Don’t be Mr. Cheap


Dear Mr. Cheap,

You know exactly who you are so I don’t feel a need to name you. While I know that you think that you are being sly and saving yourself a lot of money, let me say that your true nature shows through loud and clear. This would not be an issue except that you call yourself “frugal” when in fact all you are is “cheap.” In claiming to be something that you are not, you do a great disservice to all of us that are truly frugal. You see, many people have the impression that cheap and frugal are the same thing because of people like you.

Let’s lay it all out from the start. First and foremost, you get on everyone’s nerves to no end because cheap people are annoying. Me saying that you are “annoying” is being quite diplomatic about it and I’m sure that many others would use a few more choice words that can’t be printed in this article. No, they probably don’t say it directly to your face because they actually have some manners, but I assure you that they say plenty about how they feel when you aren’t around.

As an example, when we go out to eat as a group, none of us cares whether we split the bill by the amount each person bought or divide the bill equally among us. What we find extremely annoying is having you immediately grab the bill each time when it comes and deciding which way we will pay that day depending on what is less costly to you. Furthermore, if someone leaves an extra generous tip in their share, that doesn’t mean that just because you have chosen to be in charge that it is acceptable to only leave a 10% tip and pocket the difference.

I wish that I could say it stopped there, but unfortunately your cheapness shines through in many more places. While you complain that you are overweight, this is a direct result of you being cheap. There are many people in the office that are kind enough to bring in cookies, pastries and candy from time to time to share with everyone. This is by no means expected, although the kindness is always appreciated so it’s not an issue that you never do this for others. However, this does not mean that once you have calculated that everyone has had one of these snacks that the rest are yours. In fact, I am probably being generous in assuming that you calculate that far. While it is obvious that you don’t realize it, people don’t bring the snacks so you can replace your meal with them on those days.

In the same vein, when the office manager places free things on the “free for anyone” table, this doesn’t mean that everything given away is exclusively yours. There are others who would enjoy taking home a freebie from time to time, but since you pass by the table every hour on the hour, nobody else has a chance. This alienates you among your office workers and it is another reason why you may feel that nobody here particularly likes you. Another little hint, it could also be a prime factor in why you don’t have any friends which you constantly like to complain about.

But by far the most annoying habit that shows your cheapness through and through is your belief that in the name of saving money that common rules don’t apply to you. Just because the office provides free toilet paper for the bathrooms doesn’t mean that you are free to take it. Not only is it theft (I’m sure that your friends and family will be exceedingly proud of you when your 15 minutes of fame comes to you upon your photo appearing in the local newspaper for being arrested for stealing toilet paper to try and save a buck), it’s a real pain when I’ve finished going to the bathroom to find there is no toilet paper in the stall — or any of the other stalls.

I would probably be willing to forgive these transgressions if I knew you weren’t making a lot of money and money was tight, but the fact that you make more than most of us (and definitely more than I do) only perpetuates our hostility toward you even more.

Being cheap is not a badge of honor that you seem to think it is. What is so pathetic is that you believe that being cheap is saving you money, but in reality it’s just making you look cheap. There is a difference between getting the lowest price and getting the best value for the price. Cheap people always go for the lowest price while frugal people will always look for the best value. This is the fundamental difference that you have failed to master which can be seen in the way you decorate your office and actions you take.

Stop pretending that you are wise with money and nobody but you understands what it takes to save a buck these days. We do and we know a fraud when we see one.

The rest of the office

Image courtesy of Ghostboy

This entry was posted in Frugal, Personal Finance, Retirement, Saving Money, Work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Don’t be Mr. Cheap

  1. delvin says:

    I absolutely despise people like that. They nip pick every little thing and seem to be the ones that complain the most. I’m glad someone finally is willing to call them out on what they are doing.

  2. dlong says:

    You judge people without knowing what their circumstances are. Just because he makes more money than you doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have more payments or obligations than you. It’s easy to pass judgement when you aren’t the one that is having money trouble.

    Your generalization that people that want to save money are cheap is a disservice to all of us that are trying to get our finances in order. Maybe if you had a bit more compassion for those in tough situations, you wouldn’t write crap like this.

  3. shraz says:

    I don’t mind splitting the bill for different price of the meal, I usually don’t like to pay for those few who took extras, like drinks.

  4. kaz says:

    Even if you don’t know someone’s circumstances, there are appropriate ways to act and some of the above mentioned are highly inappropriate even if a person is tight on money in my opinion.

    I wholeheartedly agree that people that are cheap give those that are frugal a bad name.

  5. lowmagnet says:

    There’s someone at our office who does the cheap instead of frugal thing for lunch every week. Loaf of Wonder Bread, Skippy peanut butter and Smuckers jam. Brags about how he paid $5 for lunch for the whole week. Doesn’t realize that he’s a blimp because he’s stuffing himself with high sugar, low quality food.

    Same goes for folks who buy up the Michelina’s or other terrible freezer food and brag about spending $1.10 on lunches. Again, low quality filler food leads to a bad meal.

    And what is up with comment #2 on every article being some troll/flame?

  6. wealthman says:

    Yet another perfect example why it pays to earn more rather than save to the bones. You never hear people complaining when you have more than enough money and you can actually help others out if that is what you choose to do. More people should choose the option to improve their earning power than trying to cut everything down to the point that they are cheap asses.

