Is using a coupon to save money being frugal or cheap?

Any money savvy gal will look for opportunities to save money, but how do you know when you cross the line from being frugal to just plain cheap?

Both frugal and cheap people like to save money. It might seem like a fine line to walk, but the difference in mindset is huge.

What it means to be frugal

Frugal is the quality of being economical with your spending choices. Frugal people prioritize what’s important to them in life and make sure their finances support their priorities, not vice versa. 

Saving money is a priority to frugal people, but not their #1 priority.

For example, if conveying a professional demeanor at work and wearing professional attire is a priority, a frugal person will reserve a portion of her budget for career clothes. She will look for clothing items that will give her best value for her spend, not necessarily the cheapest price point. This includes keeping an eye out for sales, shopping consignment, or yes, even clipping coupons. Having a good quality, fitted blazer will be worth the investment, even if she has to save up money for it. Buying a cheap-quality, ill-fitting blouse that is on the clearance rack just because it’s such a low price wouldn’t be. 

If spending quality time with family and friends is a priority, a frugal person might set aside a portion of her budget for entertainment activities. She might also look for Groupon deals and intentionally save credit card points to pay for flights to visit loved ones. She won’t skip attending a birthday party just because she doesn’t want to spend money on a gift. 

Frugal people save money wherever they can to be able to invest in the things most important for them—focusing their spend on things that provide the best value.

Did you know that Warren Buffet, worth over $82 billion, once bought Bill Gates lunch at McDonald’s with coupons?!

So clip away with your coupons, girl. It’s just smart money!

What it means to be cheap

Being cheap, miserly or stingy is more than just taking frugal to the extreme. It is a different mindset. It is a mindset of ‘not enough’ and an unwillingness to give or spend anything… or at least the bare minimum possible. 

People who live with a cheap mindset prioritize saving a buck over anything else.

A cheap person who needs professional attire for work will buy the cheapest thing she can find. She may compromise on fit, quality of the fabric or garment construction if it costs less. Price point is the deciding factor for her purchase.

When it comes to spending time with family and friends, a cheap person may turn down a special Sunday brunch with the gang because she does not want to spend any money. If she does splurge on brunch, she might be the one at the table to insist on dividing the group bill down to the penny. Or she may just ‘forget’ to add a few bucks for tax and tip. She’ll save a few bucks, but lose the spirit of the event—spending quality time with important friends.

Cheap not how much money you spend. Cheap is a mindset. 

A cheap person’s top priority is to save money, even if it comes at the expense of their own comfort or relationships around them.

Living cheaply can be expensive!

Living cheaply may save you a few bucks in the short term, but it can end up costing you lots more in the long run. 

When you buy items of inferior quality, they will break or wear down more quickly, and you will need to replace them more often.

And if you buy something just because it was ‘a good deal’’ you have spent money to save money on something you don’t need. Net-net, you’re out money.

And if you hold off getting that rattling noise in your car fixed just because you don’t want to pay a mechanic bill, you may pay that annoying rattle turns into something more serious.

Frugal people…Cheap people…
Like to save money!Like to save money!
Focus on long-term goals, budgeting for what’s most important.Focus on short-term savings, spending the least amount possible.
Buy items based on best ‘bang for the buck’—focusing on good quality and value.Buy items with the cheapest price, compromising on quality or value.
Buy gas at the cheapest gas station along their daily route.Spend their valuable time to drive across town (out of their way) to save a few cents on gas.
Shop consignment or sales racks for a good deals on clothes.Buy a dress, keep the tags on and return it after wearing it.
Split the bill evenly at a group dinner.Don’t put in enough for tax or tip when spilling the bill at group dinner.
Hang on to items for as long as they serve their purpose.Hang on to broken items that no longer serve a purpose because they ‘might need them’ someday. 
Do basic DIY home projects like fixing a door handle or repainting a room.Tackle home repairs better left for a professional, like electrical, just to save a buck.
Clip coupons and shop for bargains on everyday items that would be purchased anyways.Shops only coupons and bargain sales, spending lots of time looking for coupons for items that aren’t needed.
Invest in their company 401K plans up to the company match (and beyond).Skip investing in their company 401K up to the company match because “you can’t afford it.”

Finding ways to save money is a good habit to get into—yes, even clipping coupons. 

Just make sure you are saving money to be able to invest in the things that are important to you. Not spending on anything, to the point of being miserly is unhealthy. 

Focus on developing a mindset of being frugal, not cheap, and both your finances and your life will flourish.

Are You Frugal? Or Cheap?

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