Being Frugal Makes You A Loser

I’m all for saving money.  I get as much pleasure watching my bank account grow as I do from buying things or taking trips.  But, people often take frugality too far.  I don’t care if you’re poor, and if you’re reading this you’re not actually poor, there are things where you should always spend a little extra money.  Being frugal, on the wrong things, makes you a loser.  If you’re always buying cheap, generic crap, not only are you making your life miserable, you’re sending yourself a terrible message: “I’m not worth it.”  Get used to quality.  Get used to being worth it.  You’ll be more successful if you do.

Buy a nice mattress. I’m not suggesting you spend $20,000, but don’t cheap out and buy the $180 piece of crap with no box spring off the back of a truck.  You’re going to spend a third of your life in bed.  A good one makes a massive difference in how you sleep and how you feel.  Buy some great sheets too.  You can get amazing sheets for under $40 these days.

By comfortable shoes.  The 16 hours you’re not sleeping?  Chances are you’ve got shoes on.  Find the most comfortable shoes you can.  So what if they’re $100.  Unless you’re some sort of foot messenger, you only need to buy one pair a year.

Whatever else you spend a lot of time doing, spend the extra money to make yourself comfortable.  I can’t understand people who sit in front of a computer all day and still have a $39 office chair and a 15″ monitor.  Seriously?  If you mountain bike every weekend, spend an extra $30 to get the super comfortable helmet.

Tools, of all kinds: get the nice version.  Don’t buy that shitty plastic screwdriver for 75 cents.  Spend $5 for one that feels good in your hand, that’s comfortable to use, and that will last forever. Don’t buy that shitty knife with the loose plastic handle and the blade that bends when you put pressure on it and won’t hold edge after two weeks.  Spend $30 for a knife that works, doesn’t aggravate you, and isn’t dangerous.

Get two of the small stuff that’s easily misplaced.  Buy two nail clippers.  Not the tiny ones for $1.29.  Spend $3.85 for the shaped one that traps all the clippings, and buy an extra one you can keep downstairs, or in your car, or your gym bag, or wherever you always need one.  Do this for all the little stuff that you can never find when you need them.

Little things like these make such a quality of life difference, for almost no money.

Want to feel like your bathroom is a spa?  Buy scented candle or some potpourri and a stack of washcloths for your bathroom counter.  It smells awesome and you feel great when you grab a fresh towel to wash your face every day.  Total cost?  Well under $10.  Total benefit?  A hell of a lot more than $10.

A good rule of thumb from Keeping It Straight by Patrick Rhone:

… anywhere I can make a buying choice that I, with proper care and maintenance, will never have to make again for the rest of my life, I do. In those cases, I’m willing to pay far more for an item if I know it will last a lifetime and, even more importantly to me, if I will never have to spend the mental energy making a choice again. Especially because making final choices often requires far more time and research then making regular ones. In fact, I would argue that the more final the choice, the longer it should take to make it. Also, what you spend on the front end usually repays exponentially, and in many different ways, on the back end.

HT: Unclutterer

The mental aspect of this is huge.  Even more than the benefit of buying something once and never having to think about it again, using shitty quality stuff is draining.  It’s grating.  It’s aggravating.  It’s a huge waste of time.  It shifts your focus away from your goal and focuses it on what a piece of shit this tool is, or how a monkey could have done a better job designing it.  It also reinforces the mindset that you’re cheap.  “Stuff is cheap, so I don’t need a lot of money.”  “I’m happy with mediocrity.”

Using well designed stuff reinforces the mindset of earning and creating.  “Man, the world needs more well designed and well made stuff like this.”  “Man, I’m going to earn more so I can have more well designed and well made stuff like this.”

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118 Responses to Being Frugal Makes You A Loser

  1. Ugly Bob says:

    You’re such a dick, Scott.

    • Scott says:

      I wish you had cancer.

      • RussianFellow says:

        Guys, really, you are both wrong here.
        At first, author is not a bad person – it’s just a form of expression of his point of view.
        At second, wishing a cancer is not good at all 🙂

        Try to forget sometimes about your extreme superiority above all humankind.

        Be smarter, feel good 🙂

    • Kristine Bowen says:

      You may hate frugal people … But because of assholes spending way more than they make .. The economy suffered … People need to live within their means … You may think people like me are disgusting .. But I know people who have to work day and night tipsy off credit card debt … I on the other hand have cash on hand in case of emergency … Who is the stupid ones ! Think before you talk .. People who overspend might as well go on welfare … They jack up bills then file for bankruptcy .. Everyone pays for that too !!!

