We Are Frugal, Not Cheap

We Are Frugal, Not Cheap

Frugal by definition means to be economical – not necessarily buying the product that is the lowest price.  That’s being cheap.

To me, being frugal means to focus on the “cost” of a good rather than just the “price”.  What’s the difference?  Cost deals with the lifetime ownership of a particular product (quality) and price is the specific price paid.  Maybe an example would be helpful.

You could buy a used car for $10,000 that continuously needs repairs that add up over time or you could buy a car for $15,000 that needs very few repairs.  If we only focus on price, the $10,000 car is a lot better deal, but if we look at total cost, the $15,000 car will probably win and do so with a lot less headache.

With semantics out of the way, here are ways that we are frugal, not cheap.


I figured out long ago, that buying junk clothes that shrink or don’t last is a losing strategy.  So, we tend to shop at outlet stores or TJ Maxx for most of our clothes.  Because they are still name-brand, they last despite paying about 70% less.  Believe me, it’s not for fashion reasons.

My dress shirts come from the clearance section of the Jos A Banks website or I wait for a 3 for 1 sale, because I refuse to pay full price.  I still end up with the same quality, all of which will last for a long time.


We do not have the latest and greatest technology in our family.  (Not even close.)  Our standard family computer is an Acer Chromebook that we bought on Amazon for $168.  We’ve been thrilled with it.

Also, even though we’re iPhone fans, we almost never upgrade.  In fact, I wrote a post about this very topic and how insane the new iPhone X is.  I have an iPhone SE that I’ll have until it dies.

Verizon still irks me to death, but it’s the only provider that provides reliable coverage where we live, so there’s not a lot to change there, unfortunately.

Despite wanting to geek out and buy an iWatch, I cannot succumb to the price tag.  It will only be cool for a week at which time I’d realize that I didn’t actually need it and would have buyer’s remorse.

Groceries/Eating Out

We use a grocery personal shopper.  We order groceries online and pay $5 for a store employee to shop on our behalf.  We pull up to the store, and they bring everything out to us at our allotted pick-up time.

At first glance, this seems wasteful.  But after a little research, we found that doing it this way actually keeps us from impulse purchases.  If we assume that every impulse purchase is in the neighborhood of $3-$6, it basically takes just one to make up for the $5 personal shopper price tag.  And I’m the worst about impulse purchases at a grocery store, so this is actually a no-brainer.  If only the grocery store knew this…

We end up eating healthier and save time and money in the process.  Win, win, win.  It’s one of our favorite new hacks.

We rarely eat out.  I’m lucky that my wife is a great cook and enjoys it.  We also have two young children, so eating out is frankly a pain.  But we wouldn’t eat out much even if that weren’t the case.

But because we rarely do, we make the most of it when we do go out.  We don’t worry about the price on the menu, we order what we want.  If I want crab cakes, I order crab cakes.

We rarely drink.  This is both due to personal preference and cost.

Eating healthy at work.  I believe in eating healthy but doing so without breaking the bank and saving time.  (This seems to be a trend.)  In an effort to make my lunches easier and healthier, I purchased a vacuum-insulated travel mug to bring my protein fruit smoothies to work for lunch.

It actually does a great job of keeping the smoothie cold for the 5ish hours until lunch.  I figure every day that I bring my smoothie, it saves me $5-$10 and there are limitless ideas for smoothie combinations.  It’s much better than the same old sandwich I brought before.


We travel with flexibility.  When we are planning vacations, we are usually very flexible with our travel days so that we can get the best airfare.  This ends up saving us hundreds of dollars every time.  We also always try to fit everything into carry-ons so we don’t have to lug around huge bags and pay for them to lose them for us.  Saves money and headaches.

We buy nice used vehicles.  The most recent vehicle we purchased was a used 2016 Lexus RX 350.  The original sticker price of this vehicle was over $56,000.  But, because we purchased it used, with 10,000 miles on it, we got it for $41,500.

I can hear it now, that’s not frugal or cheap.  And you could very well be right!

