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Cheapskate: Why Am I So Cheap?

Updated on July 15, 2015
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Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

A humorous discussion of the line between being cheap and being frugal... Am I a cheapskate?

Clearance sales can help you be frugal and not a cheapskate!
Clearance sales can help you be frugal and not a cheapskate! | Source

Cheapskate or Frugal?

I think that "cheap" and "frugal" mean the same thing to most people. Both are words that describe someone who doesn't spend much money. I have been called both, and I think both are accurate at times.

A couple weeks ago, I bought a really high quality pair of shoes- on clearance- for only $9. This was a great deal on some suede shoes that I can wear to work.

There were two problems with the clearance shoes:

1) The shoes weigh about 10 pounds each. The box described the shoe as "lightweight" and I laughed out loud when I read this on the shoe box in the store. I feel like I would sink to the bottom if I fell in a lake wearing these...

2) The shoes are a little big. The only size options left were size 9- way too small- and size 12- a bit too big. I went with the size 12 and packed some tissue paper in the toes. Without the tissue paper, the shoes tend to fall off...

Here is my defense of buying shoes with these issues: they were $9! That is the only defense I need, but here are some additional reasons I am happy with my $9 shoes.

1) My old brown work shoes were falling apart and hurt my feet so much that it was difficult to walk. I considered repairing them, but they were cheap to begin with and would have taken a lot of work. I literally threw them away right at the store when I bought the new $9 shoes.

2) Heavy shoes can be a good thing. I get twice the exercise from walking around than most people since I am essentially wearing weights on my feet all day long.

3) It is not unheard of to use tissue paper to wear shoes that are a little large. I remember reading about this somewhere- perhaps in a story about the Great Depression.

I take care of my old car, and it takes care of me...
I take care of my old car, and it takes care of me... | Source

Why Do People Call Me a Cheapskate?

I feel like I spend plenty of money. Just the other day, my car was squealing and smoking. A true cheapskate may have ignored such problems, but I promptly took my to the car to the shop. My car is a 12 year old Honda Civic coupe with manual transmission. I had a coupon for the shop in my glove box.

The squealing and smoking was due to some belts that I had replaced a few months ago, so they were under warranty. I got them replaced with free parts and free labor. Since I had a good coupon, and since I learned that my car would keep going, I went ahead and got an oil change and rotated my tires.

So, I would argue that I am not a cheapskate. I could have avoided the trip to the shop by ignoring the problems with my car, but instead I took the car to the shop and risked a big bill. After learning that the repairs would be free, I could have avoided any expenses, but instead I asked for an oil change and tire rotation.

This is where frugal comes in. Frugal isn't really about avoiding spending money, but rather about getting good value for your money. I change the oil and maintain my car regularly- and I think this saves money in the long run. I save a lot of money driving a fuel efficient car that has no car payments. I am willing to spend some money to keep it going.

I didn't want to spend $40 to buy jeans- does this make me a cheapskate?
I didn't want to spend $40 to buy jeans- does this make me a cheapskate? | Source

Cheapskate or Frugalskate?

I think "frugalskate" would be a better term to describe me than "cheapskate". I do enjoy nice things and am occasionally willing to pay to get something of value that I use a lot. I can think of several expensive items I have purchased, used for years, and then sold for nearly their original price.

I once bought a 1986 Minnie Winnie motor home for $5,600, used it for years, and then sold it for $5,600. I bought a rototiller brand new from the factory for $650. It was delivered to my house in a crate- the neighbors probably wondered why I bought such an expensive piece of equipment. I used it for about 10 years and then sold it on craigslist for $300. It turned out that owning a rototiller was much more convenient- and less expensive- than renting one each year.

Sometimes, I admit I push the limits of frugal into cheapskate territory. Once I went 3 or 4 years without owning a pair of jeans. My one pair of jeans wore out, and I declared that jeans were too expensive to buy. I wore nylon exercise pants that you can get for about $8 or worn out dress pants instead of jeans. My wife would call me a cheapskate (and other things) when she would try to get me to buy a pair of jeans and I would refuse. Eventually, I found some sturdy Wrangler jeans for $8 on clearance at K-mart. I loaded up and bought 4 pairs of Wranglers and even a pair of Levis for $13. See- I am not a cheapskate!

Once the zipper on my good winter coat failed. It was a Nautica brand coat with goose down. It was very warm and looked sharp enough to wear to work. I was sad when the zipper failed. I might have replaced the zipper, but the coat was starting to show some wear. Unfortunately it was November- possibly the worst time to buy a coat here in the northern hemisphere. Coat prices are at their highest. I decided to wear lots of layers and buy one in July on clearance. I did have an old coat to wear on weekends and while shoveling snow, but it was too worn out to wear to work.

