When frugality goes too far
A frugal person spends money in the smartest ways possible, while a cheapskate risks damage to health, possessions or reputation just to save a few dollars.
Cheapness is clinging to every cent. Frugality is spending money in the smartest possible ways.
Cheap behavior harms your qualify of life. Frugal behavior helps you build a better life.
A cheap person risks damage to health, possessions or reputation just to save a few dollars. A frugal person knows when it's time to loosen the purse strings -- and does it on his or her own terms.
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For example, a cheapskate might stick with a 30-year-old mattress because he's too miserly to buy a new one. A frugalist replaces a bad bed to avoid a bad back, but he'll use a price-comparison website to find the best deal and maybe order through a cash-back shopping site.
Cutting your food bill might be frugal, if you choose the right foods. Eating nothing but oatmeal and ramen would be cheap -- and counterproductive, since your health could suffer.
Getting free Internet access at the library? Frugal. Piggybacking on a neighbor's unprotected Wi-Fi signal versus paying for your own Internet? Cheap, because it may be illegal (though prosecution is unlikely) and may expose you to identity theft.
Don't be that guy
Thrift stores, yard sales and clearance tables are all frugal, but they can also breed cheap behavior, such as buying:
- Clothes that aren't flattering (especially if they're for your kids).
- Shoes that don't fit right or provide enough support (plantar fasciitis is not frugal).
- Inappropriate presents (a bib with spit-up stains is not a good shower gift).
Borrowing can be frugal or really chintzy. The truck-owning friend who helped you move might ask to use your power washer. The neighbor who borrowed your shop vac will bring over his chainsaw if a limb comes down in your yard.
Don't be that person who borrows but rarely reciprocates. And definitely don't be the person who borrows solely to avoid buying his own power tools.
Take care of yourself
Some people skip health insurance to save money. Really bad idea. Regular dental and medical exams can catch small problems before they turn into serious problems, or fatal ones. (If coverage truly isn't in your budget, see "Can't afford insurance? Your options.")
It's not that I want to spend $442 a month on an HMO. It's that no body runs for 54 years without some maintenance issues.
I was reminded of this last month when I suddenly needed surgery. My share was just over $2,000. If not for insurance, I'd be setting up a payment plan for more than $10,000 in total costs.
Skipping insurance would have been not just cheap but dumb. Luckily, I'm neither. I'm frugal.
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If you're frugal don't pay $442 a month in health insurance premiums. Rip off! Stay away from hospitals Excerise and eat right and you're be good, after all all that radiation can't be good!
Well said, Donna! Frugal is a badge of honor!
And to donkeyjoe - If we all had crystal balls, we could all save a ton of cash on health insurance. What if she had followed your advice and then needed a surgery that costs $100,000?
And we knock the Health Insurance Law!
Many people don't know a good thing. Medical Security is as good as Social Security
I remember the cheapskate that drove 22000 miles rather than pay for oil changes, the new engine cost $3600....
I feel fortunate to have insurance and access to good care. A whole lot of people don't. I'm also glad that I'm frugal, because I had the money set aside to pay my share. Not that I was delighted, mind you, but what can I say? Sick happens.
Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.
I'm with ya on the health insurance. $10K for gallbladder surgery which is considered by many pretty low risk and my DM had hers done as an out patient. Can only wonder what something "serious" would cost. My insurance is great for prevention .... $10 checkup/physical ... $10 mammogram.... etc. . Excellent breaks on "labs" and radiology. If I could just get some help with prescriptions for DW. It's my understanding this is the most difficult thing to control in health care and doesn't look to be getting any cheaper.
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WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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