The Difference Between Thrifty & Frugal

I’ve always thought I was frugal.

I buy gently used clothes for my children. I look for restaurant coupons before eating out. I decorate my home from clearance items and garage sale finds.
This weekend instead of running my car through the car wash, I powered up the hose. Instead of hiring a carpet cleaner, I got on my hands and knees and let Google guide me to a great stain removal. I served food from my stove 6 days (one day was leftovers) and ate out just once.
But for the first time, I’m left feeling unimpressed with my efforts.
Watching our economy cripple and borrow unthinkable amounts of money from my children’s future, has me rethinking my life. 
Because for me, thrifty isn’t frugal anymore.
There’s nothing wrong with being thrifty, but it is different than being frugal. As a thrifty shopper, I buy cheap things I don’t need. As a frugal shopper, I purchase items I need at a good price.
So, for example when I showed you my window seat makeover, it was thrifty because I did it for a small amount of money and shopped the sales, but being frugal would have said, my window seat is fine just the way it is.
And that’s a little hard for this decor loving girl to swallow. (I’ll still be sharing my thrifty projects with you! I’m taking baby steps.)
But since America is pretty much broke these days, and the value of our money and the security of jobs are uncertain, I’ve noticed my desires are changing and I’m more aware of what I buy.
And at the rate we’re going, I firmly believe our money will lose it’s value and our way of life will change.
I have this deep desire to grow food in a garden and put away jars of jelly.  I want to pay off my house and drive my car until it can’t go another mile. I want to shave off some of the fluff and cut back. 
I’m learning I’m not so frugal after all (although I am happy to be thrifty!)
But I have a plan.
To be continued……..


  1. 1


    I agree. I too am thinking twice before doing lots of things I usually do. I have made our Easter treats this year. Every day I find I am thinking things through instead of impulse buying. Thanks for a great post.

  2. 2


    Yes, yes, yes.

    We’ve always bought what we needed plus a whole lot we didn’t. Things are rough now though. I’ve never had to watch over every penny. I’ve never had to sell things on craigslist just to pay the bills. We just went 2 months with very limited income and it is HARD.

    However, it was NOT hard to write a check for our tithes this morning. The check wasn’t for very much (it almost felt silly to even bother), but as I wrote it and then gave it I was filled with reassurance that we will be taken care of.

    I look forward to reading your plan. =)

  3. 4


    I have a feeling we’re all leaning in the sane frugal direction. A couple positive things from this is that it draws families closer together, and it promotes creativity.

  4. 5


    Can’t wait to hear your plan!

    I do Dave Ramsey, and it has really made a difference, but there is still more that I could be doing!

  5. 8


    We attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University through our church Jan-May 2008. We are SO thankful that we stopped using credit cards and started paying down debt when we did. We’ve had some setbacks, but we are SO far ahead of where we would have been otherwise. I am STILL questioning my motives for purchasing anything other than groceries – and I sure do miss eating out!!!! – but more than every it is necessary right now.
    Looking forward to hearing about your plan!

  6. 9


    I have fallen into that trap, too. Just this weekend I bought some home decor at Kmart just because it was a great deal, and I knew I could use it somewhere. Thanks for bringing the difference of the meaning of these to words to my attention.

  7. 10


    Grace, i like the "sane frugal" direction!

    I so appreciate this post.

    I think that here in the US we have been insane in our spending, & wanting things "now." I have lived where i was picking up pennies from the sidewalk in order to get enough to make a phone call to find work. Hope i never have to go back there.

    I also hope than in being more frugal & utilizing our money more we will be making choices that are good for our earth & healthy for us as well.

    Also looking forward to reading your plan.

  8. 11


    What we are doing now, my parents did when I was a kid. I complained then, my kids complain now.

    But they won’t when we eat the fruits of our labor. Or when we still have a house and others we know are struggling.

  9. 12


    I also say that you should try Dave Ramsey’s program. We have his book, “Total Money Makeover” and it is SO helpful! We’re are on a mission (have been for about 18 months or so?) to get out of debt. It’s been slow-going because we’ve added another member to our family, moved twice, and my hubby worked 40 minutes from home for a year, which was costing us upwards of $400 a month for fuel, but we’re making baby steps. It’s exciting! Looking forward to your second installment!

  10. 14


    I am a new fan, at the perfect time. My husband recently lost his job & I am having a difficult time transitioning into a frugal person. I have tried just being thrifty, but now I know the difference and the importance. I love your tips!

