This is a guest post from Squirrelers who blogs about helping you save, protect, and grow your hard-earned money.

Do you consider yourself to be a frugal person? If you enjoy reading about frugality, and living happily and responsibly within your means, it’s ok to label yourself as frugal. Go ahead, you can do it:)

If this question was asked to an individual in the broader population, I hypothesize that the response to this would typically be less positive. Historically, frugality isn’t a trait that has been known as really desirable or exciting. For some reason, the word frugal connotes “cheap”.

He’s so cheap, he took me on a date to a ballgame for which he got free tickets!”
“Don’t tell anyone that I like to use coupons when dining out; I’m not cheap!”
“I won’t shop at that discount store; otherwise people will think I’m cheap.”

Cheap might be construed as being excessively averse to spending money, to the point of being stingy.

Frugal, on the other hand, refers to being economical, resourceful, and averse to waste.

See the difference?

Until recent years, I don’t think many people really did see the difference. Or if they did, this acknowledgement wouldn’t come out in their behavior. In the examples I provided above, I suspect that many folks would have viewed such actions as being cheap. It wasn’t cool to do such things, letting people know that you conserve money or that you look for deals. Who wanted to be known as Mr. or Mrs. Tightwad? Worse, who wanted to give the impression that they can’t afford some decent things?

Then came economic issues. Our country’s economic issues – including unemployment, stock losses, and plummeting real estate values – put many otherwise middle class people on the defensive with their finances. When the future looks more uncertain – and cash flow (and accompanying net worth) isn’t quite the same – it puts a different spin on “money showmanship”, as I like to call it.

All of a sudden, is it that bad to let people know that you like to spend wisely? Is it that horrible to live as if you can’t afford the finer things? After all, many people have found themselves in a different position than a few years ago.

I’ve seen this at play with myself and with others. People seem to be getting a bit more transparent with their frugality.

A good source of examples is lunch at work.

Example #1

A little over 10 years ago, during the dotcom heyday, I recall people grabbing lunch outside most days. I worked in an urban city center, with plenty of good options around. I didn’t see people going to low cost fast food places; rather, they would go to places that were a step up. Or at least that’s what they would say. Fast forward 10 years. Now, again in an urban city center, I see about half the people eating out, and about half bringing lunch from home. Some of it might be nutrition awareness, but much of it is about saving money, based on what people say. It’s just not hidden as much anymore.

Example #2

There was a guy I worked with back in the day who would always ask people on Tuesdays if they wanted to join him in getting a sub sandwich at a popular chain. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was fine. Anyway, we always wondered why it was Tuesdays that were his sub days. As it turned out, their loyalty program offered “Double-Stamp Tuesdays”, where he got an extra stamp on his sub card. He kept it quiet, but once people figured it out, he got teased about it. “He’s so cheap”, many people thought.

Now, I see people doing this all the time. Actually, I do this myself now! The venue is completely different, as it’s a different sub shop. No Double-Stamp Tuesdays at this place:) But they have a loyalty punch card, and I see absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t use it. Just today, as I write this, I was in line at this sub shop there were a few guys who looked like coworkers out to lunch, and they each grabbed a punch card and got it activated with their purchase. No teasing, no qualms, nothing.

What do you think?

If you’re frugal by nature, are you more open about it these days? Have you noticed more transparency by others when it comes to their own efforts to save on purchases?

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
2 replies
  1. Squirrelers says:


    That’s a good point you have, about people we interact with in day-to-day life, vs fellow personal finance bloggers or blog readers. I’m more savings oriented than many people I interact with – not all, but most. Compared to PF bloggers/blog readers, I have to say – I have seen people much more hardcore than me in terms of frugality. The boundries of normal and then excessive have been pushed outward a bit, IMO. Which is fine by me:)

  2. Evan says:

    Whether I am frugal or not depends on who you ask…friends and family then YES, but compared to online people then NO.

    Regardless I completely agree with the post! It no longer is a taboo word to call people. But I think we have a short memory in this country.


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