Updated on 02.03.09

Accused of Being a Cheapskate

Trent Hamm

A few days ago, I was giving a phone interview about The Simple Dollar and general frugality and personal finance topics when the interviewer threw me a bit of a curveball. After hearing me talk about frugality for a bit, he pauses for a second, then asks if he can be honest with me. He then tells me that from his perspective, the things that I do are cheap. He would view me as a cheapskate and he wouldn’t think of me as a fun person to hang out with.

I was caught off guard by this, because most interviews that I do are with people who are either genuinely interested in frugality and money management in a positive way, or are at least feigning positive interest.

So I followed up with his comment and I dug up quite a few interesting conclusions.

First, people assume that since I write about frugality, I must be a complete cheapskate. Most of you who have read this site for a long time know that I struggle with balancing my desire to minimize my spending with my desire to, well, spend. Quite often, I come down on the side of spending more – we don’t eat as inexpensively as we could, I still hold on to some expensive hobbies (like video games), and I’m also quite willing to invest in expensive equipment in my home – like appliances and the like.

What this really is is a matter of first impressions. Think about it. Imagine you’re at the grocery store, in line behind someone using a huge wad of coupons. You’re going to get a particular impression of that person. Imagine you’re walking across the parking lot and you see a guy driving a rusty old pickup truck. You’re going to draw some conclusions.

For me, that first impression is that I’m a cheapskate. And, as usual, first impressions aren’t quite accurate at all.

This experience (and many others in my life) makes me realize that judging someone based on your first impression is incredibly limiting. The guy driving the truck that’s falling apart? He could be the negative image you make up in your head. He could also be a person who’s trying desperately to save up for a down payment for a bigger house for his family. He could be someone who very rarely needs a vehicle and doesn’t see a need to invest a lot of money in one. He could be Sam Walton.

Another interesting conclusion I came to from this conversation was the immediate assumption that making frugal choices is a negative. The implication seems to be that I must have some sort of social stigma because I actively seek to spend less money. I must not be any fun to be around because I don’t spend money with reckless abandon, right?

If you believe that, you’re being sold an advertising myth. We’ve all grown up in a society in which advertising has constantly told us that spending money and buying products will bring us happiness and beauty and social success and career success.

Here’s the amazing part: if you truly believe this mythology, then you likely believe the reverse: not spending money and buying products will bring you sadness and ugliness and social failure and career failure.

Think about that statement for a moment. To me, it’s a conclusion that seems simultaneously like a reasonable conclusion and the most outrageous thing I’ve ever read. I can see clearly where the logic comes from, yet when you consider what the statement is actually saying, it sickens me to my stomach.

Yet, reflecting on my earlier life, I can honestly say that to some degree, I used to believe it. I had been trained over the years to look upon spending as a positive – and thus upon not spending as a negative. Looking at it so nakedly, though, makes it seem ugly and empty.

Just as ugly and empty as any other broad negative generalization.

Part of the reason I write The Simple Dollar – and I’m so open with big parts of my life on it – is that I want to show to as many people as possible that such negative generalizations are completely false. Frugality is not boring. It’s not cheap. It’s not lonely. It’s not a sign of failure.

It simply means that I’m interested in working a little harder to find better solutions in my life, solutions that cause me to spend a lot less of the money that I earn. It doesn’t mean I spend all of my time living miserly without any fun at all – in fact, I look at it as a way of living that brings me substantially more fun. I don’t worry about bills. I have career freedom. I don’t sweat whether I can afford something I actually need.

In the end, I’ve come to feel that being called a “cheapskate” in a derisive fashion doesn’t really matter at all. It’s just another word people use to feel better about themselves by demeaning someone else. It may be ugly and empty, but in the end, the only person truly hurt by it is the person who is locked into the negative mindset.

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  1. Joseph Tanner says:

    We try to be frugal in everything we do. In this economy, it means not going out to eat much, eating lots of ramen noodles, and driving older cars that are paid off. A couple years ago, it meant finding the best deal on a cruise, booking excursions ourselves, getting a used Mercedes station wagon (and putting on a hitch so it could pull a trailer, instead of buying a truck too), going to Red Lobster on Shrimp Lover’s Tuesdays and sharing the Pick 4, stuff like that. It may appear to others that we have more money than we do, it’s simply that we spend it as wisely as possible. Like the cruises, we could just book whatever’s the best out there, or get the exact one we want. Or we can wait, pounce on a deal when we find one, and be able to afford two for less than the price of one.

    Being frugal doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a cheapskate. It just means you want to get the most out of your money. Whether you try to save money so you can retire early, or look for ways to have cheaper vacations so you can go on more of them.

  2. DrFunZ says:

    You are not a cheapskate! Good grief!

    A cheapskate is someone who tips badly, who witholds necessary items from the children (like books and ordinary school supplies), keeps the spouse on less money than is needed by that person, does not give to charities, will not buy Girl Scout cookies (or something where, yes, they are tiny bit more expensive, but it helps a good cause). A cheapskate finds a way to make other people pay more than he/she does on a shared restaurant bill or who never brings a pot-luck with protein, but always provides the salad or the pasta, even though he/she can afford to bring the meat once in a while. This same person never throws a party but makes sure he/she always is AT someone else’s party and who scoffs down all the most expensive foods, like the shrimp, before anyone else gets to the buffet table. (This person is also rude!!)

    Cheapskates can cross over to become thieves, too – they take stuff from the office, take towels from hotels, sneak into hotel free breakfasts when they did not stay there, etc.

    Being “cheap” is different from being frugal, because being cheap extends into those times when money is plentiful and bills are all paid up and saving is great or the cause to spend money is a good one.

  3. Amanda says:

    So funny how I experience this daily–some good friends of ours just invited us out to Benihana this evening. Keep in mind, they know we just got married & have been financially devestated by our move to a ‘cheaper area,’ which was supposed to save us loads of cash…if the economy hadn’t collapsed *oops!* Anyhow, I can guess the conversation they’ll have “oh they’re so cheap,” but really it’s just cluelessness on their part. They’re nice people, but all they do is spend money as if it’s flying out the door.

    Some folks don’t want to examine another reality/way of living because it will cause them to examine their own. Stay strong with how you live your life–very hard to do under social pressure, but very worthwhile.

  4. Jeff says:

    Frugality is not about being a cheapskate or being boring or a thousand other negative arrows shot our way. It is about freedom- freedom that brings peace of mind, nights filled with restful sleep instead of worry, and, as you said, career freedom. Those who denigrate being frugal are the ones losing out. I suspect this recession has affected “cheapskates” somewhat less than spendthrifts.

  5. Michelle says:

    My husband works in a career field where everyone knows exactly what everyone else makes (it’s the military, pay charts are required by law to be published), and since he’s a higher rank than some of our friends, we get “Well, you’re husband is a *insert rank here*, you guys can afford it!”. But they don’t see us saving for a house, and for retirement, and for the kids college, or the money hit we take by my staying at home. But these are the things we value, and we’re willing to say no to a lot of things that others who are in our same situation say yes too. And we’ve been accused of being cheapskates before, but it just comes down to putting our money where our values are.

  6. UltraRob says:

    It really does seem being frugal is looked on negatively and you can’t have fun. I think it allows you to have more of the fun you want. If I save money on everyday things that I don’t care much about, I have more money to travel and do the things I enjoy. Most people don’t seem to understand that.

  7. Great post and I couldn’t agree with you any more. People who make wise financial choices are not cheap, they are smart. We value different things than the people who spend what they can’t afford.

    We have a different mindset of what it means to be satisfied with life. I’d much rather lay my head down on my pillow at night knowing that the bills are paid, not having to worry about whether or not I will be able to afford the credit card bill that I just ran up by buying things that I don’t need.

    My gratification is long-term, not just in the moment when I buy something. That is why I work towards living a more frugal life. Not to be cheap, miserly or boring.

  8. anonymous says:

    There is truly a difference between frugal and cheapskate. We’re frugal- and we sent our kids to college, have paid off the house and cars, and have no debt. Our thrifty lifestyle has enabled me to take a leave of absence from my job (without pay.) Yet we travel (always look for a hotel coupon,) bring our lunch stuff when we travel but usually eat out for dinner. Our tv is 24 years old, but we have lots of geeky toys- laptops for all of us, gpsrs, ipods/mp3 players, etc. We don’t go to movies but we get together with friends to play games, participate in hobbies or make music. We go to traditional beauty shops/salons to get our hair cut and styled- but don’t get the colors, perms, weaves, etc. There are more basic things that we do that could be considered cheapskate, but we all do that in our circle of friends. Frugal and thrifty is about making choices to stay out of debt yet do the things we want to do. “Cheapskatedness” is about unfairly paying as little as possible in all things; probably taking advantage of others and not reciprocating.

