Your first question might be why an article like this is on a barbecue website. That’d be a fair question to ask. Maybe I’ll answer that, but this article is my musings on the differences between being cheap vs frugal, and I’m a frugal SOB.


My opinion about the subject starts with the idea that being cheap means one tries to spend as little money as possible, no matter what. This state of being tends to have significant negative connotations, and is generally looked down upon by most of society.

I used to be a member of the cheap (vs frugal) team. When I was cheap, I refused to spend money on nearly anything. I was made fun of because I preferred very inexpensive restaurants for dates or I would duct tape my bumper because it worked. If I ever needed something, I’d spend hours looking for the lowest price I could find. So if I wasn’t spending my money on this stuff, what was I spending it on? I was investing it. Every spare dollar I had went to investments.

That worked and I thought it was doing well. So why did I leave the cheap camp? Because I learned frugal was better…


Being frugal is all about finding value. All too often you hear about people complaining of “Chinese made crap”. Lets say you need to get a new ______. Most people will run to Amazon or go to the store and get a new _____, but they looked for what was likely the lowest price they could find. That’s cheap, and likely Chinese made crap that you’ll have to replace soon. However, a frugal person would start asking questions like how often they would use it, or how long do they need it to last, what is their customer service like… and then they end up spending a bit more than the cheap person.

In the war of cheap vs frugal, what the frugal person did was balance the need with the future. The frugal person said “well, if I’m going to have to use this for the long term and often, it would be more expensive and inconvenient to have to replace it often or risk it breaking”. This is called finding value, and I learned it is a very important concept. On the flip side, if I only need it once for a rare occasion, I’m going the cheapest route and then I’m throwing it away.

Finding value meant that instead of investing in stocks/bonds, I invested in the quality of my life by ensuring that my money was spent only on quality things. It’s a weird concept, but stick with me… I didn’t just go out and spend money. I was still cheap in that regard and didn’t spend for the sake of spending. But whenever I did spend money, I made sure it was worth it.

Some examples

Since this is a BBQ/Grilling/Smoking/Cooking website, I’ll stick to these examples.

Pots and Pans

The first example of cheap vs frugal is what made me switch camps, and maybe a few of you can relate. I’ve spent most of my adult life going to Target or Walmart and getting the 12 piece nonstick set for less than $100 every few years. You know, the ones where after a month the handles start wiggling, or if you put it over too much heat the Teflon starts to bubble/smoke, or if you cook something in it there are definite hot spots where your fish is over cooked on one side but under cooked on the other? Yeah, those sets. Then I was gifted a Cuisinart Multi-Clad pots and pans set.

Right out of the box the Cuisinart quality was in my face… no wiggle, very heavy walled, kill a zombie kind of pan without breaking it. I hated it at first because I had to do extra to take care of it; more so than the cheap pots… for example every once in awhile I needed Barkeepers Friend (amazing stuff) to remove any staining, and I needed to learn how to use it properly to ensure stuff didn’t stick because there is no Teflon.

That was 6 years ago, and these pots still look brand new despite daily use, and they could easily go another 60 years. Nothing ever sticks and things are a breeze to clean if you are willing to put in a little effort to learn. Just think of how much money I’d be spending still on the cheap stuff? By spending a little more now saves me hundreds later in life on pots and pans. (more to invest than before…)

Smoking Pellets

This one I might get some flack for, but that’s okay. In general, you can go on Amazon and get high quality hardwood pellets shipped to your door for about ~$1/pound at the time of this writing. OR, you can go down to your local Cabela’s and get the off brand for about $0.50/pound. I encourage you to check out the reviews of each… you get what you pay for. Some people have great luck with the cheap off brand pellets; I’m not one of them and neither are many others. I’m a firm believer of garbage in/garbage out… and there is not much worse than walking away from your smoker thinking all is well only to come back to find out your ribs have been sitting there for 3 hours with no heat because there is an auger error… that really sucked.

In Conclusion…

I’m still investing all of my spare money, but I’ve also got a much higher quality of life going on by focusing on quality over quantity by not being cheap, but frugal. I also have more to invest because I’m not spending money repeatedly to replace what I have bought, which was an interesting side effect.

I encourage everyone to evaluate their purchases based on how long you need it for, how often you are going to use it, and ask yourself… if I’m only going to use it once, do I really need it? Balance that question with; Will my quality of life improve if I only spend the money once? It’s a lesson I learned only after I was gifted quality.

Not much about barbecue, but thanks for listening. Happy Q’ing!

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