Apr 20, 2011

Frugal vs. Cheap

In my mind, the difference between frugal and cheap is this:

Frugal is saving money by limiting spending on yourself; cheap is saving money by limiting spending at the expense of someone else.

For instance, when my husband and I go out to dinner, we don't spend a lot of money. We usually get one entree and perhaps an appetizer to share. We are water drinkers and dessert is usually something I prefer to have at home (because my list of desserts to make is so long that if we have dessert when we go out to eat, I'll never ever make a dent in this list). So, generally our bill is fairly small. I would call this frugal.

But the tip? We always leave a good tip. My husband's standard is to leave (he claims that if the service is really bad, he'll do 15% or if it is truly terrible, 10%, but I have never once seen him do this). And if our meal was so inexpensive that even a 20% tip would be less than five dollars, we generally round up to at least that. Trying to save money on eating out by shortchanging the waiter seems cheap to me.

Plus, I like the idea that the waiter might assume it'll be a pathetic 7% tip or something because we obviously aren't big spenders and then opening up the bill to see that we did right by him.

I think of cheap as trying to get other people to pay for things that you should be responsible for or trying and save money at the expense of someone else.

I always want to live frugally, but I try hard not to be cheap.


Kimberly F. said...

This is something I struggle with too. I order water at restaurants and I try to order an entree that I can split, so half can be taken home for another meal. I do struggle sometimes with trying not to be cheap, but I think I'm getting better.

I'd love to see what you guys think of tips (maybe you've covered it already and I just don't remember). I hate the whole system but of course grudgingly follow it. At restaurants, if the service is average, I double the tax, making it about a 17% tip. I think this is fair and it's also easy for my math-challenged mind. If the service is bad, I give them less than 10%. I don't care if they only make 2.20 and hour or whatever, I don't deserve to be ignored the entire meal and then charged an outrageous additional fee for something that was supposed to be complimentary (this happened at our Valentine's dinner. It was a horrible experience. Actually all of the service at all of the restaurants where I live is below average). For above average service I tip 20 and up.

Carole said...

I am a BIG tipper. And proud of it. I think tipping is a way of giving away love and happiness and abundance to the world at large. And it makes me happy way beyond the extra $20 I've spent. Some day I hope to leave someone a $100 tip just because I wanted to. I too enjoy thinking about the surprise of my server (or cabby or whomever) at finding a generous tip from an ordinary customer like me.

I've learned a lot generosity over the years from those around me. Bless them.

Kristy said...

Yep. Yep. Yep. That's exactly right.

Lisa C said...

The WORST when Dan was a waiter at a 4 star restaurant, was people who would use a gift card and then leave a measly tip, just because the bill wasn't much. Che-ap! We are pretty strong 15-20% tippers, especially with messy children!

the Danosaur said...

This is a little off the tipping topic, but I think of the difference between frugal and cheap as the difference between finding a good value at a good price versus simply buying things at the lowest price regardless of their quality. Frugality pays off in the end but cheapness leaves you with mediocre or even worthless or broken goods. Frugality is allocating resources wisely to maximize their utility, but cheapness is cutting corners to save money without regard to the long-term.

Anyway, sorry to go off on a little spiel there. I absolutely hate the tipping system (the idea that the price of service is somehow related to the cost of the meal is ridiculous. How much harder is it to bring out a shrimp dish and a Coke than it is to bring out a salad and a glass of water? I would go to the kitchen to pick up my dinner myself if that meant I didn't have to pay a tip) but I try to leave between 15-20% depending on the service.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, and love your definitions. I'd never thought of it that way, but I agree with you 100%.

There is nothing more satisfying than leaving a hard-working waitperson a BIG tip. I love it. I still remember this wonderful waitress I had in an airport Max & Erma's. She was awesome. Kind, thoughtful, anticipated my needs, quick, efficient. And it had been a TERRIBLE day. So I gave her $20. Not something I can afford to do every day. But it gave me enormous pleasure.

I think my husband and I pretty good at being frugal, but we also treat ourselves. I want to be as good at treating others (by way of charity or just surprises). That's my goal as we earn more.

Ashley and Dave said...

I LOVED this post. Mainly because I could write an entire essay about tipping, having been a server for 4 years while in college. [Might I add a little side note that I was a darn good server:)] So because of this- Dave (who has heard one too many of my cruddy waiting stories) and I are very good tippers. I, like Carole, would LOVE someday to leave someone an awesome $100 tip. It just makes you feel good to make someone else feel good. And well, I have been there.

The funny thing about tipping (Okay, maybe it is not so funny) is that most people that are cruddy tippers have never waited a day in their lives. I believe that is one of those jobs that everyone should be required to have for at least 6 months of your life (or be married to someone who has so you can...like I said before...hear all their awful stories and sympathize):)

M.C. Sommers said...

I was just thinking about this the other day! Another area I think this applies to is in gift giving. You obviously shouldn't spend beyond your means to give gifts, but I think it's important to do nice things for others. I feel like gift giving makes up a large portion of our budget (compared to what we spend in other areas), but it brings us a lot of pleasure to do nice things for others.

Julie said...

Great Post. I agree with you. I think people, like Kimberly F, who don't want to tip should eat at places that you order at the counter and pickup your own food. I am a water drinker too but I still tip 20%. I figure that into the cost of going out.

Kimberly F. said...

Julie - I just feel that the cost of the service should be included in the food and servers should be paid an adequate wage rather than having to rely on tips. If they're not doing their job adequately then they shouldn't be retained, just as in any other job. If they go above and beyond, they should receive a raise. The thing I dislike most about tips is the "rules" that seem arbitrary and aren't consistent from service to service.

When I studied abroad, I learned that one was not supposed to tip at the restaurants in that country since the servers were paid a wage similar to what you'd get if you worked at the grocery store or another service-oriented place that does not generally receive tips here in the US.

City Sister said...

I waitress...cheap is the person that gets a steak dinner and wine and appetizers and dessert...then treats you like a servant, fetching and complaining...and leaves a $2.50 tip...Thrifty and human/kind people do what you do, treat a waitress like a human, and have a sense of humor when the kitchen is slow, or you are trying to wait on 5 tables at once...
and don't get me started on coupons...if you use a coupon and the service was good, tip on the initial bill. We work hard, our feet ache and are swollen, and all too many people treat us like we are sub human.
I have gotten the $100 tip, on top of 18% that was automatically added...(a family of 8 at brunch) I almost cried...it had been a really rough day, and the woman said "I know my family is a bunch of jerks...thanks for not returning the favor and treating them the way that they deserve, that's my job."

Packrat said...

I agree with you, and I do tip.

The Danosaur gave a wonderful description of what I have considered the difference between frugal and cheap. Well said.

Kimberly F. makes a very valid point.

amber waves of grain said...

City Sister, I hear you. I also wait tables (by choice! I enjoy my job.) and greatly appreciate being treated respectfully. Some days it is really challenging-- the days where you must "kill with kindness" because people are being so rude (and leaving a dollar for a tip). I enjoy waiting on customers who are pleasant... and who treat me like a server, not a servant. I am a person, too.

Thank you to those of you generous tippers. We don't expect it all the time, but we sure do appreciate it.

Cindy Thomas said...

Thank you for being a good tipper. Our son is a server and a darn good one (not just Mom speaking here, but others have told us) and it breaks my heart when he works his hind end off and comes home at the end of the night with a couple of bucks in his pocket. Some days he barely makes enough to buy the gas he needs to get to work while other days he is generously compensated for his hard work. While I too believe that servers should be paid a fair wage, that is not the case, so he works extra hard to make a living. Thanks again from a grateful Mom.