  9. liv says:

    Wow, I’d be super-offended if they said that to me in a way to be intentionally derogatory. I don’t mind being cheap, but I know that I’m definitely not a “Cheapskate”…isn’t a cheapskate someone who is out to dinner and gives like a 5% tip to the exact penny and things like that? i think there is a real difference between being cheap and a cheapskate…

  10. Liz says:

    I’ve had people call me “cheap” before for all kinds of stupid reasons. I remember one time my daughter took some cookies that she and I had made together to a birthday party and the other parents said I was too cheap to buy a “real” present. I’ve also had people say I was cheap for only having one car and for keeping my heater set at 65 degrees.
    On the other hand, my husband and I were able to put 20% down on our house, pay cash for our car and never get into any kind of credit card debt…Unlike the people who like to call me “cheap.”

  11. I’m amazed by how many people don’t understand the difference between frugal and cheap. Sure, some people are willing to be much more frugal than others, but that doesn’t make them cheap.

    Thanks for taking the time to help clarify the difference, Trent!

  12. Kat says:

    Reminds me of a story I read recently on the Early Retirment Forums. I’m not sure I could find it again, so I’ll paraphrase.

    The poster said he knew full well that at work he was widely regarded as the “cheap bastard” but just let it slide as he and his wife were saving to retire early (early 50s as I recall). One day the big kahuna called everyone into a meeting to outline the big next project, give assignments, etc. etc. The poster listened to all this and decided the time had come. He puts his hand up and says to the boss, “Before you give me my assignment, I just wanted to let you know that I’m retiring in 2 weeks.” Jaws dropped to the floor. He pulled the resignation letter from his pocket, signed and dated it, gave it to the boss. As he walked out the door, he turned to his co-workers and said, “You all confused cheap with frugal”.

    Sweet justice :-)

  13. Michelle H. says:

    The interview sounds like a jerk, but I had to laugh at your generalizations – describes us to a T!

    I’m the woman with the huge wad of coupons at the grocery store and husband is driving the beat up old pickup.

    Judge all you want! We own a rent house and lakefront cabin free and clear. The only thing we make payments on is our mortgage – everything else we’ve paid in cash. We have 2 years pay sitting in mutual funds. We have simple needs and wants, and couldn’t be happier in our frugalness.

  14. Anna says:

    Look at all the people here who really get it! What a great group we are!

    Lize #9 – how sad that creativity expressed in making things yourself with love and care is given lesser status than buying the (supposed) equivalent. Me, I’d rather have homemade cookies than store cookies any day — especially cookies made during a time of warm sharing between mother and daughter. So there!

  15. Anna says:

    Oh, and one more thing about cookies. I grew up baking cakes and cookies as taught by my mother (from recipes, not mixes). Later, when I was living in a one-room city apartment, my parents came through and stayed in the nearby apartment of a friend who was out of town. When I went over to see them, my mother served tea and cookies. Of course, she had had no opportunity to bake, but even so she actually apologized for giving me store cookies!

  16. Gwen says:

    Trent, this is a fabulous post. Possibly my favorite on your whole site. I think that it gets to the heart of what being responsible with one’s money is all about. A frugal lifestyle enhances freedom and happiness, it doesn’t squander it. It is your own way of not being a slave to whatever an advertisement tells you to do. Thanks for sharing your great ideas.

  17. Kenny Johnson says:

    I struggle a lot with trying to live within (or below) my means, paying off debt, saving money, etc. and also wanting to enjoy life.

    There are things I just won’t sacrifice unless I’m forced to. One if food. We spend a lot on groceries — and though I’d like to reduce that spending, I simply am not going to go without things I enjoy just so MAYBE I can have a bigger retirement fund.

    The thing is, I think spending money does bring some happiness (at least short term). I’m happy eating the foods I like and looking forward to dinner rather than eating rice and beans or top ramen.

    So for me, it’s a balancing act.

  18. Eve says:

    I am in my early 40’s and work with alot of young women in their early 20’s. I bring my coffee to work and my lunch to work and am amazed how many of these gals come in to work with a breakfast bagel and a coffee in hand bought from the local bagel shop, and than for lunch they go out. I hear how they have no money, and I try to EXPLAIN to them some frugal pointers, but they choose to say “I dont have time to make my breakfast or lunch”. The thing is that I leave at 1230pm each day to go home and they are working fulltime and once in a while they will say to me i wish i could work your shift. I am not cheap I am frugal and I know what is important to me. The thing is i am very happy with less, oh and by the way i am taking my family on a 10-day trip to Colorado/ Santa fe vacation this summer. BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET IS THE KEY!!

  19. Its amazing how people associate fun with spending. I think my funnest times are when I don’t spend money. Playing board games with friends(initial cost, but after a few times it is worth it) Playing basketball, making dinner, etc.

    Once you really explore ways to have fun without money then life really starts to open up.


  20. Benjamin D. says:

    Great perspective here Trent! You really some up some issues that I have been experiencing with friends and family over the last few years as we have struggled to dig out from a pile of debt.

    Some people underestimate the value of being financially responsible.

    I will take financial peace of mind over a financed BMW any day!

  21. Matthew says:

    You wrote a book title “365 Ways to Live Cheap” and you’re SURPRISED that someone called you cheap!?!?!? I don’t get it.

    The irony of the ad for your book on the top of the the blog entry is amazing.

  22. Christina says:

    Great post! Cheapskate does seem to have a negative stigma in our society…which is ridiculous. Those who are careful with their money have the last laugh in the end. And ‘cheapskates’ learn self-control. Which is something that affects every aspect of your life.

  23. I agree that people immediately view frugality as negative, without taking in the bigger picture. I look at it as why pay more for things than you have to. Its not that I am cheap it is just that I can’t justify paying more for a similar product.

  24. Wide Moat says:

    To follow up on Nate’s comment–doesn’t it really reveal one’s mental barrenness if he assumes that smart, thoughtful spending necessarily equates with the lack of fun?

    I do recognize that for some, spontaneity is a crucial component of fun, and that a frugal person is rarely immediately spontaneous with purchases. A frugal person may be spontaneous on occasion, but at the very least, she would recognize it as such, and permit it for what it is–excessive spending merely to satisfy a whim.

    At a deeper level, frugality is about a fuller awareness of what purchases represent, and unfortunately that takes away the ‘enjoyment’ of immediately and impulsively fulfilling one’s desires.

  25. Charlotte says:

    Such a good article,and Dr. FunZ hit it right on the head too! How true! A cheapskate is someone who tips badly etc not someone who makes lifestyle choices based on what is important to them. If your interviewer would look at what giving up a latte for 30 years will bring him in ROI he would start living frugally too. In respect to having fun, a person burdened with debt may appear on the outside to be the most fun-loving person in the world, but inside they are miserable and unhappy. The person who is debt free has the freedom to really enjoy the times they share with you. I deeply care about how my friends REALLY feel when we share time together, I would much rather they be the person who is frugal but can really SHARE the joy when we do something special together. I remember years ago when we did everything on credit cards, we did a lot of cool things but I never once felt true joy until the year we paid off all our debt and went to Disney World with cash, while watching a parade I started to cry, my husband glanced over with me with concern and I had to assure him that they were tears of joy – I had NEVER felt such joy before. That is a feeling I wish upon all my closest friends in life and if that means cutting down on everyday expenses so the big things in life are felt with joy well then bring on the paper I’ll start clipping for them!

  26. resonanteye says:

    I’d only consider someone a cheapskate if they were not ready to spend money to do things. I’ll spend any amount, almost, to do something fun, but I won’t spend much on possessions at all.

    Someone who drives a rusty truck to the national park and goes hiking for weeks … that’s a good expenditure. Someone who doesn’t want to spend the gas money to fill the rusty truck’s tank, to even get to yellowstone?


  27. Amateur says:

    Stick to your guns, Trent. You do what you do for you and yours. The only folks I can think of who are that critical probably earn an insane yearly salary and don’t want to bother with seeing the flipside, which is their choice. Those squeaking by barely who can’t seem to manage time and money the right way, they risk a lot of undoing when there’s a snag in the road. It’s quite liberating to stick to your guns than worry about what strangers may think.

  28. Valerie says:

    Whoo, just who does that interviewer think he is?

    You should have replied, “I’m not living my life to impress you. I’m living to ensure that I have a healthy and comfortable old age, to ensure that my wife is safe no matter what disaster may strike, and to ensure that my children are protected and loved.

    “If that’s cheap, then I’ll make the most of it!”

  29. Candi says:

    You know I have to say that I am just not friends with people who are that insulting. I am not as frugal as I am trying to be, but I am always the first to use a coupon or to check to see if I can find one online before I go somewhere. My friends know this and like me for helping them save a buck or two as well. I just don’t have anything in common with the folks who would call me a cheapskate. . .

  30. Anita Kaiser says:

    “The implication seems to be that I must have some sort of social stigma because I actively seek to spend less money. I must not be any fun to be around because I don’t spend money with reckless abandon, right?”

