Avoid being a Mr. Burns - MoneySense

Avoid being a Mr. Burns

You can be smart with your money without being considered a miser.


In hard economic times, a penny saved is a penny earned becomes a mantra for some households.

As debt chips away at your savings, sometimes you can’t help but morph into an Ebenezer Scrooge.

But there’s a difference between being frugal versus being cheap, according to Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz, whose King Features syndicated column ‘Money Manners’ appears in the Toronto Star.

“Being frugal, like being tight, means being stingy with yourself,” explains Fleming. “Being cheap means failing to spend what a social situation calls for.”

An example of being frugal is when you buy a two-dollar wine for yourself, but being cheap is when you bring a two-dollar wine to a holiday party, Schwarz added.

Unfortunately, it looks like being a cheapskate is common.

A few years ago, the pair conducted a survey and discovered that 49% of respondents admitted they had a family member who was a cheapskate and 42% of respondents admitted they had at least one friend who was a cheapskate.

Louise Fox, owner of the Etiquette Ladies and Protocol Solutions, said being cheap will affect relationships and create resentment if someone is constantly expect you to foot the bill.

Her main advice is “Don’t spend what you don’t have.”

If someone suggests going to an expensive place and you’re on a rigid budget, you need to consider whether you can afford spending money on a drink and whether you’re expected to pick up the tab, she said.

Don’t be afraid to suggest another place or reject the offer because your financial situation is tight, Fox added.

“I think sometimes we get thinking that by telling the truth it’s not right. You can be honest without being disrespectful of other people and just stating the situation as it is,” she said.

As online coupon sites explode in popularity, it’s not considered cheap to use them, Schwarz and Fleming said, but a problem comes to head when one person has a coupon and the other person doesn’t.

Schwarz suggests that if you want to use the coupon, tell your friend where to get one.
The general rule of thumb is to only use the coupon when you plan to share with the other people you’re with, Fleming added.

A situation where it’s inappropriate to use a coupon is when you’re dining with business clients or associates, Fox said.

“I think you have to use some social intelligence. It really depends on the relationship with the other people that you’re with,” she said.

“You have to be the judge of that.”