This article doesn’t call you names! But you will find out which category you fall into: frugal, cheap, thrifty, or stingy.
I was out to dinner with a few friends last night, and we stumbled on the topic of “Are you a geek or a nerd?”
After a heated discussion on the differences of the two, someone hopped onto their phone and discovered this lovely graph that helps you determine your geek/nerd status. (<- and in true geek/nerd form, someone said “I think this graph needs a third axis”)
This got me thinking: Are there similar words in the personal finance community that seem to mean the same thing, but when taking a closer look they are actually drastically different? Yes!
Frugal, cheap, thrifty, and stingy all describe someone who wants to save money. But if you explore each word in more detail, they are very different from each other.
Here is my take on what makes a person frugal, cheap, thrifty, or stingy.
What does it mean to be FRUGAL?
A frugal person is someone who cares about the cost AND quality of an item, while also valuing their time. It’s a balancing game. Frugal people practice conscious spending.
You know you’re frugal if you:
- Research a range of options for the item that you want to buy (bonus points if you are a member of Consumer Reports)
- You optimize the cost and quality of an item and ensure it fits within your budget
- You find ways to save money without sacrificing your lifestyle
What does it mean to be CHEAP?
A cheap person is someone who is always looking to buy the lowest cost item. It doesn’t matter the quality of the item (how long it will last, how well it will do its job, etc.), it just needs to be the cheapest alternative.
You know you’re cheap if you:
- Don’t care about the quality of the item, you only care about the price
- Like to brag about how little you’ve spent
- Always buy the lowest cost item
- Sometimes buy stuff because it’s on sale, best-price-ever, super cheap, etc.
- Don’t upgrade heavily used items because they “work just fine” (you have holey socks and 10 year old running shoes)
- Hate to spend money
- Don’t care how long it takes you to get a deal, as long as you get it (you sacrifice a lot your time to save money)
What does it mean to be THRIFTY?
Thrifty and frugal are very similar. But I think there is one main difference: a thrifty person is more hands-on in their savings (literally hands-on). They will make and re-purpose things (like knit sweaters, reupholster furniture, build a nightstand) to save money. They either truly enjoy spending time fixing/making things to save money, or don’t value their time as a much as a frugal person.
You know you’re thrifty if:
- You’re frugal, but you also:
- Don’t mind spending your Saturday mending your clothes, reupholster a couch, building a side table
- Make your own Halloween costumes
- Browse thrift stores for gently used items, then fix them up so they are as good as new
What does it mean to be STINGY?
A stingy person is someone who isn’t generous with their money. Ever share a meal with someone and they want to split the tab…to the penny. Or the worst is when someone offers you a ride, and then asks to split the gas costs (what?!?! It’s like $3!). These people are stingy.
You know you’re stingy if you:
- Don’t donate to charity
- Always ask to split the cost of something
- Are unwilling to spend or share money.
Are you frugal, cheap, thrifty, or stingy? Oh, and are you a geek or a nerd?