  2. Ian says:

    No he’s right to a certain extent. I’m exactly who he’s talking about. I pussy out, spend on the cheap stuff and don’t splurge on myself because in my mind, “one day I’ll be able to spend money with no regard”.

    I had a few other things to say but I’ll hold them off for now cause my bullshit daughter keeps pissing the shit out of me by asking me to read her to bed.

    Great post AJ.

    By the way Bob, being a dick is way better than being a pussy.

    • Josh says:

      Nice way to talk about your daughter. Real classy.

    • Adnan says:

      You could’ve used your time to read your daughter a story, instead of reading and appreciating this post. Would’ve made a larger difference in your life.

    • Ian's daughter says:

      I thought you loved me more than my brother… :'(

    • The people says:

      I see what your saying, but I don’t think you quite understand the concept behind being a frugal person. Frugality my dear Watson, is about buying a great item that will last if you do decide to spend money on something you buy something that wont fall to pieces, I think you have being cheap and being Frugal mixed up in your skull mate. Cheap is a quick eat at Maccy D’s but frugality means picking a beautiful salad from your own garden, making pizza dough from scratch and baking it in your hand built, from the land pizza oven!! Oh and topping it off with some crayfish you caught from the sea with your bare hands whilst the sun was going down, sipping the beer you brewed yourself at a quarter the cost (oh and the fun was in the tasting) and ending your night with a great chocolate cake you made with the flour you swapped with your neighbour for the milk your cows produced, the butter you recieved in reward for helping your other neighbour build their roof and the chocolate your mate gave you fot being such a great individual….Here’s to Frugal living I say. Or you could just go to the supermarket and help Mr Billionaire supermarket owner to line his pockets with more money, whilst the people making his products get sweet fuck all….up to you mate….

      • Dwriggity says:

        Wow, you have a lot of free time. And they’re called crawfish and they don’t come from the sea. They live and grow in brackish bayou or marshland waters.

        • Jon says:

          They are called Crayfish (aka Rock Lobster) in New Zealand (and possibly other countries), and they do come from the sea.

  3. Jarrod says:

    I disagree. I guess I will be a debt free, frugal loser with money in the bank.

    What a joke.

    • Eric says:

      I think the point is not to spend too much on things you can’t afford, but rather on the things that are easily afforded, spend a little extra where it has a big impact. Businesses do this all the time because having the right tools can make a huge difference in both efficiency and quality.

      That doesn’t mean that since you are a pizza delivery person, you should go ahead and buy that BMW you had your eye on. It does mean the $40 for a nice seat cover could make your life that much better by simply making you more comfortable.

    • Jack says:

      …Are $3.85 nail clippers and a debt free life mutually exclusive?

      Being comfortable and happy makes it a lot easier to do productive work, so spending a little extra now is actually a good way to end up with more money in the bank.

    • Chewier says:

      Off topic but — the debt-free mantra espoused by popular tv talk show hosts appeals mostly to the working poor who have made poor spending decisions and taken out loans they have no way of repaying. Nearly every wealthy person I know has some form of debt. And once you understand the time-cost of money vs. inflation, it’s easy to understand why many times debt is ok.

      • Rex Rollman says:

        The wealthy are really the only ones who can afford debt these days.

      • Huh? says:

        Can you enlighten me on “time-cost of money vs. inflation”? Because my experience, and the experience of everyone I know, and everything I see in my country, which is not the United States, tells me that debt is bad.

        You see, I’m currently trying to pay off my personal debts. Life would be better if I didn’t have to. But people keep wanting that money — their money — back.

        • Rowyn says:

          It really depends on what you are going into debt for.

          If you are borrowing money to *invest* it — to build a business that will make more money, or to buy a home that will save you money on rent, then that’s often good. It’s how rich people get richer. It is often risky, of course: your business might fail, or you might need to move when your home has fallen in value. But if you make these decisions wisely and well-informed, then on average, the debt will benefit you.

          If you are borrowing money to *spend* it on things that will not earn or save you money later — buying a big screen TV, taking a vacation, etc. — that’s generally bad and the debt will hinder you.

  4. Shava Nerad says:

    I think you are mistaking the word “frugal” for the word “cheap.” A frugal person is not wasteful. A cheap person always goes for the least cost option regardless of quality. I grew up in northern New England, where frugality is an art. My idea of frugality is, for example, to cook excellent food at home most of the time (and work to get better at my culinary arts) so I can save enough money to eat out at really kickass restaurants.