    This was a great piece but the above quote is by far my favorite aspect of the post. Our society really has sold us down the river with the need to buy bigger, have more, just to be happy and fun to be around. Way to not let the interviewer phase you!

  31. katy says:

    Good post as ever, Trent.

    My neighbor drives a Nova. broken down. No back seat. He uses it to ferry used equipment to his construction jobs. Old clothes, not dirty, just old. Very frugal – and brilliant.

    this man could buy and sell all of us. his father owned a law firm. his mother lives in a duplex.

    Never judge the book by the cover!

  32. Kat says:

    The biggest difference between frugal and cheapskate to me is not eating out often, but since I save up, I can tip a server a 20% minimum or up to 30% for good service. Frugal is making less expensive choices all the time. Cheapskate is picking the most expensive item when someone else is paying.

  33. Jade says:

    Awesome post, and awesome comments.

  34. Danielle says:

    I’ve been accused of the same… by my parents. I’m 23 years old, have been married for 2 1/2 years, and have a beautiful daughter who is almost a year old. My parents have given me a hard time for years because I don’t like to watch movies in the theaters, I don’t go out drinking, and I really try not to go shopping for anything other than groceries if it can be avoided.

    Additionally, I drive a car that would cost more than I paid for it to repair… but it still works. I don’t feel right selling a car that needs $2000 in repair, and I plan to run it into the ground before I buy a new one. I don’t use it to The only alteration to this plan is that if we have another child, we’ll need a new reliable car because we can’t physically fit two car seats into my husband’s car (that he bought before we married).

    If this makes me a boring cheapskate, oh well. I still have a lot of fun making the most of the money I’ve already spent and I’m not going to let someone who makes easily double my household income tell me that I should feel bad for saving.

    Though I will say… it’s a sad day when you realize your retirement plan is making better progress than your parents’.

  35. Carlos says:

    A cheapskate keeps his heat at 49 degrees in Winter to save money.

  36. Anna says:

    Danielle #25, you go, girl!

    And your parents are upset because you don’t go out drinking? What are parents coming to these days! ;-)

  37. Kate says:

    A cheapskate spends more money than he/she saves by driving around looking for the cheapest gas.

  38. !wanda says:

    I agree with Dr. Fun and other above that a cheapskate is someone who takes advantage of other people to save money (by not tipping sufficiently, not paying enough on a shared bill, etc.). There’s a grey area there- the person with 23 coupons is holding up the line for everyone behind him, but I wouldn’t call him a cheapskate.

  39. Amateur says:

    When I think of ‘cheapskate’ I think of someone who will try to get you to go out to dinner with them, manage to squeak by paying less on the dinner/drink tab than the 50% share. I think of someone who will inevitably call you for favors or borrowing your stuff so they don’t need to buy to use at the moment. Now, I’m not saying those people aren’t good people or good friends when they aren’t asking for stuff, but their cheapness makes them offputting because it’s never good to be the person who will nickel and dime others to save a few bucks. I’m sure everyone once had a friend/relative/sibling who behaved that exact way.

  40. Fred says:

    Of course you are a cheapstake Trent, you chose to, remember? Not only that: now it is your brand, it is growing stronger & gets better defined as time passes; that is why people come back.
    What you didn’t know at the onset was that there is a price to pay for everything – you’ve just been handed a tab…

    Hang on into it – this is the coming trend – a bull market in misery and poverty the way of the USA goes – your market share will increase.

  41. Excellent post I love your way of writing.

  42. colleen c says:

    Great points. You can not POSSIBLY know if someone is a cheapskate unless you know them really well, well enough to observe the stuff they do only around those they trust. And even then it is a very subjective label. I think interviewer was kind of a jerk — how’s THAT for a quick judgement?

  43. Our lives are SO much better because of our frugality…we have solid wood furniture, good food, two reliable cars, no debt, no bill collectors, we’re going on vacation for TWO weeks this year instead of one, and on and on.

    If someone else wants to “have fun” and pay the price, then they can go right ahead. I’m sticking with my frugal lifestyle, thank you very much.

  44. Carlos says:

    Your post reminds me of a time when I went to lunch with a coworker. I always assumed he made a decent salary and was surprised when we got into his old Toyota Corolla.

    Later I felt bad for labeling someone by the car they drive. My coworker was telling me at lunch that he’s spending $8K to take his family back to India for the holidays. WOW.

    Bottom line is people make choices about where to spend their money. A person also is measured by his salary or spending level.

  45. Nancy says:

    It looks to me like you are more than willing to spend extra money on things that you place high value on and less money on things that you place either no value or much lower value on. To me that’s just being responsible. Too bad more people in America have not behaved like that for many years. If they would have, we probably would not be in the economic situation that we as a country find ourselves in right now.

  46. Laura says:

    I actually feel a bit sorry for the interviewer. He needs to read your post about the richness of life with your two children. Frugality is a philosophical choice- we choose to have value for our money, because of the value we place on the true riches in our lives. Who would pinch pennies on say, a car seat that protects the life of what is most precious to us? But saving money by going to the library, or buying in bulk, or choosing entertainment within a budget? What is real? What is fun? Keep on truckin’, Trent!!

  47. micki says:

    I recently quit one of my routes (I deliver newspapers) so that I could have more time with my son, homeschooling him and spending fun time with him. I am able to do this because we are frugal. I get some child support from my ex, but not enough on which to survive. Frugality really enables me to be the mom I want to be. I am not cranky due to tiredness anymore. I am a little money stressed but only because I used to be really bad about money and I am still paying for that time in my life. However, I only work about 15-20 hours a week at this point in my life and we live quite comfortably and with more free time than I have had since I was 13. I guess your interviewer would rather work than have “free” time :)

  48. brooke says:

    This post is a great example of why this particular blog is so great- thought provoking post, thought provoking responses.

    I have quit trying to fight the frugality/ cheapskate battle and just live knowing that, if someone looks down on me for being frugal (which they call a cheapskate) fine, so be it. I am ok with that and I can realize that we value different things- I value saving and they value spending. End of story. And my secret, unvoiced thought is – don’t knock it til you try it! I used to be that spender, and let me tell you, saving is much more rewarding!

  49. Isabelle says:

    I thought of several examples of people making mistakes about first impressions – but two stand out for me. The first was my aunt. She was very frugal in many ways, but she also had many hobbies she enjoyed – and spent money on. I don’t think she ever bought a new purse – she loved garage sales – and she always wore older house dresses. She loved to play bingo and my cousins and I were upset, and concerned about her safety, when we found out she carried 3 very expensive gold coins in her garage sale purse because she felt they gave her good luck (coin collecting was another of her favorite hobbies). She was a small, older woman – in other words, easy prey for a mugger. However, when we thought about it, we relaxed. Most people would never suspect she had valuable coins in her purse – in fact, they probably assumed she had very little money. My second example was a college calculus teacher. I had him for two semesters – he was wonderful, the best teacher I had and a wonderful person. However, many of the students could/did not get to know him because of his lack of style/fashion sense. He wore incredibly old, inexpensive suits (I’ve been out of college a very long time – and all the professors wore suits). I also wondered what he spent his money on and why he couldn’t afford nicer clothes. I saw him leaving campus one day driving an older, economy model car – so it couldn’t be that. I’d also heard he was unmarried. Then I discovered his passion – his priority for his money. Travel… He loved to travel and had many friends all over the world. He lived very frugally during the school year, and never taught summer classes, so he could travel for 3 months. I heard about some of his adventures and I was envious. He’d been to more places than anyone I’d ever met. I make it a point not to judge people about appearances or priorities – I just wonder what their passions are – and hope they make them happy.

  50. Lee Martin says:

    If you are a cheapskate, may we all be cheapskates! I have been following your website for about six months now and am blessed everytime I read. I receive a lot of ideas and encouragement that I need.

    Please keep up the good job and never stop being a cheapskate :)

  51. DollarDream$ says:

    Hi Trent

    Don’t pay attention to that guy’s comments! There is a big difference between being FRUGAL and being just CHEAP. I come from an ethnic background where we are taught to save as much money as possible, still I’ve heard lots of times that we ( not particularly us, but our ethnicity)are cheap. Let me just tell you all one thing, you will be SHOCKED to see OUR bank accounts. :)


  52. Melody says:

    Thankfully, I was not the last friend on the train in my life, but we had a stable friendship with someone who always has been a saver. Since he really is, we’d call him a “Jew” in the miserly-sense and he’d laugh-it-off. But I know he’s really proud we’ve gotten on the bandwagon! Other friends as well, have realized that paying your bills and being responsible with what you spend is far more comforting than whatever they might have been trying to prove before. Because that’s how I’ve always seen it – people spend money to try and prove to themselves and other people that they are *something* or *somebody*. So in addition to valuing what is important, I think we also re-evaluate *who* it is important to value, and that’s ourselves and our immediate families.

