I’m fascinated by the concept of being frugal versus being cheap. For me, being frugal means reusing items or finding cheaper ways to do things. Being cheap, well, I define it the same way pornography is defined—I know it when I see it.
I admit, if I can get away with not paying for something, I consider it a coup!
Here’s an example: I carry teabags in my purse because I never know if I’ll get stuck someplace that only serves coffee (meetings, waiting rooms, airports). If I have access to hot water, I’ll make myself a cup of tea. If I can finagle a cup of hot water from an eating establishment, I’ll make my own tea even if it’s served on the menu. Am I being frugal or being cheap?
Another example: My mother carries Sweet-n-low, artificial sweetener packets, wherever she goes because some restaurants and coffee bars don’t carry that product. But, she’ll pick up extra packets if she sees them at a condiments bar to add to her stash. Frugal or cheap?
Yet another example: Many folks I know who take the commuter rail to work read the daily newspapers left behind by other passengers. They never buy an actual newspaper, but will always read what someone else has left behind.
Here are a few other examples to consider.
- Reusing plastic grocery shopping bags as trash bags.
- Not buying trash bags because you only use grocery shopping bags.
- Reusing plastic sandwich bags.
- Driving out of your way to save a few cents on gasoline.
- Saving once-chewed chewing gum to chew another day.
- Taking the soaps and shampoos from your hotel room.
- Taking a pen from work.
- Tearing out a magazine article in a doctor’s office or waiting room.
- Hooking up another room in your house to cable TV, even though you only pay for one connection.
- Using your neighbor’s wireless Internet connection without his/her knowledge.
- Picking furniture and discarded items from the neighbor’s weekly trash collection.
- Downloading music from the Internet without paying.
- Seeking out free samples (cosmetics, toothpaste, etc.) but never buying the products.
- Leaving a standard, 15 percent tip at a restaurant.
- Haggling for a better price on a blouse at a department store when you can afford it.
My new favorite frugal thing that I do is using hair conditioner on my legs when I shave. Conditioners have an emollient in them so I don’t have to use lotion afterwards. I’ll never go back to using shaving cream or soap again!
So tell me, are you frugal or cheap? Where is that fine line for you? And what do you do that you consider frugal?