    I examine my values and try to proportion the money on things that really matter to me. Designer clothes? No. Designer experiences? Yes. I spend my dollars on experiential art, rather than trendy knicknacks, and live in Boston partly because so much I find entertaining is here, free or cheap, because of the universities.

    I don’t own a car, and will probably never buy a new one, because I really could not care less about a new car — in fact the “new car smell” seems toxic to me. I car-share with a neighbor, and get a certain amount of my writing inspiration from people I see in public spaces because I walk and take public transportation.

    This is pretty much your definition of how one should live, I think. You might want to reconsider your wording?

  5. Chris says:

    Awesome post mate! You hit a nerve with me, i’ve got mates earning 6 figures who buy their food at the cheapest place possible: whenever you go round for dinner, the meat is almost inedible. I just can’t fathom why someone would want to be so frugal, to the point of living a nasty life.

  6. Crow says:

    been said above already but frugal is TOTALLY different to cheap. Frugal is spending your time and money wisely. Frugal is knowing how much good goofed to make for two, how much food to buy each week so you don’t throw any out and when to take the car/train/bus/walk. so really you need to change your title and buy a dictionary mate…

  7. r says:

    No one can take money after they die.

  8. Ram says:

    Totally agree. I hear people saying Apple products are over priced, people buy them for the brand name, blah blah blah, part of it could be true but from my experience using Apple products, they are worth every penny, they are well designed, don’t look cheap, Apple pays attention to tiny little details and polish the hell out of their products and more importantly – there are several features that you will barely need for everyday use but are extremely useful during those rare circumstances where it suddenly becomes important, for example the external battery indicator lights on their laptops.

    • Wouter says:

      Yeah, that never ceases to amaze me. People bitching on Apple because it’s overpriced and they can get ‘a comparable machine’ for half the price. Meanwhile, my Apple hardware lasts at least a full year longer than the cheap-ass stuff they buy, because I don’t end up hating it after using it for 10 minutes, so I don’t feel the need to buy a new laptop every 2 years. When I finally decide to sell it after 3 years, someone will still pay up to 40% of the price when new. So in 3 years time I’ll write off maybe $200 more on a $1200 laptop, than someone who buys 2 $500 laptops in 4 years time which sell for fifty bucks second hand. Is that really worth dicking around with a creaky, plastic monstrosity with a crappy trackpad, that comes with a bare-bones Windows version loaded with crapware from the manufacturer?

      Why do so many people happily pay $200 for a pair of shoes twice a year, a pair of shoes that cost $20 to manufacture, but complain the shit out of internet blogs when a piece of computer hardware you only buy once every few years is $200 more expensive than something decidedly lower quality?

      Anyway, I wholeheartedly agree with this rant, unless you are really tight on cash, don’t be a cheap-ass.

      • TheChess92 says:

        apple has very good hardware … but you can’t beat windows, that is why you get a mac with a dual boot

        • me says:

          i fully agree, TheChess92, no OS is as bad as Windows and that’s why ppl always have dual bool, to use Mac OSX or Linux instead of that Windows junk.

      • AsusOwner says:

        You do realize that Apple doesn’t actually build it’s own stuff but rather gets either Asus, Toshiba or Samsung to make it for them. Fact remains is that Asus laptops have been far more reliable and value for money than Apple’s will ever be.

        Although Apple support may be good, any hardware qualities you see in it are inherited by the OEM companies that manufacture for Apple.

    • James says:

      I think you don’t get it. That has nothing to do with the content of this story. Read it again.

      And to your point… While certainly Apple does price their PCs out of reach of a large number of people, people who have enough money to afford a decent PC don’t choose Windows because they are getting something cheaper. We happen to prefer the Windows experience. The price thing comes up because we’re just amused, and sometimes a bit angered, that Apple users allow themselves to be so grossly overcharged.

  9. Rrr says:

    You are a loser

  10. david karapetyan says:

    I agree with you to a certain extent but there is something to be said about the minimalist ideal of using as little as possible. And the word you wanted to use was not frugal but cheap. A frugal person uses and buys what is necessary but doesn’t necessarily care about the price of things. A cheap person on the other hand tries to save nickels and dimes in unnecessary places like you describe.

  11. Jeremy Ticant says:

    Really? You really believe that? I have never read such as poorly worded argument in all my life. Being frugal makes you a looser? You need to look a little deeper and do a lot more thinking about who you are and what you truly want. You will never be a winner with your attitude.

