Being Frugal and Thrifty – 15 Examples To Be Clear On The Differences

being frugal and thrifty

Being frugal and thrifty are very similar. There are some key differences though. 

As we’re on the topic of frugal and thrifty I thought I’d include the meanings of stingy and cheap as they’re all ways of describing someone’s money mindset. 

Allow me to debunk what the four of these mean with examples to make it clear.

being frugal and thrifty

Firstly, here are the definitions of each word from Merriam-Webster.

  • Frugal: implies the absence of luxury and simplicity of lifestyle (one who lives a basic lifestyle with just the necessities, foregoing lavish items and living within their means)
  • Stingy: not generous or liberal. Sparing or scant in using, giving or spending. (unwilling to spend money, even if it would be a great gesture. Go to extreme lengths not to spend money)
  • Thrifty: economical with spending. Great at money management. (Smart with money, looking for deals and ways to save without spending unnecessarily)
  • Cheap: will always pay the lowest amount or look to get items for free (doesn’t care about quality as long as the cost is low. Never upgrades heavily used items)

Here are examples and scenarios of each word: 

  1. Dinner date
  • Frugal: ask if you can do brunch or lunch as the cost is a lot lower. 
  • Stingy: won’t offer to pay for the meal and may even pinch the sugar cubes to use at home. 
  • Thrifty: check to see if there is a La carte menu or any deals the restaurant offers. 
  • Cheap: will have the lowest items on the menu and have free water with your meal. 

2. Buying Clothes

  • Frugal: will happily sew up holes in old clothes to make them last longer. 
  • Thrifty: go to a thrift shop and buy second-hand clothes. 
  • Cheap: always buys unbranded clothes or items that are on sale at a huge discount. 
  • Stingy: will try hard not to buy any clothes, instead seeking out free clothes others are throwing out. 

3. You need new tools

  • Frugal: only gets the primary tools for the job, will never buy any extra tools. You will make do and get the job done with the basics.
  • Thrifty: looks for trade discounts and finds bundled tools for better value for money.
  • Stingy: will make do with the warn tools you have, even though new tools would help you be more productive and do a much better job.
  • Cheap: buys the cheapest unbranded tools and will ask for money off at the till. 

4. Birthday gifts

being frugal and thrifty
  • Frugal: will make a handmade gift as it is inexpensive and thoughtful.
  • Thrifty:  uses online marketplaces to find ‘good as new items’ to give as presents.
  • Stingy: says the present got lost in the post. 
  • Cheap: regifts presents as if they had brought them themselves.

5. Traveling to work

  • Frugal: looks out for the cheapest gas station prices or sets up alerts for advance train ticket deals.  
  • Thrifty: ride shares with colleagues.
  • Stingy: risks taking public transport without a ticket and says they’ve lost it.
  • Cheap: you would happily walk, scooter or bike 10 miles to work instead of paying the train fare.

6. Out for drinks

a bar man handing over a pint.
  • Frugal: starts pre-drinks at someone’s home as a way to save money on high drinks prices. 
  • Thrifty: looks for offers on buying multiple drinks. Goes on a day where you get one free. 
  • Stingy: leave the bar when it was there round to buy the drinks. 
  • Cheap: would order a drink and say that it’s flat and get one for free. 

7. Leaving present for a colleague 

  • Frugal: you decide to make a handmade present with photos of memories and good times. This comes across as thoughtful and more personal. 
  • Thrifty: gets the office to club together to bring the cost down. This usually ends up getting a better quality present also. 
  • Stingy: doesn’t buy the gift as it wouldn’t benefit them. Just say goodbye and good luck.
  • Cheap: you find a present you had been given at your previous place of work and re-gift it to them. 

8.  Chat GPT definitions

  • Frugal: Frugal refers to a mindset or lifestyle characterized by making deliberate choices to maximize resource efficiency and minimize unnecessary expenses, demonstrating a thoughtful approach to spending and consumption.
  • Thrifty: Thrifty describes a person’s skilful and resourceful approach to managing finances, making prudent choices to maximize value, and optimizing the use of resources.
  • Stingy: A stingy person is reluctant to share or spend resources generously, often displaying an excessive desire to hold onto possessions or money.
  • Cheap: A cheap person is someone who consistently prioritizes spending as little money as possible, often at the expense of quality, comfort, or fairness.