  7. Nancy says:

    Good post! I don’t think it is judgmental at all. Your financial obligations don’t have a thing to do with taking what is not yours. Saving money is wonderful, but not when it is at someone else’s expense.
    I worked with a man who would take extra donuts, when they were furnished, at a meeting, and put them in his briefcase. He took dozens of napkins, when they were in a dispenser, and took them home from restaurants. He cheated on his mileage forms, so he could get more money than he deserved. When there was an office pot luck, he’d sign up to bring condiments, and then he’d go to a fast food restaurant, and pocket many, many packets of mustard, etc. to bring! Eventually he was fired for stealing from the organization, and when he left, he took the stapler, paper clips, Post-Its, and everything the office provided for use at a desk.
    The man wasn’t frugal he was cheap, and a thief, that no one respected.

  8. dlong says:

    All I’m saying is he is making big assumptions and doesn’t know anything about what is going on in this guy’s life. I wish people would be a little more understanding about these things!

  9. christian says:

    Another article that made me think. Keep up the great work. I’ve enjoyed your writing thus far and hope that you can keep it up.

  10. Mk says:

    Ah, we all have co-workers like this! Our mystery cheap-o used to take others’ lunches from the staff refrigerator. I once brought in a sandwich (with my name written all over the brown bag) and discovered to my horror that it had a couple of bite marks. Too bad HR doesn’t keep dental records!

  11. Financial Goal says:

    I would hate to have people pocket the extra tips and only leave 10%. Also, some people who purchase extra drinks should not make the other people pay for it.

  12. swimgirl says:

    I was invited to dinner at an acquaintance’s house and the napkins they put on the table were from a variety of fast food restaurants. And their paper towels were blue—from a gas station. These people actually said that they thought the gas station deserved to have them take extra paper towels because gas was so expensive. They also made a habit of taking extra ketchup, salt, plastic spoons/forks, paper cups… basically anything that they saw as “free!”

    I can’t stand people who are cheap!!

    But, PEOPLE WHO MAKE WISE CHOICES have my utmost respect!

  13. Jay Gatsby says:

    I agree, there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. My parents passed along a great habit, which some might see as cheap, but I see as being frugal. When I stay in a nice hotel for work, I take the mini shampoo, conditioner and soap each day and put it in my suitcase (while using only one of each for the entire time I stay in the hotel). When I get home, I often have several bottles and bars to take the to gym or on trips where I’m using carry-on luggage. My parents would also keep the extra ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper packets that restaurants would enclose with our take-away orders and put them in the fridge for future road trips (on which we would take our own home-made sandwiches or make from ingredients bought from a grocery store in whatever town we were staying).

    My wife things that I sometimes go a bit overboard with these and other money-saving practices, but I disagree. If I’ve paid for a night in a hotel, that includes the cost of toiletries that are placed in the room by the maid. The same goes for a meal that comes with condiments I don’t use. To each his or her own, but as long as you aren’t blatant about your money-saving tricks, you’re “frugal” and not “cheap” in my book.

  14. Ann says:

    @ dlong
    Fiction is often an effective forum for taking a stance to make points, teach, and expose.

    Mr. Cheap is probably a culmination of several instances and activities and none so specific. Otherwise, this would not be an article on SavingAdvice/ pfadvice, but a letter to an actual person.

    @ Main Post, Does Mr Cheap always carpool but never pay for gas or drive? Buggers always sticking us with the bill.

  15. Miranda says:

    I’ve always thought that value and “least expensive” are two different things. Just because it costs less doesn’t mean you are getting the best value. And, as you say, being cheap is not the same as being frugal.

  16. Debbie Roberts says:

    Good article and amen on how the rest of the workers feel. We have potlucks about once a month and the people who either didn’t bring anything or brought something “easy” usually take a bunch of extra food to take home. By the time late lunch comes around, there’s little food left.

  17. Heather says:

    Wow who are you mad at?!
    What an article, why don’t you vent in a personal diary or something.
    I didn’t learn a thing.

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  20. chaplin says:

    Cheap = taking advantage of others to save a buck. Its greedy and low class. No matter how broke someone is, what their situation is, that is no excuse for stealing from others.

    Unfortunately, cheapness such as this has become a sport, and if someone could explain to me what circumstances it is acceptable, I’ll be happy to listen.

  21. F. Hart says:

    All due respect, dlong, but the type of behavior described here probably doesn’t have anything to do with money trouble. This is about “putting one over” on others and thinking you’re much smarter than the dopes that split the bill evenly. No one is going to put one over on Mr. Cheap! He places no value on relationships, only money. He will never enjoy lunch with friends, only calculate the cost.
    However, I know from my own behavior that worrying about money a lot can put you dangerously close to the cheap camp. I know I talk about the costs of things way too much, because I’m so preoccupied with it.

  22. F. Hart says:

    Re: group checks: at one work lunch, a co-worker ordered a specialty entree (not on the menu, so $$) and an appetizer and I think a cocktail. We all put in money to cover what we had, and guess what? We were way short. It was this person’s $30 lunch that did it. The check had been taken back up so we couldn’t verify who had what, and the gal just sat there, waiting for everyone to cough up another $5. Just amazing gall. Finally we got the waitress to dig up the original check so we could figure it out and she finally had to pay her own share. But very uncomfortable in the meantime. All because she wanted to eat well on her co-workers’ dimes. Wow.
    Re: extra drinks: I have a friend who ALWAYS orders a soda and coffee at meals. Never drinks more than a sip or two of the coffee. I can’t understand the compulsion to be charged $1-$2 for sips, but hey it’s her $$$.

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