Frugal Vs Cheap – What is the Difference?

Guest post by Financial Wolves

Have you ever backed away from bargaining at a flea market, thinking it would be too cheap? Or have you cut down on a decent waiter’s tip to save some dollars over dinner? To most people, both of them might look like examples of the same phenomena. However, the first scene shows a frugal personality, while the other one is downright cheap.

We know what you’re thinking, how can someone possibly know when they’re crossing the line from being frugal to cheap? Although there is a fine line between the two, if you understand the concept, you’ll know what’s cheap and what’s not right away.

Mainly, being frugal is saving money while keeping your moral values and best interests in mind. For example, a frugal person will never buy a cheap, low-quality item that won’t last him long, but a cheap person will probably jump at the deal.

To bring things into perspective, here are some differences between frugal and cheap to get you a clear picture.

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1 – Frugal Means Finding Smart Ways to Save Money

When purchasing expensive stuff such as home appliances or electronic gadgets, most of us wait until we find the best deals in nearby department stores or online like double or triple stacking cashback rewards. A frugal person will go through each deal closely and weigh the pros and cons before making the purchase.Sans titre.png

On the contrary, a cheap person will refuse to look at brand new products completely. Instead, he’ll head for the used products section whenever he wants to buy something without considering the fact that maybe he could get a better deal on new products with other dealers.

This way, while both of them are saving money, the frugal person is being smart about it.

2 – A Cheap Person Always Thinks That Money Spent is Money Gone

Think about the things you’ve purchased for your home. How many of them are replacements for better quality things that you wanted? If you can count a lot of them, then maybe you’re crossing the line from being frugal to cheap.


A cheap person will always go for an inexpensive object, regardless of his preference or quality. Most of the time, such things tend to disintegrate quickly, ultimately wasting the money spent altogether. On the other hand, a frugal person will buy a high-quality product, considering it an investment.

[Jonathan: I love this tip, going for the cheapest solution might even cost you more in the long run!]

3 – A Frugal Person Will Never Target Appearances

Been clubbing around on Saturday night? You must’ve come across a lot of wannabes with their fake branded clothes, shoes, and merchandise. These people try to show the world they have products they can’t afford, which is simply cheap.


A frugal person, on the other hand, won’t care about showing off. He’ll flaunt the stuff he can afford with pride, knowing that spending on what matters is better than spending on useless luxuries.

Remember, being frugal does not mean you don’t invest in any luxuries at all. For example, while a cheap person will be spending his money away on inexpensive, fake appearances, the frugal one will be cutting on that and saving up for a luxury car, or his own house.

4 – Frugal People Have a Giving Nature

You will see people ignoring charity boxes and fundraisers, even if they can afford to give some money out for the better cause. That’s plain cheap. You see, a cheap person will think that whatever he earns is strictly confined to himself, and giving it out to someone is a waste.


A frugal person will never think of giving as depletion of his revenue. Giving brings a sense of self-satisfaction and helps with your personal growth. Being frugal, you will understand this aspect when asked to contribute for a cause, rather than just thinking about the money you’ll have to give.

5 – Cheap People End Up Cutting On Vitalities

Everyone has this distant aunt who just won’t buy medicines because she thinks they make her even sicker. Cheap people tend to have this mentality. They scrutinize each penny they spend to the extent that everything seems unnecessary to them.


Let’s put it this way. Beginning a side hustle or a start-up requires investment. A cheap person will never have the guts to take a step and make the investment to secure his future. He’ll probably think what I have is enough for me, and I don’t need to spend more on myself.

A frugal person will always think of investing in himself first. He knows that this money he will part with today will reward him tenfold in the future. In short, a frugal person knows what’s important and what’s not, while a cheap person fails to differentiate between the two.

6 – Cheap People are Loud and Bawdy

Probably all of us have come across such people at least once in our lives. You’ll find them everywhere, from supermarkets to expensive restaurants complaining about the price of everything.


