Frugal or Cheap: Test Your Mindset

Updated: May 14, 2023

What’s the difference between being frugal and being cheap? Surprisingly, when I asked my friends about this, I got different answers.

Furthermore, when I gave them several cases and asked their thoughts if it was a frugal or cheap example, they disagreed on several points.

Today, we’ll define that boundary, which separates the two. And hopefully, you’d agree with me.

The main reason why most people don’t practice frugality is because they fear that their friends will label them as cheap, stingy, or a tightwad; or should I say kuripot, tiyane, and maramot.

Now, who would want to be called that?

Anyway, so what’s the difference between being frugal (or matipid) and being cheap?

The difference between frugal and cheap

If we are to compare frugal vs cheap, then it would that cheap people measure things in terms of their price cost while frugal people measure in terms of their value for the money.

Cheap people will simply buy the lowest-priced item on the grocery shelf. But frugal people will study and compare products and buy the most economical item.

Cheap people are inconsiderate about other people. But frugal people always take into account if their thrifty habits will affect others negatively.

Cheap people are unreasonable when haggling and believe they deserve the lowest price possible.

But frugal people, although usually as assertive as cheap people when asking for a discount, will never become rude. Frugal people understand that they don’t deserve a special deal all the time.

I could go on and on about this but I think I’ll just stop now and let the picture below speak about the importance of frugality.

It’s taken from the Ladora Savings Bank in Iowa, which closed during the Great Depression of the 1930s and it states… “Frugality is the parent of fortune.”

Tell me if it’s frugal or cheap

Lastly, I’d like to share with you these five situations which I gave my friends to test their mindset. You decide if the person is being frugal or being cheap. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Josef and Nicole went on a date and dined in a restaurant. After their meal, Josef paid for the dinner and left no tip, he reasons to himself that the bill already included a service charge anyway. Is Josef being frugal or being cheap?

Dingdong paid Marian a surprise visit to his condominium. Marian offers him a cold glass of water and prepares the pizza leftovers from her dinner last night as snacks while they hang out in her condo. Did Marian just become cheap with what she did?

Gabby and Sharon
Gabby and Sharon received a wedding present that they didn’t particularly like. They carefully stored the item and decided to use and regift it someday when someone they know gets married. Did the couple do the right thing?

Piolo needs to buy a new pair of running shoes because the old ones are already worn out due to regular use. After looking around the mall, he found two pairs that fit and feel right for him.

The first one is a bargain deal but the color and the design don’t appeal to him, while the second one is an expensive pair but he really loves the style and how it looks. What would be the frugal choice for Piolo?

John Lloyd
John Lloyd styles and cuts his own hair to save on salon and barbershop expenses. Although most of his friends think that he’s not doing a good job at cutting his own hair, he personally believes that his work is not at all bad.

“Saving money is more important than looking great”, he argues. What do you think? Is John Lloyd making himself look cheap?

Let me know your thoughts below!

What to do next: Click here to start your financial journey with IMG Wealth Academy
Photo credit: ssnha


  1. OFF TOPIC: Hey Fitz, it certainly would be nice to meet you the next time around. I’m headed home back to the US. Until next time!

  2. Hi reynz. Yup, no problem. I’m sure there will be next time. Have a safe trip and thanks for dropping by.

  3. Sakto. I completely agree that frugality is best value for money, not just price comparisons alone. Just because something is the cheapest, it doesn’t mean I settle on that product if it doesn’t work as well as I hoped it would.

    As for your scenarios, parang interesting sagutin, so here goes:

    a) I guess it would depend on Josef’s financial situation and the quality of service they got. If he saved up for months to afford that restaurant meal as a ‘gift’ for Nicole, he should’ve factored in the tip – if the service was good. If the service was crap and may service charge naman, I wouldn’t be bothered. Malaki yung naitutulong ng tips sa waiters/waitresses, since they get peanuts for pay. But like any service oriented job, I wouldn’t give them “extra” if they were rude or didn’t deserve it.

    b) No that’s not cheap at all – unless the pizza was already bad. Pero dahil overnight lang naman, it would probably still be good if it was stored properly.

    c) Yes, nakakainsulto ibalik yung gift sa giver, and sayang din naman yung gift kung di rin naman nila gagamitin pero magagamit pa naman ng iba.

    d) Well, if I were in that position, I probably would’ve chosen the more expensive shoes, kung kaunti lang yung difference. Kasi it’d be something I’d like 100%. If there’s a huge difference, I’d shop around for another pair. Bihira naman na dalawa lang choices mo eh.

    e) If he really cuts his hair bad and it shows, susmaryosep P30 to P45 lang ang barbershop.