9. Hosting a dinner party 

a dinner party with everyone clinking glasses for cheers
  • Frugal: uses cost-effective and seasonal produce. They set the table with reusable dinnerware and napkins to avoid unnecessary expenses.  
  • Thrifty: vegetables from the garden are used along with homegrown fruit in the desert. When shopping for ingredients they have a budget, so buying versatile food makes sense
  • Stingy: will go to extreme lengths to cut costs and give small portions. Possibly not offering drinks and desserts. Also may expect guests to contribute financially or bring their own dishes.
  • Cheap: focusing on spending as little as possible, sacrificing quality, flavour and overall experience of the dinner party. 

10. You leave your lunch at home

  • Frugal: instead of buying an expensive meal they resort to selecting a salad or sandwich at a nearby deli/shop. They satisfy their hunger whilst getting value for money. 
  • Thrifty: decides to see if the office has any communal snacks or leftovers. Manages to make a makeshift lunch with the items they find.   
  • Stingy: it would be a waste of money to buy any lunch and would rather go hungry than ask colleagues if they had anything to spare. 
  • Cheap: determined not to spend any money they happily ask work colleagues if they have any food to spare. They expect others to provide for them.

11. Donating to a charitable cause

a brown box with donations written on it.
  • Frugal: researches charities which align with their values and considers their impact.  They make thoughtful donations that fit within their budget.
  • Thrifty: they look for charitable causes that can avoid financial donations. Finding a charity that will allow them to volunteer work would be ideal.
  • Stingy: finds donating or any type of volunteering hard to accept and will avoid doing either if possible.
  • Cheap: looks to donate to the lowest cost charity, trying to avoid any administrative fees and makes sure the majority of the amount goes directly to the cause.

12. Shopping for a new electric device

  • Frugal: looks at different brands, and models, then waits for the item to go on sale or is on discount to make a purchase. They will prioritize getting a quality device and the best possible price.  
  • Thrifty: will happily buy second-hand or refurbished devices. They weigh up the savings they will make depending on what features the device has. 
  • Stingy: chooses the cheapest low-quality device, even if it doesn’t have the necessary features or will perform poorly. Will disregard long-term satisfaction and reliability for the lowest-cost device. 
  • Cheap: looks for deals and clearance sales aiming to spend the least amount possible. Will buy from an unknown brand compromising on features, functionality and quality. 

13. Planning a vacation/holiday 

being frugal and thrifty
  • Frugal: researchers and compares prices of accommodation and transport. Looks for ways to cut costs like booking in advance or travelling in off-peak times. Priority is to get value for money whilst still having a memorable time. 
  • Thrifty: looks for possible house sitting or accommodation exchanges. Uses public transport or walking as a means to get around. Enjoys the vacation whilst keeping expenses reasonable. 
  • Stingy: every aspect of the holiday will be at the lowest cost possible, sacrificing comfort, convenience and possibly safety. A disregard for overall enjoyment and experience because the costs need to be low. 
  • Cheap: will look for heavily discounted travel packages and Will be happy to adjust the location or dates to accommodate a lower cost of the vacation. 

14. Planning a home renovation 

  • Frugal: researches reputable contractors and material costs. Only focuses on the basic repairs and upgrades rather than unnecessary additions. Compares quotes and picks the best value-for-money option. 
  • Thrifty: may decide to take the DIY route and do a part of the renovation themselves. Shops around for materials and waits for them to go on sale. They find cost-cutting solutions without compromising on quality.
  • Stingy: chooses the lowest-costing contractor and materials, potentially at the cost of the quality of the build and also how the overall finish will look. Prioritizing cost over longevity.
  • Cheap: looks for heavily discounted or clearance sale materials. Contemplates doing the work themselves to save the cost, even if it means they do a shoddy job that doesn’t look good. 