  12. Ben Atkin says:

    Rrr, Jeremy Ticant:

    It’s a provocative title, but if you keep an open mind about the word loser while reading the text, you might see that he’s not really using the word as a pejorative. To me he’s saying that they’re doing something that causes them to lose. The phrase, “a losing strategy” comes to mind. So does a game of chess, where if it isn’t a draw, there is a winner and a loser.

    He says loser once in the title of the post and once in the post body. He doesn’t rail on the person making what he considers to be a mistake as much as he rails on the mistake.

  13. Ivo says:

    The main problem here is that your link-bait title is not substantiated in any way. You do not explain or argue in any way that someone that is frugal is ‘a loser’, except maybe in that he ‘loses out’, ‘loses possible gains’ and, in a Sheen-kind-of-way ‘is losing’. But that’s entirely different from what’s colloquially called ‘a loser’.

  14. Tim Inman says:

    Provocative title. “Makes you feel like a loser” would have been more accurate, but maybe less of us would have clicked, who knows. There is good practical advice here, but you lost me when you used scented candle and potpourri in the same sentence. (Chuckle Chuckle).

  15. sean rose says:

    for all you dorks out there, i think he’s just saying that you need to maximize locally

  16. John says:

    “I get as much pleasure watching my bank account grow as I do from buying things or taking trips”

    Pleasure from amassing wealth or things is misplaced. It’s a dangerous addiction to nothing. Work on that before you lecture the frugal about being cheap.

  17. In this interpretation of frugality, you are making the same mistake as those who misinterpret the military principle of economy of forces. Economy of forces is not about sparing one’s forces – it is about allocating a minimum of essential combat power to any secondary efforts so that you can concentrate the most of it on the primary effort. As Carl von Clausewitz’s said : “every unnecessary expenditure of time, every unnecessary detour, is a waste of power, and therefore contrary to the principles of strategy”. In the same way, being frugal is not an end in itself – it is the mean for concentrating your investment power on what actually matters. Now you may debate over what matters – but in any case, once you know what matters you must concentrate on that… And therefore be frugal with the rest.

    • AJ Kessler says:

      I agree. That’s a fantastic quote, which helps prove my point, I think: Buying cheap things leads to unnecessary expenditure of time, effort, and brain power. Buying things that work well, even if a bit more expensive, are a net win in the long run.

  18. Anthony says:

    “Total benefit? A hell of a lot more than $10.”

    In general I agreee, but you just aren’t understanding poverty. What if that $10 is the difference between paying rent or not?

    In that case, $10 is worth a hell of a lot more to you than a second f***ing washcloth.

    • John says:

      How many people reading this post in their leisure time or at the office are 10 dollars away from not making rent? He didn’t print this out on paper and stick it around the ghetto.

      “I don’t care if you’re poor, and if you’re reading this you’re not actually poor,”

      • AJ Kessler says:

        Exactly. I don’t belittle the poor or recognize that much of the world can’t provide itself with a stable food supply or clean water.

        But, nearly everyone in this country can scrape together an extra dollar or two for things that dramatically improve their daily quality of life. Of my friends who I would actually consider poor, many still piss away loads of money on things like drinking at bars, which may make them happy immediately, but contribute nothing to long-term comfort or happiness.

  19. Douglas says:

    People who use different definitions of words disagree when talking about each other, news at 11.

    • Ivo says:


      Well, nobody likes being called a loser, because that word has a very specific negative connotation. If you want to argue a point and actually convince anyone, calling those you are trying to convince ‘losers’ is not a very good to achieve that goal, even if you claim to mean something entirely different by ‘loser’. You should realize that how your words are likely to be perceived is independent of your intent.

  20. Rosh says:

    “Little things like these make such a quality of life difference, for almost no money.” – They all add up big time my friend.

    Sleep on the best mattress you can afford, you sit on an excellent chair for work, work on an amazing spec laptop and secondary monitor, buy an awesome kettle, microwave, fridge because you use it every day, buy the best car, buy the best shoes, buy the best socks, buy the best inner garments because you wear them all the time! Then you wont have anything left in the bank!!

    Just treat yourself to 2 of the bests you can afford every year ONLY.

    • AJ Kessler says:

      Very valid point, but where in the article does it say to buy the best of anything? There will always be more expensive purchases to be made and incremental gains to be had, but that doesn’t mean those purchases are better or offer more utility, ease of use, or improvement to quality of life.

