Rounding the corner to follow up with my routine harvest in the produce section at the grocery store, I was suddenly awestruck by a particular sight.

Fascinated really. Stopped in my tracks as if a beam of lightning ripped through the roof and jolted me right where I stood; right next to the broccoli and cauli crowns.

My mother always told me staring is not polite, but I just couldn’t look away! I couldn’t!

There in front of me was something I had only heard of but had never actually seen. This was what I imagined to be one of those ‘extreme cheapskates’.

Now I will mention I was not judging. I was simply ‘observing with curiosity’.

To me this happened to illustrate the dividing factor between frugality and just being a cheapskate…

Being frugal is a means of saving, being conscious about spending decisions, and defining needs vs. wants. Take for example a vehicle. Personally, I would love to be ripping around in this:


Oh god how I want this car. I am in love the BMW M3! In reality, I drive something more like this:


The same car your 16 year old sister is driving — a Honda Civic.

Emasculating really, but it’s fully paid for and serves the same purpose as the BMW does: It gets me where I need to go.

The great divide.

Imagine the show Extreme Cheapskates. I can’t say that I have seen more than one episode, but it was enough to get the gist of it. The particular one I had seen followed a woman, who during this episode went dumpster diving. She was putting together a splendid garbage bin feast for guests she was having over that evening.

I don’t know how legit this show is, but it was enough to conclude that the people they happen to scrutinize on the program obviously have some mental problems.

I honestly felt bad for this poor woman they used to get ratings, yet she seemed quite happy to share her extreme savings techniques.

We tune in to shows like this because the people are different. These extreme penny-pinching ways are weird compared to how most live. We show interest in the abnormal behaviours of others.

Now imagine this. 

A show on frugality:

“This week on Extreme Frug-skates: We follow the lives of the Johnsons. You will never believe how frugal they are! Just last month Richard decided to pack bagged lunches, and take public transit to save on his commutes to work. Sarah cancelled her magazine subscriptions after realizing she never reads them anyways. Get this! Greg cuts back on going out with friends so he could save to move out of the nest and buy his own home! And You’re not going to believe how Jenny curbs her shopping habits to increase her student loan payments. Talk about Frug-skates!”

*Crickets. Where are the ratings?

This family seems normal in comparison to what is seen on Extreme Cheapskates. If anyone happened to be watching Extreme Frug-skates I’m sure they would be for money management tips instead of curiosity towards abnormal behaviours.

Making your own laundry detergent, grocery-shopping in restaurant dumpsters, reusing paper towels, and flushing the toilet only once per week to save on the water bill. These examples of just being ‘cheap’.

Eating out less, packing your own lunches, cancelling subscriptions, and buying a less-expensive base model car. These are examples of being ‘frugal’.

This is how I perceive the great divide anyways.

Oh yeah, I guess you want to know what I seen at the grocery store. That was a real cliffhanger wasn’t it?

As I stood there I watched a woman breaking off the ends of asparagus spears and trashing them. If you haven’t cooked with asparagus before, usually you snap off the root ends. They are tougher and almost ‘woody’ like. Well she was just doing that step before she had to take them to the till to be weighed for pricing. Technically you are throwing away money when you take them home and do this. Seems like such a minuscule saving technique however, and I was captivated by it! I wondered how many cents she happened to save doing this. To each their own I guess.


Later days,



4 Responses to Cheap vs. Frugal: Weighing In On the Great Divide

  1. I get so tempted in the supermarket to remove the stem of the broccoli floret as I never eat it, however, I am too weak to do it by hand!

    I love Extreme Cheapskates, if it was Extreme Frug-Skates it just wouldn’t be so much fun, I can’t see anyone having that much interest in watching me go by my day to day life being concious of my money.

  2. Veronica says:

    Great post and great question. I think it is a thin line between the two – maybe like the line between being a genius or just crazy? 😉

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