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Not Born Cheap? Mom and dad didn’t instill it in your formative years? If you aren’t cheap but wish you were, read this primer. And if you’re already cheap, but want to get better at it, read on.
Let’s get started by first defining the word cheap. The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of cheap:
1) Noun: at minimum expense (Middle English before the 12th Century) and
2) Adjective: purchasable below the going price or real value (English – 1509).
Sounds good to me. So when I extend you an invitation to live cheap, all I really want is for you to live your life at the minimum expense by making smart life decisions and by purchasing things below the going price. I’m not out to convince you that you should stop going out to dinner or skip taking vacations for the next 20 years. And I’m certainly not going to advise you to go diving in a dumpster for recyclables or trade in your car for a bus pass.
That’s the pervasive image that has tarnished the reputation of decent cheap people around the world. Hopefully, by the time you’re done with this primer you will have a completely different view of acquiring cheap values. I am talking about living your current lifestyle or better for less money. Think that’s impossible?
Cheap vs. Frugal
How did we get to a world where living cheap was considered negative? If you ask someone if they're cheap, they’ll typically say, “Oh I’m not cheap, I’m just a little bit frugal”. Well frugality has its place, and it’s a lifestyle based on consuming far fewer resources. Being frugal is a good thing, but I’ve seldom meet people that qualify as truly frugal.
People will tell you they’re frugal before driving off in a Ford Expedition. They don’t actually consume less gas, food, or electricity - they’re simply smart enough to not overextend themselves. Most people living cheaply have an element of frugality in them as I do when it comes to electricity usage.
But living cheaply is mainly focused on managing your current lifestyle, at whatever level it may be, at minimum expense. If you decide that you want to live the simple life and leave a small carbon footprint, go for it. It’s going to make it less challenging to live below your means. And that last phrase is an absolute requirement when you’re cheap; you have to live below your means. If you develop a ‘cheap’ ethos, it won’t take you long to get there.
Maybe a little example would help here to clarify the cheap/frugal divide. The average visitor drops about $400 on a one-day family trip to Disneyland. The frugal individual spends nothing because they take their family to their neighborhood park instead. As for the family intent on living cheaply, they take the middle ground by taking the kids to Disney for $200. They shop around and figure a way to enjoy the same exact experience as the ‘$400 visitor’ for half the price. Better yet, they might do a little research and decide to take their family to a more relevant and entertaining amusement park for $150. Again, I am all for frugal and you'll get a dose of that on LiveCheap too, but if you want to emulate the family that opted for the sensible outing, then read on.