How To Be Frugal Versus Cheap


MiserCartoon.jpgThe Wall Street Journal recently ran a short article entitled, “Making of a Miser: Nature versus Nurture”  The article highlights a few important points in terms of what makes people cheap:

  • If you have two thrifty parents, you’re likely to be thrifty as well.
  • People who lived through the Great Depression were thrifty their entire lives.
  • People have innate tendencies to be tightwads or cheapskates.

So, is being cheap a bad thing?  I would argue that if your quality of life is poor because you don’t want to spend money in order to acquire, say, quality food, clothing, shelter, etc. then there may be a problem.  For example, some folks head to the supermarket with the idea that they need to find the cheapest price in every food category, but as a self described Foodie I often reach for the organic whole chicken versus the on-sale Perdue roaster.  The better tasting (and better for you) organic chicken provides a higher quality of life for me and I’m not willing to opt for the cheaper chicken.

However, I would describe myself as being frugal.  For example, I could never:

  • Spend more than 25,000 on a new or used vehicle
  • Not haggle with an contractor or at an independent shop  
  • Hire someone to do a home repair that I (or my super craftsman father) could handle
  • Pay someone to cut my grass
  • Purchase designer clothing
  • Not save for what I want (or use credit for high ticket items as opposed to cash)
  • Use my assets to over leverage (in order to afford a vacation home or make improvements to my existing home)

But, I often:

  • Enjoy having dinner parties and cooking great food for my guests
  • Buy high quality material and products for our home
  • Purchase quality dress shoes
  • Go to a men’s salon for a quarterly haircut
  • Go on vacation

In the end, living a good consumer life is about balance, so skip the generic, super market meat and opt for a good pair of leather shoes.  Your life (and feet) will be better served!



  1. I’m learning so much about you Vinnie.

  2. You know Vin, I swear our parents are one in the same. My mother always told me never be cheap with your food and shoes…No Joke.

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