On Being Called Cheap - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

On Being Called Cheap


Yes, I pinch pennies.


It happens every once in a while. Being of a frugal nature, I look at things in the way that will avoid spending unnecessary money.

Sometimes, that means someone will call me cheap.

I hate it when that happens.

Honestly, it's gotten better since the economic downturn. Being frugal has become something to aspire to, rather than something to be ashamed of. People can talk openly about their extreme couponing and the way they stretch their meal plans over a week, and it's now considered interesting conversation instead of proof of being both boring and a cheapskate.

But still, from time to time, my frugal worldview will prompt someone else to decry "cheap!"

I'm a little sensitive to this non-insult. I know that in general, nothing is meant by it. People who do not understand why and how I live the way I do have to find an easy method of comprehending my lifestyle. I know that I pay close attention to small amounts of money that other people simply don't worry about, which may make it seem as though I'm particularly parsimonious. (I'm not. I just like to pay attention). I also know that just because I make decisions that are different from others' doesn't mean either method is better than the other. I know all this, but it can be hard to feel it.

I really admire the individuals who embrace the cheapskate image. They have a "Nobody bodders me!" kind of attitude that I wish I could emulate.

But, personally, I don't want to be thought of that of as cheap. Careful with money, yes. Frugal even, sure.

But cheap to me seems like the opposite of generous, which I truly hope is not the case in my life. Part of the reason why I am so frugal is so I can have money available to spend on things that are important to me--and that includes family and friends, the ability to stay home with my son, his future education, wonderful experiences, and charities I care about.

Ultimately, I know it truly doesn't matter what other people think of me. (And no matter how often I might hear my name and the word cheap in the same breath, you won't see me changing my money habits. I wouldn't know how to, for one thing).

But I do wish I knew better how to let this particular epithet roll off my back.

Has anyone ever called you cheap? How do you deal with it?



haverwench said:

Huh. I had to think about that question for a while, and I honestly don't think I can remember a single time when anyone has ever called me cheap (or cheapskate or tightwad or other words of that kind). And I'm sure it's not because I'm any less pinching with my pennies than you are. I suspect it's because most of the ways in which I pinch pennies aren't really visible--at least not to people who don't know me well. Casual acquaintances can't tell that my clothes are mostly bought on sale or secondhand. They can't tell that we don't have cable TV or shop at as many as half a dozen grocery stores to find the best bargains. How could they know? And while my neighbors can see me hanging out the laundry on my clothesline, the neighborhood I live in really isn't upscale enough for that kind of thing to attract negative attention. So the only people who really know about all my penny-pinching strategies are the people I talk to about it--my family and intimate friends (and of course those who read my blog)--and all of them are of a similar bent themselves, at least to some extent. (Well, maybe my late grandmother might not have approved, but I didn't discuss it with her.)

So, I guess I can't offer any helpful advice on dealing with this criticism. But I can offer some advice on avoiding it: just don't talk about your frugality with anyone who's going to give you a hard time about it. If you don't mention it, how is anyone ever going to know?

May 4, 2013 7:17 PM

frugal_fun said:

I have had it come from family mostly. And yeah --  I understand - it's frustrating. We're careful with our money so we can be generous with time and money.

I've known truly cheap people. They never spend any money on others or usually themselves. When they do spend money, it's on some extravagance they "deserve", rather a tool, object, or experience that would bring lasting joy. It seems like they are always attempting to sponge off of other people rather than figuring out how to give back. So I don't like being called cheap either.

I have no idea how to counteract it except totally ignore it. It dampers down the direct name calling part because it's ineffective. Even then, though, I think when we do spend money, it disturbs some relatives because they've put it us in this neat little "oh, they're cheap" box. I get that people can be careful with their money in completely different ways. I'm not sure these particular relatives have enough confidence in their own choices to be okay with that idea.  

Oddly, though, I've gotten to the point with acquaintances that I'll preface a frugal to me choice with "I"m too cheap to".. Like for instance, I really dogs but I have allergies and I just don't want the extra expense and work. So I'll usually say, that I really like dogs, but I'm too cheap to have them. I usually get little smiles of understanding, even from avid dog lovers.

Maybe I don't give them enough time to call me cheap?? I'm not sure. :)

May 6, 2013 12:51 PM

djcinks said:

My husband and I are very careful about how we spend our money, and will often cut or eliminate spending in one area so we have money for something else that is more important to us. We generally don't publicize these decisions, except to our children and like-minded friends, but occasionally something will come up in conversation with our more "spendy" relatives or acquaintances.

I've never been called cheap to my face, but it has happened behind my back, usually by someone who simply doesn't understand my frugality is not a refusal to spend money so much as a deliberate choice about where I spend it.  If you must have an answer for such people, I suggest a simple explanation of the trade-off.  "The $30 a month I saved by disconnecting the cable doesn't sound like much, but it goes straight into LO's college fund, and will have grown to over $11000 by the time he needs it."

May 6, 2013 3:15 PM

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