  53. liz says:

    Hey Trent – don’t let such people get you down. I am one of your regular readers from Europe .I am lucky enough to have a very good income (top 5% of salaried people in my country) but still am frugal….
    Maybe it is a hangover from my parents who lived through WW2 but I appreciate the value of a buck (or a euro). I have friends who earn half of what I do but spend it with less thought. It bugs me that they think so little of what they are doing.

    Keep up the good work

  54. Kenny says:

    Frugal, Cheapskate, Miser, Saver, Being Cheap are all ‘titles given’ by OTHER people, but I think these are the same OTHER people that are NOW in a big financial mess, trying to live it off like the Jones and the Smiths.

    Showing off with ‘material things’ does not make ANYONE a person with a millionaire mind. In fact, if anyone above is reading my note, please read “The Millionaires Mind” – IT IS AN AWESOME BOOK, since it reveals what Millionaires do. They follow the rules many have been practicing…..Eating out less, Not wearing name brand clothers, Driving used and broken down cars, Going for higher education at company’s dime, Being in a job with an expense account etc. But at the end of the day, just like them, I am a millionaire, but have been ‘drinking water for 25 years in American restaurants’ instead of high priced / high margined Coke/Pepsi/Beer.

    Guys, being a millionaire is not the end, but it is the means by which I want to live, with the Power in my mind to have ANYTHING I want, if I DESIRE IT. I am teaching this to my kids, and they are in full agreement at the tender age of 17 and 15!!!!!!

    So, let’s be Millionaire Cheapskates and grab the 2nd or 3rd or 4th Million!!!!!! We are already LAUGHING at the ones fighting to meet/beat the Joneses……

    Good luck, and Save that buck!


  55. D.B. says:

    You and other frugal bloggers are AWESOME.

    I’m sure that people think that I am cheap also. That’s fine with me. Because I am frugal and careful with money I can worry much less than many even during this recession. My frugality has enabled me to go to graduate school and change careers to something I enjoy much more.

    People who confuse frugal and cheap need to read “The Millionaire Next Door”.

    Keep up the great work,


  56. Steve says:

    I love this blog post Trent! I think what you’re doing right now is what Dave Ramsey refers to as “living like no one else now, so later you can live like no one else!” 20 years from now I’d love for you to go back to that guy that interviewed you and see who is having more fun. :)

  57. Meri says:

    Interesting. In the local paper a couple of weeks ago there was an article about a young couple and their baby and the “sacrifices” they were making in order to start putting money into savings. One of the things that was mentioned was instead of taking their annual $10,000 trip to a tropical island for vacation, they opted for a $6,000 trip to Disney World. There were other similarly stunning revelations and the message board associated with the article was filling up quickly with comments.

    I’m single so I understand that I live much more inexpensively than a family would, but I posted a run down of the things I’ve done that allow me to put almost $1,000 a month into savings and to max out my Roth IRA. I’ve done things like cancel my landline phone and use only my cell phone, the cell doesn’t have any fancy bells or whistles and I have the least expensive rate along with a 19% discount since I work for the public school system (I hate talking on the phone, so I don’t need a bunch of minutes). I have cut back my cable service to only channels 2-13 and a few others. I never watched any of the other stations that require an expanded cable package, so why pay for it. The only reason I haven’t bought a TV with a digital receiver instead of needing cable is because my one splurge item is cable Internet. I’ve cut out vacations that require hotel stays for now, I do day trips instead or visit my parents who are about 800 miles away. That will be until I build my savings to my pre-determined amount, then I’ll loosen up some. There are other things I listed as well.

    One of the posters on that article responded that I was living the same cave-like lifestyle as Osama Bin Laden! I was stunned because I’m doing anything but that! I’ve discovered local treasure spots in the state parks and hidden restaurants and nightlife that I would have overlooked previously. I’m learning how to cook for one instead of going out all the time, and my life is actually richer now that I’m not living on the edge of financial ruin.

    However, people build their own perceptions and have their own boxes of where others fit.

  58. Danielle says:

    Thanks Anna #27.

    I think the real kicker will be when I pay off my house before my parents. Both are approximately the same price (since they refinanced and pulled out equity). They are dual income, no kids… and I’m a stay at home mom. While we’re looking at investing our extra payments instead of putting them straight into the principal, we do plan to pay off the house as soon as we can… and I suspect my parents will continue to enjoy taking out equity to support their lifestyle.

    But then, finding out that someone spends 5x your monthly income (which, at the time, was about $1500) on stuff they admit they don’t need… it’s a shocker. Like I said, I don’t mind being called cheap by someone in that situation (as much as I love my parents).

  59. Faculties says:

    @Melody — “a ‘Jew’ in the miserly sense” — ouch. Please remember that this kind of thing is likely to be offensive.

  60. Daisy says:

    If more people in this country and our government took this approach, our senators probably wouldn’t be spending Saturday trying to find a solution to our financial mess.

    I copied this paragraph, because I think it is worth repeating many times. “It simply means that I’m interested in working a little harder to find better solutions in my life, solutions that cause me to spend a lot less of the money that I earn. It doesn’t mean I spend all of my time living miserly without any fun at all – in fact, I look at it as a way of living that brings me substantially more fun. I don’t worry about bills. I have career freedom. I don’t sweat whether I can afford something I actually need.”

  61. Rocky says:


    ANother great article. Keep up the great work. I really enjoy your blog.


  62. Joey says:

    @ micki:

    “However, I only work about 15-20 hours a week at this point in my life and we live quite comfortably and with more free time than I have had since I was 13.”

    That’s beautiful. We trade so much of the best parts of our lives for money, but it’s a one-way exchange. No amount of money can buy back lost time. We spend decades working just so we can not work in some distant retirement we might not live to see. And why? I’d much rather work a 30 hour week and have time to do things I enjoy, even with less money, than work 60 or more hours a week without any time to spend whatever I make.

  63. Ed says:

    I used to think that way too. And then I went to college and my parents stopped paying for everything! Now my friends and I try to find things to do that don’t cost a lot of money, like going to movies on the days students get in free. We also have great times making dinner; everyone brings a different ingredient and we have a lovely night of good friends and good conversation.

    I’ve discovered (as you are already well aware) that my favorite memories are of moments and events that are spontaneous and usually quite inexpensive.


  64. KED says:


    Wow this speaks volumes to me. It makes me sad for that guy interviewing for the article. My Dad was that guy driving that old pick up truck. For lack of a better word, he wore the same uniform day in and day out, blue jeans, chambray shirt, boots and a hat. He was a brilliant man who worked for himself farming and doing carpentry all of his life. He bought what he could pay for with cash, if he needed something he could afford he bartered or built it himself from salvaged materials.

    His father died when he was in High School so as the oldest of 8 kids he quit school to work and help his mother with the family. He married my mother when he was 20 and she 18. I am one of 3 kids he raised “frugally.” A term I am sure never crossed his mind. We never lacked love, food or clothing. We always, always had fun. He played with us, read with us, flew kites with us, built go-carts with us………you get the picture.

    When he died suddenly and very unexpectedly of a heart attack two years ago……..he left my mother with “ZERO” debt. An entire farm, residence and business paid in full. He also left her with several investments that she draws interest on monthly to cover her living expenses.

    People should never judge a book by it’s cover :-)

  65. Paul says:


    I thought you would be really fun to hang out with ever since I saw you toss that rock at the renaissance fair, lol.

    Don’t let the haters get you down. You have a powerful message that speaks to a lot of people. Never give up, never surrender.

  66. Jen says:

    I think it’s interesting that so many people don’t want to be labeled as a “cheapskate.” It made me wonder why people get so bent out of shape over it. I don’t mind if people call me that. I grew up in Taiwan, and people are not ashame of being cheap or being called one. Actually, I found that many Chinese people are very interested in learning the different way other people save money, live frugaly, or even how to be a cheapskate. I grew up learning that you should never buy things you can’t afford and you should always save as much money as you can for raining days. The amazing thing is that my parents did not do anything special to teach me that– it was a part of the cultral norm where I grew up. I am cheap, but I will spend money on products or meals I think are worth the value of money I am paying. I will not tip for bad service, but I will happily tip up to 20% for what I think is excellent service. My husband thinks that I should always tip the minimum. As a former waitress, I totally disagree. Anyhow, I just want to say that there is nothing wrong with being cheap :).

  67. kodijack says:

    I think its great that the interviewer told you that. If we don’t tell people what we are thinking how will they know? How can we have discourse? Maybe he learned something, you did.

  68. Tom says:

    I agree about first impressions – you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover.

    That’s why I’m not immediately impressed when someone is dressed in slick clothing … I usually suspect they have the credit card bills to match.

    So many people are big on first impressions, but you really have to learn to look past ‘all that’

    I know so many pretentious losers that waste their time talking about the latest fashions or cool things … honestly, I could vomit, sometimes.