  4. Hi Frugal Pinoy, thanks for sharing your views on the five scenarios. I agree with everything you said. I commend you for fully understanding the subtle differences of being frugal and being cheap. I hope that more Pinoys will be as informative as you when it comes to personal finance. 🙂

  5. […] you want to read more about ‘frugality vs. being cheap’, Fitz Villafuerte has written an interesting article on the subject, with matching scenarios you can think about.)There’s also another thing you have to consider […]

  6. […] initially think, Matt is not rich. He doesn’t have a magical way to travel and did his trips frugally and pretty much the normal way. Furthermore, he shares in his autobiography that he was a very poor […]

  7. […] Fitz Villafuerte Frugal or Cheap: Test Your Mindset  […]

  8. hmmm… this is a very interesting blog… here’s my comments.
    * i think josef is frugal. if service charge is alread included and the food is really not that great why give extra tip then.
    * marian is cheap. feed your guest leftovers and water? it’s either she thinks less of dingdong or she’s cheap.
    * gabby and sharon is frugal. as long as they don’t give the gift to the same person who gave it to them. hehehe… that’s what i did with the gifts i received that i have no use of in my life.
    * a frugal choice for piolo is the one with a bargain deal. he’s going to wear out the running shoes in no time. why spend more if you need to buy another one in a few months or so. unless, the expensive pair can lost longer than the cheaper one. then i’d buy the expensive pair.
    * john lloyd is definitely cheap. looking good is one factor in increasing one’s self esteem. one does not get haircuts every day, week or month right? what he should have done is find a salon that charges low but gives great haircut and let them cut his hair.

  9. […] I was able to have a free taste of Perrier. Yup, that expensive bottled mineral water that my frugality will never make me […]

  10. Good Post here. This is my third reading from your posts.

    I will visit here always because although I wrote some articles that are almost the same that you have here, you write them very well than mine.

    Earn and Invest Money

  11. John Lloyd styles and cuts his own hair to save on salon and barbershop expenses. Although most of his friends think that he’s not doing a good job at cutting his own hair, he personally believes that his work is not at all bad. “Saving money is more important than looking great”, he argues. What do you think? Is John Lloyd making himself look cheap?

    This is Frugal, because you cannot judge the book by its cover.
    At the same time he trust and like himself of what he is doing.
    Opinion are the cheapest commodity here on earth. Anyway in not about the hair its about the character of the person.

  12. In the case of Piolo, I think the frugal thing to do is buy what is economical but functional. Anyway, if it’s Piolo wearing the running shoes, people will think its expensive. I know of wealthy friends who buy and wear casual, running shoes that are not original, yet everyone think he wears the branded one. Frugality is one habit we, Filipinos, must have to gain financial freedom and live a debt-free life. Thanks for the blog. Blessings!

  13. John Lloyd is frugal since he’s a celebrity anu bang malay ng crowd na yun ang trend nya sa hairdos=) nasa pag dadala naman yun,,kung 200 ang hair cut a month within a year may 2400 na xa na saved..I do the same thing,,advantage din sa gal kasi no need ng mag pa salon makuha mu lang ang proper technique sa self cut..=)

    Thanks and God Bless this site updated aku lage sa mga bagung info..thanks puh=)

  14. a) Josef is being cheap AND rude. Tips don’t go to the restaurants, they go to the waitstaff, and every little counts. However, as with any service-oriented profession, they need to earn the tip. Dios mio, ano ba naman ang P20 to show appreciation?

    b) I would say Marian is being frugal here because there is nothing wrong with water and leftovers (And I personally love pizza). I think the key here is what Marian had in her kitchen in the first place. If that were me, I’d have juice sachets and some nibblers for “emergencies”.

    c) Frugal, definitely. I’ve done this a couple of times, and I see nothing wrong with this.

    d) I’d choose neither shoe. I’ll find a shoe that conforms to my budget.

    e) John Lloyd is an idiot. And he’s horribly cheap.

  15. 1.josef is being cheap.common knowledge dictates that we give tips for a good service rendered however i feel that regardless of the service we give tip as a simple way of sharing our blessings.if the service or food is bad huwag na lang ako bumalik.

    2.marian is frugal and practical.water is the best thirst’s healthy,water has no sugar,no industrial era fat(corn,canola,soya,rapeseed oil),no hydrogenated fat,no food coloring. leftover pizza is alright.its taste and appeal can be improved with available ingredients around like cheese,some veggies like bell peppers,white onions,or leftover meat.

