Cheap? Frugal? Why Is There Even A Debate?

With a blog called Yes, I Am Cheap, you can bet that I get a fair bit of e-mails comparing cheap and frugal.  I’ve been asked many times if frugal is better than cheap and I’ve answered this question the same way every single time – there is no difference.  It’s what I told Harvard Business Review years ago and it’s what I told Experian last week.  Frugal used to have a better connotation than cheap did only because a cheap individual was often viewed as miserly, but ask yourself how many times you’ve said, “Man, that’s cheap” as you hopped onto a deal.

Back before the Great Recession, I’m sure that people looked down their noses at people who actively sought deals.  Rap stars were talking about how they pop champagne and flaunted all of their bling, designer and celebrity endorsed everything ruled the airwaves, restaurants outdid themselves with who could create the most expensive burger…Hold on, this deserves a sidebar.  Seriously people?  Who in the hell is spending $295 for a damn burger?  And it doesn’t include fries? For $295 the burger should not only jump into my mouth and chew itself, it should massage my feet and serenade my wallet too.  Speaking of rappers and burgers, you have to watch the video below which features this damn burger.

Now, where was I? Recession. Burger.  Oh yes, we were pretty crazy back then but we’ve all gotten wiser with our money.  It’s hard out here trying to earn a dollar but just tossing it at something that you’ve paid full price for makes me want to clutch my pearls.  I don’t wear pearls, but if I did, I would have been clutching them once I heard about that burger.

Who here hasn’t actively browsed through Groupon or Living Social for a deal?  I know that I do.  Would you ever tell the Groupon providers that they can take their deal and shove it because you’d prefer to pay full price?  How about when you’re shopping online?  Almost as soon as you land on the site you open another browser to do a search for a coupon code.  Have you ever clipped a coupon in your life?  What about waiting for the Macy’s one day sale which occurs just about every other day now before you go shopping?  Ready to buy summer clothes now that we’re in the fall and you can score a great deal on closeouts?  Tell me, which of those were cheap and which were frugal?  Were the lines blurred for you?

With all of that said, there is a line.  I’ve been asked to be on the show Extreme Cheapskates multiple times and I have turned it down every time they’ve asked.  Not only do I think that the show is exploitative, but they, like all reality shows, ask people to push themselves into a realm of cheapness that is further than they would normally venture into.  You know how I feel about forgoing toilet paper just to be cheap. Blame it on the need for ratings but the examples featured on the show are not realistic.

The next time someone says that you’re cheap and you feel the need to defend it, embrace your inner cheapskate.  I walked through JFK airport the other day with my Yes, I Am Cheap t-shirt in neon green and lots of people stopped me to ask me about the shirt and what it meant.  Those who were too shy to ask snickered behind their fingers, but it’s all good.  There is nothing wrong with being called cheap.  Your pockets will thank you later.

Okay I’m playing a game with you guys.  Who can tell me how many rap/pop songs I mentioned in this post and what were their titles?  I just felt like having a little fun with you guys today after watching that video.

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3 thoughts on “Cheap? Frugal? Why Is There Even A Debate?

  • This article resonates with me on so many levels. Many friends and family members have given me a hard time over the years about being cheap, yet they all wonder why we can afford lavish vacations, a nice house, and cool toys. Hint – it’s not because I blow money on stupid stuff. Now, I am willing to spend money and buy “the good stuff” on occasion, but that’s because I buy based on quality, not price, and I’ll buy something that costs 25% more when I expect it to last 2-3x as long.

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