Frugality: The Opposite of Being Cheap

This following guest article was written by Richard Hemby who regularly writes about accredited online degrees and college related topics for Online College Guru, an online college degree guide.

Those who practice a frugal lifestyle are occasionally accused of being “cheap” or miserly. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however; frugality is a philosophy and a lifestyle that is based upon generosity of spirit and care for the well-being of other beings. By only accumulating those things that are truly necessary and essential for life and health, one consumes fewer precious resources. This, in turn, allows more people to enjoy the same basic necessities than would otherwise be possible.

Frugality is not a lack of charity or kindness to others. It is rather the careful assessment of each purchase to determine whether or not that purchase will truly improve one’s life and happiness, and whether the item in question is a wise use of the planet’s limited resources. When considered in this light, frugality is the application of the Golden Rule to the consumer lifestyle with a minor twist; frugal individuals do without so that others may have enough.

Cheap or miserly people may neglect to tip wait staff; this is a symptom of greed and selfishness. Those practicing a frugal lifestyle might avoid dining out altogether, but if they chose to do so, they would still consider the needs of others and tip in order to ensure that the wait staff too would have enough to live on. While a cheap person might wear the same suit for years on end, they would do so in order to keep the savings for themselves. Frugal individuals have a different motivation; by keeping items until they are thoroughly worn out, they can avoid putting further strain on the already overtaxed resources of the planet and prevent waste being added to already filled-to-overflowing landfills.

A frugal person may carry a cloth handkerchief for personal hygiene needs; a cheap one may help himself to a handful of paper products from a local restaurant. This highlights the primary difference between cheapness and frugality. Cheapness affects the lives of others, while frugality affects only oneself. Cheap actions are characterized by selfishness and disregard for others, while frugality’s defining characteristic is valuing others as highly as oneself. A cheap person may seek a deal at the cost of another person; a frugal one will try to make a deal that benefits both people in the end.

Practicing frugality is not just a matter of living simply and avoiding unnecessary purchases. It is also demonstrated by choosing options that are environmentally responsible, ethical, and mindful of the needs and feelings of other people. Keynes had it right: resources are limited, but wants are endless. Frugal individuals practice discipline and contain their wants to a reasonable level in an effort to ensure that there are sufficient resources to go around.

While being cheap is generally a personality trait, rather than a conscious choice, frugality is a decision reinstated each and every day. By choosing their purchases carefully and thoughtfully and considering the value of each purchase as it relates to the most basic human needs, frugal people truly “tread lightly upon the earth,” taking only their fair share of limited resources and making it possible for others to live as well as they do.