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In any endeavor there are of course risks.

In playing the miles game, and pursuing early retirement one such risk is becoming a cheapskate.

Becoming a frugal spendthrift is not a risk at all. It is a positive attribute.

Being frugal in my book can be seen in a similar light as being successful.

Frugality is the art of cutting away all that is unimportant, in order to focus on that which is important.

But being a cheapskate is something else entirely. To be honest I’m not sure what it is. But I know that it’s unsavory.

So why don’t I list some qualities of Frugality before listing some qualities of cheapness?

Lives efficiently
Dislikes wasting
Rarely spends money on extraneous stuff
Occasionally spends money on quality important things
Tips generously
Is always looking for ways to Maximize value
Is focused on investing

Is afraid of spending money, particularly on others.
Feels deprived much of the time
Is more concerned with getting a good deal, than getting a good value
Frequently buys low-priced low quality items because they cheap
Tips poorly
Is focused on avoiding spending not maximizing value

So what’s the difference?

Looking at the lists it occurs to me that there are three main differences.


While frugality is the quality of adding value to one’s life by focusing on the essential, cheapness is unconcerned with value. In fact cheapness is not about adding anything at all, it’s about subtracting cost alone.


Frugality embraces the essential qualities of a good life. Time with loved ones, good (but not necessarily expensive) food, personal and intellectual growth, And good relationships. Treating others well is an important part of this ethos and so generosity follows.

Cheapness is about deprivation. It Is the pure avoidance of expenses, not the embrace of quality. Tipping is a great example of this. If the focus is on spending less, Then avoidable expenses must be avoided, generosity be damned.


The act of investment is a creative act. It means spending money where capital can lead to growth. While Frugality does aim to avoid thoughtless and non-happiness inducing spending, it is all for the purpose of embracing growth. The idea  is to plant seeds where they are most likely to bloom. Not to live in fear of wasting seeds. Simple cost avoidance is not necessarily investment. Investment must involve risk.

The cheapskate spends less money out of fear. Fear of waste, fear of guilt, fear of poverty. This makes investing difficult, for investment involves confronting one’s own fear of losing money.

Hmmm. That seems less than clear.

Perhaps the distinction between frugality and cheapness it’s kind of like that famous quote about pornography? It’s very tough to define it, but when you see it, you’ll know what it is.

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