To them, quality, customer service, and other facilities are of no consideration. As a result, they just cannot figure out why a steak dish costs more than $10.

Let me take you in on a secret. Everyone secretly thinks that even frugal people. But the difference is, when stuck in such a situation, a frugal person will never voice his concerns out loud.

For example, they know that complaining to the waiter about the price of the steak will just make them look cheap. However, it’s not cheap to create havoc if the food you’re paying for is not up to the mark, or the cleanliness and ambiance don’t match up to the prices.

Being polite and stating the fact sometimes is all the difference between being cheap and frugal.

7 – A Frugal Person Values Time Over Money

A cheap person will exhaust himself and waste an hour walking to a destination, instead of paying a few bucks for a taxi ride. A frugal person is punctual and values his own time. He’ll calculate the benefits if he can reach faster on foot as compared to taking a taxi because of traffic, he’ll decide to walk as well.

The difference is, a frugal person opts for the option that gives him the maximum value, while a cheap person just saves money.

[Jonathan: Talking about time and money, read more here and take the test to find out How much your time is really worth to you!]

Final Words

That wraps up our differences between frugal and cheap. I hope these examples helped you understand and keep yourself from going overboard while saving money. The trick is to balance out the benefit along with the cost before parting with your money.

And remember, the benefits are not only material. Once you understand that, you’re not likely to make cheap decisions.

About the Author

Financial Wolves is a blog focused on helping you make more money to achieve financial freedom. After repaying student loans, I’ve shifted my focus to make more money from side hustles, real estate, freelancing and the online economy. Follow us on Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

I would like to thank Financial Wolves once again for this nice comparison between cheap and frugal.

Here is a bonus difference: Frugal people are considerate of others. They will not try to pay less/gain a few cents when splitting the bill at the restaurant for example. Their frugality does not affect others.

I must confess friends, I have been cheap on several occasions in the past (especially during the student times), I now strive for the best value for money and do not hesitate to spend a little more on good quality (clothes for example) or flexibility by not choosing the cheapest flights/hotel rooms.

And tell me, friends, have you been cheap sometimes looking for the absolute cheapest? Are you frugal but considered cheap by your friends?  Let us know in the comments below!

If like Financial Wolves you wish to collaborate for guest posting or sponsored posts please do not hesitate to reach out by e-mail and of course, for everyone, do follow us on social media as well for more great content, check our FacebookInstagramTwitter, and join our e-mail list. I would love to connect with you!

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7 thoughts on “Frugal Vs Cheap – What is the Difference?

  1. Well, when I read the word “cheap” not giving a tip came to mind first. Or worse: splitting a bill between friends and making a remark about that your meal was not as expensive as the others. Ugh.
    Although I do not use the word frugal to describe myself, I always end up buying things that have a good price/quality ratio. Doing the research. Or, when I don’t care, just buy something nice for myself that just feels good.
    The nice thing about paying yourself first is that buying nice things won’t hurt your savings!

    1. Hello there and thanks for stopping by. With tipping in Europe, I am happy to pay one when the service is outstanding, if the service is normal I do not pay it and certainly do not feel cheap about it. But I get that it can look cheap to others, hehe. I liike your focus on good price/quality ratio and indeed if you have your money working in the background then you are free to spend the rest as you wish!

  2. I read this expecting to disagree, I wad6 just in one of those moods. But when you mentioned how valuable giving is, you had me! So true, generosity is so important to being wonderfully frugal and not horribly cheap. Well said!

    1. Great we managed to have you Steve 🙂 ! Well thanks to Financial Wolves hehe and indeed frugality means being considerate about others as well.

  3. I think Ramit said it the best, spend lavishly on what you value, cut the things you don’t value ruthlessly. Well he says it better than that, but I think cheap cuts everything, frugal leaves some things alone. I got the same message from your post, good stuff!

    1. Aaah Ramit Sethi, the man! Somehow during the podcast episodes my guest keep mentioning his name here and there with his famous phrase : “Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t”

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