Frugal vs. Cheap

Frugal versus Cheap.  What’s the difference?

People sometimes ask me how I view certain things as being “Frugal”.  A recent example is the product review I wrote about my $36 “Rebel” LED flashlight that I carry  with me.  I have had quite a few people ask me why I posted this flashlight on a “Frugal” website, when it was $36.  Some argue that you can purchase an LED flashlight for five bucks.

This leads me to the topic of the day:  Frugal versus Cheap

To me, this is a very simple comparison.  Here is how I view cheap, and frugal:

Cheap:  A cheap buy is something that is low cost, all around.  More times than not, the cheapest price item conincides with cheap quality.  I stay away from most cheap products, because they are simply a waste of money.

Frugal:  A frugal buy is something that you pay a fair price for, and in return, you receive a good quality product.  Buying the best product available typically is not a frugal choice unless it’s on clearance.  Think of frugal as getting the most for a fair price.

I’ll use the flashlight example to illustrate a comparison.  I can go to Harbor Freight, or any number of department or discount stores and pick up an LED flashlight for less than five dollars.  These lights sure do light up, and they generally last a while on a set of batteries.  The downside is almost always lack of durability, reliability, and lens quality.

A flashlight is an important tool, where quality should be considered.  When shopping for a light, I’m going to look for a good deal on a light that will do a GOOD job.  The discount LED lights are not very durable.  There are a lot of cheap pieces and parts that can break and fall off — especially when changing the batteries or adjusting the lens.  Most even allow moisture inside, even in only a light rain.

The Smith & Wesson “Rebel” light that I reviewed is rugged, well-built, and keeps water out.

The discount light is good for lighting up an area up to about 20 feet from me, and it will be marginal brightness at best.  Often, I’m using a flashlight to find something, to perform an important task, or to chase down an escaped animal.  The Smith & Wesson flashlight, running on only two AA batteries, and has a MUCH brighter bream than the cheap competition.  The beam is on par with some of the medium sized MAG lights, but in a much smaller package.  There is really no comparison!

Many of the quality tactical two-”AA” cell lights are $100+, with several ranging upwards of $150.  The Smith & Wesson Rebel comes in at $36 with very similar quality and features to the $150 lights.  Clearly, the S&W Rebel is a Frugal Buy that I can expect to last for years to come!

Hopefully this will help clear up the difference between cheap and frugal.  They are not the same thing, and honestly have little in common.  If you have any comments, or other good examples, please share!

Have a great Thanksgiving!



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