On Being Called Cheap


A catering co-worker of mine called me cheap the other day. I guess the first time he said it it was to someone else in our catering company. ‘Kara’s too cheap. It’s getting out of control.’

As we all know, I am a fiend for catering leftovers and getting the most out of my side hustles. I unabashedly load up my reusable shopping bag at the end of each event with leftover food, condiments, even the plastic containers that they use to bring sauces or garnishes with. I take it all.

Hearing that someone called me cheap got me wondering though. Am I cheap rather than frugal?

First, let’s consider what the difference between cheap and frugal really is. I’m proud to declare myself frugal but hearing someone call me cheap makes me cringe.

Cheap carries a negative connotation with it. There are a million articles on the difference between cheap and frugal but what is really comes down to is that cheap people are focused on paying the absolute minimum for everything. Even things they value, even on people that they love, even to make their own life better and happier. Cheap people will go without things to save an extra dollar, at their own or other people’s expense. Cheap is stingy.

Frugal is weighing your options before spending your money. It’s doing research to find a good deal or using a coupon to lower costs. It’s investing in a well made item and using it until it falls apart. It’s learning to fix things rather than buy new but understanding that spending money isn’t the end of the world. Frugal people will spend their money and sometimes happily so, if it means more enjoyment in their lives, a show of affection or to provide themselves with something they need.

Personally I consider myself frugal. I’m more than happy to pay for a dinner out for my boyfriend and I occasionally because we love food and we have our favorite restaurants in town. I’m building my professional wardrobe and while thrift stores are my first stop I plan on dropping some serious cash on well made and classic items. I will buy a friend a drink at a bar, no problem. I will always bring a host gift when going to someone’s house. I think it’s disgusting to try and save money at a restaurant by skimping on the tip.

I will also always be big into the catering left overs. The way I see it is that the food is going to be thrown out anyway. I may as well take it and save myself some money. I’m not taking it from the mouths of other people. The extra non food things, like the plastic containers or the coffee creamers- yes I could pass those up. Oftentimes the containers get tossed in the trash too though and I hate to see waste like that.

I know my co-worker didn’t mean to offend me and I’m not mad. I’m glad to have taken this as a chance to reflect actually. Frugal can very easily turn into cheap if you don’t check in with yourself and your values from time to time.

I just also think my co-worker is wrong. I’m not cheap. I’m frugal as heck that’s for sure. I like to capitalize on opportunities that come my way. But I’m not cheap. I don’t try to get blood from a stone. I spend my money wisely and well. And I’m not going to stop taking home the left overs.

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17 Replies to “On Being Called Cheap”

  1. You are definitely not cheap! In fact, you are doing the world a great service by using up perfectly good food that would have otherwise gone to waste. Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and is ruining our planet. This “coworker” of yours is very misguided, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s a fool for not seeing what a great example you are setting.

    1. Thank you! I totally agree and I really hate food waste. So sad to see trays of food dumped in the trash after an event. Taking it all home is my way of trying to fight back a little.

  2. Yes a fine and great distinction to make!

    1. Thanks! I think I’m doing ok. 😉

  3. Sounds a lot like awesomely frugal to me. My partner and I do the exact same. At restaurants (like Panera) or at grocery stores, we grab a handful of condiments (the free ones), and plastic spoons and forks (for lunches). If you do it enough, it adds up. Right now we have a big stash of ketchups and mayonnaise.

    1. I don’t take things from restaurants, just things I know will be trashed at the end of an event. I know many people do as you do. I almost never go out to restaurants in the first place and I actually don’t feel comfortable taking things like that. Those do cost the business money and don’t get thrown out at the end of the day, they stay there until someone needs them. With catering, once an event is over everything has to go, almost nothing can be re-used so it’s me or the trash bin.

    1. Thanks! Will you do me a favor and tag me if you retweet it as well? I appreciate your support!

      1. Oooops! I will get that fixed! Sorry about that!

        1. no worries! Thanks for always being supportive of my articles. 🙂

  4. My Dad stoping eating with his co-workers because they made fun of the fact that he always brought leftovers for lunch instead of buying his lunch from the catering truck. During the war, he was force to go through garbage cans looking for food because he was so hungry. Leftovers never go wasted at my house!

    1. What terrible co-workers! I never understood why people mock that particular frugal trait…it’s cool to see what people can make. Leftovers are a way of life for me 🙂

  5. You’re very welcome! It’s easy to support a talented blogger! ☺

  6. Whenever we have something at work we all split the leftovers among all of us except one person who thinks its disgusting. The rest of us would rather take it home to our families. There is nothing wrong with that. I think there is something wrong with wasting food or throwing it out when you could eat it or maybe you know someone or pass a person in need on the way home. You are not cheap you are frugal. And so am I. Sure that food may only save me a few dollars but that is a few dollars going into my savings or retirement account. People who say its cheap or gross or anything else have never been poor or hungry

    1. That’s what I say- why throw it away? I had leftovers for lunch today in fact! Thanks for reading.

  7. I’m frugal, and I think I can honestly say that all my spending is done happily: I don’t resent any of my money that goes out, because I’ve carefully considered how my expenditures align with my values. That may look “cheap” to people with different values, but I’ve done the work to understand the reasons behind my actions, and it sounds like you have, too. Food Waste is a major problem in our culture, and your coworker’s comment reflects the societal norms that got us into this mess. Keep on rocking your food recovery efforts, and if it benefits your wallet, too, then yay for you!!

    1. Thank you! You sound like you’re at the point I want to be at. Here’s to frugal living!

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