Guest post: Frugal vs. Cheap

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Jill Wilson and I became part of a Mommy Blogging Group at about the same time.  She is very passionate about many different topics; but being a mommy ranks at the top of the list.  I love going to her blog as just looking at the name of her blog reminds me that first and foremost I am Called to Be a Mom.  She also blogs about saving money, which is what she discusses in her guest post for Creative K Kids.

Frugal Vs. Cheap

Frugal and cheap are not interchangeable and yet a lot of people get these two words confused.  Many think they are the same.  They are not! I personally am not a fan of cheaply made products.  Cheap products break.  You actually have to spend more because you have to repurchase a product to replace the one that broke. I also normally do not buy something just because it is cheap.The difference between frugal purchases and cheap purchases

 Granted, Dollar Stores do great for people who are always looking for cheaply made things.  I still buy from Dollar Stores on certain things.  I just don’t buy a lot of cheap things. Granted, I do buy cheap things if we forget some things and we are on a trip.  This summer, we went camping and we were going swimming. I forgot my kid’s toys so I went and bought cheap toys to have while we were up there.  So there are certain times that I do buy cheap.

Most of the time, I am a frugal purchaser instead of a cheap purchaser.   There also is another understanding of cheap. “He’s so cheap he won’t fix his door frame.”  This could be one or the other depending on the scenario.  Maybe the door frame is still usable and he is trying to get a few more weeks or months of use out of it.  Most of the time this would be a frugal move.  Trying to do with what you have, or do without – is a mindset of a frugal person.

We are frugal.  We don’t have smart phones.  We don’t have car payments.  We don’t have brand name clothing.  We do a lot of do-it-yourself projects.  We try to save money whenever we can. However, we do not have a lot of items that are made cheap.  We tend to buy a good quality for the lower price.  Normally, we do not buy the cheapest thing when it comes to things we need.  We would rather have something last a long time.

Frugal doesn’t mean you don’t have nice things.  We do not hold value in things but rather in relationships in our family.  Though there are a few great tools that are expensive and we buy them anyway.  The first one that comes to mind is a grain grinder.  They range between $100 to $500.  That is a lot of money.  But it saves us money and we eat healthier.

Another thing we pay for is tools.  We have lots of tools from different do-it-yourself projects.  When we have a major specialty tool that we need to invest in we look at the cost to buy it versus the cost to rent it.  We also borrow tools from family members.   We save a lot by not paying a contractor when possible.  We use the tools over and over on many projects. We have put up a lot of trim board in our day.  We have always borrowed the miter saw from family.  The cost to us is only the cost of the boards we buy, and an occasional blade.  There are so many easy ways to be frugal.

Another tool example where we do spend money to get quality is our computers. I as a blogger and my husband as a software developer use computers in our businesses for nearly everything. If we were to get cheap computers, we would end up spending significant amounts of extra time waiting for those machines to do basic tasks, and they would be that much more likely to break down sooner. So this is an area where we have to make good decisions to strike the balance between an excellent tool and being frugal, but we never go cheap here. Here is a link to the computer I just bought that was a great investment. Click Here.

For example, he insisted we both get ASUS laptops because they design for durability and longevity, he spent the extra to have enough RAM to tackle any reasonable task he could think of with a little room to spare, and put other extras in so that our information would be as safe as he could make it. Because these tools are directly contributing to our livelihood, it does make sense to spend the extra. Though even here, he came up with ways of being frugal, such as buying both our laptops refurbished.

