Are You Cheap or Frugal? Slickdeals Has the Answer

Our survey shows Americans are smarter with their money and what's viewed as being cheap has changed. 

Advertiser Disclosure: At Slickdeals, we work hard to find the best deals. Some products in our articles are from partners who may provide us with compensation, but this doesn’t change our opinions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left quite a few of us pinching pennies, for obvious reasons — think eating more leftovers, growing vegetables and switching to one-ply toilet paper.

While recent events have left many with a bleak outlook, there is perhaps a silver lining. According to recent research, over half of Americans surveyed credit coronavirus with finally teaching them how to be smarter with their money. In fact, two out of three surveyed said the pandemic has turned them into a frugal person (trust us, it’s a good thing).

This survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Slickdeals asked 2,000 Americans how the pandemic changed their views on money, plus how they define being “cheap” versus being “frugal.”

The study is meant to compare just how things have changed since 2018, the last time this study was conducted.

So What Changed?

For one, more than half of those polled felt very smart with their money (hoorah! Or should we say, cha-ching!). In 2018, only 42% felt very smart with money whereas in 2020, that number jumped to 51%.

Financial savvy affects more than just your individual finances. Those on the dating scene should know that financial habits and mindsets have a huge impact on your love life. In fact, three in four survey respondents reported that the older they get, the more likely they’ll want to continue pursuing someone romantically if that person is smart with their finances.

Get this: two-thirds of those polled said they actually think using a coupon on a first date is completely acceptable. In fact, 45% said they’d happily use a coupon on a first date!

Am I Considered Cheap or Frugal?

Before we get to the meat of it, you’re probably wondering what is the difference between cheap and frugal. Being cheap means you’re totally driven by saving money no matter what, as long as you spend less. It can be easy to see why this might have a negative connotation. In fact, being cheap may not be the best use of your time.

Being frugal on the other hand, means you’re more focused on maximizing the total value of your money, which includes the value of your time. In this sense, you’re prioritizing your spending to make more resources for the important things in life.

In case you’re not convinced: two in three Americans also said they consider being called frugal a compliment.

“The coronavirus pandemic has tragically impacted the financial situations of many people, and brought new focus to the importance of prioritizing spending,” said Josh Meyers, CEO of Slickdeals. “We see a shift toward smarter spending with 65 percent of respondents indicating that the pandemic has transformed them into a frugal person, and 67 percent reporting that being called frugal is actually a compliment.”

Cheap Vs. Frugal Survey Results



Tipping the minimum acceptable amount (15-20%) regardless of service.

Regularly tracking electricity use (switching off lights and appliances when they aren’t in use).

Declining to be a part of buying rounds at the bar.

Regularly tracking the home thermostat (keeping the heat as low as possible).

Calculating your part of a group bill to the exact cent.

Watching movies at home instead of in the theater.

Keeping outdated or worn out electronics, as long as they still barely work.

Shopping at second-hand clothing stores.

Reusing tea bags or coffee filters.

Buying clothes at department stores like Walmart.

Eating food a few days past its expiration date.

Buying off-brand food products.

Lengthening longevity of soap by diluting soap bottles with water.

Buying no-name electronics (such as ear buds from the corner stone.)


Giving up drinking while at bars or restaurants and only having alcohol at home.

Seeking out deals or coupons for all purchases.

Interestingly in 2018, skimping on a tip when dining out was considered by the majority of survey respondents as being frugal. Now, if you’re only tipping the bare minimum regardless of the service you received, it is considered cheap (15%-20%). Perhaps thanking those who provide us with sustenance deserve more?

Other actions that are considered to be cheap is calculating your share of the group bill down to the cent and declining to be part of rounds at a bar. Then there’s your stereotypical cheapskate stuff like regifting, diluting soap containers with water and using very outdated electronics (shh… we won’t tell).

So what about being frugal?

If you’re buying off-brand food products, only seeking deals when you’re shopping and buying no-name electronics, then you’re considered frugal. So is clothes shopping at a secondhand store. Don’t forget those pesky electricity bills — tracking your electricity and heating usage at home to keep the utility bills down is frugal too.

As for when someone becomes frugal, the average American becomes a frugal person at the age of 31 according to the survey, with one in four saying it happened even earlier for them.

Added Meyers, “Being frugal encompasses money, convenience and time, coupled with value. At Slickdeals, we equate frugality with smart shopping and we’ve assembled the largest community of savvy consumers so users can score the best deals on the best products, with insight from millions of real people.”

>>INSIGHTS: How Coronavirus Influences Spending Habits of Americans

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain is a finance and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in places like Bankrate, Business Insider, Redbook, Endless Vacation, LendingTree and Financial Planning Association. She's also the host of Beyond The Dollar, where her and her guests have deep and honest conversations on how money affects your well being. As a lifelong traveler who has lived in five countries so far, she's obsessed with finding the best deals all over the world. In her spare time she likes to garden, practice yoga and hang out with her family.

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