15. Planning a wedding 

being frugal and thrift
  • Frugal: sets a budget and looks at multiple different venues to compare prices. They get resourceful by making their decorations. Looking at off-season dates isn’t out of the question. The overall experience will be at an affordable price. 
  • Thrifty: opts to have a smaller guest list for a more intimate wedding. Negotiates with venues for a reduced price. Gets creative with decorations whilst still making the day memorable. 
  • Stingy: cuts corners and decides not to have essential parts of the wedding (cake, drinks, food). They prioritize cutting costs to the detriment of the celebration and guest experience. 
  • Cheap: chooses the lowest costing option for everything, compromising on quality, taste and experience. They will look for free or heavily discounted services and will rely on friends and family to contribute and bring the cost down. 

Key takeaways:

  • Being frugal and thrifty are similar, being associated with either means you’re smart with your money, see value where others do not and avoid unnecessary spending. Both terms mean you have a resourceful money mindset.
  • Being stingy and cheap aren’t words you want to be associated with. The similarities lie within the hatred of spending money, even if they are wealthy and financially stable. Any spending is deemed unnecessary. 

5 Pro’s about being frugal and thrifty:

  • Possibility of an earlier retirement
  • Saving becomes a habit
  • You don’t fall victim to FOMO (fear of missing out)
  • Ability to switch careers or reduce working hours
  • Reduces stress and financial pressure

5 Con’s about being frugal and thrifty:

  • Loneliness, you may miss out on events and occasions
  • Embarrassment for you and family as you take it too seriously
  • Saving for no reason or a never ending goal
  • Easy to slip into cheap and stingy category
  • Focus too much on saving when earning more could be more beneficial

If you’re already frugal and thrifty, but want to start earning more money on the side, then check out my post on “How to make an extra £1000 a month”.


Is being thrifty a good thing?

Yes, being thrifty is a good thing. You’re careful with your money and avoid unnecessary spending. It can help you save money, avoid debt and achieve your financial goals sooner.

However, don’t let your thriftiness get to your head! As sometimes if you’re too thrifty then it can lead to a poorer quality of life or missed opportunities.

How do I become super frugal and thrifty? 

Start by living a more minimal life, by spending less on unnecessary things and if you do spend, spend money on basic quality items that can be used to do multiple tasks which will last a long time.

To become thrifty you need to stop buying brand new and think second-hand. Become more resourceful so you don’t need to spend. 

Being frugal and thrifty is a way of life for many people and over time it can become a natural way of thinking /living.

What is the personality of a frugal person?

Frugal people have certain traits and behaviours that align with mindful spending and being resourceful. A frugal person doesn’t miss out on life and experiences, they just have personalities that are aware of their financial situation and are value-oriented rather than spending money in a panic of the fear of missing out.

What does thrifty mean?

Thrifty means you’re economical with spending. Great at money management. (Smart with money, looking for deals and ways to save without spending unnecessarily)

Does thrifty mean cheap?

No, thrifty differs from cheap because a thrifty person is happy to spend money, they focus on quality, value for money, have a long-term perspective and are resourceful. 

Yet a cheap person doesn’t like spending and will go to extreme lengths not to spend. If they have to spend it will be the lowest amount possible, they do not consider others and sacrifice quality, performance and comfort just to spend less.

Thrifty and stingy similarities?

Whilst these two words have different meanings, the similarities lie within the fact they both are financially mindful. Both often are goal-oriented, using budgets and saving to make progress. They’re conscious of getting the most value for their money and look for cost-saving alternatives to maximize the benefits they receive from their spending. 

Frugal vs miser?

The key difference between frugal and miser is that frugality is a balanced approach to your finances, looking at value for money, quality and long-term benefits of spending. 

Whereas miser is extreme and irrational in their views. Highly reluctant to spend driven by an intense desire to hold on to wealth.

2 Responses

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes same here! 🙂 It’s funny how we’re all slightly different with our money and our spending habits.

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