I’ll be honest though, we went in with the intent to purchase a 2015 model since we knew it’d be a lot less expensive due to a design change.  But that particular vehicle made such a large leap technologically to 2016, we decided it was worth a few extra bucks.  Since we traded a car in and paid cash for the remainder, it didn’t seem too bad.  And we’ve been thrilled with it, so that counts for something.

Additionally, we anticipate having this car for 10 years or more since we drive our vehicles to about 200,000+ miles.  Buying quality vehicles that don’t require tons of expensive repairs actually ends up saving us money.  But I fully realize that I could have purchased a RAV4 for quite a bit less with similar long-term cost savings.

I guess we all pick our battles.


Pay in advance discounts.  Anyone that offers us a discount for paying a year in advance, we jump at the chance.  We figure we’re going to pay it anyway, so we do what we can to get any discount that exists.

Christmas credit card points cash-in.  We use a credit card with a relatively generous points system.  We purchase every single thing possible on our credit card (paid off each month) and then use the points at the end of each year to purchase our Christmas gifts for our various family members via gift cards.  Christmas is then taken care of, at literally $0 cost to us.

Sidebar: We are now looking at signing up for a card that offers 2% cash back – this will likely end up with a little more money in our pockets.  Stay tuned.

We make what we have last.  We’ll keep fooling with something until it’s truly no good anymore or until the cost of maintaining it isn’t worth the money or effort.

We believe in hand me downs/ups.  We have young children, and the amount of hand me down clothes we’ve gotten from friends and family is abundant.  We continue the trend when we’re finished with things.  No sense in buying new clothes too often when they outgrow them so fast.  We do the same with toys.

Where are we generous?

We are always the first ones to offer to pay whether in full or for our share.  In fact, I go out of my way to be sure that no one accuses us of having alligator arms.  Not because of the stigma, but because we actually enjoy paying.

We have been more than blessed, so we always pay our fair share and often much more.  In my opinion, it’s easier this way and we enjoy it.

We like to give and give without recognition.  Whether this is picking up the tab for a group of soldiers at a restaurant, giving to church, charity or purchasing Christmas toys for kids in need, we find this to be the most rewarding part of practicing frugality in our day to day life.


This post isn’t a way of trying to convince people to join the movement or that we’re particularly good at being frugal.

In fact, I think the frugality is a relative term and our level of frugal doesn’t get anywhere close to minimalism.  But we still believe in being smart with our money and buying quality that lasts.  Plus, we enjoy the search for a good deal!

This post is a link in a chain of posts by personal finance bloggers discussing frugality and cheapness.

Share your ideas for frugal living in the comment section!

4 Replies to “We Are Frugal, Not Cheap”

  1. Great post! While you bought the car with cash like I do mine it didn’t really fit in well with your other examples. My net worth is substantial and I wouldn’t dream of spending that much on a car. I usually don’t buy anything that isn’t 3 to 5 years old. I got a five year old Infinity with less than 30,000 miles for $22,000. Buying one year old cars is a little past frugal to me because they depreciate so fast. But everyone has an area that means a lot to them and spending a little more on those areas makes sense to me.

    1. Steveark,
      Thanks for the comment and I 100% agree with your assessment! The car may not necessarily fall under the category of frugal given the dollar amount, but it was a simple way we “didn’t spend” the extra cash. It’s by far the most expensive car that we’ve purchased, but we honestly have zero buyer’s remorse.

      I wanted this post to be as honest as possible and not act as if we skimp at every opportunity because we don’t. We currently save about 42% of our income (increasing all the time), so this one-time splurge seemed like it wouldn’t kill us in the long run. The risk is an action like this becoming a habit, which is why we agree in advance how long we’ll own the vehicle.

      Again, agree with you wholeheartedly and thanks again for the comment!

    1. Thanks Xyz! If the grocery store only knew how much they are saving me by not allowing me to shop, they’d immediately remove us from the program. And a great way to save time not having to search the store and stand in the cattle lines.

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