Frugal vs. Cheap

This week, The Washington Post’s Ylan Q. Mui started an interesting debate in the Small Change blog on the differences between frugality and cheapness. Here is our response, which was featured in her second post on the topic:

Frugality is taking simple measures to save money, while cheapness involves going through great lengths to save a little bit of money, often at the expense of others. In the former category I would include using coupons and exercising restraint and not buying things that aren’t necessary.

Cheapness, on the other hand, describes actions like under-tipping under the assumption that others in the group will put in more money when the total amount falls short without noticing that it was your fault, or figuring that the waiter won’t notice until you’ve left the restaurant; unpeeling onions and picking grapes out of the stem in the grocery store so that you don’t pay for the peel or the stem (how much money can you really save doing that?! Does it really add up?); and arguing with your roommate that the monthly water bill should be pro-rated because he had a friend over for a night who presumably used water. None of these examples are hypothetical, by the way – I have actually met people who have done at least one of these things.

What do you think of this definition?  Where do you draw the line between being frugal and being cheap?


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