Cheap versus Frugal

I’m guilty of talking about money too much.  My wife reminds me on a regular basis to tone it down, especially around our children.  Unfortunately, I have a hard time not discussing it whether it’s about the price of something or investing; it’s an interesting topic to me. 

The other day I read an article that stated that people who talk about money all the time sound cheap.  It made me start to think about how people perceive me, and whether they think I’m cheap or frugal (as I prefer to describe myself). So, of course, I looked online to see what other people thought and for the most part, it came down to this.  The prevailing opinion online is that cheap simply looks at price only whereas frugal is more concerned about the best value regardless of price.  I’d like to think frugal fits me pretty well.

After working for many years and investing through market ups and downs, I think that I just have a healthy respect for the money that we’ve earned and saved.  It hasn’t always been easy and with age and experience you begin to understand it took a lifetime of work and discipline to achieve financial freedom.  So, when we’re going to purchase something I pay attention to what we are getting for our money.  

I try my best to not be manipulated by marketing and cultural norms on how money is spent.  This seems more like behavioral psychology to me than whether a person is cheap or frugal.  I just don’t understand many of today’s purchases that are considered “normal”.  This would include coffee, craft beer, eating out, new vehicles, etc.  They just don’t resonate with me or provide value in spite of their popularity with the rest of society.  I wouldn’t hesitate to enjoy any of them and spend the money if they provided value to me.  This is probably where I’m most at risk at looking or sounding cheap. 

My wife and I have set up a budget by category that I think we would both agree is pretty generous on spending for both of us.  We’re certainly not deprived and generally we both come in under the budgeted amount.  Interestingly it doesn’t matter to me where the money is spent during the year, the only time I get a little concerned is when I see the totals approaching our budgeted amount.  I think this is due to my concern for our long-term welfare as well as not being a burden on our children or others financially.

Money to me is simply a tool to achieve some of your goals.  Everyone has different goals and values and how they choose to spend their money.  My monetary goals at this point are few and very simple. They just don’t involve many purchases that our visible to other people.   

After giving it some thought, I’m comfortable with how I handle money, but my wife has a point- I can give the constant evaluation of prices a verbal break.  Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.      

4 thoughts on “Cheap versus Frugal

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