Here in Carpenter Country we often sit around and discuss fun subjects like the state of the economy, interest rates and the federal deficit. The other day we got off on a weightier topic. We talked about the difference between frugality and cheapness.
This subject is dear to our hearts because we had a relative who was, shall we say, very careful with her money. According to her, no purchase was worth the price. She weighed each monetary outlay against what the item would have cost in 1920 and what it cost today. Usually present day prices were way too high and the goods much too shoddy.
Another item that missed her shopping list was a credit card. She didn’t have one and she never wanted one. To her, being in debt was the scariest scenario imaginable. Her philosophy was, if you needed something you saved until you had the cash to buy it.
Having grown up in a consumer society, we found such a point of view hard to contemplate. But she deflected our arguments with a small smile, and a phrase she used more and more often as she grew older–a penny saved is a penny earned.
She also liked to tell us her nest egg was our inheritance. We never let on that we knew the money in the bank was her security blanket–and the only thing that made her feel safe and kept her independent.
So was she cheap or frugal?
The dictionary defines cheapness as stingy, miserly, avoiding unnecessary expenditures. Frugality means thrifty. We’ve decided she would have liked to be thought of as cheaply frugal.
Improper syntax, but a good way to be.