What Does it Mean to Be Frugal?

One of the questions we are constantly asked is what does it mean to be frugal? Is it the same as being cheap? What is the difference between being cheap and being frugal? These are all great questions and I can definitely understand where the confusion lies. To understand what is means to be frugal and how it’s different from being cheap, we need to first analyze the textbook definitions of each term.

The Textbook Definition

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of frugal is: “Economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful” and/or “Entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scant”. The definition of cheap is “costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive, costing little labor or trouble; charging low prices; of little account; of small value; mean; shoddy; at a low price; at small cost”.


If we break down the definition of frugal, you can see that some key words that stand out are “economical”, “saving”, and “not wasteful”. This means that being frugal simply means that you are saving money and not spending it frivolously. Also, that you are being economical about what you’re buying and that it provides good value for the cost. Therefore, the frugal option isn’t always the most inexpensive one. Sometimes it’s important to spend a little more to get a better value, because it can save you money in the long run.


The definition of cheap includes keywords like “inexpensive”, “shoddy” and “small value”. This means that it costs very little and usually doesn’t provide much value. I used to be what many would considered “cheap”. When I needed new shoes for work I would just buy the cheapest shoes I could find on amazon. The problem with that was within a few weeks they would start to breakdown and the soles would separate from the shoe itself. Over time I learned that the cheapest option is not always the best option and sometimes you can end up spending more money by continuously buying “cheap” items rather than spending a little more to get something that is made better and will last longer.

How to Be Impossibly Frugal

Now that we know the difference between the two, which would you rather be? I know I would much rather be frugal. No matter how much money you have, it’s important to be frugal and make smart spending decisions. I have never understood why so many celebrities buy mansions with 19 bedrooms and 7 sports cars. It is so wasteful and not a good use of their money. There’s a reason why there are stories about lottery winners who use up all their money and end up bankrupt. They did not spend their money wisely and were definitely not frugal. So, what can we do be frugal and make sure that we don’t end up like them?

1. Stop making excuses.

We always have an excuse for why we can’t save money or why we need to buy something new. There will always be excuses whenever it comes to doing something we don’t really want to deep down. Just like when you tell your friend you can’t go to their part on Saturday because you’re not feeling well, but then someone posts a picture of you on social media at a different party. These lies and excuses we come up with for ourselves will eventually catch up with us and lead to consequences. Unfortunately, these consequence come with big dollar signs and years of debt payments. No one likes making sacrifices and so instead we make excuses. Instead of making excuses on why you can’t save, make plans on how you can.

2. Cut out what isn’t necessary.

It’s time that we bring it back to the basics. There are so many things we buy on a regular basis that is just not necessary. For example, cable. I don’t care what anyone says, cable is just not necessary anymore. There is Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and so many other online streaming services that are so much cheaper and can still let you watch what you want to watch. The cost of all those streaming service combined is still probably cheaper than cable. Plus, they have way less commercials. Also, that Starbucks coffee your stop to get every morning really isn’t necessary either. I know it feels like you ‘need’ it in order to get through the day, but this amount will slowly add up. Make your own coffee at home or try the coffee they have at the office. Eventually, you’ll get used to it. It’s really important to take a good, hard look at things and cut out those little unnecessary expenses that can amount to big savings.

3. Live within your means.

Understanding your financial situation will help you live within your means. There is a saying that goes “Rich people stay rich by living like they’re broke. Broke people stay broke by living like they’re rich”. The only way to save money and accumulate wealth is by living within your means and not buying things “just because”. Even if you think you have the money to afford it, you should stop and think “do I really need this?”. There are some things that are “nice to have” like a new flat screen TV, but when you hundred or thousands of dollars in debt, you are not living within you means by accumulating more debt to be able to get it.

Understanding the difference between cheap and frugal, and following these three steps will help send you on your way to living a fabulously frugal life.




Mrs. Frugal

Just your average millennial trying to navigate life and get rid of debt by being frugal.

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