9 Ways to Be Frugal Without Being Cheap
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Being frugal and being cheap are commonly thought of as synonymous. I hear it regularly from family members. They know we tend to live frugally and accuse us of simply being cheap.
It can be easy to allow frugality to turn into cheapness. We’ve all seen or heard of the extreme frugality shows where people go to the level of reusing dental floss or some other ridiculous thing all in an attempt to save a few pennies.
That misses the point of frugality, which is really all about spending with a purpose. If you struggle to find the balance between trying to be frugal without being cheap, here are some ways to not be a miser and still enjoy some nice things in life.
Watch Those Drinks
We rarely go out for dinner as it can get quite expensive with a family of five. We typically go out around our anniversary and a few special occasions throughout the year, but it usually adds up to only a few times per year.
Like many, we enjoy a drink or two with that meal, but here’s the rub – markup. Retailers typically mark up glasses of wine or beer by as much as 300 percent or more and cocktails by 500 percent or more. You think that’s crazy; soda is way worse. Add in tax and tip on that purchase, and it gets more bloated.
Our frugal solution is to skip the drink. We buy something on the way home, or already have something at home. This allows us to enjoy a nice treat, without a crazy cost to the bill.
Hiring A Housekeeper
What does hiring a housekeeper have to do with frugality? The idea used to make every frugal bone in my body cringe, but I’ve come to love having someone come clean our house once a month.
The reason for my change of opinion? It frees my wife and I up to get more clients and make more money. We typically pay our housekeeper $125 – $150 per month to give our house a deep clean. She’s able to get the house done in 5-6 hours, and over that time we’re earning more money.
We do spot cleaning throughout the month, of course, but we buy back our time to focus on growing our business. Without that extra time, we’d lose time we need to grow our business. That makes paying for a housekeeper well worth the expense so we can focus on things that bring value to our business or income into our home.
In Source Hair Care
Getting a hair cut can be expensive. For a typical haircut for a man, the average is $28 per sheering and $44 for women. That can add up quickly when you have a family. The best way to save money on haircuts is to insource the expense.
*Related: Looking for extra ways to save money on clothing for your family? Check out our guide on how to get free children’s clothes online to keep more money in your budget.*
We’ve done this for years, and it has saved us loads of money. I use this simple Wahl haircut kit for my and my sons’ hair. My wife and daughter, who strangely enough don’t trust me to cut their hair, go to a local beauty school to get their hair cut. At about $12, including tip, it saves loads of money without being cheap.
Cut the Cable, But Still Watch TV
This is a great way to be frugal without being cheap. There are so many options today to cut cable and save money. We canceled DirecTV close to two years ago and save roughly $90 per month, yet still watch most of what we did in our DirecTV years.
There are many options to choose from including Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick and more. It simply doesn’t make sense to throw money out the window. The fun part is deciding what to do with all that extra money. We throw it into our vacation fund, so we have more money to travel.
Pay for Quality Products
A cheap person will always look for the cheapest product, thinking it’s saving them money. In some cases, it might actually work for them, but in most instances, it won’t.
It’s for one simple reason; the item is cheaply made and breaks in short order. This is a lesson I learned when I was paying off debt. Needing an item, I would pick the cheaper option because I had very little. Most times I’d need to replace the item again, which cost me more money in the long run.
A frugal person comparison shops and finds a product that will last longer. This costs more in the short-term, but in the long run, it saves money. It’s a no-brainer if you ask me.
Be Creative When Eating Out
Back to the restaurant for this one. How many times have you ordered a meal only to get enough food to feed a small Russian army? If you don’t take the leftover food home, then you’re wasting it – not to mention spending more than you ought.
We have two frugal solutions to this problem, we either just order an appetizer if we’re not that hungry or we split a meal. This lets still enjoy a meal out, but it cuts our cost in half, and we don’t feel the pressure to stuff ourselves.
Embrace Used Items
We live in a throwaway culture. A cheap person won’t throw anything away because they think anything can be used. This can easily lead to clutter, which is the last thing I want. A frugal person knows there are some used items that still have good life left in them and save money.
*Related: Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Read our exhaustive guide of free things to do this weekend to save money without sacrificing on the fun.*
This can range from used clothing, especially for growing children, to tools, to cars, pre-owned gift cards and more. You get to avoid the premium price you pay for a new item and still get something useful with value.
Wisely Use Coupons
A cheap person is always going to look for and use coupons. Coupons are often a waste of time, saving you little relative to the time spent and are simply not worth it. The best way to be frugal and take advantage of savings is to wisely use coupons to your advantage.
We don’t use coupons when shopping, but we do take advantage of cash back sites like Ebates and Swagbucks when shopping online. You don’t have to jump through any additional hoops or spend time looking for coupons but still save money. That’s a win-win in my book.
Do Your Math when trying to be frugal
A cheap person is going to assume the generic item is always a better deal. That may not always be the case. A frugal person, on the other hand, does some simple math to make sure the deal or generic item is really cheaper.
The best way to do this is to compare the per ounce, pound or item cost when looking at two similar items. You may be surprised at the number of times that the cheaper item actually has a higher per item cost and not be a deal.
It can be easy to confuse trying to be frugal with being cheap. Frugal living is about purposeful spending so you can enjoy the kind of life you want and not always to do with saving an extra few pennies.
What are some other ways you can be frugal without being cheap? How do you balance being frugal vs cheap? What’s one thing you spend money on that wouldn’t be considered frugal by most?
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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