Editor’s Note: The current theme is Money.
“I used to think being frugal was spending as little money as possible” but that’s just being cheap. Now I know frugal is being wise with your purchases and spending money carefully to receive the most value.” ~ Rachel at Small Notebook
When it comes to changing spending habits to reach a lifestyle goal, many people make the mistake of becoming cheap instead of frugal. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know there is a difference.
frugal: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources
cheap: at minimum expense
When you buy everything “at minimum expense” you often get an inferior product. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, and being frugal also means paying the lowest price.
For example, I use index cards for notes and organizing my thoughts. It doesn’t matter to me if there are lines or not, or if the paper is thinner or thicker. I just buy the least expensive option and it works well.
But when you use something frequently or plan to have it for a long time, being cheap will cost you more in the long run.
I recently started making a “green drink” every morning with fruits and veggies in the blender. It is a delicious and nutritious start to the day. But because I bought the cheapest blender I could find, it broke only 2 months into the daily smoothie ritual. Now I have to buy another one. I could have saved money, time and aggravation by purchasing a more heavy-duty blender suited for daily use in the first place.
When you look at your purchases from a “value” perspective instead of just “price” you will shift your thinking from cheap to frugal. Sometimes you will pay more, but over the long haul you will save more money and get more value for your dollar.
How to be Frugal instead of Cheap
- Think in terms of value and not price. If the value is about the same across the board, then you can go with the cheapest option.
- Make sure it will stand up to your level of use. You may have to buy a more expensive model to get the value you need.
- For big ticket items, do your homework before buying. Do your research online and through friends to find the best brand and retailer. You can find consumer comments on just about any product in existence.
- Think about associated costs or savings. Your new washer and dryer may cost a bit more upfront, but the savings in energy costs over time more than make up the difference.
- When shopping, consider the “per use” theory. Divide the price by the number of times you will use it to see if the “per use” price is reasonable. For example, I bought a “little black dress” last year on impulse for $80 and have worn it once. Now that I’ve lost weight, I probably won’t wear it again. A per-use price of $80 is not a very good deal. In contrast, I love my Sketcher’s bike shoes. They cost $45 and I wear them almost daily for just pennies per use. Definitely a good deal.
Change your mindset from cheap to frugal and you’ll have more value and less waste in your life.
Betsy Talbot writes about carving the lifestyle you want out of life you already have. When she’s not writing, she’s paring down, saving up, and getting ready for a year of travel with her husband.