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7 Ways to be Frugal Without Being Cheap

There is always a bit of a battle between being frugal and being cheap.

I’ve learned that one does not necessarily imply the other.

People, especially friends and family, can tell when you’re being cheap.

For instance, it’s obvious you’re cheap if you park at Disney Springs to avoid Disney World theme park parking fees.

It’s a major waste of time and effort, but it will save you a few bucks. The sad part is, you lose out overall because you get to spend less time in the theme parks.

Being cheap is not the best quality to be, and I’d much rather be known for being smart and generous with my finances than being miserly.

It’s definitely good to share meals with friends, give nice wedding gifts to those you love, and to help those in need.

However, none of those things should ever put you into debt or cause you financial strife.

So, it’s definitely a fine line and a balancing act to be smart about your finances without coming across as someone who never parts with their money for anything.

Here are some more examples of ways to be frugal without being cheap.

Order Water at Dinner but Still Tip Well

Most waiters and waitresses work really hard and have to deal with a lot of rude customers. I’m a big fan of tipping 20%, especially if the waiter or waitress is a young kid just trying to make a buck.

Shop at a Thrift Store for Yourself but… 

Do not for gifts for your friends at thrift stores. I love scoring deals at Goodwill, but I’d never find a baby shower gift there or anything else that I’d legitimately give to someone else.

Related: Are Used Clothes Disgusting or a Great Way to Save?

Order a Glass Instead of a Bottle of Wine 

It’s definitely frugal to not order alcohol at all, but if you want a little something at dinner, just go easy with your ordering. You can always have more when you get home if you choose.

Drive a Used Car but Not in an Unsafe One

Used cars are great, but it would definitely be considered cheap if your car is falling apart or desperately needs new tires. Saving a buck is not worth your life. Instead, check out our list of the best places to buy tires.

Mend Clothes but Don’t Mend Socks

I am happy to fix holes in a shirt or a pair of pants, but if my socks need mending, they can definitely go in the trash. Socks are pretty inexpensive and should be replaced regularly (in my humble opinion) but I’m all about repairing a nice sweater.

Buy High Quality Products for Your Big-Ticket Items

There’s no point buying the cheapest washer at the store if it’s just going to break a few months later. Sometimes it’s worth it to buy nicer products if you know they will be getting a lot of use.

Cancel Your Cable, but…

Instead, purchase fast Internet so you can enjoy shows online. I love watching TV shows online, but it can be extremely frustrating if they take forever to load. Be frugal by giving up the TV but don’t be cheap by having the lowest speed Internet.

Related: How to Save Hundreds on Your Cable Bill

What are some other ways that people can be frugal without being cheap?

**Lance’s Two Cents** One reason I feel that some people call you cheap when you think you’re being frugal has to do with the values different people have. If one person highly values new, fancy cars and you don’t value cars at all, you might seem cheap to the new car lover when in reality you just have different priorities.


Thursday 25th of February 2016

Hey Cat,

I love that you point out that frugalness doesn't give you a pass at tipping a waiter/waitress well. It's always been my philosophy that if you can't afford to properly tip, you can't afford to eat out.

Lance Cothern

Thursday 25th of February 2016

I totally agree with this as well. If you can't afford to tip don't eat out!

Jack @ SeeJackSave

Monday 27th of January 2014

Great piece Cat. I'm definitely frugal but not cheap. I've not purchased a new pair of jeans in two years (thanks thrift shop) but I tip and gift generously. I see be cheap as being short-sighted. Frugal to means maximizing utility (highest value with lowest costs), not paying the lowest price.

Jen @ Jen Spends

Saturday 18th of January 2014

I've actually purchased gifts at thrift stores, and I don't feel bad about it. I wouldn't do it if it was someone I didn't know very well (and definitely draw the line at baby gifts), but if I know they'd appreciate the gift, then sure. A nice chess set from Goodwill was one of my husband's Christmas gifts last year, and I once gave my sister a gently used handbag that would have been way out of my price-range otherwise.


Thursday 16th of January 2014

Nice! I like to think I'm frugal and not cheap. I may order an appetizer as dinner at a restaurant but I do always tip well!

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

Thursday 16th of January 2014

I've admittedly bought gifts for people at thrift stores. With all the social events these days (wedding MANIA), I just can't afford it any other way. Though I ALWAYS tip well :)