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Are You Frugal or A Cheapskate?



Exploring how we handle money can be like walking a tightrope between two ways of thinking: frugality and being a cheapskate. These concepts might sound similar, but they have some important differences. Imagine being really good at finding great deals and not wasting money – that’s being frugal. But if someone takes it to an extreme and never wants to spend money on anything, even things they need, they might be called a cheapskate. It’s not just about money, though; it’s also about what we think is important and how we show that. So, let’s take a closer look at what it means to be careful with money without going too far.

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If you try to be frugal to save on everyday expenses, add to savings or make sure you have enough money to cover monthly bills, good for you. Showing financial restraint takes discipline and pays off in the end. Be careful, though.

Well-intentioned frugality can veer into cheapskate territory when trying to save money goes too far. So, how can you know when you’ve crossed the line from frugal to cheapskate?

Here are seven cheapskate moves to avoid if you want to keep friends and not be known as the office tightwad.

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15 Signs You’re a Cheapskate

1. You won’t go out for a full-priced meal

It’s smart to hit lunch specials or use restaurant coupons, but when you constantly turn down invitations to dine out with others if no discount is involved, you may want to loosen your cheapskate standards.

If you’re always turning down invitations, those offers will cease, and your social circle will shrivel like the raisins you buy at the discount grocer. Try setting aside part of that money you save with all those fast food coupons so you can still splurge with friends occasionally.

2. You never offer to drive

If you have an old car and the seats are covered with dog hair, that could be a good reason for not offering to drive. But not wanting to burn gas driving your friends to a movie isn’t.

Yes, gas is expensive but that’s true for your friends, too. You can spare a few gallons of gas to drive next time if you schedule most of your weekly errands into one or two trips that use less gas.

Find out: 8 Ways to Save Money at the Gas Pump

3. You’re a stingy tipper

If you stiff the restaurant server to save money, you should just stay home next time and eat a bowl of generic cereal while pondering your bad karma. Even worse than no tip, however, is an insulting tip.

No server wants your $1 tip on a $20 check. Either cough up a 20% gratuity or stay home.

Find out: How to Eat Out on a Budget

4. You bring your own condiments to restaurants

Yes, most Mexican restaurants typically charge too much for a dollop of sour cream. But that doesn’t mean you get to bring your own. And don’t even think about pulling a pint of guacamole out of your purse.

If you’ve dropped to this level of cheapness, cut back on the meal itself, ordering a la carte to save money so you can afford condiments and appetizers.

5. You’re that person always holding up the grocery line

If you quibble over a coupon’s fine print to save 25 cents while people in line glare holes into the back of your head, you may be taking coupon cutting too far.

Choose cashier battles wisely. Getting $5 off $15 may be worth annoying everyone if the coupon doesn’t ring up properly. On the other hand, if a coupon for a tiny discount isn’t working, let it go.

Find out: 9 Ways to Fight Rising Prices on Groceries

6. You cut your own hair

Okay, maybe some people are good at cutting their own hair. The thing is, you’re not one of them, so stop taking a hatchet to your head to save a relatively small amount of money every couple of months.

Instead, ask friends and coworkers for referrals to a good hair stylist or a barber with fair rates.

Find out: 60 Creative and Simple Ways to Save Money

7. You take back wine after a dinner party

It’s bad enough that you brought a bottle of $5 wine to Thanksgiving dinner. But when you have the nerve to grab the unopened bottle to take home when you’re leaving, you’ve gone way past cheapskate territory.

You’re now in the land of people who never get invited to dinner again. Next time, buy a bottle of better wine on sale and leave it for the people who fed and entertained you.

Find out: 10 Ways to Reduce Expenses so You can Pay Down Debt

8. You refuse to get rid of your embarrassing car

Your 1998 Subaru may have been a great car in its day. And if you’ve maintained it and somehow not put that many miles on it in 24 years, it could be a good idea to keep the car to avoid making loan payments on a new vehicle, especially when struggling financially.

However, if your old car bellows white smoke every time you start it, has one door that won’t open and two windows that don’t close, plus your hatchback slams down on your head every time you load groceries, it’s time to cast your cheapskate ways to the wind and find a good deal on a new or used car if you can afford one.

9. You’re too cheap to hire movers

When you’re in your 20s and struggling to save, it makes sense to ask your friends to help you move. After all, you’ve done the same for them. There comes a time, though, when enough boxes have been moved for all concerned.

Hire a moving company next time but resist your urge to hire the cheapest. You get what you pay for, and relocating on the cheap is one move you’ll surely regret.

10. Service staff gives you the devil eye

It’s great when a server remembers you because you’re a good tipper. You’ll probably get better service if that’s the case. However, when you walk in a restaurant and the servers give you the devil eye, you’re known as that tightwad who stiffs hardworking staffers.

It’s hard to redeem yourself if you’ve made a habit of leaving no tip or an insultingly low gratuity at your favorite restaurant. In fact, don’t even try. Just move on to a new restaurant with a clean slate, mend your cheapskate ways and start tipping at least 20 percent.

