Thrifty? Conservative? Frugal? There are numerous ways to describe someone who does not like to spend a lot of money. These above are some of the more positive descriptions. There are also plenty of words that are not nearly as flattering – tight-fisted, cheapskate, or simply “cheap.”
Those that fit these descriptions generally have good intentions: “People live longer these days, so there is a longer set of retirement years, and you don’t want to run out of money, so be frugal while you’re young.” Some have been a victim of financial crime. Others may have very large purchases or events to consider, such as a home or a child’s college education. Whatever the rationale, there are always good reasons to save. But where does being smart and pragmatic cross the line into just being a cheapskate? There could be many answers. Generally speaking, there are things you can do that will tell the world you are just cheap, no matter how noble your intentions may be. Let’s take a look at some signs that will lead people to think you are cheap.
8. Risking Health and Safety
Consuming expired food or medicine, refusing to use your HVAC system in extreme heat or cold, or dumpster-diving for groceries are examples putting your health and safety at risk just to save money. Expired medicine won’t function as it should. Dumpster-diving exposes you to disease. And while keeping the heat or air conditioning might save you a few dollars on the utility bill, if you end up in the hospital due to weather-related illness (such as heatstroke) the cost will be far greater than those savings. Don’t ever do things that will put you in any danger.
7. You Won’t Dispose of Disposables
The paper towels aren’t towels. Yes, they can be pricey if you let them. But there are plenty of brands and versions of paper towels that don’t cost a ton of money – for example, you can get a roll of Bounty Essentials for less than a dollar. Along these same lines, washing and re-using plastic cutlery is also being too frugal. If any of your guests find out they are using plastic forks that you have washed and are re-using, you can be sure these guests will be certain to come up with a way to decline your next invitation to the backyard picnic.
6. Improper Bill Conduct
There are two big ways to offend here. For one, no tipping. Yes, you read that right, there are people out there who will not leave a tip of any kind, whether the service was terrible or exemplary. Not only that, you might have one of those people in your dining party that will use every possible tool to ensure that the bill is accurately split down to the cent. “Hey, wait, my share is only $11.47, not $12.00.” Really? If this describes you, don’t be too surprised when you hear a group of your friends went out for dinner last night, and you are just finding out about it today.
5. Abuse of the Freebies
While we’re talking about dining out, let’s talk about the free items, and the abuse thereof. If you have a group of 4 people at a nice restaurant, you’re going to attract the wrong kind of attention if the server has to bring a 5th basket of rolls because you keep dumping the contents of the basket into your bag, just so you can have a free side dish for your next 7 meals.
4. Keeping Clothes Too Long
Funny thing about clothes – they eventually wear out to the point you can’t wear them anymore. This is especially true if you refuse to buy any new clothes, preferring only second-hand items. When clothing items are faded, frayed, or prone to have holes develop, go ahead and let them go.
3. Taking the Coupon Game Too Far
This can be seen in two ways. One, you spend hours clipping coupons. Time is a valuable resource just like money is. Could the hours spend collecting coupons be spent on ways to bring more money in than the few dollars and cents the coupons save? Also, some coupons don’t actually fulfill a need. If there are 3 people in your household, do you really need to buy a 5-pound bag of pasta just because you have a coupon for 50 cents off?
2. You’re a Condiment Collector
For you, a trip to a fast-food restaurant is not just about a meal, it’s about stocking up. You just got the #4 combo, regular size, but you feel the need to grab a huge fist-full of mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper and hot sauce. You’ll do this at each of the 4 or 5 fast-food stops this week. And next week… So what if you have to spend 20 minutes opening salt packs to get the half-cup of salt the recipe calls for? This is a sign of going too far. Condiments are not that expensive.
1. You Won’t Let the Tea Bag Die
You have a friend over and want to make a cup of tea for both of you, and you realize you only have one left. So you make your friend’s cup, then use the tea bag again for your cup. OK, that happens to most of us and you make the best of a situation you weren’t prepared for. But do you do this regularly? Do your family members groan because they know you’re going to use that same tea bag again? Do you take used tea bags with you to a restaurant and ask for a cup of hot water? These are signs you are taking it a bit too far.
The biggest problem with taking frugal too far and being known as someone who is cheap is that most people, wanting to be kind, won’t tell you how they feel. Instead, they’ll just dread the times they have to go through your cheap ways or avoid you when they can. Who wants to live like that? Rather than be in such a tough spot, take a look at your habits, and see if you are really frugal, or if you are making people think you are cheap.