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Frugal vs. Cheap

I hate it that some of my friends have taken to calling me cheap or stingy. It actually makes me feel really bad about myself, because I’ve always thought of myself as frugal. But I guess there’s a very fine line when it comes down to comparing the two.

For example, my boyfriend and I rarely eat out, and when we do we almost always use a buy-one-get-one-free coupon, or some equivalent discount. (Helloooo Entertainment Book!) I always feel cheap when I hand a coupon to a waitress, but I have to keep telling myself that by saving 50% of the bill, we are actually being frugal because we’re being smart with our money. Being cheap would be basing our tip on the discounted price. We always tip as if we had paid for the entire meal without a coupon (even though I don’t necessarily believe in tiping in the first place).

I have a set monthly and yearly budget, and I try as hard as I can to stick to it. For example, I have a $30/month budget for dining out – that also includes going out for coffee, or any sort of snack that I buy. I brown-bag my lunch every single day, and in the 4 months I’ve been at this job, I’ve only eaten out once with a co-worker. It takes a lot of discipline to stick to a budget like this, because I love dining out.

When I want something badly enough, I buy it, and I buy quality. Ever since I started changing my spending habits, I’ve discovered a lot about myself when it comes to want vs. need. I want to buy a fancy $4 coffee from Starbucks, but do I need it (and the calories)? No, so I’ll buy a tea instead for $1.70. I choose my battles when it comes to buying things, and I feel so much better about myself when I can afford to buy an amazing pair of shoes that’ll last me years (or a ridiculously expensive computer), because I’ve stopped wasting money on the small things that I like, but don’t necessarily need.

I’m not cheap because I never deprive myself of anything I really want. If I go out for drinks with friends after work, I’ll get a beer, but I won’t order any food. Or I’ll order a “daily special” and drink water. That way, I can enjoy “going out” with friends without having to break the bank.

Some of my friends just don’t understand where I’m coming from and continue to rag on me everytime I see them, and that’s fine by me. I’ll shut my mouth, and go along saving thousands of dollars, while they’ll stay perpetually in debt. :) Real friends should understand, and I shouldn’t have to go into debt just to maintain their friendship.

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A beginner's guide for Canadians looking to get their financial life in order. Get great info on budgeting and saving, RRSP's and pensions, investing types, insurance, and where to go for additional resources.

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