  69. Quatrefoil says:

    I’ve just been reading Alain de Botton’s book Status Anxiety – something I’d recommend and you might want to review. In it he addresses the importance most people place on living up to the expectations of others and the misery that causes. He also discusses other ways of looking at the world from a bigger picture – Christianity, Bohemianism etc. – which provide alternative ways of measuring status than our possessions and our jobs.

    I think that ‘normal’ Western society has succumbed to a collective madness where we no longer recognise what ought to be self evident – that enough is enough. A car that is reliable, safe, efficient and paid for is in fact better than one that is a flashy status-symbol and owned by the credit company. I admire the possessor of the former and pity the (non) possessor of the latter.

  70. pamela munro says:

    Used to know people like that years ago – all based on money, even when one of their crowd turned out to be am embezzler and was ridden out of town on a RAIL. With friends like that, you don’t need enemies. Think those days are OVER. Not that I ever was into THAT. I made other choices and developed my frugality to live the nicest life I could on very limited resources. And you know what? It worked.

  71. Barbara says:

    Trent, excellent article as usual, everyone´s comments are thought-provoking too. I just want to add that part of the problem in this society is that we all care way too much what other people think of us. Just do what works for you and your family (within legal and moral limits, of course) and completely disregard everyone else. The freedom in that is incredible.

  72. Michelle says:

    Isn’t it fascinating, a friend and I have both started to adopt a more frugal lifestyle after having our kids and realising we wanted more for them, and incidentally for us, than we had been able to achieve. we’re glad we’ve got each other to rely on and support because so many people have taken our change in lifestyle as an attack on them. We both have friends/acquaintances we no longer mention frugality to because they immediately try to belittle or tear shreds in what we do. Funnily enough, we don’t care what they do, we’re not interested in where they spend their money, but they believe that what we decide to do with our money is a comment on them. I’m not morally superior to someone who chooses to buy the latest thing, I just choose not to. I respect that they can choose to spend their money on what they like, I just wish they could respect my choices and stop whinging to me about how they can’t afford to live on $100K plus.

  73. Quatrefoil says:

    Refelecting on this further: I’m reading your blog as I sit frugally knitting a pair of baby socks out of the leftover ball of wool I used to make an adult pair. I’ll give away the baby socks since I don’t have kids. Being frugal is what allows me to be generous – the exact opposite of being a cheapskate.

  74. todo es bien says:

    The way I practice frugality is really a process of discernment. There are things that I spend extravagantly on (3.75 a day for a Large Latte Macchiato!) and other things I am quite conservative on. (9 year old car, no debt of any kind, etc) Frugality the way I practice it has to do with making sure that the decisions I make have genuine value TO ME, rather than just doing things to keep up with the Joneses. As a result of really considering value, when the time comes for me to spend money on things I really want, I have that money to use without going into debt or derailing my ongoing investing. I don’t save every dollar I can, by a long shot. But I save enough that I live better than anyone else I know who makes the income I make, so I feel happy about that. I find the times currently quite stressful in terms of acquiring wealth, but thank goodness I have been living well within my means for a long while. I can not imagine what I would feel like without the safety reserve we have accrued, I wouldnt be able to sleep.

  75. Alexandra says:

    Cheap being the opposite of generous is a very rude characterization. Frugality goes hand in hand with recycling and conserving resources. That’s not cheap, that’s good stewardship.

    Not to mention the fact that you share your tips with others and offered your time to the interviewer – generous, not cheap. You share so others can have a better life, and not have to live pay check to pay check due to overspending. That’s generous!

  76. mollysmum says:

    Awesome post, Trent. :)

    I have always understood frugal in a positive sense (I guess, because I’ve always aspired to be that way)… to me, the difference between a cheapskate and someone who’s frugal is that cheapskates are ungenerous (to themselves, and especially to others); frugal folk, on the other hand, can afford to be generous — and have the ingenuity to do in in both monetary and nonmonetary ways.

    That poor interviewer was probably just taking out his anxiety over his 1000s of dollars in credit card debt (accumulated trying to keep up with whoever) on you. We all know the truth :) And most importantly, so do you and your family.

  77. Dan says:

    Cheapskates are people who spend recklessly and bid up prices of everything only to default on their bills later. I think being frugal is knowing what product (or homes) and which services one can afford and which one are outside of reach.

  78. eileen says:

    Laughed out loud. You have a great blog and an even better sense of humor. Keep on writing and doing what your doing. Everyone is learning, sharing and saving. Way to go.

  79. L says:

    I am pretty frugal but I do have a friend I consider a cheapskate. When we used to meet for coffee, she would ask the price of every dessert, even if I told her I’d get it, and we always split it. she carried a tip chart and pulled it out when we were ready to pay. I felt like if we were eating out, we could afford to round the numbers up for the waitress, and we could afford to eat whatever desssert they had, since the prices never varied more than a dollar.

  80. Gail Chang says:

    Or the man in the pickup truck could be supporting his son-in-law through grad school. Or he could be donating thousands of dollars to charitable organizations, for people who do not even have a truck.

    I disagree on one point about the size of a home. One reason to have a larger home would be for large social group activities. If you wanted to have a grand piano (or 2) and have piano recitals in your home, with enough room for the audience as well as refreshments, and another room for the younger kids to hang out in, or if you wanted to start a Bible study in your home, or community meetings, that would be a great reason to have a larger home. (My house is 1500 square feet, I would like it to be able to accommodate larger groups.)

  81. George says:

    Cheap interviewing trick, if you ask me. It’s designed to catch you offguard and introduce controversy where isn’t any other attraction.

  82. Preethi says:

    I like your tips on frugality,,,and your honesty is refreshing.
    Keep writing!!!!

  83. John Ramella says:

    I hate cheap/frugal people.

    The one’s I know… run to the restroom when the bill arrives… look to piggyback on travel expenses…

    Then love to rub it in when they buy their fancy Cadillac.

    No such thing as frugal/cheap… they are just selfish, self-centered morons who deserve the zero friends they eventually end up having.

  84. Shevy says:

    I won’t link to the actual post but I wrote on Dec 28, 2008 about an article I read in the paper. The post was titled “Couponers Make Others Look Cheap?” and I wrote it because I was shocked by the article, the study and the interviewers’ attitudes. Here’s the crux of it in one paragraph from my post:

    “According to the authors of the University of Alberta study, not only are coupon-users so repellent that nobody wants to be caught using coupons, but their appearance of cheapness rubs off on the unfortunate people who just happen to be standing in line behind them!”

    I can’t help but wonder if unconscious bias on the part of the authors of the study was to blame for some of the results. I think you ran into somebody with the same mindset.

  85. KC says:

    Well of course you sound like a cheap skate. The interview was about the frugal things you do. If the interview was about the books you read you’d sound like a bibliophile. Or if the interview was about your video game habits they might think you were a dork. Just cause that was the subject and you knew a lot about it doesn’t really mean you are a bibliophile or a dork (or a cheap skate!).

    But the interviewer really has poor interviewing skills if they imparted what they think in the interview – very unprofessional. The only thing I can think of is maybe they were trying to get you riled up to say or do something they might use to make their story spicier. But still, very unprofessional.

  86. Asa Gage says:

    Great post Trent! I think you really nailed this one. It really defines our society’s view on spending. Spending has gotten out of control. Our economy encourages people to spend beyond their means and above that, to think that this behavior is normal and acceptable. This is the exact reason we are having an economic meltdown. People have to realize that the only way to live successfully is to spend less than or equally what you bring in. Period.

  87. Susan says:

    Bravo Trent! Wonderful examination of a potentially deflating experience. I agree with you wholeheartedly!

  88. Laila says:

    Honestly, the only thing I thought was very “cheapskate” was the making of your own baby toys.. I thought that was a bit cheap.. a rattle probably costs like $3 and it would like nicer than something taped together. That’s just my opinion but I think everything else you do is extremely necessary especially in this economy. You can’t blame someone for being so cheap.. you’ll find more people in this world being more cheap. Sorry if this is offensive, but I just thought it was something I had to share about the baby toys.

  89. Lynette says:

    I believe there is a very wealthy man that lives in Omaha that still lives in the very first house he bought. Warren Buffet. Just because you have money doesn’t mean that you have to flaunt it.

  90. Sharon says:

    As for Girl Scouts, and the myriad others asking for money: don’t buy their “stuff,” as they get pennies of what they sell for their good cause. Give them a buck or two, and they’ll make more money for their cause and you’ll save a bundle. I used to sell Girl Scout cookies, and was a darned good salesgirl, but back then they were $.25 a box. Troops get just 12-17% of each box price.

