The Stigma Of Being Cheap

I’ve been cheap for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories was a struggle with frugality.

I was five years old and had a crisp $5 bill in my dad’s pocket. Burning a whole in mine. He walked with me down the aisles of our local Hart’s department store (dating myself here!) to pick out what I wanted. It was a happy birthday for me.


Jenn circa 1990

I was so excited to spend money. I felt so rich. I was about two shelves high, so I had to crane my neck to really see what I was interested in.

My Little Ponies.

I found a beautiful one within reach. Long flowing mane and tail with a brush. I would make her hair beautiful. It was my mission. I grabbed it and declared my future ownership of said pony: “I WANT IT!” My dad eyed it pensively and informed me that if I wanted that one it would take all of my money. “All of my FIVE dollars?” He nodded slowly.

I know now that it had to have cost more than $5…

I put it back on the shelf. I left that day with five different things, each only $1 each. I was thrilled to have a big bag of goodies instead of just one small thing. That is, until I got home and realized the toy makeup set was entirely plastic and not real makeup. Then I just felt gypped.

My first exercise in frugality wasn’t what I’d call successful. Or maybe it was in the long run. It did lay the ground work for who I’ve become. I was cheap. I’m still cheap. I’ve always been cheap. I love being able to get more for my dollar. The difference is that now I make informed decisions. I can use coupons or sales or patience and ingenuity to get things. Good things. I don’t have plastic makeup or knock offs of the things that we need or want. But in the same breath I don’t have a room devoted to a stock pile of things we don’t need. We have what we need and some extras.

In my frugal journeys, I’ve been confronted with a bit of a stigma. Mostly on words. Specifically the word “cheap.” For some reason beyond my understanding being cheap is deemed as a negative. I just don’t get it.

I looked it up in the dictionary, because while I assumed I knew the meaning of the word, I really wanted to find some underlying hint. Like how I do when I Bible Study. You know, go back to the Hebrew and see what the real meaning of the word is. Well, here’s what I found:

Definition of CHEAP

: bargain

— on the cheap

: at minimum expense : cheaply did the job on the cheap

Yeah, that’s it. I still don’t see anything negative. I only see positives here.

What’s so wrong with being cheap?

It’s like people would rather be known as being any other word. Frugal, bargain hunter, penny pincher, economical, budget, or deal seeking. What’s the point? Why the negative connotation of the word?

I personally don’t see anything negative about me being cheap and saving money. My husband doesn’t, for sure. Especially when I grocery shop or get us free movie tickets 😉 Maybe it’s not about other’s perception that cheap is bad. Maybe their views are founded in jealousy and bitterness. Because, well, to be quite honest, they pay for things I get for free. Or cheap, lol! I guess that could leave a sour taste in the mouth.

But that’s me. I am Jenn. I am cheap. I’m a frugal, bargain hunting, penny pinching, deal seeking kinda girl. And that’s fine. There’s nothing negative or wrong about it. I don’t have a room devoted to a stock pile, just a few shelves in the basement.  My household doesn’t go without. I just wait to get the deals, and then a few extras. I don’t bend or break rules or clear shelves. I don’t buy coupons or any of that extreme kinda thing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that either) No matter what season in life I may be in, I will be cheap. It’s ingrained in me.

My dad is cheap too. I think that’s where I get it from. I remember when we were younger and it was his turn to cook dinner, he would come up with random cheap creations. One of which is a comfort food of mine these days. I call it Dad’s Skillet Dinner. He would slice up potatoes and fry them in a skillet. Then add sliced polish sausage till cooked through and then scramble in some eggs. My mouth is watering now, just thinking about it. Some other meals my dad would make were toasted cheese and tomato soup, fried bologna and mac’n’cheese, chili spaghetti and potato pancakes. Cheap meals that would help stretch the grocery budget and appeal to us hungry kiddos. I never knew he was being cheap or frugal. Now as an adult, I see how cheap my favorite childhood meals were and I appreciate my parent’s ingenuity. It taught me something I couldn’t learn in school

Cheap is not synonymous with bad. No. Paying retail or *gasp* more than retail is bad. Naughty, naughty! Not this girl here. I’m doing good. So get that stigma out of your head 😉 Being cheap is a good thing!

Any of you who are already cheap, welcome to the club!