    3.gabby and sharon did the right thing.recycling is frugal and practical.

    4.if i am piolo i would go for the bargain pair of shoes.besides it fits well and it’s equally comfortable.i value a peaceful mind,knowing that my savings is growing over how great my pair of shoes look but deep in debt.

    5.john lloyd is cheap.haircut is better left to the professionals specially if you’re not good at doing it.and also to help sustain jobs for the barbers and hairstlyists.

  16. 1. I can’t tell if Josef is cheap or frugal. Hindi naman sinabi sa situation how satisfied he was with the service and the dining experience they had so i think tinantya lang ni Josef ang service with his action (of not giving a tip)

    2. Marian is frugal. If stored properly, the pizza should still be good (assuming it was freshly made last night as mentioned at hindi nabili as one-day old from the store). Reheat it in the oven and Dingong can barely tell it was a leftover pizza, unless he knows how to make a pizza at home from scratch or he has worked at a pizza store before (in the kitchen area) .

    3. Gabby and sharon are frugal. Instead na itambak mo lang ang gift kasi d mo nagustuhan, buti pa ibigay mo sa ibang pwedeng makinabang. Tipid kana sa next wedding gift mo, iwas kalat ka pa lol

    4. The more frugal choice will be the one that actually fits his needs. Pasok ba sa budget nya ang dalawa? Kung ang isa ay hindi, ay wag na magdalawang isip haha. If yes, mas maigi kung maicocompare nya ang features ng dalawa at price difference. Kung konti lang ang price difference eh yun ng mas mahal ang bilhin. Kung malaki naman ang price difference check kung worth it ba yung design nya sa prices nya. kung pare pareho lang naman ang features nila dun na sya sa mas mura.

    5. John lloyd is either cheap or frugal. Depende sa hairstyle na aim nya at kung na achieve ba nya ang resulta sa pag cut nya. If it was horribly done then cheap sya. he could have gone to a cheap barber shop in town. Pero if he’s genuinely not bothered na pangit ang result ng diy haircut nya and he has a better plan with what he can do with the money he can save from doing his own haircut, then he is frugal.

  17. Josef if CHEAP.
    Although service charge is already included in the bill. If service was good a little token/tip for the person who waited them won’t hurt. It is not the amount that counts anyway, it is the thought that matters/customers generosity. Simple way of appreciating the kind of service that was rendered. That way it inspires the waiter or waitress of improving their craft . Maybe by giving more smiles to their customer in spite of that long and hectic day.

    I don’t consider Marian being frugal or cheap. She’s just practical. If she can afford to pay her condo am sure she can very well afford to place a call for a food delivered to her place. Knowing that she still have pizza in her fridge “from last night” and for some reason she saved it. It is something that is not only safe to consume the next day or so. But it’s for sure presentable for reServing. Doing so is her way (my way) also of avoiding additional add on of piled up leftover inside her fridge. And only end up throwing them away in due time. Otherwise why save it if you think you won’t eat it anymore. Throw it right away, Okay?

    Nothing wrong with reGifting.
    Like Marian who is practical. Gabby and Sharon are. They have their common sense too which sad to say, most people don’t have. Giving it away as a gift to someone else whom you know might be able to use it is the right way to do. That saves their time, money and effort of finding another gift . When there is an item that is in their garage just collecting dust..As long as you are not giving it back as a gift to the same person that gave you. Why not?

    Piolo’s frugal choice would be to look around someplace else.
    For sure their is a pair of shoes someplace somewhere that is not expensive
    whose color and style fits his choice. It’s just a matter of time and rest assured he will definitely find the right pair with the right price.

    Hair is our crowning glory. I’d rather spend a little more for it and look good rather than look funny because you are trying to save few penny’s for a hair trim. I deserve a treat myself. Try to cope up with that little savings by cutting other unnecessary expenses. Say, instead of taking a bus just for a mile trip go walk..That is a good way too of showing your nicely maintained hairstyle and at the same time getting your exercise. Cheers!

    Just my opinion…..

  18. 1. still he is being frugal here but if the service is great, then why not give a fair amount for tip.
    2. no. still frugal.
    3. yes. it’s better than selling it if they both don’t like it.
    4. provided that there were only 2 options fit/feels right for him, buy the expensive one than to settle for what you do not like.
    5. yes. cheap. being frugal does not mean you have to sacrifice your looks and endure looking awful.

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