People are often under the impression that being frugal means being cheap, ungenerous and tightfisted, hence, these two terms would almost seem to mean one and the same thing. However, with close observation, it will immediately become clear that certain differences exist between them.
To be frugal would usually mean to tend to manage one’s money and other resources in a careful and sensible way so as to avoid waste and to be able to meet any future needs. In other words, a frugal person is usually focused on the long-term; saves their money and spends it wisely.
On the other hand, being cheap would suggest an unwillingness or a disinclination to spend money, which means, a cheap person saves a lot more and spends next to nothing. Such a person would likely be considered stingy or tightfisted by those around them.
Other distinguishing characteristics between these two kinds of people are that:
The person who is cheap usually deprives himself or herself of too much of the basic necessities of life which are meant to make living a little more comfortable; such as good clothes, better food, a better house, whereas a frugal believes in having these comforts and understands their importance and is only motivated to get the best of them.
The cheap person is very dependent on others to get things done. A clear example lies in the area of their food. He or she is content with eating just once in a day and staying hungry for the rest in order that they do not spend any more money, and is only rescued when a friend is able to buy him or her their next meal. A frugal, on the other hand, would know the benefits to eating three times daily but avoids snacking due to the unnecessary expense that may be involved.
The frugal thinks more in the line of quality and whether they are getting good value for their money, but someone who is being cheap would likely be, and is mostly, interested in the cost of an item, good or service and thereby targets only items with the lowest prices at the expense of quality. This would usually mean buying that same product again. But the frugal, knowingly or unknowingly, has successfully saved himself or herself this very stress.
Social-wise, someone who is cheap would dislike all kinds of social gatherings, events or occasions, and find themselves uncomfortable in situations that involve money contributions. He or she may likely be that colleague at the office who rarely contributes their own share and is known to be critical of those with a slightly more relaxed manner toward money.
While both save, a person who is cheap is in the habit of saving every cent they make or are given, even when doing so may mean depriving those closest to them of much. They are always eager to invest and often run the risk of investing all the money they may have.
While both can be rich persons in society, someone who is rich but is being cheap would often live as though they were poor, whereas a rich frugal usually acknowledges being wealthy but avoids an extravagant lifestyle.
It becomes important to note, however, that both have one thing in common, which is that their lifestyle choice is aimed at keeping their spending habits in check, the exception being; a cheap person takes their frugality to an uncomfortable extreme.
Thus, in order that a frugal doesn’t cross over to being cheap, they must be able to tell the differences and make a conscious effort not to lose focus.