  21. Hobostartup says:

    Thank God, I’m frugal. Because I’m also poor and cannot spend money on anything — not even crap. Fortunately, some people give away _used_ stuff which lasts a lifetime.

  22. rob says:

    Some good signal:noise there – thanks.

    Hopefully some of the world’s cheapskates who are not meeting the cost of the crap they buy will read your piece, and some of them might even understand it.

    It’s just the start, though. Our kids and grandchildren will look back at us and think us such fools, as our parents really had little idea how much they were fucking up the planet through their mindless “self expressive” consumerism, whereas we know.


  23. Shawn says:

    The problem anymore is that the price gap between cheap goods and their well designed counterpart is expanding constantly. Just take a look at furniture, cars, homes, appliances, etc. It’s also becoming quite a challenge to even find properly-designed and well built goods at all when it comes to purchasing certain products. The low end is getting lower, but this is probably due to sheer demand and economics of it all.

  24. lassy says:

    There’s no winners or losers, it’s about what works for a person and their perspective of life, and eve that changes over time. I drive a Bentley today for my five minute a day drive to Starbucks. Tomorrow I may just walk, or take the busy. One or the other doesn’t make the person better or worse.

  25. Where a lot of people are missing the point is that this isn’t advocating spending money all the time, it’s saying “When you spend money, spend it right.”

    Don’t buy everything, but when you do buy something, buy something that has longterm value (both monetary and psychological) above the ‘cheap’ version.

  26. Esther says:

    I had an uncle, he was frugal – for all that frugality means.
    Frugality does not only apply to spending, also to charging.
    He charged customers the minimal fee enough to cover his expenses and frugal needs. He died poor. His customers did not appreciate him enough. Everyone else loved him.

  27. Ciup says:

    You’re right, I think you can afford to be frugal only if you have an income high enough to do that. Most of us are not rich enough to afford to buy cheap things.

  28. zack says:

    Buy good underwear and pants (trousers if you’re in the UK) are two things I would add to this list that make a huge difference.

  29. micron_rt says:

    Value is not universal! All you people should learn a little bit of economics. When making acquisitions, you just have to consciously consider each item in a full context. Considering only the price is a handicap. What Mr. Kessler has done here is adding the value in the list of considerations. But that is still not enough! The value vary from person to person. For example for someone the food’s taste is very important, it is affecting the mood, then in a larger context – the life and the ability to do something useful instead of being depressed. For someone else – a less tasteful (and maybe cheaper) food would suffice. Another thing – the needs can be induced (by commercials or something else). My advice – from time to time, assume that you are not thinking clearly then try to wake up and make acknowledgements. Only you can consider if the impact (that that difference) of quality would worth the difference of money! The affordable difference of money is also something that can be deduced only considering the impact on overall finance situation. It’s easy to oversimplify but things aren’t simple, be aware of that!

  30. Excellent post (topic) and (some of the) comments. I especially vote for changing the wording like Sheva suggested above.

    One of the reasons we fall for cheaper alternatives might be in culture and the way one is raised. Of course there is nothing to blame here, but purposely spending less on something that you need appears to have to do with compromising. Well, compromise can be bad if not used wisely i.e. if you end up doing it on things like quality. In the end, for most of us, the numbers have to match so that you could afford things. For them, the key might be in reducing the number of items in the list of things for which “you won’t compromise the quality however it may cost”. Otherwise, who wouldn’t want to have the best tools in everything they do (however less frequently)?

  31. Bjoern says:

    Funny read, especially since I just watched Fight Club a few days ago. Really reminds me of the first minutes of the movie 🙂

  32. Passerby says:

    Also, being frugal doesn’t mean you get to leave bad tips. If you can’t afford to pay for the service in addition to the food, then don’t go out.

    Sub-minimum wage (2.13/hr) + tips – tip share (that’s right, most servers have to share a percentage of their tips with hosts and busboys) = bill money. 15% – 3% tip share = crap.

    It is a rare occasion that people actually get the kind of “bad service” that warrants bad tips. If the service was exceptional, then tipping extra is an optional reward, but normal tips (at least in a restaurant setting) are NOT optional. I’m not even going to say what should happen to people who ever think it’s ok to leave nothing.

  33. Ian says:

    An interesting and obviously proactive blog post. Like many others here I think you’re confusing ‘frugal’ with ‘cheap.’ Although, I don’t make a lot of money I am willing to buy better quality food because it impacts so many areas of your life. However, I don’t go out to restaurants because they are too expensive. So, I am being frugal but not cheap.

