7 Ways to be Frugal Without Being Cheap

Frugality is important, but being cheap takes frugal living too far. These frugal tips can help you appear reasonably frugal, rather than an extreme cheapskate. Saving money doesn't have to be hard and your budget will thank you. Check out our 7 ways how 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.

It’s 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.

Related: How Much Should You Tip at Sit Down Restaurants?

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.

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.

Related: Sometimes It Pays to Pay More – Buy It for Life!

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.

Photo by: thegift73 Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog, www.BudgetBlonde.com.


  1. Good tips – saving money without losing out on things (like cable vs high speed internet) is my favourite kind of saving!!

  2. Good tips Cat! I always have to laugh at #2 as we shop second hand for ourselves, but not anyone outside us our the kids – my Mom is convinced we’ll give her a gift we bought at a second hand store though, lol. For #3 we’ll skip it altogether and buy a bottle at the store on the way home as it’s crazy how much restaurants mark up booze.

  3. If I order water, I mentally add $2 to the total of the bill and tip based on that. Multiply by the number of guests that order water. The waitstaff still have to work to refill your water, so I figure they should get tipped based on what you’d tip if you ordered a soft drink.

  4. The problem with being cheap is that you could actually keep yourself from buying something you need because you don’t want to part with your money at all. Being Frugal is simply being wise with your money – ie, ensuring what you’re buying adds value to your life <- that's my measuring stick for purchasing something.

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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