Thrifty or Cheap? These 7 Methods for Saving Money Work, But Should You Use Them?

French Fries spilled onto a brown bag.
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During times of high inflation and economic uncertainty, such as those Americans are living through now, it’s important to be thrifty — but being cheap is a different story. While thriftiness is associated with spending the minimum required and being prudent, cheapness is more about spending less no matter the consequences, like buying the cheapest bottle of wine for a party knowing it will likely turn the stomachs of your hosts.

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Let’s explore a number of tried and true methods for saving money, and decide whether they are thrifty or just plain cheap.

Printing Personal Documents at Work/School

Printer ink/toner can cost a fortune and if you can get away with printing personal documents at your place of work or education, you may figure, why not? Trouble is, you’re kind of cheating here. Would your boss or supervisor be upset with you if they found out? Unless they’ve given you the okay to print personal documents at work, it’s best to skip this behavior.

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Sharing Subscription Memberships

Want to watch that hot new show on HBOMax or Netflix and don’t have a subscription — but your friend does? Hitting them up for the password can definitely feel cheap, but in an age where Americans are spending $86 per month on subscription services, according to C + R Research, this is pretty thrifty behavior, so long as your friend doesn’t mind sharing.

Going to Events Just For the Free Food

If you get invited to an event and RSVP “yes” merely because there will be free appetizers and/or drinks, you’re exhibiting financial wisdom. This is thrifty and by all means, keep doing it. Just be sure not to leave a mess for the caterers to clean up.

Pick and Freeze Fruit

If you’ve ever picked fresh fruit and then frozen it for later, congratulations; You are not only thrifty, you are also getting some fresh air.

Use Old Student ID Cards For Student Discounts

It’s tempting to break out that old student ID card for discounts. This is perhaps ill-advised, however. You were funding those discounts through your tuition while an active student — you had your time, now it’s best to let current students enjoy theirs.

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Save Condiments From Restaurants

Restaurants, particularly those that provide takeout, tend to pile on the condiments. You could either leave these behind, or you could take them home with you. It’s thrifty to do the latter. After all, you never know when you (or a guest) will need an extra packet of ketchup, mustard or soy sauce, as opposed to an entire jug of it.

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Cut Back On Showers

Showers are essential but they add up, with each shower costing about 25 cents or 51 cents per day for the whole household, according to the shower cost calculator by Omni. One quick way to solve this costly problem? Take fewer showers! This is not recommended. You may save money, but your hygiene will suffer. Instead, consider getting a water-saving shower head and taking very short showers.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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