This is not a new idea, but one that resonates with me. There are quite a few posts within this community talking about being frugal vs. stingy so add this one to the list. Tonight, my wife and I went out for happy hour with a few friends of ours. While sitting at the table, one of my friends called me cheap. I'm not exactly sure why I continue to be called cheap from this particular friend, but it produces a weird feeling that almost hurts when it is said. So I want to talk about what could make someone cheap...
A little background: I have been friends with this individual for roughly 8 years. We get together frequently as couples, we have puppy play dates and we invited each other to our weddings. The first time I was called cheap was probably about 3 years ago from this individual and I believe it was because I said that I did not have cable or internet in my newly bought house.
My question to you all is: Is not paying for cable or internet being cheap? What is Cheap? What is Frugal?
I've read multiple articles on this subject and I've come to the conclusion that being cheap is when you take advantage of others to save money. It involves sacrificing good times with family or friends over minuscule amounts of money or going against social norms in order to save a few pennies.
Examples would include not buying the next round of beers for your friends after they have all bought rounds for you. Not bringing a food dish or gift to a house warming party or baby shower. Squeezing ketchup packets out into a jar when you go to a nice restaurant. Wearing torn clothes when going to a work function. All of these examples involve saving money while sacrificing life experiences. You are creating a bad stigma and not being generous.
Being frugal on the other hand is what you might expect: The opposite of being cheap... Now this does not mean that you should buy your friends a beer every time while out at the bar. Being frugal means that you do not spend money when you think about spending money. If you go to the store and you see a nice cashmere sweater for 75% off, ask yourself, "Do I need this sweater or do I want this sweater." If you already have 5 of these sweaters in all different colors, then most likely you do not need the sweater and not buying it would mean you are staying frugal.
Other examples could include going to the grocery store and buying items when they are on sale or you have a coupon. Running around the neighborhood and buying a workout DVD for $20 instead of a $100 per month gym membership is being frugal. Keeping an old flip phone instead of a Smartphone is being frugal. Saving money on cable and internet, groceries and sweaters while going on a long vacation to a place you love is being frugal. Being frugal does not mean that you do not spend money, it just means you spend money on things that create quality, value and enjoyment in your life.
The biggest take away between the two is that there are no friends or family around to judge your spending/saving habits. Social norms these days are to stay on pace with the Jones's. Buying things that you do not need only to try and impress your neighbors.
If you are just starting out, ask yourself these questions: "Do I need this or do I want this item?" "Will this purchase better my life?" "How often will I use this item?" "How long will this memory last"
I do not consider myself cheap. I never want to "be in debt" to my friends. Whenever someone buys me something, I buy something for them around the same price point. The occasion varies but the "debt" is always repaid. Lets evaluate the questions above using the cable and internet or flip phone examples: Do I need those items: No. I have an amazing wife that did not need cable or internet and I have internet 8 hours a day at work so why do I need a smart phone. Will the purchase better my life? No. The past 3 years without C & I have been amazing for our relationship. Not having C & I allowed my wife and I to have intimate discussions about kids, money, life, etc. How often will I use it: Everyday. This is good and bad but after 3 years, of not having C&I, I do not know what I am missing so who cares. Finally, I believe the memories I have made with my wife talking and enjoying intimate time with each other far outweighs the time we would have had with C&I.
In conclusion, there is only one friend that calls me cheap and I consider it as a sense of insecurity for this individual. I'm sure they feel that they need to bring me down/belittle in order to feel better about themselves because they are not as well off. It does not make it any easier to shake off in the moment, but as long as the savings continue and the excess continues to be invested, the American Dividend Dream is only right around the corner!
Have you ever been called cheap? How did you respond to the accusation?
*Photo from Times.com