In these [trying] economic times, it seems that pundits have become tremendously interested in the concept of frugality and intellectualizing how it differs from being cheap. Apparently, cheapness is universally decried, whereas frugality is the new cool, or at least somewhat tolerable as long as the economic times remain so-called trying.

So how does being frugal differ from being cheap?

This question only makes sense if you are a consumer that measures everything in terms of what you can buy and use and how much money you have left when you are done spending. Yeah, that goes for 95% of the population, so maybe that explains it.

However, to me the question makes little sense. I care less about the money price of something than I care about material and temporal waste. If I buy something, I feel quite obligated to “dispose” of it in a reasonable way. For any durables, the trash can is simply not an option. This means I take good care to get something that I do not intend to dispose of ever until it is completely and utterly broken down to an unrepairable state. Indeed, I will give things away, but ONLY to people who will appreciate them. For instance, I have a 60mm telescope that I would like to give away, but I do not want to give it to someone with a passing interest. I want to give it to someone who wants to become an astronomer.

Things and services must be used efficiently. If I buy something expensive, I do not cover it in plastic or avoid using it being afraid to destroy its resale value. I use it for what it’s intended for. This means that anything I own must be used very regularly. It is a waste if I own something but do not use it. By doing so, I am depriving its use by someone else. That is just wrong.

I must be very sure that I will use something efficiently before I acquire it. Therefore I take a long time to decide whether something was just a faddish idea of mine. I also desire to use my money efficiently. It could be said that I am close with my money, but that is only seeing half the picture. It could be said I’m being frugal, but it is more accurate to say that I am simply being very efficient in terms of cost and utility.