    @Passerby – One reason why I don’t go out to restaurants in North America is because of the expectation that you have to tip. I don’t know why restaurants couldn’t just charge the full price for food and service and pay a living wage. Seems to work very well in Japan.

    Never totally understood the mentality of if you can’t afford to tip well you shouldn’t go out. Wouldn’t some tip be better than nothing if I don’t come to your restaurant?

  34. Passerby says:

    Of course some money is better than none, but who wants to scrape the bottom of the barrel?

    To keep my comments relevant, I just wanted to add that cutting back on expenses is great. And understanding that some things are worth the extra money is even better. I just wish people didn’t think that tipping fell into these categories. When you go out to eat you’re not only receiving food, but service as well. They both must be payed for. I agree, wrapping the cost of service into the menu would make things easier. It’s not going to happen, though.

  35. Olivier Beaulieu says:

    Very interesting, you should read Stop acting rich and start living like a real millionaire. It’s a study of the lifestyle of americain millionaires. It turns out that the real millionaire aren’t the ones that drink grey goose and drive BMWs and Mercedes luxury cars. They don’t spend money on “badges of success”, the typical millionaire drink a 15$ wine bottle and drives a toyota. They do, however, spend a lot on shoes, beds, underwears, since those are the small things that really impact your quality of life. Back problems can really ruin your day. Drinking vodka that’s not Greygoose won’t.

    • AJ Kessler says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check this one out! I agree with pretty much everything here. I know many millionaires, from the Greatest generation especially, who drive old Toyotas, live in cheap housing and live very frugally. That’s how they became millionaires. They do, however, spend extra money on the things that immediately and most dramatically impact their comfort.

  36. Olivier Beaulieu says:

    Stop acting rich and start living like a real millionaire, by Dr. Stanley:

    Totally worth it.

  37. John Fiala says:

    Eh, I too dislike your terms. “Frugal” doesn’t mean “spend money on crap”, it means “pay attention to what you’re spending your money on”. Being frugal means realizing that you can make your own instant oatmeal that tastes better than the stuff in the packets for a third of the price, it doesn’t mean buying the cheapest possible packets of oatmeal and having to force the disgusting mess down your throat.

    I agree that people should spend money the best, but your article title doesn’t match reality.

  38. FrojoS says:

    Obviously this article has hit a nerve. Its true, the tone is somewhat rude and I don’t agree with all he says, but I’m happy about the discussions. I’m a cheap bastard and so are most of my friends. But I used to be the cheapest. Hell, in my climbing bum days before Uni, I even got called “cheap bastard” by fellow climbers on the campsite!

    However, I’m changing. More into the direction that the author proposes. This year, I got a Mac. It was almost forced on me by a friend. I always liked Apple products but thought the price/value was just not good enough for a poor student. I think I was wrong. I never want to go back. I would probably clean toilets to afford a Mac if I have to.

    The author touches an important point, especially for aspring entrepreneurs, when he says:
    “Using well designed stuff reinforces the mindset of earning and creating. “Man, the world needs more well designed and well made stuff like this.” “Man, I’m going to earn more so I can have more well designed and well made stuff like this.””
    I couldn’t agree more. How can you get costumers to buy quality from you if you don’t choose quality over price in your daily life? Its hard to build something, that you have no experience with.

    One advantage of buying cheap, though, is that its easier to get rid of them later. Hence, you might feel more freedom and flexibility. However, I’m starting to pay attention to aspects like weight and robustness so I don’t have to leave them behind when I leave. What I really want to get rid of the next time I move is all the cheap stuff. On the other hand, having lots of cheap stuff is a good reservoir for hacks!

    I also agree with the author on “The mental aspect [being cheap] is huge.”
    I’m trying to get rid of this problem, too. In the last month I’ve bought two free Apps [1] on online stores. I just felt they were worth the money. Later, when I learned this was actually true, I checked for the license and was pleased to see they where under GPL and Apache 2.0

    [1] touch.txt for Android ($2) and Brisk ($15) for the Mac

  39. Larry A says:

    I agree with what he is saying maybe not the wording. Essentially, if you value yourself, invest in yourself.

    Don’t be the bad boss to yourself that gives you crap stuff, you deserve a decent computer, chair, desk, monitor, etc. If you really think of yourself as a professional, get professional tools (or at least get yourself past the kiddie stuff).

    It may not mean spending a lot of money, just not buying crap all the time, if you get a lousy printer and you know it you will be back again later buying another lousy printer complaining on how lousy they are. Spend an extra $40 and get something that is not lousy, etc.