Purposes of being Frugal

  • It becomes a lifestyle:  My mother always bought us garage sale clothes growing up.  I never felt a need for $90 pair of jeans.
  • Buy things that are an asset, not a liability.
    • When I save money on liabilities, I can buy more assets.  First off, a liability is something that I am going to use and get nothing in return. Examples of these are foods consumed, clothes I wear, and gas that goes in my car.  Assets are things I buy that I will get some sort of return on.  Granted, you can re-sell clothes.  But when I buy second hand and cheap there really isn’t a value to them when I am done with them.  If I buy a house and rent it out this is an asset.   If I save money and put it in the stock market, this is an asset.  The cheaper I can live on useless things will make buying things of value happen faster.
  • Get a better quality for a better value.
    • Whether you use coupons or buy off-brand, you will be saving money.  Sometimes having a great deal is something that you can negotiate.  Why pay retail price when you don’t have to?  I’ve wondered often why people go to rent to own stores.  I have never understood that!  I wonder if they have ever been to an auction or a garage sale where they could buy quality items for a fraction of the price!
    • When the housing market collapse we were able to buy a house that fit our needs, that was built in 2001 and was $30,000 less than what it had been sold for to the first owner.  We have sold that house since and made $5,000 on the sale.  I was able to buy a better quality even in my home for little money.  We were able to have a 15-year mortgage cheaper than our rent.  I have not always been that lucky. I have lost money when I have had to sell houses in the past, because of quick moves due to job losses and other unexpected events in life.   I just know that you don’t have to buy a fancy dream house as your first house. You can make it on purchasing a house that meets your needs, not your wildest dreams.  You can save money in small space living lifestyle in so many ways.  First, you don’t have as big of mortgage payments and utility bills go down too.   You also don’t need extra stuff.  By they way we still have stuff.  We are working on some big goals this year, and one of the goals is getting rid of 40 Bags of STUFF in 40 Days.
  • Buying what you need
    • Three years ago, I started honing in on my homemaking skills.  Our ancestors did a lot of things that we don’t do now.  I have bought appliances that actually save money in the kitchen.  You can buy a lot of appliances such as a pressure canner at a thrift store or on a garage sale.  I have bought what I need.  I do have a lot of things in the kitchen.  I also am able to make a lot of things such as homemade bread, canned meats, vegetables and fruits and other items we eat regularly.  You would be surprise how easy it is to change a few things in your current lifestyle and save a lot of money.
    • Another big place to save is by not going out to eat as often.  A home cooked meal is healthier for you and it is cheaper.   A lot of cities have taxes as high as 10% on food service.  I also know when I worked in a restaurant they wanted the food cost to be less than 50%.  That means you are spending a minimum of 60% more to go out to eat for the same quality of food. The good thing is that if you are cooking at home you can buy an even higher quality of food and still be cheaper than the meal out would be.  We still go out to eat but it is a lot less frequent.
    • Once you start doing more things for yourself, there are always projects you need to work on at home and the idea of shopping isn’t as appealing.  I don’t shop very much anymore.  The less amount of trips you take to the store will mean you will spend less. And that’s before you add in the cost of fuel to stores and restaurants.

      1. Go shopping once a month.  Granted you have to work up to this rigorous schedule.  You can do it. I did it!
      2. Spread out the amount of times you go shopping.
      3.  Shop with a list and only buy what is on the list.
      4. Don’t go shopping hungry.
      5. Don’t bring the kids or the husband.

Do you want to know know more about living a frugal lifestyle and loving it?

Guess what.  I just wrote a book that will go more in depth.  We personally have made it to DEBT-FREE and we live on one income.  You can as well.  Check outOne Income Mystery.”

One Income Mystery

Jill Wilson is a wife,and mother of two.She is an author of One Income Mystery She has a blog at Called To Be A Mom where she gives practical advice to help you be a mother and homemaker. She started her journey of being more intentional in her living three years ago. She gives advice about frugal living, DIY projects, eating natural foods, and making your life matter. She talks about a multitude of subjects such as multi-generation living, homeschooling and living debt-free.


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    • says

      I agree it can be hard to learn at first. It takes time to learn the difference between frugal and cheap. I would give advice that getting a brand name item on a garage sale or auction is a way of being frugal. Buying some cheap toy made in China and you know it’s going to break is an example of being cheap! When you start putting your mindset to trying to get the best deal on high quality products, I think this may be the advice that will help you on your way! Good Luck!

  1. says

    I agree with 100% of this post. Some people will label me as being cheap when I’m not cheap at all. I’m frugal. I don’t waste my time of cheap things because in the end, when it needs replaced, I’ll be wasting more money then I would have had I would have shopped around and got a great deal on such and such. Great post!

    • says

      I agree Stephanie! I also have been in that circumstance that people call me out on being cheap and in reality I am just frugal. That is the whole inspiration of this post! I wanted to explain to others the difference so they can also be better money managers in your own home 😉

  2. says

    This is definitely an important distinction to make… and so important to teach your children the difference. Saving money to buy more expensive toys that will last longer than a few hours or days…. we are always trying to teach the kids the importance of saving (spending, giving) -but, when you do spend- spend wisely… and be resourceful with what you have.

    • says

      I have wasted money before on buying cheap things. But we always try to be frugal. Now I’m always researching consumer reports and reviews before buying a bigger object.