  91. richerandslimmer.com says:

    Wow, I struggled with this exact same issue last night. A group of friends were going out to dinner to a moderately expensive place, and since I am trying to lead a fiscally responsible life, I didn’t want to spend much money on dinner. But, I told them I couldn’t go because I was tired. I was too embarassed to tell them about my determination to save this year. You can read more in my blog post here:

  92. Pattie says:

    Trent, I’ve followed you for a while, and was impressed to see in Mary Hunt’s newsletter that you’d published your first book. I came to your site and found I could buy it at Amazon.com, which I promptly did. I am quite dismayed, however, to pay half the cover price in shipping & handling fees. Book is $7.95 and S&H is $3.99. You should have sold the book directly from your website, which would probably have cost less to ship & handle, and you’d probably sell twice as much. I bought it anyway :-) Thanks!

  93. Joshua says:

    All I hear on the news is how we need to “spend ourselves out of this recession.”

    Maybe if people weren’t buying what they couldn’t afford, driving up prices by trying to satisfy an ever-increasing demand with money that they didn’t have, we wouldn’t be in such a mess!

  94. Roger says:

    Interesting confrontation, Trent. I have to admit, I can see where the interviewer is coming from; there are times when I’ve wondered just how fun you’d be during a night out on the town. On the other hand, you have a great attitude towards money (and life in general), and I’m sure you’d make for good conversation, which is more than I can say for most of the ‘fun people’ I’ve known in my life.

    As other people have said, you handled yourself well, and if you helped to convince that interviewer (and hopefully others) that being frugal is intelligent, then it was a successful interview.

  95. urmel says:

    Great post, Trent, and great comments!
    Just the encouragement I need when dealing with my coworkers – with their talk about expensive purchases and vacations they sometimes make me feel like I am the “black sheep of the family”.

  96. Dubby says:

    I prefer tightwad or frugal, but I’m proud of watching my pennies.

    I get irritated when the ones who call me cheap are always wanting to be bailed out financially and crying about how they don’t have enough money to feed their families.

  97. Your post sums up my feelings exactly. I blog at Northern Cheapskate…. and one of the reasons I chose to use Cheapskate in my blog’s name was to take the stigma out of the name. You can be frugal without being stingy. You can be smart with your money without being cheap. If you need another example, just look at Amy Dacyzcn from Tightwad Gazette!

  98. Christine says:

    So many people have made great comments that it’s probably unnecessary for me to reiterate the difference between cheap and frugal and quality of life. I think we all get that!

    The interviewer clearly does not get that and is possibly jealous that you have gained such control over your spending. My guess is that he has a pile of debt and useless stuff and is trying to find some way to justify that to himself. Calling you a boring cheapskate who he would not want to hang out with is his way of doing that. Perhaps if he reads your blog because of his interview with you he’ll get “it” too someday. Until then, he’ll just be a jerk!

  99. NMPatricia says:

    Great post as usual. I have had people consider what I do is cheap not frugal (and some of that was before it was “cool” to be frugal!). At this point, however, I am trying to feel good about being frugal. Apparently, I have been frugal nearly all of my life (except for a phase in college when I was trying to spend to be liked! Currently we are retired (me before I think I was ready but my husband because he was), house bought and paid for in total, eat good food because we think the investment in health outways the savings in the grocery column, and have good vacations because my husband wants to see places before we are not able. However, with the tanking of the economy, I am a bit resentful that I have to be so frugal now just to live. We have not incurred debt, we pay our bills, we shop frugally and don’t spend more in a month than is in our budget. However, I am a bit pissed that there is talk of helping others who didn’t, and forgiving credit card debt for those who chose to run up bills. I am trying to get a better mindset around this but am having problems. However, reading your blog has helped. Thanks.

  100. Moneyblogga says:

    I’ve been on both sides of this fence, from being the person who spent everything and had closets filled with loads of stuff to someone who is (now) working to live a different kind of life. I am finding that the frugal life I once eschewed is becoming a life I’m beginning to enjoy a lot more. I’ve downsized my house and my spending. Being in control of the family’s money has opened my eyes to what was once a life of destructive and unhappy consumerism. I am happy to say that I woke up in time.

  101. jreed says:

    Again, here’s to those that wish me well, and those that don’t can go to….their church and I’ll go to mine.

  102. julia says:

    bravo!!! Well said! Very passionately written-this has brought out the writer in you. Good posts also. Yay

  103. littlepitcher says:

    Folks who deride the economically frugal as “cheapskates” often have an ulterior motive. Their kids can’t borrow status labels from your kids and never return them. They can’t steal the mp3 or cadge the latest downloads. Maw can’t shoplift jewelry when she comes over to visit, and Paw can’t bargain you down on that status car when you sell it for a newer model. .

    They can’t upgrade by burglarizing your house or by getting you fired and purchasing your house and/or contents cheap, either–something that many people will learn sooner than they would like.

  104. Vanessa says:

    Agree with KC-the interviewer/journalist’s comes across as a personal and judgemental attack rather than as objective (and professional) opinion. And if he really had done his research properly, a ‘cheapskate’ or ‘stingy person’ isn’t exactly what springs to mind when reading your posts. On the other hand, it makes me think about my own efforts to be more frugal, and whether I can let myself go a bit more, eg paying better tips at restaurants, not feel guilty over the occasional ‘treat’ etc Each to his/her own though.

  105. Mule Skinner says:

    I’ve always been a cheapskate.

  106. Julie Andrea says:

    Cheap .. hmmm. I think that jealous people will slap a label on something they don’t understand or aren’t able to do themselves. I have learned from my elderly parents about being frugal.

    They saved money with Canada Savings Bonds – not in high risk stock market gambles where people end up moaning and groaning and crying the blues when the ‘investment’ they made turns sour. Why? .. because they didn’t know a damn thing about the stock market and didn’t care to impress people with the ‘big shot talk’ of ‘I have stocks in this and that’ .. so they went with something solid and reliable that they felt comfortable with.

    They didn’t dash out to remodel their home when the ‘in colour and styles’ changed so that they could live up to their neighbours. If the fridge and stove still worked, that was fine, we didn’t give a damn that they were harvest gold or avocado green – new ones were purchased when the old ones were beyond repair.

    We ate very well, mostly homemade, at home! Imagine that .. very little convenience food and a restaurant was a special treat.

    They paid cash for most purchases and when they finally got one .. they paid down that credit card balance every month, in other words, lived within their means, which was from one modest income and mum took in sewing.

    They knew that saying “NO!” to a child is not child abuse! I did not get everything that my sparkly eyes wanted. I was given money for birthday and Christmas (two weeks apart), put it in the bank and saved up for what I wanted. Gifts were small and practical, good-quality and cherished.

    Dad did his own home repairs if possible and fixed whatever he could before buying a new one. Even the neighbours came to him for help!

    The end result of all this was ..

    … they owned their home, it was a fixer-upper that Dad slowly fixed up over MANY years,

    … they were able to purchase a cabin on an island in 1970. We spent weekends there, and most summer holidays. The whole family joyfully put their sweat and hard work into it to make it our little paradise,

    … EVERY year, donations are made to their favourite charities,

    … when I went to college, they had some money to help me out (not pay the WHOLE thing, I still took out my own student loans and worked a part time job),

    … As years went by .. when Dad needed a new truck, they had the money to pay cash,

    … When my 14 year old car was on its last legs, they surprised me with cash to purchase a new one!,

    … When dad sadly passed away a year ago, we had the cash to bury him (it had been set aside years earlier), we didn’t need to charge it, take out a loan or beg to relatives. Instead of a big fancy funeral (he died two weeks before Christmas, on my birthday) mum and I opted for giving a donation to the local hospital – his name will be on a plaque on the wall!

    I am proud of my mum and dad, people who were born in a depression and lived through a world war! To some people they may be ‘cheap’, to me, they are my heroes!

    Julie Andrea

  107. Linda says:

    I’m probably twenty years older than Trent but I still find myself caught off guard or my feelings hurt when other’s attack my values. I am being frugal because, like a lot of boomers, I have no pension and started late to save for retirement. I’m saving almost half of each paycheck and socking it into safe CDs. I don’t care who thinks my savings would be better off in stocks/mutuals because I would rather retire with SOME money than NONE thanks to irresponsible mortgage companies, bankers and brokers. The current state of our economy is the direct result of Americans “living too large.” Part of my current refusal to spend is my way of telling both politicians and Corporate America that I am tired of their inability to do the right thing.

  108. Tim says:

    Frugality is something I cherish. Because of it, I own outright my house. Because of it I can safely withstand being unemployed for a very long time. Because of it, I can deal with life’s challenges with less tress. I subscribe to the “living on half” principle, and it’s served me well for over 15 years (the early days were quite rocky).

    Am I a cheapskate? Some might think so, but being frugal to me doesn’t mean eliminating things. It means consuming in moderation or deferring the gratification.


  109. Christine says:

    Some feel empowered by spending freely. People like ourselves feel empowered by making better choices. Our money is ours – not anyone else’s.
    To not spend in a frugal way is just going through the motions.
    Have you ever noticed that a lot of radio people seem unhappy in general? Or am I just judging like this guy did to you?