11. You swipe stuff from restaurant tables

If you treat napkins, sweetener packets and condiments on your table like a complimentary assortment of take-home items when you dine out, you’ve hit rock bottom. Next time, take only what you need for your meal so the struggling restaurant doesn’t go out of business because of cheapskates like you.

12. You pressure friends to split meals

If you and a fellow diner have small appetites and want to save money, splitting a meal can be a good idea for staying within your budget. However, if you’re always pushing your dining companion to split a meal instead of each buying your own, that’s a classic cheapskate move. If your friends walk away after dinner with growling stomachs, you’ve gone too far.

Next time, save enough money to buy your own meal and take the leftovers home. You’ll still get two meals out of it, and your friends won’t be suspiciously “busy” next time you want to dine out.

13. You bring cheap wine to dinner

You may think you’re being the ideal party guest when you hand the host that bottle of Yellow Tail or Two Buck Chuck. But you just look like a massive cheapskate there to inhale as much shrimp, cheese and appetizers as you can without bringing something worthwhile to the table.

Even if you don’t have much money for wine, you can still get a good deal. Ask your local liquor store clerk about a decent bottle of wine that may be on sale or is a quality bargain.

14. You don’t repay people who helped you out

If you forgot your wallet at lunch and one of your coworkers covered the cost, don’t assume their generosity is a gift. They’re generous because they don’t want you to be embarrassed or hungry but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to be paid back. The same goes for the coworker who pitched in your share for the boss’s birthday gift when you didn’t have cash on hand.

15. You groom your own dog (badly)

If you’re good at grooming your own dog and have all the proper tools, doing it yourself to save money is a great idea. But if your poodle looks like an angst-filled teenager trying to figure herself out with a dark fashion turn, it’s time to spring for some expert grooming.

11 Ways to Not Be a Cheapskate Houseguest

Here’s how to stop your host from changing the locks two days into your stay.

You’ve probably heard the old idiom: “Fish and company start to stink after three days.” But your presence in someone’s home can smell up the place sooner when you’re a cheapskate houseguest.

If you’re that guest who drinks all the beer, drains the last bottle of wine, empties the pantry and must be chauffeured around day and night, it’s time to change your ways. Even if you’re not that bad, you can become an even better houseguest with a few simple gestures during your stay.

1. Don’t show up with unexpected guests

When you’re on vacation, it’s easy to forget that your host planned grocery shopping, clean linens and bathroom supplies for a specific number of guests. Don’t bring your new sweetie, a couple of friends or the puppy you adopted last week without first clearing the extra guest with your host.

Nobody wants to go grocery shopping again, do extra loads of laundry or change more bed linens because there’s not enough food and drink for inconsiderate guests.

2. Spring for at least one dinner

By the end of your stay, your host may have spent a few hundred dollars on groceries, dining out and gasoline while picking you up at the airport and chauffeuring you around town.

If you don’t have much money, there’s no need to pick a pricey restaurant. Just ask your host where he or she would like to go and pick up the check at the end of at least one meal.

3. Bring food and drink

If your destination requires a road trip, load a couple of bags of snacks and drinks in the car to set on the kitchen counter when you arrive. Even if your hosts have plenty already, they’ll appreciate the gesture.

Even better, bring favorite items unique to the city where you live such as a local brand of barbecue sauce, craft beer or specialty baked goods.

4. Pack your own toiletries

No host wants you to use up their expensive shampoo, empty their favorite bottle of body wash or squeeze the last bit of toothpaste from the tube. Pack your own shampoo and hair products, toothpaste and anything else you need to maintain your beautiful self while visiting.

5. Don’t complain

Nobody likes a whiner, especially when they’re accommodating a guest who – no matter how much they love you – disrupts their normal routine and household budget.

Don’t like the food at the restaurant your host recommended? Lie. Hate it that you get dog hair on your clothes every time you sit on the couch? Let it go. Rein in your control issues and appreciate that your friend or family member is doing their best to entertain and welcome you.

6. Don’t let your kids destroy the house

Just because your kids run through your own home leaving wreckage in their wake doesn’t mean it’s okay to let small children go wild, leave their toys strewn about or accidentally break items that get in their way. If such an unfortunate accident happens, pay to fix the damaged item or buy a new one.

7. Don’t demand airport transportation

If you want to be a great guest, don’t make your host pick you up at the airport at midnight or any other time unless they insist on being your airport transportation. Book a Lyft or Uber instead.

Better yet, rent a car. That way, you’ll have freedom to explore the city while your host is at work and do your share of driving on sightseeing and dining out excursions.

8. Fill your host’s gas tank

Gas is expensive, so if your host is driving all over town, and especially if he or she drives on a day trip or to a weekend trip destination, fill the tank at least once. Everyone loves a full tank of gas and paying for petrol makes you a thoughtful guest likely to be invited back.

