Monday, September 3, 2007

Cheap vs. Frugal, a gentler distinction

Just about every frugal blogger that I read has written at least one post on the difference between being cheap and frugal. While I very much understand and agree with the need for a distinction, I don't always agree with the way they draw the line. Generally, things that require care and discipline, such as hanging laundry or eating less meat, are considered frugal. Cheap is usually defined as an excessive desire to save money, and the examples are almost exclusively immoral or illegal, such as not tipping in a restaurant or filling a free water cup with soda. While the word cheap certainly has a negative connotation, I'm not sure I agree that everything cheap is bad.

The way I understand it, frugal means trying to use less goods and resources. Cheap means trying not to pay for goods and resources. This can, of course, mean trying to cheat someone, but I don't think it always has to.

Some cheap (but not frugal) things I do, which I don't think are immoral"

    I always take a free logo pen when it's offered. I keep myself and my classroom well supplied with pens this way, and I never have to pay. I could probably stand to be more frugal with them, as they often get lost or wasted, but I don't think it's wrong to be cheap at acquiring them.

    I eat the free lunch that's offered me at work. I never take more than my fair share, but I don't feel the need to bring my own gourmet lunch from home or to skip lunch entirely.

    I use coupons and rebates to buy groceries. If the manufacturer wants to pay for my groceries, I will gladly accept.

    I go to the bathroom right before I leave work. I figure that way I'm using someone else's water, paper, and soap. Okay, this one might be a bit silly, but I still don't think it's immoral. Now, rolling TP onto a roll in my pocketbook would be immoral.

I'm sure there are more examples, but I'm a bit fried right now. What are some things you do that are cheap and perfectly moral and legit?


Fabulously Broke in the City said...

Free tap water with your meal at restaurants or at fastfood joints. Instead of getting the calorie-ridden pops and iced teas, I ask for water...

Saves me only about $0.50 at fastfood joints, but it's still $0.50! And saves me about $3 in restaurants. :)

Also, bringing your own snacks to movie theatres.. oh wait. Is that illegal? Most theatres don't stop me when I walk in with a Starbucks...

Hilda said...

I love going to Costco or Sam's on the weekends when they have lots of free food samples! If I tasted something that I really like, then I go and buy it. If not, I just had myself a free little snack.

Oh, if you have a business membership with Sam's and you go in the morning before everybody else, they usually have pastries, cookies, and coffee. Free breakfast!

E.C. said...

By your definition, yesterday when I went to the library and checked out five dvds and a book rather than buying or renting them, that qualified as cheap! I love the selection of great old movies and foreign films at our library, and I don't really feel the need to own something I might want to watch a couple of times a year. (I'm a bit more acquisitive when it comes to books.)

Kookaburra said...

I love your statement about using the bathroom before leaving work. Right now I'm not working, but when I was, I ALWAYS used their bathroom before leaving. And it's for the same reasons that you stated. And even if I didn't have to go, I would atleast go in and wash my hands. You are totally not silly and of course, it's not immoral.

SavingWithMe said...

I would agree all of those bullet points you listed are definitely socially acceptable ways to save money. The work restroom thing is a bit funny that you thought of that, but I suppose it does add up over the course of an entire career. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with your reasoning and ideas.

Although, I think that going to the toilet before leaving work just for the sake of it can be seen wasteful if you don't really need to go - you are wasting someone else's resources.

Cheers, Wilm

Mom2fur said...

It seems that in your examples, everything was offered to you! You didn't just grab and take it. It would almost be immoral if you didn't take the free lunch at work...because then they'd be stuck with leftovers that might get thrown away.
I'm an avid couponer. Trust me, both the stores and the manufacturers want you to use them! If saving a buck means the difference between buying one kind of mustard and leaving another on a shelf, then the folks at French's (for example) say "go for it!"
To is being mean and miserly. If saving a few pennies means hurting anyone in any way...then it's cheap!

S.B. said...

I am all about free samples! I love to walk in the candy store in the mall for my free sample.


Tony said...

Good Job!: )