The difference between being Cheap and Frugal

cheap-and-frugal

The following piece was originally published on the Examiner back in December of 2013, and actually turned out to be one of my most popular compositions.  It visited something very emotional; one’s money management and how it is perceived by others – families, friends, significant others, etc.  It discusses how two groups of people are classified in terms of their money management; those who are cheap and those who are frugal.

It was in part inspired by the late Deborah Aguiar-Vélez, founder of Escuchame who came to my job and gave a discussion about wealth building.  Prior to publishing this piece she granted me permission to use a slide from her talk as the accompanying visual for this article.  Lastly it falls under my “Financial Literacy” principle.

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“The difference between envy and jealousy Anwar is that there is no malice attached to envy,” my mentor and friend Mark told me in a recent meeting.  “When someone is jealous of you, you have something that they want which upsets them and they will go to great lengths to make sure you don’t have it anymore or don’t even get it in the first place.  They may even go as far as to cause you harm.  Envy is simply when someone wishes they had what you have with no malice attached.  Envy and jealousy are two different words that most people confuse.”

Mark and I frequently have discussions like this spanning numerous areas/topics.  This one reminded me of another confusion of words; the definitions of cheap and frugal, two very important concepts in the worlds of financial literacy and intelligence, and thus the basis of this article.

“Hell yeah I’m cheap and proud of it too.  I want to save every single penny that I can,” a coworker named Hardy said smiling during a random conversation at work a couple of years ago.  “I don’t mind getting perfectly good stuff for free either.  My wife’s family frequently gets rid of really good stuff, and I willingly take it.”

“You’re proud of being cheap?” was my question to Hardy after hearing him revel in his self-diagnosis.  Cheap was not a flattering word in my vernacular.  The word had recently been pinned on me by a girlfriend leaving me feeling snake bitten and sickened by just hearing someone say it.  This conversation with Hardy gave me a new perspective on the matter and actually made me laugh at the word.

Another word that was assigned to me years ago by another female during graduate school was frugal, which is actually an important attribute to have when you are in school but also later in life.  It wasn’t exactly clear to me at that point what that word meant as my behavior was simply the recapitulation of the spending habits of my mother and father who themselves were frugal.

During Hispanic Heritage Month almost a year after my discussion with Hardy, entrepreneur Deborah Aguiar-Vélez, owner and founder of the company Escuchame visited my job and gave a really good seminar on wealth building.  Much of her talk discussed sound financial decision making, living within one’s means and saving money which sound like common sense ideas but for many people are not.  Interestingly a couple of her slides described the differences between being frugal and being cheap.

Mrs. Vélez eloquently described being frugal as:

  • Living within your means
  • Careful management of anything valuable which expends nothing unnecessarily, and applies what is used to a profitable purpose
  • Finding ways to save money
  • A conscious decision and you are therefore in control of your actions towards a goal

That slide was followed up with a description of what frugal is not:

  • Cheapness
  • Meanness
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Suffering
  • Difficult

Her talk helped me to see that there is in fact nothing wrong with being frugal, and re-enforced why it’s a good idea to be this way versus the alternatives; impulsive, frivolous and wasteful.  My discussions with Hardy described above and Mrs. Velez’s seminar also reminded me that labels and titles that we assign to each other are often subject to one’s point of view.

Though this post was written partially in a humorous way, these are important and serious lessons for everyone, especially in our society which actively promotes consumerism to all economic classes poor and rich, and attaches self-worth to material objects and luxuries of all kinds.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Are you getting your Matching Contribution? A discussion on saving for retirement
A look at the Law of Compounding Interest and why you should care
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Your net worth, your gross salary and what they mean
Simone Griffin discusses homeownership and the African American community part one (also parts two and three)
Chris Brown Chris Brown discusses true stewardship and financial peace

A special thank you goes out to Mrs. Deborah Aguiar-Vélez of Eschuchame for allowing me to cite her and her materials in this piece.  Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment.  To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site.  Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page.  While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that page of my site.