  11. 15


    I am a rare woman – one who hates, hates, hates shopping. I don’t buy unless we need it, mostly because I loathe making the trek to a store, mall or garage sale. But I’m pretty sure this doesn’t make me frugal either, since I don’t often shop for the “best” price because it takes longer. LOL.

  12. 16


    I completely agree with you. I told my hunny we need to plant garden and do all our own yard work. He isn’t sold yet, but a few more nights of watching the news, maybe my idea of moving to a house with a coupla acres won’t be so crazy…. :) I am looking forward to your ideas…

  13. 18


    There is something to be said for living like our grandparents and just making do. Plus, as it turns out, that way of living is very green and healthy. Can’t wait to hear what you come up with.

  14. 20


    Those are great thoughts. As someone that grew up overseas and then came back to the US, it’s been really hard for me to get used to the US standard of living. It’s just that – a standard. Basically, if you live under that standard you are poor, even if you have enough. There’s just little things, like for instance sets of china on your wedding registry. $30 a plate. Yes, you’ll use it, yes it’s good, and there is absolutely nothing WRONG with china. Still, we don’t analyze it, we just accept that it’s something we deserve and should get.

    I am really trying to be intentional about always analyzing my spending habits by people with less than me rather than people with more than me.

  15. 23


    Girl – you are speaking my language. We keep talking about how we can be more self sufficient. Frugal and thrifty are both wonderful qualities…it’s when I head into the “being cheap” realm that I know I have gone overboard…hee hee :)

  16. 24


    I had to quit reading home decorating blogs because I was content with my house until I started reading them. It’s the thorn in my flesh and I had to stop. But I know others don’t struggle with it. We all have our struggles and that’s mine.

    However, I love your “I shopped my house” idea earlier :-) I can do that!!

    About the time I deleted all the home dec blogs from my Reader, I decided it was time to get frugal. Thank you for encouraging us!!!

  17. 27


    This sounds so familiar… I’ve always had “fun” with my thriftiness, shopping sales and thrift stores, *saving so much. But that’s not enough anymore. Now I’m challenging myself to enjoy frugality, and… I’m liking it.
    Yesterday my SIL and I made apple butter (I still can’t believe it, but from fresh apples, all by ourselves) and then canned it. We had so much fun, and were SOOOO proud of ourselves. That’s the basis of the Mother’s Day gifts we’ll be giving this year. Not gifts of financial value, but of real value.
    I just wish we were doing this out of desire, instead of necessity.

  18. 28


    You hit the nail on the head! I was just thinking this the other day. I was thinking to myself (after spending a large amount of money at the thrift store)…wow, I am so good at thrifting…finding all these great things at such a small price…yet why does it seem like lately I have been doing this multiple times a week??? Um…yeah, not so frugal anymore. I am so glad you pointed this out. I need to remember to be more frugal (and really, self controlled) instead of letting my thriftyness be my shopping excuse!
    :) Ashley

  19. 29


    So, do those things! Plant a garden! Can your own food! Get rid of your cell phone!

    We’ve been doing this for a long time now.

    We have one car, and it works well for us.

    We cut hair at home! I even let my husband cut my hair!

    We don’t eat out once a week, or once a month, even. We eat out once a year, when my parents watch our children and give us a little money to go to dinner (which is tomorrow, so I’m really excited!)

    We drink water. Lots of water. Not soda, not juice, etc.–water. From the tap, even. I don’t even have a filter!

    I made my daughter a new dress from fabric that was given to me by a woman who is in her 70s and unable to sew much anymore. You can still do your projects–but use what you have. I know a woman who made her children much needed quilts from fabric that was given to her by older women.

    You can mend your clothing, rather than buying new clothing.

    And you can eat less-expensive foods.

  20. 30


    Great post. I love your thoughts on frugal vs. thrifty. I’ve often thought that going crazy with coupons, for example, means you end up with great deals on stuff you don’t necessarily need.
    I recently read a great book on what it truly means to be frugal: “Money Secrets of the Amish” by Lorilee Craker. She talks about how the Amish have not only survived the recession but managed to keep on saving money during it, and looks at the habits that allow them to do it. She describes her own “Amish money makeover”–using lessons she learned from interviewing frugal Amish folks. One great idea from the book: bartering. You can barter for goods or services you need, without spending any cash. I wrote an article about bartering as well, at

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