9. Replenish snacks and drinks

If you drink the last of your host’s favorite beverage or drain a couple bottles of wine (hopefully not in one night), buy more while you’re there. Don’t eat an entire bag of shelled macadamia nuts or other expensive snacks during your stay without buying new foods to fill the pantry before you leave.

10. Prepare a meal

Don’t assume that your hosts want to dine out every night. They’ve already spent money on groceries, gas and other preparations for your visit. What better way to show your appreciation than preparing a delicious meal for them?

If your host must work during your stay, he or she will especially appreciate coming home to a meal after a long day’s work. If you don’t know how to cook, order a takeout feast instead.

11. Write a thank you card

Show your hosts your appreciation for opening their home to you by leaving a thank you card or sending one after you get home. You can even enclose a gift card to their favorite restaurant or retail store.

7 Things To Know About Frugal Living

Want to save money and pay off debt? Try living like your grandparents.

Video Transcript
[Personal finance columnist Deb Hipp]

Hi, this is Deb Hipp, and I write about all kinds of ways to stretch a dollar. Check out my column, 7 Things I Learned From Grandma About Frugal Living.

My grandmother grew up poor. So she gave me a wealth of good advice – much of it about money. Here are a few tips:

  1. Eat beans. They’re cheap, tasty, and a healthy source of protein.
  2. Read a newspaper. Actually read the ads, specifically, the grocery offers – I save $20 a week that way.
  3. Clear out the clearance rack. Sure, most of it is junk but score a deal on anything that’s not.

I learned many more lessons from grandma. Read about them at

I was one of those lucky kids whose grandparents were always present in my life. My brothers and I visited them at least once a week, and we often spent the night. Little did I know at the time, my childhood brain was soaking up subtle messages about money that I’d benefit from later in life.

There were many mornings at Grandma’s house when I awoke to birds singing from the trees near the open bedroom window. It was a peaceful awakening, unlike the jarring buzzers and alarms that jolt me from sleep as an adult.

One such morning, I padded barefoot down the hallway into the kitchen, where my grandma was preparing bowls of oatmeal for me and my two brothers. Our meal came from a big cardboard canister, not expensive single-portion packets. I thought nothing of the price of oatmeal that day, having no idea that the grain she mixed with butter, milk and sugar for my breakfast cost next to nothing.

It’s probably the feeling of safety, security, and love I felt that morning that keeps the memory so vivid decades later. However, the oatmeal lesson wasn’t completely lost on me, either. When money’s tight, oatmeal is still one of my go-to foods for breakfast.

Maybe you learned some frugal living tips from your own grandparents. But even if your grandma was a hard-drinking gambler who declared bankruptcy, you can still benefit from my grandmother’s wisdom.

1. Beans go a long, long way

My grandma, who grew up poor in the South and had to use food ration coupons during World War II, knew how to make food stretch. She always had a big pot of bean soup and cornbread on hand, which can get you through a lean week without sacrificing protein. With every batch, dish out portions to freeze for later.

2. Scan the weekly grocery ads

Grandma was always on the lookout for a good sale. That’s why she perused the daily newspaper’s food section on a regular basis. I do the same thing now, saving at least $20 a week on my grocery bill with meat and produce sales and coupons.

3. Earn cash with a side hustle

My grandma had a side hustle before side hustles were cool. My grandfather worked, but Grandma tacked babysitting fliers up on grocery store and laundromat bulletin boards for some cash of her own. Over the years, she saved babysitting money for holiday presents, pricey appliances, vacations and anything else she needed.

4. Check out the clearance rack

Grandma worked hard for that babysitting money, and she knew it would go a lot further if she waited until clothing or other items went on sale. Now that trait is ingrained in both me and my mom, who bought me one of my favorite shirts for $1 off the clearance table at a department store.

5. Find out what’s in that junky-looking store

Grandma loved to shop at a little store that sold unclaimed freight, a bunch of stuff that got rejected or lost and spilled into the aisles of a mom-and-pop place on the sketchy side of town. You can find household items like toiletries, appliances, toys and even food for slashed prices at little out-of-the-way places.

6. Grow your own veggies

Maybe it’s the Southern roots, but both sets of grandparents had gardens where they grew green beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, strawberries, you name it. Then Grandma would can and freeze much of it for future use. Do I do all that? No. But I do have two cherry tomato plants that I bought on sale at Lowe’s this spring, thriving on my patio this summer to help save money on salads.

7. Weekly meal prep is smart

My grandparents’ refrigerator was consistently crammed with food. I could always grab a piece of chicken, a bit of salad or coleslaw, a boiled egg or even just a slice of lunch meat. Taking time to prepare a week’s worth of food to have on hand keeps you from spending money on fast food and take-out meals when you don’t have time to cook. Meal prep also reduces food waste.

Call her what you will, Grandma, Nana, Grammy or Mamaw, the elder that spoiled you knows a thing or two about stretching a dollar. So, get your vintage on and shop like Grandma. Just don’t hold up the cashier’s line by writing a check.

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