With recent economic woes in the United States, it has become chic to be frugal. As frugality can really help your bottom line this is not a bad trait to adopt in any economy. The only problem arises when people start to mix up the definition of being frugal, versus being just plain cheap. While being frugal can save you a great deal of money in the long run, being cheap may actually cost you more over the long term.
Frugality is when you always look for the best value on everything that you buy. When you are frugal, you may actually spend a little bit more for something that will last longer. If you are cheap, you will buy the cheapest of anything, even if it only lasts half as long as a similar product that costs just a little bit more. The cheap person will have to buy the item again shortly, as opposed to the frugal person who only has to buy the item one time.
Furniture is a very good example of an area where you want to be frugal instead of cheap. You can often pay under $100 for a dresser at your local big discount store. Unfortunately, in many cases that cheap dresser will only last about 6 months, if that. On the other hand, you may go to a nice furniture store and buy one that is about $200 that will last you several years. The frugal option is to buy the $200 dresser, because although the upfront cost is higher, the $100 dresser will have to be replaced several times over during the lifetime of the $200 dresser, meaning that it will cost more in the long run.
Someone who is cheap will also buy only what they need as they need it. A frugal person on the other hand will stock up on things like groceries and personal items as they go on sale. When you only buy things as you need them, you will almost always have to pay full price for the things that you buy. If you stock up as things go on sale, you are likely to pay 50% or less of full price, and be able to buy better quality products for less money. In the long run, you are saving money because you are not paying full price as you likely would have to if you only bought things as you needed them.
In the end, being frugal is good for your budget, and will save you a great deal of money in the long run. You can stock up in the things that you know you are going to need as they go on sale, rather than as you need them. You can buy better quality merchandise, even if it costs a little bit more so that you do not have to replace it as soon. This is what it means to be frugal rather than cheap.