How to Be Frugal Without Being a Cheapskate


The US show “Extreme Cheapskate” features America’s cheapest individuals, and the often cringeworthy tactics they deploy to save a dollar.

No doubt the individuals (presumably paid for the show?) are exaggerating somewhat for entertainment value. Despite the participants seeming pretty proud of their cheapskate habits, a common theme seems to be taking advantage of people.

Perhaps you even have family or friends who you would consider cheapskates, or perhaps you have a reputation yourself?

It is important to set financial goals, and become a top notch money manager, in order to achieve your ideal life in years to come. It is critical to pay off consumer debt, and achieve financial security. But where is the line between frugality and cheapskate? How can you save money and reach your goals, without stepping into cheapskate territory?

Cheapskate vs Frugal – Definitions

Lets start with some formal definitions, from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Cheapskate: a miserly or stingy person especiallyone who tries to avoid paying a fair share of costs or expenses

Frugal: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources

Saving the Environment

Using our environmental resources efficiently, by happy accident, is ussually also frugal. Saving water and electricity, reusing and recycling are all simple ways to reduce our impact on the environment, whilst saving money.

By not buying into the grossly consumerist culture around us, we buy less, consume fewer materials and fuel. When re-using second hand goods, we are reusing all the materials and fuels used to create and transport that item.

There is something very satsifying about finding another use for an unwanted material.

Asking a neighbour if you can take the piece of discarded furniture out of their skip to upcycle is a frugal win-win. Your neighbour will likely be glad to have a little more space in that skip!

Stealing your neighbours lemons from an overladen tree probably equates to cheap skate. Just ask, they will likely be glad to see those excess lemons utilised. Bring back a baked good made with lemons and you’ve likely made a friend for life.

If we all got a bit more organised to take turns driving our colleagues to work, there would be a lot less traffic, and savings in fuel and money. As well as helping the environment, we may get to know our colleagues better, which often makes collaborating at work easier.

Our society in Australia has become extremely individualistic. Each household owns one of every item. But a revolution has begun with the “sharing economy”.

Ride sharing, hourly car hire and bicycle hire are the early examples, the world would be more efficient if we all shared more.

If we could have closer, more trusting relationships with our neighbours, we would feel more comfortable sharing lawn mowers, ladders and other seldom used items. Imagine the savings for a street, if they all shared a communal shed.

Check out Sustainable Living for more ideas for improving your environmental and financial efficiency.

Cheapskate Vs Frugal – Quality over Quantity

When trying to save money, it’s easy to fall into the trap of always buying the cheapest option. Sometimes this can be a false economy. You don’t always get what you pay for, but it’s worth considering durability to make the most long-term cost effective purchases.

The cheapest bottle of wine may save you a few extra dollars but, in my experience, punishes you with a far worse headache. Giving up alcohol altogether of course is the far smarter choice, good for your hip pocket, health, productivity and relationships. I’ve not reached that level yet!

Many of use have brought an old bomb of a car in the past, scraping the dollars together, only to be hit with repair bills weeks down the track. Once financially secure, you are unlikely to make this choice again!

Buying a quality (but not flash) second hand car is ussually the most economical choice. Of course, going without a car is going to save you a lot of cash most of the time, and encourage more physical activity on a daily basis.

Social Activities

Socialising with friends, we have all discovered, is really essential to our wellbeing. No-one has ever appreciated the freedom to socialise as much as in the past 12 months. But socialising, depending on your friends, can easily result in hundreds of dollars spent on a flash dinner and copious over priced drinks.

Forgetting your wallet, and letting your friends pay the bill would definitely count as cheapskate behaviour!

Asking your friends to meet up for dinner at your place, or go for a hike with a picnic is a frugal and fun way to socialise.

If there needs to be a big change in your spending habits, it’s probably worth talking to your friends openly about your change in behaviour. If they are good friends, they will support you in this and may be inspired to take a fresh look at their own finances.

Remember to spend money on frivolities sometimes. Many frugal savers just can’t switch off the saving button even after they’ve hit all their goals.

Harder core / deprivation saving should be for short periods of time, whilst working towards a specific goal, or digging yourself out of debt. For the long term, remember to achieve some balance, and use your fun money budget to splurge on something that brings you joy.

CheapSkate vs Frugal – Practicing Generosity

The differentiation between a cheapskate and frugality is how you treat others. A cheap skate will horde their money, refusing to spend anything whenever they can.

A frugal person simply chooses what they spend their income on consciously, and utilises their resources efficiently.

Helping others is often a source of happiness and self worth. Be generous with your money, without being taken advantage. Put some money aside for charitable giving, tips and treating your friends, family or colleagues.

Find a charity who’s values align with your own, and when you see the donation leaving your account, you will experience a little kick of satisfaction.

Be generous with your time. Don’t work so much you can’t help your friend move house, assist at your child’s school or enjoy lazy days with your most special people.

Gift giving can be a joyful experience, although not, in my experience under the pressure of set deadlines. Buy gifts for your loved ones when you see something they will really love. Consider limiting “routine” presents on birthdays and Christmas to avoid swapping meaningless rubbish just because it is expected.

Practice Gratitude

Australia is a wealthy country, and most reading this live in relative prosperity and wealth. I feel so fortunate to live here. But even in Australia, there are those that are struggling. Overseas, of course, poverty is even more extreme.

The trend of the middle class wealthy to show off with superfluous status symbols seems distasteful. Status seems addictive, with many getting themselves into financial strife because their posessions are never enough. There is always someone with more.

Practice gratitude regularly for all you have. Taking the time to reflect on how fortunate you are (even despite challenges) will make you happier.

To be frugal without crossing into cheapskate territory, focus on the efficient use of your resources whilst ensuring you are always paying your fair share, and not taking advantage of others.

What differentiates a cheapskate from a frugal person for you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Aussie Doc Freedom is not a financial adviser and does need offer any advise.  Information on this website is purely a description of my experiences and learning.  Please check with your independent financial adviser or accountant before making any changes.

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