Being Frugal without Being Cheap
by Nancy Twigg
Have you ever noticed how frugality is often confused with being cheap? Isn’t it a shame that those who choose to live frugally are sometimes accused of being selfish and stingy?
Although these accusations may be justifiable in rare cases, I’ve found that with most frugal people, quite the opposite is true. The thrifty people I know are very generous; they just choose to give in ways that are different than their spendthrift counterparts. Let's look at some of the differences between being frugal and being cheap.
Being frugal means making smart spending choices.
Let’s say that for your friend’s birthday, you give her a book. You paid only 50 cents for the book at a yard sale, but it was in like-new condition and it is by an author your friend loves. Some would say that it is cheap to only spend 50 cents for a gift, but if it’s something you know the recipient will love, why does it matter how much you spend? Why spend more on a gift if you could get something the person would enjoy just as much for a lot less? This kind of gift giving is not being cheap; it’s just good money management.
Frugality is getting the most for your money.
Suppose you don’t have Internet access or email. Rather than making long distance phone calls to your friends and relatives to stay in touch, you save money by writing letters instead. By doing so, you get more for your money. For the cost of a 37¢ stamp, you could practically write your life history, include pictures, and even send small goodies like a bookmark or comics you’ve clipped from the newspaper. But how many minutes could you talk for 37¢ of long distance charges? Not too many. Besides, a letter is something the recipient can read over and over and enjoy many times. Thus, you get much more value and enjoyment by writing the letter.
Frugality is making your dollars go farther.
Suppose that to save money on your utility bill, you keep your thermostat at 68 degrees during the day in the winter. Your kids complain that it is a little chilly in the house, but you tell them to put on sweaters. Some might feel that this money-saving technique is an example of being cheap. However, making your dollars stretch this way is smart for the whole family. If you spend less on utilities, you’ll have more to spend on other things such as fun outings with your kids.
Frugality is showing you care without spending a lot of money.
Let's say it is Mother’s Day. Instead of buying a gift and greeting card, you use your time and creative talents to make something special for your mom. The gift doesn’t actually cost you much except your time and a few supplies you already had on hand. Some people might think this is being cheap because you didn’t buy your mother anything. However, the frugal person knows that giving of her time and talent is much more valuable than spending a lot of money without giving it much thought.
BYLINE: Nancy Twigg is the editor of Counting the Cost, an ezine about simple and frugal Christian living. She is also the author of two books on the same topic. For more information about how to be frugal without being cheap, visit Nancy online at www.countingthecost.com