frugal not cheap

Frugal vs. Cheap

By in , , , , , , , , ,
One comment


Our household definitely hovers between frugal and cheap a bit more than I may be comfortable to admit. We are avid environmentalists and love to rescue things from peril (or the landfill). But the intent behind your lifestyle choices is what truly defines you as frugal or cheap.

Thanks for the inspiration! This chain gang started with OurFinanciaPath’s post ‘Frugal, Not Cheap Challenege.


Seeking FIRE we strive to live our lives simply engineered. We’ve cut costs rigorously to align our spending with our values:

  • Health
  • Happiness
  • Quality time with each other and Friends and Family
  • Environment

When we make a choice out of the ordinary, the cultural norm may be to shout:


But, we instead step back, challenge the norm and question if this choice conforms with our values. If yes, then frugal. If not, then cheap.

Frugal vs. Cheap


We constantly look at our plates and say, “we eat really well.” We have cut out refined sugar, meat, dairy, most processed foods. (If you like pictures of food, follow us on instagram.)

Instead we grow our food in the garden, pick it off of neglected neighborhood trees, buy it from the perimeter of the grocery store, and support our local farmers at the farmers’ market.

Yeah, maybe picking the tree near your work dumpster could be called cheap! But not for us, since we love using the apples, and it doesn’t hurt the tree. We are keeping those nutrients from breaking down and increasing nutrient loading in our rivers (this is a stretch) and enjoying keeping our eyes open for fruit trees as we bike around town.

Conveniently, eating in this healthy way is also quite frugal. For lunch today we incorporated nine different vegetables. Check out our grocery shopping tips to do this frugally too!


We intentionally choose to spend more weekends at home now that we are pursuing FIRE than we did before. Mainstream culture with movies like the Hangover, Bridesmaids, etc. show people jetting off to Vegas to get together with friends to celebrate.

A pink sink! To match the pink toilet and tub (not pictured).

We used to think that being busy and spending our weekends in different cities, with different dear friends would provide us with what we needed to be happy.

Then we started questioning this. We were bleeding money, still in debt, and with a new home in need of some TLC. Planning our wedding actually helped us slow down and spend weekends at home. Magically this helped reduce our stress.

Yeah, we are saving money by rarely buying plane tickets now (once per year is the goal). Some of our friends were disappointed by us visiting less and have questioned if we are being cheap. But we have talked about it as a pack, and realize this is us acting frugal, since it aligns with our values. We will someday see our distant friends more (maybe), when we slow travel through the U.S. And we intentionally set time for lengthy phone calls.

We even have played board games over skype with one of our best friends!

Now, when we visit friends it is a treat for us an them, we derive greater happiness, and our savings rate is a lot higher. 🙂

Quality Time

Not spending money on random nights out with friends actually challenges you to get creative and honest.

Rocky falls
A waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park

Our good friends near us know we don’t spend a lot of money. We have had some honest conversations about our goals and plans, which has bonded us closer, even though they don’t all choose FIRE. Rushing towards financial independence isn’t for most people, and it took me some time realize not everyone would jump in with two feet.

Fortunately, we have mutual respect with our friends and we now find fun free or frugal ways to hang out. This includes:

  • Potlucks
  • Backyard games and bonfires
  • Drinking at homes
  • Drinking at breweries where you can bring your own food
  • Board game nights
  • Bike rides
  • Weekly walks
  • Doggy dates
  • Trips to the beach

We always are happy to invite people to our house, make the whole meal, and share our home brew. This helps make us frugal, not cheap. We don’t hoard what we have, we share our bounty. We have great jobs and great friends. We don’t let our desire to save money keep us from growing our friendships.

This typically leads to more relaxed and longer hangouts since you don’t have waiters constantly interrupting or managers awkwardly hinting that someone else is waiting on your table.

We have some friends that prefer to go out, so we go out sometimes. But we intentionally make the choice, instead of falling back on eating out every night. It makes the experience more fun for us too!


We struggle wrapping our heads around the rampant consumerism and waste in society. We mend our clothes, wear things until they are threadbare, drive older cars, live in an older home, and reuse what we find.

One of the awesome waterfront walks we checked out after dinner and drinks at a brewery.

This also leads to us living a frugal life. When you recognize the resources consumed to make something new, you start thinking outside to box to find what fits, instead of what would be perfect.

Our home is filled with cast off furniture from parents, aunts, and cousins. I love that things don’t match, because they also come with memories. When family comes to visit they love seeing their old items put to good use.

We save time by making do or hunting during college move-out for desired items. Otherwise we would spend hours hunting online and researching for the perfect item to fit our needs.

Frugal vs. Cheap

The line between frugal not cheap is different for every person. If the lack of spending aligns with your values then I’d call it frugal. If you are mooching off of your parents and friends, I’d say more cheap.

Our line is more extreme than most, but we love impressing strangers with our dumpster diving tails 🙂

We should have known since date one, when we split a meal at a fancy UP restaurant that we were destined to be a match. Some would call that cheap and tacky for a first date, in reality I found my frugal life-partner.

What’s your line for frugal not cheap?

Check out the “Frugal, not Cheap Challenge” chain gang:



1 comments on “Frugal vs. Cheap”

  1. Pingback: Frugal, Not Cheap Challenge | Our Financial Path.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.