When is Being Frugal Really Just Being Cheap?
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A common objection to being frugal is that it’s really just a nicer label for cheapness. Many a family member has told me that I am cheap. I would be the first to admit that I am always looking for a deal and love to save money. People trying to be frugal love finding ways they can make their budgets stretch further. But, there is a fine line between being frugal and being cheap.
When Does it Pay to Be Frugal?
Every day we have choices of how we should spend our money. Do we stop at the coffee shop, or make one at home? Do I go out for dinner, or do I enjoy a meal at home? These are some of the more simple questions we face each day, and when you’re trying to be frugal the answer is usually simple. But, what do we do about bigger purchases and decisions?
How can we be frugal and still spend money on a big expense? The answer is quite simple. The key to being frugal and making large purchases is doing your homework. As someone who champions living frugally I thrive off of information and can’t overemphasize the importance of making informed purchase decisions.
One instance I can think of when it pays to be frugal is the last time my wife and I bought a washer and dryer. Anyone who has bought those recently knows they can cost a pretty penny. After doing a little research and determining the brands we’d like, my wife and I were told about the “ding and dent sale” at our local appliance store.
Every Thursday they bring in all their items from the warehouse that have some sort of minor defect, and are priced accordingly. This set off my frugal sensor and went looking for something we’d be happy with. In the end we were able to save several hundred dollars and have perfectly running machines. Sure our washer has a scratch on its side, but seven years later, we’re still using them and the frugal person in me knows that scratch can’t be seen and doesn’t affect the performance.
Does Being Cheap Really Save You Money?
Unfortunately, we’re not perfect (myself included), and make stupid decisions from time to time. This can happen when trying to be frugal, but is really just masked cheapness. Case in point was when we got the exterior of our house painted three years ago. I decided to go with the lowest bidder as I wanted to save money.
I thought, “it’s just paint, how hard can it be?” Well, you get what you pay for. Suffice it to say that I will NEVER go with the lowest bidder on another painting job. Our house is an eye sore and can be seen from a mile away because we chose a painter who gave us no direction and just threw paint up on the house.
Thanks to that choice you see the house of blue nastiness above. We used to laugh at people who rubber necked when they passed our house, but now we laugh at ourselves because it’s so awful. The lesson to be learned is that being cheap will not always save money because you’ll just have to turn around and fix it again…something that the frugal person in me hates.
A Frugal Person Always Looks Beyond the Price Tag
My Dad always told me while growing up that you get what you pay for. Being frugal doesn’t mean that you can’t buy a quality product, but it does mean that you justify your purchases. If you buy the cheapest product that needs to be replaced soon after because it’s cheaply made, then is it really a cost savings? I would argue that it’s not.
Sure, the frugal person in me wants to save money when I am buying something, but at what expense do you save money? I believe that spending the extra money to buy a better product is wise and frugal because in the long run you’ll end up spending less money. The money saved can help stretch your budget and in the long run allow you to spend money on other needs or wants.
If you consider yourself a frugal person, have you ever struggled with the feeling that you’re just being cheap?
John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.
Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.
Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.
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