Frugal VS Cheap : What’s the difference?

By | February 12, 2019

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Are you frugal or just plain cheap? Why is it important to know the difference?

According to CNBC, 9 out of 10 people see frugality as an admirable trait in a romantic partner. But that’s not the only important reason.

Another important reason is that frugality brings an upward trajectory for success and financial freedom. Now who wouldn’t want that?


Frugality helps me make good decisions in my daily life, most of the time anyway.

What’s similar about frugality and being cheap?

The end goal of a frugalist and a cheapskate is the same – to pay as little as possible for products and/or services.

However, the decision-making processes can’t be more different.

A frugalist’s thinking:

How can I get the best value for that item? How to make my money last longer, yet not deprive myself? My goal is to enjoy a high quality of life.

A cheapskate’s thinking:

How can I pay as little as possible every time? Quality isn’t important. Price, and only price alone, is the sole consideration. Nothing else matters. Period.

7 differences between a frugalist and a cheapskate

1. Health

What happens when you need medication for a bad cold?

A frugalist never compromises on health.

A frugalist would not delay in buying from the best value shop, even though ordering online is way cheaper. Not delaying access to medication is frugal and wise.

A cheapskate would flatly refuse to buy any medication.

He tells himself to let whatever virus or bacteria he has to run its course. In the meantime, he’s a health hazard to himself and others, spreading his infection to others by coughing and wheezing most of the time. He does not look after his health and ignores the stress and discomfort he’s causing others to endure.

I know of someone in her 60s who was willing to spend $120 at a hair salon, but would not fork out a dime for her $20 medication when she needed it most.

2. Safety

A frugalist is considerate and careful, while a cheapskate does not mind risking his wellbeing and that of others.

For example, a frugalist is willing to pay for good quality tires to ensure safety for himself and others.

A cheapskate will never pay for good quality tires. He may even choose not to change his tires for as long as possible, to stretch his money as much as possible.

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3. Value and quality

A frugalist makes sure that his money is paying for value and quality.

But price and only price alone is the cheapskate’s consideration. A cheapskate always goes for the lowest-priced products. The word ‘quality’ is not in his vocabulary.

A frugal purchaser considers healthy food to be worth paying more for. He avoids cheap fatty cuts of meat, opting instead for high quality lean meat that is healthier as it’s lower in saturated fat.

A cheap retired couple in their early 30s always bought the cheapest foods they could find, to minimize their food budget. They would never consider buying free range chicken on special or buying free range eggs that are healthier.

4. Playing fair

A frugalist is sensible when cutting back on spending. He knows it’s not worth paying for frills. For example, paying for juices, alcoholic drinks, desserts and entrees when dining at restaurants. But he plays fair – he gives tips to show appreciation for good service.

In contrast, a cheapskate not only cuts his spending to the bone. He is also unwilling to tip for good service, preferring to keep his money to himself.

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5. Savvy

A frugalist is savvy. He has this knack of weighing the pros and cons . . . and coming to a sensible decision. Such as paying more for quality shoes. They are comfortable, support the feet well, and lasting – great value for money when bought at a sale.

A cheapskate is not as sensible, because his goal is always to save at all costs. I’m afraid I was cheap as I used to buy cheap shoes at sales. They weren’t comfy and my feet hurt. Of course they didn’t last long. The outcome? I had to spend MORE to replace them at frequent intervals of 3 months. I have since learnt my lesson though.

Have a look at my trusty 3-year-old Skechers pair of shoes below. It’s still going strong. And it’s as good as new too. I’ve not worn any other pair since then.

My 2-year-old Skechers shoes


If you’re looking for good quality shoes that don’t cost the earth, why not consider a pair of lovely Skechers shoes that are durable, safe and comfortable for your feet?

Your feet work hard all day long. They’re definitely worth the investment. I’ve included a selection for you below. There’s a great range of styles and colors you can choose from. All at affordable prices.

6. You’ll need this


A frugalist uses his resourcefulness to buy similar quality products at a much lower price. He always thinks of ways to achieve this goal.

The cheapskate’s mindset? The lowest price, always.

So, a frugalist on a limited budget would buy a used bicycle that is comfortable, well-made and well-maintained, and therefore likely to give years of reliable service.

On the other hand, a cheapskate would purchase the cheapest used bike he can find. Whether it suits him or can last does not matter. This is likely to be false economy – low quality goods tend to be frustrating and not work well at all.

7. Thinking long term

A frugalist knows that spending on proper maintenance is worthwhile – it will mean saving money and time in the future.

An example is doing regular oil and filter changes to keep an automobile in good condition. Doing preventive maintenance is clearly sensible.

A cheapskate does not believe in spending money on routine maintenance like oil changes.

But in the end, his short term scrimping will cost him a lot of pain in the future. A neglected set of wheels is more likely to break down and need very pricey repairs that cost thousands of dollars.

Worse, car breakdowns are not just inconvenient and frustrating – they can pose a safety risk to him or his family.

Want more frugal tips? Find out how we saved many thousands just by not buying these 22 things.

And our family has kept our frugal living tips secret for more than 20 years until recently. Check these ones out and have fun while saving every single day.

We also shared our 12 amazing tips that every frugal will simply love in this post. And when you’ve finished digesting these goodies, find out how you can transform yourself from a super spender into a super saver.

No matter what stage of your financial journey you’re at, you’ll be able to find frugal tips that’ll help you save more in these posts.

Wrap Up

A cheap person is one who’s afraid to spend money. He spends as little as possible for immediate savings, at the expense of comfort, value and quality.

Spending less and being frugal involves being strategic with spending and thus optimizing every dollar spent. Wise buying decisions are made that prioritizes value and quality for personal wellbeing.

At times we all make the wrong decisions, but knowing the differences between frugality and cheapness will help us to become the best frugalist that we can be.

Have you made savvy frugal purchases that brought you satisfaction? Share what happened with our readers.

Or have you made cheap buys that weren’t cheerful at all? Tell us about them.

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