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  • Nichole
    July 25, 2015 at 10:47 am

    This is great. I love the My Little Pony story because I was that kid as well. What?!? No, that is too much. I can’t use my whole allowance on that. so I would pick a few things instead where my brother would spend the money on the one thing he wanted and he was always happier. A great learning lesson!

    • Jenn
      July 25, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      My siblings were too young for me to glean from them. So I had to learn myself first. lol. I’m glad that my parents allowed me the chance to learn and experience myself.

  • Jess Branham
    July 25, 2015 at 10:40 am

    I love a good deal whether its with coupons, on sale, thrift stores or garage sales. But i agree with how it is often perceived. Great post!

    • Jenn
      July 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you for stopping by, Jess 🙂

  • Lorella
    July 25, 2015 at 9:47 am

    LOL Jenn, this is entirely me in a post and I frankly don’t even know where I got my “cheapness” from! My blog was born out of my need to travel but also to write about the many free events in Miami that include FREE food, music, entertainment, etc etc. I call mine “living on a budget” because of that nasty cheap stigma. Loved this, really cute and 100% relatable. We’re just a few steps ahead when we find those awesome bargains.

    • Jenn
      July 25, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Thanks for reading, Lorella. I’ve often thought that maybe I made the wrong choice in name. But then I just remind myself, if anyone wants to be snide about it, it isn’t really my problem. I love the mindset: you do you, I’ll do me. So here’s to us frugal girls!

  • Christine Smith
    July 25, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I love that you identified the struggle with this word! My dad is cheap and I’ve gotten a lot of his tendencies too…but I somehow prefer the word frugal. Loved this post.

  • Christine
    July 5, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Yes, exactly! Bargain hunting is what I’m trying to teach my kids as well!

    • Jenn
      July 5, 2015 at 9:18 am

      Well done! It’s a good skill to have. I’ve even applied it at work when given a budget. Been able to pull off some great things under budget.

  • blueblanket21
    July 3, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Very refreshing! I couldn’t agree more!

    • Jenn_BecauseImCheap
      July 3, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Thank you for stopping by!

  • Wendy Krueger
    July 2, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    I agree it is the word cheap and how it is perceived. Frugal and bargain hunting make people seem like they are smart and looking for a good deal versus cheap which has more of a negative stigma. Plus you have the word cheapskate. There is no frugalskate or bargainskate 🙂

    • Jenn_BecauseImCheap
      July 3, 2015 at 11:57 am

      Yep, it’s true. I just need to take it in stride. On different occasions, I’m all of the above. Albeit cheap, frugal, thrifty, etc.

  • Jonelle
    July 2, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Love this. I’ve never thought of myself as “cheap” I always just called it smart 😛

    • Jenn
      July 2, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Lol, I think of it as being smart. Just lately I’ve been feeling like people think it’s a dumb move. Or even just a bad choice of words to call myself. But whatever. I’m cheap. It is what it is! 😀

    • Jenn_BecauseImCheap
      July 3, 2015 at 11:58 am

      You know, it kind of makes me want to put a strikethrough on “cheap” and have it say “smart” in big red letters next to it 😉

      • Jonelle
        July 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm

        Cheers to us smart women!!

        • Jenn_BecauseImCheap
          July 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm

          I’ll toast to that!

  • Vic L.
    July 1, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    I think we’re kindred spirits because I included the word cheap in my blog too! I personally prefer the term frugal (which also has a negative stigma) but found that the word Cheap just has a better emphasis in a title.

    I often get made fun of because of my frugal nature. I just brush it off because I know that my frugality allows my family to afford things that matter more to us like vacations, retirement, and living in a home. The people who usually make fun of us are broke. It’s all about putting a value on what’s important in life.

    Great post!

    • Jenn_BecauseImCheap
      July 1, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Ugh I know. Sometimes when I see the tell tale eyebrow raise I just want to call them out on it. But I don’t. I just internalize it. I really need to just turn it into a positive. I mean, if what I’m doing is worth being jealous or “miffed” over, then I must be doing something right. You know what I mean?
      I had a “frugal” blog a few years ago for my wedding planning. I was Frugal Bride (dot) com. I loved that word. But nowadays “because I’m cheap” has become one of my common phrases. So I thought, why not use that now? And so it is. Because I’m cheap!