7 Things That Make You Look Cheap Without Actually Saving Much Money

There is a huge difference between being frugal, and being cheap. But sometimes, the line gets blurred, and you can damage your good reputation without even saving any money. (See also: Are You Frugal or Cheap?)

Here are seven things that can make you look cheap, and they won't even help you save very much!

1. Buying Low Quality Products

Frugal people want great products for less. But cheap people? They'll only look at the price tag. Case in point; clothing or electronics can range in price from "way too expensive" to "there must be a reason it's so cheap." When you buy the latter, you'll soon find out that the clothing will tear easily, fade quickly, or shrink in the wash. The electronics will malfunction or break quickly. You'll end up having to replace them sooner than you would have if you'd bought a better quality item. The end result — buy cheap, buy twice. And you'll look cheap if you do.

2. Reusing Old Coffee Grounds

It may seem like a great way to save money but it's not; it's a cheap move.

Some people say that if you only remove half of the used grounds from the filter, and top up with fresh ones, you'll get a great pot of coffee for half the price. No, you won't. What you'll get is a weak pot of coffee with an unpleasant aftertaste which you'll end up throwing away. Instead of saving money, you're putting it in the garbage, or at the very least, enduring a nasty cup of coffee. Don't do it.

The same goes for teabags, too. They don't work anywhere near as well the second time around, you'll need to add in a new bag and you're back to square one.

3. Driving a Car That Always Needs Repairs

I know a few people who swear by their "trusty old banger." The trouble is, it's not that trusty. When they pull up in a car that's pouring with smoke, making a clattering sound, and basically begging to go on the scrap heap, they look really cheap.

But this is a false economy.

Instead of buying a sensible new car (and by new, I mean new to them), they insist on driving around in a car that is always in need of new parts, services and attention. And it is often a gas-guzzler that drips oil everywhere and gets terrible gas mileage. This is a cheap move and no mistake about it.

4. Eating Dramatically Expired Food

We all know that expiration dates are usually more like guidelines than strict rules. However, some people, cheap people, take that idea a little too far. Eating food that has gone well past its use by date is not only cheap and nasty, it's dangerous. These people are often spending money on over-the-counter drugs to help with bad stomach pains, nausea, and headaches. They can miss time at work, and miss other important functions; and all because they were too cheap to throw out a sad piece of food that was long past its prime.

5. Ignoring Servers and Attendants

There seems to be this notion that if you ignore people who want something from you, like a tip, then you don't have to pay them as much. There's no rapport, hence, no guilt for lowballing. Well, here's the thing. If you really cannot afford to pay people a healthy tip, you really should question eating out in the first place. But if it's simply the case that you realize you can't afford to put a decent chunk of change down, you can make up for it by being nice. Service staff have tough jobs; if you can make their lives pleasant instead of miserable, you will still be leaving the same tip. Avoiding eye-contact and being cold just makes you look cheap and mean.

And not leaving any kind of tip, ever, may save you some money but it makes you cheaper than Ebenezer Scrooge. Is your soul worth it?

6. Gorging Yourself at "All You Can Eat" Buffets

When I was a student, I was poor. Hey, that's not news, I know. But there was a place in town that offered "all you can eat curry" every Wednesday night for local college students. Needless to say, we starved ourselves all day and ate royally that evening. That, I think, is okay. But doing it now would make me look cheap. Just because a place is "all you can eat." It doesn't mean you should attempt to break a world record. Eat until you're full, and then stop. Shoving every morsel you can down your neck because "I wanna get what I paid for" makes you look really cheap.

7. Taking Advantage of Freebies

While we're on the subject of food, how many times have you seen someone grab handfuls of complimentary mints as they exit a restaurant? Or dozens of packets of ketchup from the burger joint? It's not costing you anything to grab less (well, maybe pennies if you're refilling your ketchup bottle at home… a very, very cheap move), but you look very cheap and nasty by doing it. These products are there to help you enjoy your dining experience, but abusing this privilege reflects very badly on you. Don't do it.

So, do you have any examples from your own life of people being very cheap without saving money in the process? Let us know.

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Terry M

Nice article. It expounds a saying I once read: "Frugal" is saving money for a purpose; "cheap" is saving money at someone else's expense.

Guest's picture

Great post! This 7 things that make you look cheap without actually saving much money is helpful and useful to avoid doing this and to make things right. You should aware of your actions so you will not one of them or at least avoid this. I learned and many great insights here. Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

8) Using cheap, generic laundry and/or dish soap. You end up having to wash the same items again in order to get them clean. And a doctor's visit along with a Rx for the skin reaction costs more than a reliable, non-toxic soap brand.