Value vs. Cheap: What is True Frugality?

Sometimes, the cheapest price doesn't always mean the best value.

I'm not known for my frugality. I don't pinch pennies. I prefer to earn a little more money, rather than cut back. And, to tell the truth, I'm willing to pay more for an experience I enjoy, or for convenience, or for a better quality item.

As a result, I don't normally think of myself as “frugal” because I don't go out of my way to clip coupons, or to get the cheapest possible item. However, someone recently told me that being frugal isn't about being cheap; it's about getting the best value for your money.

Can Going the Cheap Route Cost You More?

In some cases, being too cheap can cost you more in the long run. After all, if you buy a low quality product, you will end up buying the same thing sooner. That's what happens with shoes. When we buy the cheapest shoes, we often get low quality shoes that have to be replaced in a matter of months. Paying more for better quality shoes can save us money over time, since we don't have to buy them as often.

Cheaping out on home maintenance, or doing things yourself when you have no idea what you're doing can also wind up costing you more in the long run. I submit that true frugality isn't just about saving money in the short-term; it's about long-term effects. Better value over time is more likely to provide you with a solid financial foundation and financial freedom (which is different than just being “wealthy”).

What about Experiences? How Do You Measure that Value?

This is where I get into real trouble in terms of frugality. I value experiences. I enjoy travel, being outdoors, eating out, and attending movies and concerts, and, when I can't head out, I get the next best thing to an experience — a book.

In my mind, true value in an experience is one that you really enjoy. Yes, I can pay less for a seat clear back in the balcony, but when I am going to the opera, I want a box seat, or when seeing Brian Regan, it's fun to be up close. I am also willing to pay for the convenience of a better time when flying somewhere. And I think it's worth it to pay more for a delicious, fresh handmade pastry than get a pre-packaged donut.

I'm not getting the cheapest things available, and I'm not saving all the money I possibly can, but I'm enjoying myself — and the experiences are worth it to me.

What's Important to You?

Value is largely subjective. What I value is likely to be different from what you value. My husband loves knowing that he has a large collection of Lord of The Rings action figures, but I don't care much for things. My husband thinks it's crazy that I would rather go on a trip than buy a new TV.

In the end, as long as you are living within your means, and you aren't putting your future in jeopardy, spending money on what you enjoy isn't a waste, even if it isn't what others consider “frugal.” While my spending choices might not be yours, I am happy with them. I feel like I am getting good value for my money. And, of course, your spending choices might not be my preferences, but if you can afford them, and you are satisfied with how you spend your money, go for it.

Image source: CraftyGoat via Flickr

4 thoughts on “Value vs. Cheap: What is True Frugality?”

  1. I couldn’t agree more.
    When it come to experiences, to me it’s about picking and choosing which parts of your life you want to skimp on so that you can do the things you really enjoy. If you’re not saving/earning more in order to enjoy life a little bit more, then why are you doing it?

    1. So true! Why would I want a big pile of cash at the end? I believe that money should be a means to an end — not the end itself.

  2. So true, being too cheap in the end kills. Personally I would much rather spend a bit more and get a great vacation then spend 1/3 less and be stuck with an un-enjoyably waste of time.

  3. I totally agree about spending more on what you enjoy, and cutting back on the things you don’t. In my opinion, people should strive for better experiences rather than material things. That way, you grow as a person and can carry better conversations with others. It’s only so interesting listening to you talk about what you own. I’d rather hear about where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

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