When Does Frugal Turn Cheap?

Ok, I’m a fairly frugal guy and I’m comfortable with that. I know I don’t care about some things so I don’t spend the money, yet some people amaze me with things they will do to save a penny or two. I basically consider someone cheap when they place no value on their time so they will do things to save very small amounts of money like a dime or less.

So in the interest of entertainment here are a few things I would consider cheap and question why anyone would do them.

  • Recycling Drier Lint by burning it in the fireplace – Umm, it’s drier lint. If you don’t use the drier a whole lot there really isn’t much to save. What is drier lint worth anyway? Perhaps 1/10000th of a garment or 1/1000 of a penny.
  • Folding toilet paper into triangle pieces to use less – Pardon?!? It’s TP folks, how much can you possible save on a square or two per sitting?
  • Mixing used paint cans to produce a new colour to paint in the inside of your home- Why play Russian roulette with your decorating?  Come on people paint is the cheapest thing to decorate with in the first place.  Just spend some money already and keep the colour for a few years.  I’m fairly sure you can annualized the cost to a $1-2 per year.
  • Keeping your home so cold in winter time that you need to wear a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt and a sweater just to feel comfortable – Ok, I agree with turning down the heat, but let’s be reasonable folks.
  • Buying food that is less expensive even if it tastes bad – This is a complete mystery to me on why people do this.  Buying another brand if it tastes the same is fine or skipping it if you can make it from scratch I get.  Yet saving a dime on soup that tastes awful is just weird.
  • Spending 20 hours to fix something on a previous tax return that will get you a $5 refund – I’m fairly certain that once you add up the CRA’s paper pushing and your time you would have easily wasted $200 by doing this, not to mention the cost of the cheque.

Anyway that’s my cheap list.  If you’ve got one to add please share.

10 thoughts on “When Does Frugal Turn Cheap?”

  1. Those are all ridiculous but I guess my definition is when your “frugality” impacts others. So, dressing in old or very cheap-looking clothes may affect how your company is seen when you represent them; refusing to spend money on a date may make your partner sad; never letting your kids go to events may cause them to be teased; never doing any work on your garden may impact your neighbours’ enjoyment of their property; etc etc.

  2. You should save the lint, mix with wood chips(hamster bedding type), paraffin wax, and fill old recycled egg cartons with it. you will have THE BEST campfire starters ever, and cheap (except the wax). You just rip off a piece of the carton a light the edge. no more lighter fluid, ever!

  3. I take your point but I would do the mixed paint and low thermastat more for environmental reasons than for reasons of frugality. Not sure if I’ve commented before about the concept of the “green triangle” – the idea is that often what is good for your pocketbook is also good for the environment and your health (the three points of the triangle). E.g. bike instead of drive.

  4. I’m with you on most of these, but mixing paint doesn’t sound so bad if I can avoid going to a store. I hate shopping.

    I once went to a lot of trouble to extract a couple of dollars in interest from my employer who repeatedly deducted too much from my pay. That was less about saving than it was fun and vindictive. Causing a large bureaucracy to waste hundreds of dollars to pay out a few dollars can be like a sport.

  5. Guiness,

    Not a bad rule actually. It sort of covers the majority of the situations.


    Or some newspaper and thin wood pieces. Why do people use lighter fluid in the first place. Lighting a fire isn’t that hard?!?


    I don’t recall reading about the green triangle. Good idea.


    I agree at that point it is more about fun than the money some times.


  6. ACK! Wish *I’d* thought of this as a blog post topic. Great post.

    Love @guiness416 ‘s take – that frugal turns into cheap when it impacts others (although what do you do if you socialize with someone who has significantly different standards than you?)

    @Julie I really like “the green triangle” idea and will look further into it.

    I gave this post some twitter love btw (and identi.ca)

  7. Agree with Guiness. People have every right to be as frugal as they want so long as they are only affecting themselves. Once they start to affect others, that’s when they’re being cheap.

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