    My dad had over the years acquired some good tools, I’m sure in his youth he had bought crap, but as he got older he learned the value of buying something that was well made and big enough for the jobs he was doing. Then again, if you aren’t really sure what you want to be as you grow up, get crap, and then as you feel your way into your career buy the good stuff when your skills need it.

  40. Leo Cabral says:

    After reading your article I think you don’t really understand the essence of frugality. You are being cheap with your vocabulary and definition of your concepts. 🙂 I understand your point of view but just can’t agree with some parts of it.

  41. anon says:

    “Want to feel like you’re bathroom is a spa?”

    It’s “your”, not “you’re”.

  42. bigduke says:

    At least in my mind there is a difference between being frugal, and being cheap. You are describing cheap. Someone who always shops for the lowest price would be cheap. Someone who always shops for the best value would be frugal. Plenty of people pout there by expensive items that last decades, and understand that to be frugal.

    I think a loser is someone who opens up his mouth about a subject that he obviously has not researched…

  43. mack says:

    Oh I get it. Write an article with a controversial and confrontational title to get a lot of views and ad dollars so you can have enough money to stop being a frugal loser! I’m off to go give it a try!

  44. Zeus says:

    Your post deserves a comment.
    “Wonderful Post!!”

  45. akatherder says:

    Please look up the word “frugal” in the dictionary. It does not mean “cheap”. It is closer to the word “economical”.

    Someone who buys crummy plastic shoes at Walmart for $15 and needs a new pair in 6 months is cheap. Someone who buys a $90 pair of leather shoes, then cleans and repairs them so they last for 5 years is frugal. Cheap people buy the cheapest thing. Frugal people weigh price against value.

    All of the examples you gave would lend themselves to an article titled “Being Cheap Makes You A Loser”.

  46. Chase Sechrist says:

    I agree with this.

    I grew up very closely with my grandparents, who were both raised during the great depression. My grandfather found his way out of poverty (monetarily at least), but he never grasped that he could spend more than he needed to get a little luxury. He would fix weedeaters that he found on the side of the road rather than just go buy a new one for $60. Not talking just fuel lines.. like he would rebuild the engines. He’d buy cheap electronic equipment, knowing that it would break, rather than fork out the initial more money to get a higher quality one. And this ideology pretty much went into everything he did. If he could buy cheaper quality, he would. Harbor freight tools over Craftsman, on and on..
    My grandma was kind of the same way. Only bought clothes are thrift shops / garage sales. Picked stuff up off of the side of the road all the time.
    They also chose to live in a poverish area that they had moved into in the 50s. They should have moved out in the 80s, but nobody could convince them that they deserved a better home, even though they definitely could have afforded one (This was Texas, after all!).
    Also, since they lived on the Gulf Coast, they were hit by hurricane rita a few years back, and even though they could have evacuated they chose to stay because my grandfather felt that protecting his junk empire from looters was more important than not being in a hurricane.

    Anyway, if you have money to buy things that will make an obvious impact on your luxury and stress levels, do it. That doesn’t mean go out and buy Louis Vuitton shoes. Granted, the living example I went through was an extreme case of hardheadedness in addition to being too frugal, but man it sure has impacted the way I live now. I buy the $3 nail clippers.

    • AJ Kessler says:

      Yep, much truth to this.

      I spent much of my childhood at garage and estate sales, picking stuff up off the side of the road, etc., and my family wasn’t poor. You can definitely find very high quality stuff very cheaply this way, and afford a level of luxury you couldn’t if you bought new. This also imparts a kind of deal-seeking mentality, which can definitely serve you well in many other areas of life.

      But, the flip side of this, is that its easy to get sucked into the cheap mentality. “I’m not paying $50 for this new tool because I could get it for $20 at a garage sale.” Ok, fine, that’s true, but at a certain point these decisions become self defeating. How much is your time worth? How much is your energy worth? Is it worth it to go scavenge through some stranger’s junk to find a deal, or is your time better spent ordering off Amazon and focusing your attention on what makes you real money? If you’re in college, it’s totally worth it to go dumpster diving. If you’re a professional, it’s probably not.

  47. Jacolyte says:

    I agree. I would much rather have high quality tools that last me forever and I never have to worry about again.

    I work as a software engineer, which means other people are depending on me to do quality work.

    Failures on my part might be catastrophic and result in a lot of financial loss for a lot of people.

    I’m definitely going to spend the extra money when it means making a difference.

