I was at a corporate Stampede function last week in Calgary and a gentleman asked what I write about. “Frugality,” I said. To which he responded jokingly, “So, you’re a cheapskate.”
Frugal living is not the same thing as being cheap. Frugal people maximize the dollars they’ve worked hard to earn by negotiating prices, finding deals, couponing, buying on sale and determining the best ways to buy products for the lowest possible price.
Sure, sometimes my friends think I’m cheap because I don’t drive a fancy car, I love free events, I buy in bulk, and Kijiji is my best friend, but I disagree. I’m a smart spender.
Cheapskates have a bad rap for not buying what they need when they need it because they are afraid to spend their money. When they do spend, they’ll buy a cheap product that doesn’t last, which then creates unnecessary waste and costs more long-term because it breaks and needs to be replaced.
Are you more frugal than cheap?
• Cheap: Do you purchase the lowest-priced product regardless of quality?
• Frugal: Are you willing to pay more for affordable-quality products?
• Cheap: Do you avoid tipping a service provider at all costs?
• Frugal: Do you tip according to the quality of service?
• Cheap: When the bill comes, do you bolt out of the restaurant and hope your friends overpaid?
• Frugal: Do you divide up the dinner bill according to who ate what?
• Cheap: Are you into pirating books, movies and music?
• Frugal: Do you like to borrow books, movies and music from friends or the library?
• Cheap: Do you avoid offering to pay for a pal’s coffee?
• Frugal: Do you swap back and forth between who pays for coffee?
• Cheap: Do you show up at dinner parties empty-handed?
• Frugal: Do you encourage friends to host potluck dinners so that nobody has to shoulder the entire grocery bill?
If your budget is pinched and you’re desperate to save pennies, live frugally rather than cheaply. Buy higher-quality pieces like furniture, appliances, clothing and household accessories second-hand.
Wait and save up to make purchases. Buy fewer items when grocery shopping, coupon, negotiate prices and use a budget to monitor your progress.
And, if you are in dire need of something essential such as medication, transit passes or baby formula, don’t go without. That could be harmful to your health and livelihood. Instead, re-prioritize your budget, get financial assistance, apply for subsidies and take advantage of tax credits.
With a little effort, anyone can live frugally, save money and not compromise their lifestyle.