Well, July came and went and I forgot to go coat shopping. So I went another winter without a coat. The next July, my wife came home with a nice, warm winter coat. It was on clearance and I was happy to have it!

"Pinch Like You Mean It": Is this a St. Patrick's Day Saying, or a Statement about Pinching Pennies?
"Pinch Like You Mean It": Is this a St. Patrick's Day Saying, or a Statement about Pinching Pennies? | Source

"Watch" Out for Cheapskates

My fancy $200 watch that I bought when I graduated after college to wear on job interviews failed. It wasn't the battery, and would have cost a lot to repair. I would sometimes wear the watch even though it didn't keep time, but stopped wearing it since I couldn't tell people what time it was when they asked me!

I talked for at least 5 years about getting the watch repaired someday, or possibly wearing my broken watch "as-is" and adjusting the time frequently enough when I could check a clock that I could still tell generally what time it was. One day, my wife came home from buying groceries at Walmart and tossed me a small box.

"Here," she said.

"What's this?" I asked.

"It was $15," she explained.

It was a Timex watch, on clearance. It was waterproof and had a stopwatch with a lap counter. And it had the correct time!

If I were a cheapskate, I would have returned the watch and recovered 15 perfectly good dollars from the Walmart corporation. However, since I am a "frugalskate" I kept the watch. Plus, I didn't want to make my wife mad...

Are you more of a Cheapskate or a Frugalskate?

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I wrote the book on pinching pennies!
I wrote the book on pinching pennies! | Source

Dr. Penny Pincher is Not a Cheapskate...

Although the line between cheapskate and frugal can often become blurred, I try to stay on the frugal side of the line. Clearance sales and coupons help me stay on the frugal side of the line...

I do appreciate the value of high quality items, and I am willing to spend money to get something of value. The lowest priced option is not always the best option. Buying nothing is not always the best option. When I say "save money every day", I mean this in the sense of being frugal rather than being cheap. Spend your money carefully and get the most value you can for your money.

Check out my eBook Penny Pincher Journal: How to Save Money Every Day for money saving tips and advice! If you're too cheap to buy a book, you can find a free book on this site as well!

© 2014 Dr Penny Pincher

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    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 18 months ago from Iowa, USA

      H. D. Dressing in layers is important if you need to stay warm wearing cheap winter gear! Maybe add some velcro to keep the coat going... Thanks for your comment.

    • H Darnell profile image

      Heather Darnell 18 months ago from Quad Cities

      I really liked this article. It explains exactly how I feel with my money. People look at me like I'm cheap because I too have a coat with a broken zipper that I am still wearing! Paid $50 for a $200 coat at Sears last year and now I have to wear a zip up hoodie underneath so when I'm outside I hold the coat closed! Great article!

    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      peachpurple, saving money is more than most people seem to manage now- so good for you!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i call myself a cheapskate too, at least i saved money

    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Thanks, Creativelycc! I also like to check out clothes at thrift stores. It seems like "faded" clothes are in style these days, which make it hard to tell the difference between new and used clothes.

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L. Cronkite 2 years ago from Maine

      Love this hub! I say you're frugal not cheap. I'm becoming more frugal too. Lately I've been shopping at thrift shops and I'm amazed at the name brand clothes you can buy for a couple of dollars.

    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      FlourishAnyway, great tips on finding money- I'm going to keep a sharp eye around drive through windows (no toll booths in my area). I have found money walking in parking lots and along the road. Thanks for reading, commenting, voting, and +ing.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I'm so cheap that if no one is looking I stop at unmanned toll booths and pick up dropped coins. I do the same thing at the drive thru at fast food restaurants (ordering of course from the dollar menu). Found this on Google +. Voted up and more and +ed.

    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Blond Logic- Wow! I would have trouble making a chicken last more than a couple meals with just me eating... I think it would make an interesting article to describe how to live for a week on one chicken and describe the recipes and menus you use. Raising your own food is hard work, you get really fresh healthy food. Thank you for your comment.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

      I think my husband and I are frugal as well. We make a chicken last a whole week.

      We have a small farm where we raise some of our food and are careful what we spend.

    • drpennypincher profile image
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      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Suzanne, I had never heard the term "op shop"- I had to look that up. Interesting. I think this is the same as what we could call a thrift shop here in the states. You can really find some interesting and cheap things at consignment shops and thrift shops! Thanks for you comment and vote!

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      I love being frugal and your story about the "lightweight" shoes was pretty funny! I bought a jacket last week from an op shop and its collar was tickling my face, so I had to tack some stitches on the collar so it would sit flat. Still I got a jacket worth $65 for $4. Love this hub and voted awesome and +'d.

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