In the world of personal finance blogging, frugality is king. Since the 2008 recession, trends like extreme couponing have risen in popularity. Being frugal wins! Right?
Not always. Even though we’re all about helping you find ways to banish your student loan debt for good, there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. Do any of the examples below ring a bell? If so, you might be guilty of being a little too frugal.
Frugal vs cheap: how to tell if you’re being frugal or cheaping out
1. You stuff your cabinets with store freebies.
Do you leave restaurants with a purse full of napkins and silverware? Do you have a drawer full of ketchup packets in your kitchen? If you’re going out just to swipe the stuff from the condiment counter because it’s there and it’s “free,” you might be taking frugality too far.
2. You regift your old stuff.
Are you a habitual regifter? It’s definitely the thought that counts, but if your thought process is “What do I have around the house that so-and-so would like?” then you shouldn’t expect a birthday party invite next year.
If you didn’t want someone to give it to you in the first place, why regift it again? Regifting is lazy and cheap, unless you’re gifting a family heirloom to someone else in your family who would treasure it as much as you.
3. It’s always your “birthday.”
There’s nothing better than getting free meals, desserts, or drinks on your birthday. But if you constantly tell restaurants and bars that it’s your birthday, you’re taking it too far.
You’re likely not fooling anyone — and worse, if they decide to check your ID you could end up looking like a real jerk. This is one of lowest “money-saving” tricks, and will most likely make your friends cringe.
4. You constantly “have plans” … to stay home.
Picture this: It’s Saturday night and your phone rings. Your friends are all going out for drinks and want you to join, but drinks cost money and you hate spending money. Why pay for cocktails when your ex’s-roommate’s-Dad’s-girlfriend’s Netflix is free?
Savvy finance folks know that sometimes you have to decline social invitations in order to stay on budget and put money away for important financial goals. But that doesn’t mean you have to let your important relationships languish. If you’re constantly bailing on plans with friends because you don’t want to spend money, it’s time to find a better balance.
Being frugal vs cheap can be a fine line. If you truly don’t have the cash to nurture your relationships with friends, think about alternatives you can do together. Maybe instead of going out for drinks you can all pitch in for a few bottles of wine and have a night in. Your friends will likely be supportive of your initiative and enjoy saving a little money themselves!
5. You conveniently forget your wallet.
This is one of the biggest friendship red flags. I love catching up with friends over coffee, but you bet when a buddy “forgets” their wallet more than once or twice, I start to notice.
The same goes for people who don’t order food and then mooch off of everyone’s plates after the meal arrives. Not only is this just bad etiquette, it never reflects well on you!
6. You shop the deals all over town.
Who doesn’t love a good coupon? What many neglect to realize is that coupons aren’t specifically designed to save you money — they’re designed to benefit the store. So, while there are many good deals to be had by using coupons, there are also many ways coupon clipping can go wrong.
- You stock up on essentials but end up with tons of products that you either donate or lose to waste.
- You shop one deal here and another deal there but end up wasting more money on gas driving to and from the different stores than you actually save on the products.
- In order to get the deal on the coupon, you have to purchase more than you need. This often leads us to spend more than we normally would, thinking we’ll make that money back “down the road.”
Instead, why not just purchase what you need from the same store and only use a coupon if it’s convenient?
When trying to decide if your frugality is helpful or harmful, keep this in mind: Frugality merits pinching pennies in order to spend your time and money in areas most important to you.
Being cheap almost always equates to sacrificing your time for money, cutting corners on your quality of life, and placing money saved above nurturing relationships. Your time is worth something, too. Always keep that in mind the next time the urge to be too frugal strikes.
Need to find a better balance in your budget? Here are 5 ways to lower your cost of living.
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