Qualities Of A Cheap Person: Frugal vs Cheap

Difference Between Frugal And Cheap Explained

For the most part, people have a misunderstanding of the differences between frugal vs cheap and end up intertwining the two. Because of this, both these types of people receive a bad rap and are more often than not, looked down upon.

While a cheap person may not directly affect you in any way,  just ask a waitress how much they appreciate it when a cheapskate leaves them a stingy tip. It’s true that there are a few similarities pertaining to frugal vs cheap, but overall, they are describing two very different types of people. 

Here’s a closer look at the qualities of a cheap person, and several of the major differences between being frugal vs cheap.

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Defining Frugal vs Cheap

To begin to scrutinize and clarify between the two, let’s carefully take a look at Webster’s definition of each word. 

  • Frugal is being characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.
  • Cheap is getting something at a low price. Ex. Finding a good deal for a cheap hotel stay, or purchasing cheap tickets. Cheap can also mean not wanting to pay for something. 

As you can see, the definition of frugal is pretty straightforward, while the word cheap can make things a bit more complicated.

Being cheap is more concerned about the overall price while being frugal focuses on being resourceful by purchasing something of quality, yet at a reasonable cost.

That’s not to say that frugal people don’t enjoy saving money too, but that’s not their number one motive. Often, they’ll implement frugal living hacks without needing to go to extreme lengths.

Related: Tips For Saving Money When Your Budget Is Tight

Stingy vs Frugal

The definition of stingy is “unwilling to give or spend; ungenerous.” Typically, this is a trait assigned to someone who is cheap rather than frugal.

Frugal people are typically generous with what they have in abundance and either make-do or find ways to save by doing things themselves.


Why Being Cheap Is Bad

There are different levels of extremes concerning cheap people, but I’m going to focus on the stingy and inferior quality definition of the word, in contrast to people who are frugal.

If you consider yourself to be cheap but find that the following characteristics don’t stack up with you, there’s a good chance you’re not the stingy type.     

1. Cheap is Shortsighted 

A cheap person and a frugal person certainly have different views of the world around them and how they choose to spend their money. People who are cheap aren’t usually looking at the bigger picture, with the long term in mind. 

They typically look to spend only the bare minimum for an item, in place of something of better quality. It’s all about spending the least amount of money or finding the best bargain. Sometimes they’re just looking to find the best deals and not always something that they necessarily need.  

Frugal people on the other hand, still look for deals but decide to purchase something that is going to last. Being cheap is more focused on today, where frugal is looking to the future. It’s about optimizing that purchase by spending a bit more, instead of resorting to buying the cheap alternative.   

2. Being Cheap Affects Others  

I’ve already mentioned that cheap people are often viewed in a negative light. There are some people that even find it offensive.

This is because there are certain cheap people that will go to such great lengths in order to hold onto every dollar, while at the same time, give little thought to how it might affect others. 

For instance, there are some people that come across as pretty bold when mooching for a free ride or expecting others to pay for their meal. Some have been doing it so well for some time, that they don’t even realize that they short-change their waitress every half-off Tuesdays at the local diner.

There are even “penny pinchers” who are brave enough to take advantage of businesses like a buffet for instance, by spending all day sitting around and gorging. Or maybe purchasing one beverage at a sitdown restaurant and sharing it with multiple people for the free refills.

Frugal people are more conscious about others around them and are more willing to donate to charities and non-profit organizations, while a cheap person typically would not do so.   

3. Cheap Is Willing to Take Shortcuts 

There are businesses and people out there that are willing to take cheap shortcuts in order to make an easier and quicker profit. If you’ve taken business classes in school, you may disagree with what you’ve just read. Hear me out for a minute. 

It is wise for a business to trim expenses and source supplies that are more affordable. This will help alleviate a lot of bottom-line costs, but when the quality and integrity of the product they are selling has been compromised, that’s when being cheap has gone too far. 

Frugal people that run a business choose quality over cost. They may have to pay more for their expenses, but they know their name to their customer means a guaranteed quality product that will last.

Frugal business owners are also willing to spend the extra time to make sure something is done right, instead of rushing to cut corners.                

4. Cheap People Make Worse Deals Financially

People associate being cheap with someone who saves a lot of money. This may not be the case though. Buying items on sale can become addictive. You may even lose a complete understanding of what value you are acquiring.

For instance, if an item is on sale for 25% off, you may be paying more per unit than a similar deal of an item at the regular price but with 25% more of the item.

You may end up buying things you don’t need with couponing and minimum order requirements. If you wouldn’t have normally purchased those items in those specific quantities otherwise, you probably aren’t getting a good deal.

Minimum order amounts for free shipping are designed to get people to buy upsells to hit the threshold. Minimum purchase requirements can easily lead to overspending all in the name of saving money.


How to Know When You’ve Gone Too Far Stingy

There’s nothing wrong if you are one of those people that search for a cheaper concert ticket or enjoy finding a great deal on a new pair of jeans. Who doesn’t? 

But when it becomes an obsession and it begins to control your day, your relationships and how you treat others, that is when you’ve gone too far. If you are unwilling to help others or donate to people in need, there’s a good chance you’re the stingy definition of cheap. 

Being cheap doesn’t have to be all bad! Here are ways that being a cheapskate is actually a good thing.

How To Stop Being Cheap

The key to stopping being cheap is to make the switch over to frugal. This means enjoying your money a little more and making conscious decisions about what’s important to you.

  • Pick something you like to do and set an amount you can spend on it without getting additional discounts. The point is to not always be seeking out “more value.”
  • Before buying something on sale, evaluate whether it’s something you need or solely want due to the perceived savings.
  • Start looking more closely at quality over quantity. For example, purchase higher quality clothes in a smaller amount. If taken care of properly, they should last longer than cheap fast fashion. This has a positive environmental impact as well.

This transition is all about balance. Saving money is great but living with a constant scarcity mindset or need to always have more is unhealthy. Being frugal and more giving will help you in your personal relationships as well.

Frual Or Cheap: Which One Are You?

So now that you have a better understanding of the differences between a cheap and frugal person which would you consider yourself to be? Perhaps maybe neither.

Can you think of any other similarities or differences between a cheap and frugal person? 

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Steffa Mantilla

Budgeting & Debt Payoff Expert

Steffa is the founder behind Money Tamer. After paying off over $80,000 in debt through budgeting, she now teaches families how to get their own finances in order. Steffa’s background in operant conditioning and behavioral husbandry has given her an understanding of motivation and motivators. She uses this training to help people understand the reasons “why” behind their money behaviors and how to successfully change them. You can learn more about her here.

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