    My job requires peace of mind, so whatever I can do to make myself more comfortable and able to think clearly, I will do it.

  48. Craig Lackie says:

    Agreed in full. Wonderful post.

  49. Indigo says:

    I agree with almost all of this article:

    “If you’re reading this, you’re not poor”. Bit of a privileged statement there, the assumption that “if you can be on the internet, you must have internet access and a computer, and therefore you’re not poor.”

    There are libraries and other places where one can go to get on the web for free. Homeless people looking for jobs so they can stop being poor use them, for example. It doesn’t make you not-poor to use free access when and where available.

  50. David Merkel says:

    Profanity has no place in writing.

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  52. I love this post. It reminds me of the classic 1950s book about Winning in Life called “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David J. Schwartz.

    Being Frugal is the best way to become rich, but being Cheap is definitely not. In fact, part of becoming rich involves a certain amount of big thinking.

    Also, congratulations on your excellent use of swearing. Almost all points are better made by adding a little bit of Color. 🙂

  53. greatful says:


  54. Tom says:

    I think the point of this was not be cheap and be frugal. The whole blog should be renamed not being cheap but being frugal…

    I have to agree, apple is very well marketed and overpriced, an iphone is an itouch + a bit of phone, ipad, is a larger iphone. But people think buying a new iphone every year is fine at $400+
    Or that not that fixing windows OS or getting a custom model by the OEM (as said) with the same good hardware is a good idea.
    Apple software might be better, but linux would be better than apple and windows but as andriod has proven you need to keep it updated. But linux can be changed very quickly which is what you want from software quick fixes not waiting for apple or windows to fix problems… My opinion, feel free to disagree.

  55. Anand says:

    How do I *like* this post? Your observation is absolutely true! Spending money well on the little things has, in fact, added a lot of happiness to my life and the overall quality of life for me has drastically improved as a result. We should make wiki-based a list of all the places where its better to go expensive and high quality than cheap.

  56. RJ says:

    I love this post. I recently bought a cordless drill and spent extra money because it fit well in my hand, had an LED light, just generally felt like a cool drill. The result: everytime I reach for it, positive vibes come to me and I want to use it to get stuff done. My old drill was twice the size and had half the battery. Everytime I went for that, there was a small part of me dreading using it.

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  58. Tom Warner says:

    I totally agree with you. Most of the time, when we think we need something, we can wait a little longer for the cash to flow and purchase a quality product that can last a lifetime. On the other hand, it is becoming harder and harder to find good quality products these days.

  59. Dan says:

    I agree, but frugality is not the word you’re looking for.
    Being frugal means being smart about what you buy, not being cheap. And being smart frequently means purchasing quality goods.

  60. attila says:

    The mattress example is bad. In a lot of cases a 700$ matters is just as good as a $3k mattress. A $1K PC is just as good for what you really need it for as a $2.5K PC. A $70K can is just as good as a $16K car. Everything is made to brake. Name brand does not equal quality anymore.

  61. Anon says:

    He didn’t say don’t buy a $700 mattress – he said don’t buy a “$180 piece of crap with no box spring off the back of a truck”.

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  67. larry mcberry says:

    I agree, you’re better off buying good quality items, then cheap items, in the long run the quality product that last the longest is the better by. When you buy cheap products, you’re always replacing all the time.

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  69. bgurrl says:

    There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal. Frugal doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. Do people really not know the difference between the two?

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  75. Justin says:

    $140 Das mechanical keyboard. Best money I ever spent. Beats spending $20 on rubber dome keyboards that are going to feel like garbage after 2-3 years. Not only is it more comfortable (and oh how glorious it is to type on), but I expect that in its lifetime I’ll have paid less for this thing than I would have replacing garbage keyboards every several years.

    To all of the people ready to share stories about how they kept using the same rubber dome keyboard for 10 years: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I spend hundreds of hours each year in front of my computer, and if having the better keyboard makes me even 2% more efficient, it’s paid for itself in time value.

  76. celine says:

    hours each year in front of my computer, and if having the better keyboard makes me even 2% more efficient, it’s paid for itself in time value.

  77. Dave says:

    Being “frugal” isn’t simply “buying the cheapest stuff”.

    It means finding the best *value*, which may mean higher initial cost.

  78. It's me says:

    Nobody brings up the other solution instead of being so frugal or cheap. Make more money! If your only working 40-50 hrs a week just realize how much more you could make and maybe spend less time ranting on the internet about the price of products, and more time working. Get another part time job, it will help your budget grow immediately.

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