Cheap vs. Frugal

An issue that is near and dear to my heart is the discussion over being cheap or being frugal. This is brought on by all of these articles on the subject. To start with, what does the term cheap mean: of very low account or small cost, frugal on the other hand: economical in use or expenditure. Note the key difference between the two cheap simply is not expensive, while frugal reflects being careful with expenditures. While being frugal could result in purchasing a cheap item, it does not necessarily mean every item purchased will be cheap.

A personal example to illustrate, I don’t really care about the furniture in my apartment, so I have a couch that is ugly and not all that comfortable. However it doesn’t matter to me, I covered it with a couch cover and called it good. Why, because the couch isn’t that important to me. Sure I could have gotten a better couch, but it would have cost more (the couch I currently have was free) and I know I wouldn’t receive any more pleasure from a couch that was newer or better. The couch might be ugly, but my apartment isn’t exactly in the real estate section of the local paper anyways and it is comfortable enough for the amount of time I use it. So why spend more money or resources on something when the actual value that I receive doesn’t increase any real amount.

That being said there are also times in which spending more money on something does increase it’s value to me, so I do so. A perfect example is clothing, I could buy something dirt cheap from Wal-Mart or some such place however I choose to instead shop at mid-range stores. Why, because I don’t like how clothes from Wal-Mart feel and look on me. Buying from such stores as The Buckle, Gap and Aeropostale gives myself more self confidence in how I look, the clothes feel better on me, and I receive compliments on how I look. All of these are worth the extra money that I wind up spending on clothing. That being said I am frugal in how I spend on clothes, for with my rather limited income, I don’t have unlimited funds to spend. So I buy when clothing is on sale, I get plenty of advice before hand on the colors and cut as to what looks best on me and what doesn’t. I also don’t shop at the most expensive store I can find but rather what can fit into my budget. But I still wind up spending more than if I shopped exclusively at places that are cheaper.

Being frugal doesn’t mean having to give those things that you love and care it simply means why spend money on something that doesn’t matter to you? If you don’t watch a ton of tv, why are you paying for the expanded cable and monster tv? However if you love watching tv and you do receive a definite increase in pleasure or whatever benefits from that huge tv, then buy it by all means.

Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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One comment on “Cheap vs. Frugal
  1. 1stopmom says:

    I like your post. I love the examples you give. Maybe because I am a total coach potato who loves watching tv but I don’t care much about clothes. 🙂

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