Am I Frugal – or Cheap?

Sometimes I wonder about myself. All my life I’ve been careful with money, most of the time through necessity, but now just through habit. I wonder if I’m really being frugal or if I am just being cheap.

To me, frugal implies using resources in the wisest fashion and cheap implies a specific focus on getting the lowest price.

Help me out, am I being cheap or just smart about money?

I save tape and paper and old paint drop sheets.

We put in new windows this year at our 1985 home. The original windows were builder grade, two pane thermal ones. The seals on many of the panes had broken, causing the inside of the panes to fog over and some were permanently scarred. After living with windows through which we couldn’t see for at least 5 years, we finally broke down and had new ones installed. But, the installer wanted an extra $400 per window opening to stain and seal the wood interior.

Being a life long painter, I decided I could stain and seal that wood for much less than the $4000 the installer wanted! The stain went on fast and easy, but I had to wait for warm weather to apply the sealer because we wanted lacquer. Believe me, brush on lacquer is s-t-i-n-k-y! I had to part with $35 to buy one of those paint masks to even be able to apply it. Otherwise I would have lost brain cells and gotten sick to my stomach. The lacquer is around $15 a quart and we are now into it for about 2 gallons and not done yet.

Of course, to protect the glass and window/door hardware you have to tape and paper it. The wide tape to protect the glass is at least $8 a roll. The paper is pretty inexpensive at around $3 a roll.

As I was finishing up the sunroom windows and doors yesterday, I carefully removed the paper over the windows and saved it. I took down each strip of wide tape, walked it down the hallway to the bedroom where the next windows to be done are located, then applied each piece to a window. It took me more time, but I just couldn’t see throwing out the tape and paper – which had more life left in them.

The plastic sheeting I use under the windows to avoid getting lacquer on the carpet or concrete (outside). This is only a few bucks a sheet, yet I have used the same sheets for multiple jobs. One of them even has a hole in it, but hey, it is here and it still keeps the lacquer in its place.

Cheap or frugal?

I use old casual office clothes to work around the house.

I’m retired, have been for 5 years now (yes it IS great). I have a closet full of work clothes I wore to the office for 20 years, mostly casual slacks and blouses.

My wardrobe needs have changed. Now I need gardening, housework and other casual type clothing. Rather than going out and buying the new, now suitable styles, I am trying to wear out my old office clothes – even if they aren’t perfectly suited to the task at hand.

PS, I have one dress that is at least 35 years old.

Cheap or frugal?

I won’t run the dishwasher unless it is completely full.

There are just two of us at home now. It typically takes us three days to fill the dishwasher. We have plenty of glasses and cups and dishes and utensils to supply us that length of time. Even though we rinse the stuff prior to loading it in the dishwasher, it does sit in there for several days.

I just can’t see the point in running it partially empty.

Cheap or frugal?

I hate buying clothes new.

Shopping for new clothing is no fun when your body isn’t a youthful 25 anymore! Plus, the styles that fit are usually made by the high end manufacturers and carried in exclusive (expensive) clothing stores.

There is a lovely thrift store not far from my neighborhood that receives donations from the folks in the local golfing gated community.

I routinely find White Stag, Ann Taylor, Cabellos, Columbia and etc brand clothing that is like new and in my size- usually priced around $4 a piece. Yet if I were to buy these new from a retailer, they would cost 10 or 20 times more. Why pay more?

Cheap or frugal?

I tend to do things myself, even when I could better spend the time elsewhere.

I’ve never hired a house cleaner for our home (although I put hubby on notice that once I turn 80 we are getting one). I wash my dry cleanable clothing by hand and line dry it. I’ve never hired a painter or someone to strip wallpaper. I wash my own car with a bucket and a rag. I’ve even demolished the interior of a bathroom (even the wall board) and rebuilt it myself.

However, while I’m doing all of these things, I’m NOT working on my websites, writing my autobiography or saving the world from ruin and decay.

Of course there are certain things I haven’t attempted – putting on a new roof (although my spouse did this); cleaning out the septic tank; installing automatic garage door openers; or installing windows and new doors. But, if I had the strength and thought I could do a good enough job on it, I might be tempted!

Cheap or frugal?

I wash and reuse freezer bags.

Doesn’t everyone?

Cheap or frugal?

Some things I absolutely will not do.

Although I’m a firm believer in never saying you’ll never do something, unless my circumstances change dramatically I won’t do some things.

Use someone else’s underwear, socks or shoes.

No matter how many times I clean them, they still feel dirty to me.

Endanger my heath with sub standard food, drugs or doctors.

You only get one body. I like to take care of mine.

Make my own utility products.

Some folks (including my own Grandmother) make their own soaps, lotions, cleaners and more. I’ve tried this in the past and just haven’t found my efforts worth the time, based on the price at which I can buy the ready made (and usually superior) product.

I demonstrate making these things to my children and grandchildren, though, just to show that it can be done.

Your comments are appreciated! Am I being cheap or frugal? What do you think the difference is?


Am I Frugal – or Cheap? — 4 Comments

  1. I think all of those are mostly frugal, except maybe not parting with the 35 year old dress that you might wear gardening. 🙂 I admire your thriftiness! I am at my mother’s house right now and she is the opposite of you. If you lived where she did, I’d say get to the Methodist thrift store in a couple of days. We dropped off one load and are taking another – $100 jeans and the like in sizes 8-12.

    I’d say I’m about halfway but can always improve. I’d definitely re-use the window supplies though.

  2. Most of these are frugal in my book. We don’t wash and re-use freezer bags though. Might have to look into that in the future.

  3. FRUGAL!!! I do everything you mentioned in your article plus make my own laundry & dish soap. Not only are you saving money and using/learning your skills to get things done, being frugal is also reducing, reusing and recycling. A+

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