are conscious so, stick to the budget all the time and save as much money as you can.

Shop Around for the Best Deals:

The best thing to do is to find the best deals around yourself to buy something. Never buy unnecessary things only due to the sale or because you like them at first sight.

It is good to take some time to find the best product and compare the prices with other products to find the best deal. It is tricky and takes time, but the results go in the long run and save much money. 

Invest in Quality Items that will last Long-Term:

Buying five cheap shoes with a shortened lifespan is not a good deal. Buying quality shoes will go for a long time and save many dollars instead of cheap shoes. Frugal people purchase high-quality items because they will work for a long time. 

Don’t be Afraid to DIY:

You can do a lot of things instead of paying someone. For example, if you have a car and want to change the oil, there is no need to pay anyone. You can easily change the oil without someone’s help. Secondly, save money by cooking a meal at home instead of going to a restaurant and eating expensive food.   

Know when to splurge—and when not to:

Some expenses are necessary for our life, such as traveling expenses, food expenses, and purchasing quality products that will last for a long time. At the same time, it is not good if you spend more money on fashion items and other items that do not make sense or are trendy. Create a balance between your income and spending. Always buy the product when you need that item.

Examples of Frugal vs. Cheap People

In the following, there is some example to understand the spending habit of frugal and cheap people.

A cheap person is likely toA Frugal Person is likely to
Buy the cheapest car regardless of knowing the maintenance and fuel consumption cost.Before buying a car, they do proper research, like comparing its prices and specifications, after weighing the long-term value and initial cost.
Buy clearance clothes, whether you need them or not.Buy clothes on sale when they need them.
Buy cheap sunglasses from discount stores for $5.Buy high-quality sunglasses from an optometrist for $50.
Buy the cheapest can of paint and use more coats to cover the wall.Buy a mid-priced can of paint and use 1 coat instead of 3 to cover their wall.
Bargain with the store manager over the price.They don’t need the cheap item and leave the store happily without buying anything.

Does Being Frugal Make You Happier?

There are many reasons to consider if you want to spend life frugally.

Firstly, sticking to a budget and purchasing only the desired items instead of unnecessary items is good. It will save money and improve your financial position.   

Secondly, it is helpful to reduce stress levels because it will affect your mental health. People think about whether they have enough money to afford a lavish lifestyle. Whereas, if you don’t spend too much and live within your means, it is good for your mental health, and you don’t need to worry much.  

Thirdly, being frugal helps you live a comfortable life. Many people think material possessions make someone happier, but they are wrong. According to research, it is proven that people who do not have a lot of stuff or simpler lives are happier than those who have many materialistic products. 

How Can I Tell if I’m Being Cheap or Frugal?

It is simple to understand that you are being cheap or frugal. For example, you are being cheap if you consider cheap products or resources regardless of the product’s quality and convenience. 

On the other hand, a frugal individual spends more money buying quality products that will give benefit in the long run. It will enhance the living standards, and they will enjoy more.  

Is There Anything Wrong with Being Cheap?

No, there is no wrong thing if you want to live as being cheap. If you feel comfortable, there is no need to change your lifestyle based on other people’s desires.   

However, if you face problems while being cheap, you must reconsider your approach. Cheap people don’t enjoy the company of friends or family members because they don’t spend money on different activities. Many people don’t like this behavior and constantly criticize your approach.  

How can I be more frugal?

If you want more frugality, ask some questions with yourself. Some of them are as follows.

  • Every day do I need a take-out coffee?
  • Could I save money by buying groceries in bulk quantity?
  • Is there any subscription that I longer need?
  • Could I compare insurance rates to save money?


In short, it is up to you whether you want to become a chap or frugal. A cheap is a penny-pincher and always finds a way to save money by sacrificing quality. In contrast, the frugal is smart and clever in spending money and buying only necessary products. By knowing all the differences next time, while shopping you can easily judge yourself that you are cheap or frugal. Being frugal is always a better choice for living a comfortable life. 


Should I always leave a tip?

No, you don’t always need to leave a tip. It all depends on the establishment where you are visiting.

Why Are People Cheap?

There are many reasons, like desperation, lacking know-how, and stubbornness. 

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Jessica joined savvybudgetnow in 2022 as a Content Analyst. An MBA-Finance graduate from Alaska Pacific University with three years of experience. She is a seasoned content writer specializing in finance niches and has worked as a content writer with Yahoo Finance, adding to her extensive expertise. Follow her on Twitter (@JessicaArn97) and LinkedIn (@jessica-arnold-53132120b)

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