Economical versus cheap: what’s the difference?


by Jenny Smedra

What is the difference between economical and cheap?

Growing up in a household where money was always a problem, I knew the value of a dollar. My father showed us how to be diligent with our money and make sure we get the best deal on things. Our whole family was involved, so we all did our part to not waste anything. From his example I learned how important budgeting and saving are. Don’t get me wrong, his teaching helped me avoid some difficult situations. However, I do remember a few moments in my childhood when his frugality crossed the line between frugality and cheapness. I still horrify some memories of how he sorted discarded items on the side of the road or calculated savings down to a fraction of a cent. So the question arises: where is the line between economical and cheap?

The definition of economical versus cheap

Although we often use these words interchangeably, the social connotations completely change the meaning of the words. We often use these adjectives to describe a person’s spending habits. Unfortunately, it has a much more negative connotation and stigma attached to it.

For example, the Cambridge dictionary defines sparing as Be careful when dealing with money or food.

Cheap, on the other hand, is used to describe someone who it is unwilling to spend money.

First and foremost, the focus is on spending money wisely. The second emphasizes the person’s inability to spend money even when necessary. While anyone can understand the difference between the two, you can truly understand the difference if you are negatively affected by someone else’s cheapness.

The main differences between thrift and cheap

1. Cheap means that price is always the bottom line.

A cheap person thinks anything is overpriced regardless of the actual value of the item. These guys will complain about the cost of anything, even minor swings and differences, that add up to a few dollars in savings. If they’re cheap then it’s fair to say you’d probably go to extremes to save a dime. However, you should also consider how much time you are investing in order to get the best deal. Cheap people often cannot weigh the value of their time against saving money.

Last summer, I helped my father paint a vehicle that we were repairing. I watched as he tormented himself over his options and drove around town to compare prices. The worst part was that he ended up using the original paint he already had in the garage. While I enjoy hanging out with my dad, he could have saved himself days of decision-making if he’d just bought the exact item he wanted online. Not to mention that the gas money would have covered a large part of the utility costs. When looking for the line between frugal and cheap, ask yourself, «Is it worth my time?»

2. Being thrifty means valuing savings but valuing people more.

A thrifty person can certainly appreciate a lot. If you live on a budget, dining out is a luxury. However, every now and then we would find ways to indulge ourselves. My parents would use gift cards and coupons to get extra starters or extra pages for the whole family to enjoy. I didn’t even mind sharing dishes when going to more expensive restaurants.

However, certain family members showed a whole new level of cheapness when they went to buffets. They hid sandwich bags in their purse or pockets to take home and get another free meal. I was so ashamed when this happened that I ran out of the restaurant in front of everyone else. I didn’t want to be seen or associated with them because it was so obvious what they were doing. If your cheapness is causing someone to feel ashamed or ashamed, it is time to reassess your priorities.

Additionally, there are apps that frugal people use to save instead of doing embarrassing things.

AppsFees and minimumBest for
Digit30 days free trial. $ 5 per month Set aside automatically
Acorns$ 1 per monthSpare change investing.
Capital$ 3 membershipYou can set rules to automate savings.

3. Cheap people are willing to forego basic necessities in order to save money.

There are certain things in life that everyone needs to survive. There is no way to avoid these expenses, so you need to budget for food, clothing, housing, and health care. A thrifty person will find ways to save money on these expenses. However, a cheap person may choose to forego them entirely. If you have children, it means that they are also forced to give up basic needs. Worse, they may be afraid to ask about them.

As a child, my mother had severe allergies and often went without medical treatment. To save money, my grandparents used certain foods and herbal remedies to manage symptoms. While some helped with mild ailments, sometimes their symptoms worsened and developed into larger, more expensive problems. Because of my grandfather’s cheapness, my mother suffered unnecessarily because he refused to pay for the first doctor’s visit.

Fortunately, as a kid, I never wanted to do these things. But I have noticed personal tendencies towards equity. In my case, it stretched my supplies to their absolute limit. For example, I would water down my shampoo and conditioner to get the last drop. However, after the third or fourth dilution, I am not sure if there is any product left in the mixture. I realized that I was cheap and not frugal by allowing myself to forego things that I really needed.

Evaluate quality over price

One final thing to consider when comparing deals is quality. While it is tempting to go for the cheaper options, there are some items that you just cannot save on. Investing in quality products will save you more money in the long run. In addition, this setting also saves you time that would have to be spent on repairs or buying replacement parts down the line.

When it comes down to it, “cheap” is not a positive attribute. It is therefore important to know where you can draw the line between economical and cheap. If your cost-cutting methods are negatively affecting your environment, this is not okay. In addition, it can take time for loved ones. How you spend your time reflects what you value most.

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