  110. Wise Finish says:

    There’s a big difference between being a “cheapskate” and having an internal drive to make the most of your money, your time, your life. People that do not have this drive don’t understand the difference between being “cheap” and desiring to maximize your God-given resources. Being frugal doesn’t always mean taking the cheapest option, it means taking the best combination of price and value.

    The free-spending crowd often scoffs at those who try to make the most economical, the most sound choices since they don’t see it as a priority in their own lives and in fact might feel a little guilty about their free-spending habits.

  111. Brett says:

    I agree with you 100% Trent. We have a healthy household income, yet don’t spend money on things we don’t need. It’s funny because we have friends that criticize our “old” dishes and furniture, but to me it’s unnecessary to have extravagant things. The definition of “rich” is to have money, not material belongings.

  112. Sharon says:

    NMPatricia, keep in mind that “eating healthy” isn’t a magic wand that will keep you healthy. The majority of bankruptcies are caused by unpayable medical bills. Anyone can get anything at any time, or be hit by a bus, or have many unwanted events happen to them.

    Maybe you should try a little compassion, and realize that people who get sick haven’t asked for it and don’t deserve it.

  113. Donna Freedman says:

    Melody: “Jew in the miserly sense” — yep, that’s offensive. Do you also use words like “spic” and “fag” in friendly conversation?
    Hate speech is hate speech. Please stop perpetuating it.

  114. Linda says:

    Sharon @ Comment #77, I found your post offensive because you suggested that NMPatricia “should” do something and then suggested that she was less than compassionate. NMPatricia said that she was trying to get a better attitude about the forgiveness of credit card debt. To me, this is her acknowledgment that she may not be aware of all the circumstances of credit card debt. If I had wanted to post a viewpoint contrary to NMPatricia, I would have omitted the negative judgment against her and said, “For this reason, I try to find more compassion within myself.”

  115. Frugal is about smart spending choices. Seeking quality and value . . .

    Cheap is about the least expensive choice, which sometimes is the more expensive choice. This happens because sometimes you truly do get what you pay for . . .

  116. Liz says:

    Danielle #45,
    My parents call me “cheap” a lot too. I just try to ignore it and do what I know is right for my family. My frugality has allowed me to be a SAHM and never put my kids in daycare. My mom always says she regrets that she “had” to go back to work.
    I think a lot of times people are jealous of frugal people’s self discipline and peace of mind and that’s why they say mean things.

  117. getagrip says:

    I find it interesting that often *we’re* frugal, but people who do less than we are willing to or routinely do are typically considered “cheap”.

    If you go to the matinee movies once a month to save on the ticket price, you may consider that frugal. But at first thought do you think your friend, who you know makes more money than you, who refuses to go at all and prefers to wait until they can watch a favorite film at home free on DVD from the library more frugal or cheaper than you?

    Or maybe you suprise visit a realative in another state, they’re thrown into a tizzy because they plan their meals and shopping to the T and don’t have any food reserve to feed you. They have to go out and shop and you’ve blown their budget and shocked their system. After the uneasy visit would you consider them frugal or cheap?

    I’ll put forth that for most folks, it takes a real level of growth and acceptance to be able to look at someone doing something you would personnally find ridiculous and wouldn’t bother with and thinking it was *frugal* versus *cheap*. Our insticts are to adversely label anything outside our norm as either extravagant or cheap. IMHO it takes time and life experience to get beyond that.

  118. Battra92 says:

    I get called cheap, stingy, scrooge, Jack Benny etc. I don’t let it get to me since I know that they are wrong and I am right.

    Like a lot of others have said, I am not doing this to sit on top of piles and piles of money to just count my gold and be like Rudolph Valentino’s uncle in “The Conquering Power” (see my website for a review ;) .) I would much rather have that piece of mind, security and independence than be burdened with debt collectors.

  119. Battra92 says:

    By the way, I never buy Girl Scout cookies. Not because I have anything against the Girl Scouts but I think they are nasty cookies.

  120. Evita says:

    I am shocked at the meanness of the interviewer’s comment. That guy obviously had not made any effort to understand frugality. Labeling a person who agreed to be interviewed in this demeaning way is rude and unprofessional.

    If you choose to put your hard-earned money towards things and goals that you value instead of recklessly feeding corporations and credit card companies, isn’t that a responsible thing to do?

    Throwing money away without a tought may be fun, but it is also damn silly! if the silly guy were to lose his well-paying job, he may be forced to change his mind!

  121. Dorenda says:

    I would agree with NMPatricia (comment #71)that for those who make the right choices and do the right things it is not fair to have to pay the price in helping take care of those who chose not to do what is right.

    And while I can agree with Sharon (comment #76) that compassion should be showed to those that through no fault of their own ended up in the situation they are in, I don’t agree that most bankruptcies are caused by unpaid medical bills.

    Most bankruptcies are caused by an individual’s greed in having to have all the toys and the latest in everything and not being able to pay for them in cash but on credit. Always wanting more than they can afford.

    Getting sick and not being able to pay medical bills just becomes a part of it. But I don’t believe that NMPatricia (Comment #71) was saying anything about bankruptcy and unpaid medical bills, but a mere comment on the benefits of healthy eating vs. not.

    I know several people who have spent more than they make for many years and now will loose everything because they played that game and the economy has eaten away at jobs. And while I feel sorry for them I don’t believe that as taxpayers we should be saddled with their debt or others like them.

    In the past I have been one of the play now pay later but I don’t believe anyone should be responsibly for my mess but me. And with God’s help I will continue to chip away at the mess we got in. And while it is tight currently I do believe we will get to the point where things are easier. And we will keep trying without filing for bankruptcy.

    Our government, with bailouts for the asking, will have this Country in such a mess that it will take years and possibility generations to get out from under it. And that should not be a price those of us who take responsibility for our own actions should have to pay.

  122. Sally says:

    I think someone mentioned generosity – and that’s what the frugal vs. cheap debate is for me – someone who is generous vs. someone who is stingy i.e. “reluctant to give or spend” The dollar figure doesn’t matter because that is relative. I once went on vacation with friends and was invited to dine with their relatives. We hung out at their beautiful home with a pool, jacuzzi, etc. and I was “given” 1/2 a beer. Now that is a cheapskate.

  123. I agree with you, Trent. I think this is one of those cases where the first impression and the applied label say more about the person forming the impression and applying the label, than about the person being observed.

    To me frugality is about having clear identified priorities and then arranging my finances to promote my priorities. Note that I said MY priorities, not society’s, and not someone else’s. Having clear priorities allows me to really not care what someone else may think about my choices. It’s not a priority in my life to make sure no one thinks I’m cheap. My priorities are far more interesting and far more satisfying to me.

  124. Anne says:

    First of all, I must say that I don’t think there is anything wrong with the word “cheap”. I routinely tell people that I’m too cheap to pay for cable tv. I figure that this is a whole lot better than telling them I consider most television to be a vapid waste of time that appeals to the lowest common denominator.

    I must also weigh in on the “I’ve been careful with my money and it’s not fair I should have to help out people who haven’t.” You’re right. It’s not fair. Nor is life. It’s not fair that I’ve had cancer twice and you haven’t. It’s not fair I’ve survived my cancer when my neighbor hasn’t. It’s not fair that I have a secure job when millions of people don’t. It’s not fair that I give money to my church and to charity when the guy sitting next to me doesn’t. It’s not fair that my parents funded a college education for my brother but not for me. And it’s really not fair that because I’m very frugal I’m able to pay my taxes and pay my bills and help out someone who has less than I do. If you keep your focus on doing the right thing and treating people right it’s kind of tough to look at what’s “fair”.

    And by the way, my college educated brother earns 5 times what I do (and I work 2 jobs!) but I wouldn’t trade his life for anything. True joy and contentment can’t be bought.

  125. Cathy says:

    I hear this a lot too. Pfft. Whatever. I see spenders as wasteful. I’d rather be “cheap” than “wasteful”.

    I live a moderate life. My basic necessities always come first – food, shelter, clothing. Anything else is a luxury and can be cut without a second thought. If that makes me cheap, so be it.

  126. CheetahGirl says:

    Danielle #45 and Liz #78,
    My mother has told me that my husband and I are “cheap” and “tight” (with money). She is, unfortunately, one of those people that feels that her financial situation is not her fault, and that others should help her out by giving her money, helping her out, etc.,–since almost everyone has more than her, in her mind. I vowed to never be a slave to debt, as she chose to be. My husband and I are debt free, except for 1 car loan (on a Mazda hatchback) that will be paid in 2 years, and our mortgage. We are planning to retire in 10-11 years when he is 62 and I am 52, sell our small, older home and move to a state where we can pay cash for our retirement “dream” home. No, we are not wealthy by any means-I’m a secretary and he is a vending machine mechanic. It can be done! Do not EVER let those that call you cheap get you down! They will never know the freedom that we do!

