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Come on, you've thought it yourself sometimes. Why can't we just loosen up, and stop being so tightfisted with our money? What is our problem? Why are we being so stingy?
Let me clarify this misconception once and for all.
Frugal does not mean stingy. At all.
After much contemplation and discussion with my husband, I've been able to expound upon this difference.
According to dictionary.com, frugal means "economical in use or expenditure; prudent saving or sparing; not wasteful". Stingy, on the other hand, is defined as "reluctant to give or spend; not generous; penurious".
In other words, frugal means using your wisdom to allocate the money you have, whereas stingy means being so tightfisted with your money that you're not willing to help others out.
Frugal vs StingyThere are two types of people out there in the world (among others). There are those who are generous, giving people who don't have much money to pass around, but are willing to assist in whatever way they can afford. Then there are people who may or may not have money, but these people are cold hearted and self absorbed. The thought of taking away from themselves to give to others is simply more than they can bear.
The former are frugal, the latter stingy.
Penniless but Generous
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Although there isn't money to spare, these people are still quick to help in whatever way they can. They volunteer to babysit for a friend free of charge so she can go out, watch a relative's children for a weekend to let the parents take a much needed break to recharge, prepare meals for a mom on bed rest, and invite new families in the neighborhood over for dinner to make them feel welcomed.
These people may not be spending much money on others, but they are being as giving as they can with the money that they have. Calling them stingy would be insulting and fallacious, to say the least.
(While I would like to include myself in this category, I can't yet. I'm not a saint and still have a ways to work on myself, but being completely like this is my goal.)
Stinginess- the SicknessOn the other end of the spectrum are the selfish, greedy people, the ones that are pained by the thought of giving. They believe that they deserve the world; by sharing with others, they feel that they will have less for themselves and can't stomach that thought.
Greedy people may or may not have money, but this is not relevant at all to their feelings. Even if they had enough money that they were literally tripping over their gold and jewels, if an emaciated beggar knocked at their door, asking for a bite to eat, these stingy people would not even be willing to give their stale old bread to keep the beggar from starving.
While not so common in its extreme form, stinginess is a sickness that is all to prevalent in the world at large. It can afflict the rich and the poor, the young and the old. It is an addiction to money, an unhealthy connection to money that you can't bear to see it go towards others.
Taking stinginess one step further is miserliness. Dictionary.com's definition of this word: "a person who lives in wretched circumstances in order to save and hoard money." (I'll be getting myself into trouble here because some people might think I fit this definition, but I'll deal with that a little further down.) Note the word hoard. It means saving but with an extremely negative connotation.
Miserly people are stingy to the nth degree. They are so addicted to money that they can't bear to spend a cent, not even on themselves, and hence live in wretched circumstances. They just want to watch the money pile up. They collect money the way some other people collect junk. It has no use to them; they just need to accumulate it and watch their collection grow. These people are obsessed with owning money and not even with the luxuries money can buy.
Frugal isn't Miserly
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The goal of frugality usually is either to stretch a meager income to cover necessities, to save up for something important like buying a house or a car or paying for college, to build an emergency fund so you'll never be stuck if you lose your job, or to pay off existing debts.
Frugality isn't miserliness, because, as I mentioned once, if your frugality is making your life miserable, something has got to change. The goal of frugality isn't to live a wretched life. A miser lives a wretched life, while a thrifty person wisely spends his money on the important things and cuts back in places that he can handle.
Once a frugal person reaches his monetary goal, either by making more money so the cash doesn't need to stretch as far, or having saved up enough money for his purpose, the frugal person will change his money spending habits. Perhaps he'll get himself a few more splurges, perhaps he'll allow himself to spend money in areas that were important to him but were unaffordable before.
When a frugal person becomes wealthier, the frugal person will still use his discretion when spending money, as the frugal person lives below his means because he is thinking long term.
If a frugal person becomes wealthy but still lives in a decrepit hovel, doesn't take care of pressing health issues, and is eating the bare minimal for survival, then I think you can rest assure that he has, indeed, crossed the line from frugal to miser.
There are generous frugal people and there are more selfish frugal people, just as there are generous philanthropic wealthy people and tightfisted callous rich snobs. In general, though, I've found that frugal people are often just as generous, if not more so, than their wealthier, non frugal counterparts.
I'm Frugal, not StingyWhen someone tells me that they don't like frugality, that being thrifty is just another name for stinginess, I laugh it off.
I know the truth.
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Frugal is definitely not stingy. Whoever thinks that is so... well, they really must not be seeing the whole picture.
Do you think frugal and stingy are the same thing? Do you know anyone that does? What do you think is the connection or difference between frugal and stingy?