If you are careful about money, are you a cheapskate or frugal? We explain 8 subtle signs that reveal which type you are.
Are you smart with money or just a penny-pincher?
Maybe you’ve never stopped to think about it—but you can bet your friends have. Frugality is a great way to make your money go further, but you don’t want to be known as the cheapskate among your friends and family.
Not sure if you’re a cheapskate or just frugal? Here are eight subtle signs that expose which type you are.
1. No is the Word
“No thanks,” are a cheapskate’s favorite words. They blurt this out and everyone around them rolls their eyes because they hear it all the time. They then go find a different friend to hang out with.
If you’re frugal, you know that there are intangibles beyond what money is worth. One of those intangibles is the value of maintaining friendships, and that usually means saying “yes” to things.
Obviously, it’s not a black and white situation, but if you turn down invitations all the time simply to save money, you’re probably on the cheap end of the spectrum. Don’t forget there are experiences that are worth the investment. A meal with friends might be on the expensive side, but it’s also a memory worth more than its value in cash.
2. You Have No Money
Amazing, isn’t it, then when spending so little, your money disappears anyway?
Amazing to the cheapskate, that is. Cheapskates tend to be bad with money despite their efforts, not because of them. Their relationship with money is fraught and they’ll often seem to have no money even though they seem to do everything to keep it. It just seems to “disappear” on them.
If you’re frugal, it’s more likely you have a healthy relationship with money. You probably know your income and outgoings and understand your monthly budget. You’re simply making decisions that stretch the money you have that much further.
3. All Work, No Play
Frugal folks know how to have fun. In fact, you could see frugality as a way of having more fun. After all, they have the cash to spare from all that frugal living.
Cheapskates not so much. Cheapskates tend to deny themselves pleasure in the pursuit of an extra dollar. We already mentioned that they’ll say “no” to social events, but they’ll also limit their own luxuries just to avoid the feeling of spending money.
Frugal people don’t hate spending money and they’ll do it when it brings them happiness, even if it means giving the credit card a workout. They know they’ll get that money back through their habits.
4. Quality and Quantity
Do you always buy the cheapest version of everything? Bad news, if so: that’s not frugality, that’s being cheap.
Why? Because the value of something isn’t all about how much it costs. Buying a more expensive but higher-quality item usually means spending less in the long-term.
Of course, frugal types know to exploit sales to get high-quality goods at low prices.
In contrast, cheapskates will always buy the cheapest items available. It might feel good to save money in the moment, but you might overlook the fact that you’re spending more in the long-term.
5. We Get It, You're Cheap
Loudmouth vegans managed to give all vegans a bad name. Sad but true.
That’s what cheapskates are to the money-conscious. Cheapskates are often loud and proud about their penny-pinching. That can be irritating for others to listen to. Many cheap people don’t even realize they have this irritating habit.
Frugal spenders are quietly conscious about money. They don’t always need everyone in earshot to know that “wow, that’s expensive” or “there’s no way I’m paying that”—they just quietly get on with buying what they’re comfortable with.
6. The Sock Test
Cheap is a state of mind. Frugality is a habit.
Let’s talk socks.
A cheapskate will refuse to buy new socks and will wear their current socks until there’s more hole than sock. Then they’ll buy the cheapest pair available the next time.
Frugal people might buy all the same color of sock to save time and expense. But they’ll also buy any other kind of sock they need, like a thermal sock. They’ll invest in high-quality socks so they last a long time.
As you can see, the frugal person’s habits are part of their lifestyle. The cheapskate has the one-and-done instinct to buy the cheapest thing and stick to it until they’re forced to do the same again.
That’s the sock test.
7. All the Wrong Ways
One of the biggest tells that you’re a cheapskate is that you’ll fail at it. Seems like a paradox, right?
Truth is, cheapskates are slaves to their impulses. Nine times out of ten, they impulsively avoid spending. Yet there’s always that one time where they drop money on exactly the wrong thing.
Like a dieter burying their face in a chocolate cake, cheapskates often crack and overspend on an impulse purchase. If you experience a lot of buyer’s remorse and wonder what you were thinking, then you’re probably just a cheapskate caving to your impulses.
Frugal types, meanwhile, understand their budget. When they buy luxuries, they know it’s because they have that money set aside for enjoyment. They don’t have moments of weakness, just pre-planned treats. When they buy something, they know it’s because they want it.
8. You Think, Therefore You Are
Cheap people are like weird, spendthrift robots. They do what they do on autopilot. Their brain goes “urgh, this costs money?!” and that’s the whole process.
Frugality is intentional. It’s a decision made by a human brain, not a robot one. It looks at a situation and assesses value before deciding yes or no.
Put it this way: you could program a machine to be cheap, but it would require an AI to be frugal.
Cheapskate or Frugal: The Final Reckoning
So are you a cheapskate or frugal? If you answered mostly As…well, this wasn’t a quiz. But you should be able to figure out by now which of the two types you are. If you’re on the cheapskate side of things, it might be time to rethink your habits.
Start today with a few money tips.