  127. Saagar says:

    The main question for me is not about being cheap or frugal. The main question is, what you enjoy and want to do rather than getting things to impress others. If you enjoy a BMW for the feel of it rather than the look of it and for impressing others in your neighborhood then its well worth the value. Lets say you enjoy a nice meal at an expensive restaurant, not because its expensive but because you really like the taste of it, then its worth spending the money. Because, at the end of the day, you might retire early, you might have a million dollars in your savings account at 50, but you might also have illnesses that restrict you from eating the same meal that day. So, before you try to draw a line for being frugal, think about what you actually enjoy, dont buy something because its cool. I started on my mission to lose weight a couple weeks ago, and then before doing anything I realized that most of the foods like Chocolate milk shakes and the “meals” that I get are due to the craze for it and not for the actual taste of it. Guess what I lost 6 pounds in two weeks with very little work-out supplementing healthy diet and splurges on items that I actually really enjoy..

  128. Sarah says:

    I agree mostly with what you say but I have to actually point out the other side aswell. While as you said advertisements have created the myth that spending is good, now blogs, radioshows, tv interviews have created the reverse myth that cheap is in. While it is ok to use coupons and live frugally (as in live simple and have/buy what you need rather than get whatever you can get for free) now it is more of a comeptition …who has got the most number of Cheerios? who has the hoarded the most number of toilet papers (and you are sure to find a photograph of pile of toilet papers on their table to save them incase the world comes to an end), who can clean put Kroger without spending a buck, who can get their family to wear the weirdest dress to get a free chick-a-fil ….. And I am sure if they put an $3 ECB on Rat poison at CVS we would even find the store-shelf cleaned out (and you would say that you bought it to donate to the local rat-bank) .
    The fact is that everything needs a balance frugality and spending. If once we did not heed the warning and went into debts with our spending then going on the reverse side will put us into recession. Either way it will hurt best bet is spent some save some and not like I save on food and I spent on video games , so you want the food stores to close down while the Video game industry does not need a bail-out? So balance is buy some food without coupon and buy some video games on sale.

  129. Daniel Vitor Morilha says:

    I think exactly the opposite. If you leash your life with material things, you will likely be sad if can’t keep buying those stuffs. Life’s course change in unpredictable ways. Money should help you in order to have happiness but it should never be the main reason of it, otherwise you become a money’s slave. This makes me think never put too many happiness on buying or spending money.

  130. I make a living catering to the frugal brides who come to me because I save them thousands on their weddings. A cheapskate is someone who doesn’t pay their fair share and takes advantage of others, not someone who is frugal. We are very frugal because we are saving for a nice retirement. We spend money on things that are important, not on stupid crap! We spent a lot of money for a big screen high-def TV but we get a lot of enjoyment from it and we have friends over for SuperBowl parties and other events as well as using our home theater to entertain our guests as we have an enormous DVD library (bought used DVDs) and we save a lot of money by getting the used DVD which is cheaper than a night at the movies and we have it forever! Frugal is making choices, cheapskate is suffering or making others pay your share!

  131. SY says:

    Let me say upfront, people who don’t understand the concept of reciprocity are, in my mind, cheapskates, and they are people I am wary of. They will take advantage of you whenever and wherever they can.

    I’m frugal. By my lights anyway.

    I finished paying off a 2006 Toyota Corrolla this March, in less than 2 years.
    I clean house myself, cook 90% of my meals, do my own manicures and pedicures (I do like a polished appearance)
    My 10 year old TV was donated by a friend (she was getting rid of it). I was actually quite happy without one, but my friends thought it was “High time” I got one!
    I rent, but it’s in part because my job requires moving every 6-8 months.
    I clean with baking soda, vinegar, and plain soap, instead of expensive, harmful cleaners.
    I’m debt-free but do maintain a card balance that I pay off in full each month.
    I rarely eat out, but if I do I tip the server usually 20%.
    I don’t buy the most expensive things, but I do shop at whole foods for authentic Ialian Parmegiano Reggiano and spicy whole leaf arugula (it tastes better and lasts twice as long as the cut variety in salad bags).
    I groom my pets myself.
    My company paid for an expensive professional certification that has added great value to my job skills. It was hard to sit through so many classes, AND work full time, for over a year but so worth it.
    I started my career working a low paying (but very satisfying) job, and saving like crazy so I could get a masters degree. The money I saved covered living expenses for two years of college and return plane tickets.

    On the other hand, I spend ~$50 bucks on a good haircut every six months or so, and tip the stylist a 20% as well.
    I get regular massages, and because I signed up for a monthly service, I get them at half price or less.
    My cats eat organic catfood. It’s the only thing they eat, and I spend maybe $20-$30 per month on them.

    I have a $40 bottle of wine sitting on my kitchen counter waiting for a special occasion. It is a gold star winner made by a tiny winery in Sonoma, CA run by a couple. It was a splurge for sure, but I couldn’t resist buying it because it was so good, and because I WANT to support this pair in their wonderful endeavor to create good wine.

    That trip to CA btw, was a long-awaited vacation, for me and my mom, which was a 7 day trip which included a road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. I spent (including meals and gas and plane tickets and sight seeing) about $1600 total. But I can’t put a price on the things we saw, and the friends we met, and the sight of the vast silvery pacific ocean with the kelp beds, where wild otters swam and played. We stopped at a cafe perched on a mountain ledge, with vistas and the most incredible birds flying all around. I spent maybe $100 on lunch for 3 people. It was expensive. We could’ve picked up some sandwiches along the way, or just had the soup or something. But the sun was shining, and it was a bit nippy, and the sheer beauty of this place made us want to linger and talk and enjoy the moment. Really, for $100 bucks I had the most incredible afternoon. I chartered a sail boat for $160 for 3 hours in Santa Barbara, to take us up and down the coast, and see marine life. We had the boat to ourselves, and sprawled on deck enjoying the most perfect day ever made, and the sunshine, and the quiet. We saw otters and dolphins, seals and sea lions. My mother was thrilled. It was such a proud moment for me, to be able to give her this experience. It cost me money yes, but it was a time of her life for my mom. I’m not rich by any standards. But I saved for several years to be able to afford this trip. I bought tickets in an online deal, we stayed with friends and family along the way, (btw we took them out for a meal or brought gifts…we did not freeload on their hospitality). If we had stayed in the most expensive hotels or spent more $$$$, it couldn’t have been a better trip.

    I have a friend who eats nothing but rice and chicken, day after day, week after week. Her foray into the vegetable world includes fried potatoes or the occasional pea. Oh, and she eats a lot of candy. She has an excellent bank balance for her age and income. She is proud of it. But she has some serious recurring health issues, which I think is in part due to her habit of eating poorly all the time and always buying cheap processed food. She is always on pain killers, and needs to go to her doctor at least 6-7 times a year. And she isn’t even 30.

    Another friend had a high paying entry level job with a fortune 50 company. Yet she always complained that she didn’t have money. She ended up taking a large loan from her then boyfriend to meet expenses.

    I think frugality is a fine trait…it is not to be confused with cheapness. IF you can afford it, if you have the money, why not buy the quality of food and other things that will pay for itself over time?

    If I eat out (which is rarely), I do like to tip well, because the service is worth it to me. If you stiff the server, that to me is the worst thing, and I will never share a meal with that person again. I’ve gone out with friends, had a wonderful time, and then had them nickle and dime me to death, by not paying for their portion of the tips and taxes. I used to pick up the slack thinking I’ve had a wonderful time, why spoil it, but I’ve gotten tired of being treated like a sucker.

  132. Diana says:

    A lady at my work spends $900 dollars on eating out per month and complains alot about financial troubles and is even going to spend alot of money doing a financial planning course……..I spend less than $200 on groceries for my husband and I and am as happy as a bird!

    We eat out occasionally and because of the rarity we enjoy it so much more and we ALWAYS tip at least 20%.

    We’re not cheapskates but we save for something special. Our happiest times are evenings at home doing projects like brewing our own beer, gardening, cooking and chatting with eachother. All of which require little or no money.

  133. Beth says:

    I have struggled with this for a long time, between knowing I’m being frugal & being labeled a cheapskate. I have finally realized that it only matters what I think & what I know is right. A lot of people commented on a cheapskate not paying their share of a restaurant bill. My issue with this is that many people seem to think fair is splitting a bill evenly. I like to eat out, but I am careful about the price point of what I order & I almost never order a beverage, especially alcohol. So my portion of the bill is always significantly less than everyone else’s. But when I put my money into the “pot” to pay the bill (and I always include tax & tip for my share), I always get a couple of looks like I’m being cheapskate.

    I used to have a college “friend”, now she was a cheapskate! She would wait until AFTER I ordered a cheap beer at the bar & then she’d order her drink & quickly pay & said she’d get the first round & I could get the second. She would always get cheap beer the first round when she paid & then order an expensive mixed drink when it was my turn to pay. This happened twice before I told her I’d pay for my own drinks separately. Live & learn I guess.

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