Is being a cheapskate an insult or a compliment?

Is being a cheapskate an insult or a compliment?

Is being a cheapskate an insult or a compliment?

Is it time to reappropriate the word cheapskate as a badge of pride rather than an insult? That’s only a partially tongue in cheek question (tongue half in cheek). The point is, should we really deem it socially acceptable to make fun of people not wantonly spending?

This was prompted by a post on my Facebook page on Monday morning. I’d written:

The PM was on Daybreak this morning. The best thing I overheard was the illusionists from Britain’s Got Talent walking up to David Cameron and saying, "I voted for you, will you vote for us?"

And one of the early replies was:

He probably doesn’t vote, the cheap skate."

I then had a little banter with the person who posted the comment, suggesting ‘cheapskate’ shouldn’t be used as a term of abuse on the page of a money saving expert. To which she noted, actually she’d never paid to vote either.

But, this moment of fun got me thinking, the use of the terminology "cheap", "tight", "skin flint" or, as was sometimes heard in the playground "jewy" (deeply offensive for its nasty racism as well as the financial element) and the various other iterations, which all prescribe the fact that someone not spending money, or sticking to their resources is a bad or negative thing.

Yet we live in a debt laden society, where people are struggling and actually for many people being restrictive with their spending is the right thing to do.

Of course there are some who are affluent but still skimp in a way that hurts others or themselves, that could rightfully be seen as underspending in a negative way – this is something we explored in the BBC Big Money Test, where one psychological measure of being too miserly is that you hold onto cash for its own sake, rather than seeing it as an enabler to boost your lifestyle.

However, often you still hear the phrase ‘cheapskate’ bandied from those who use money loosely, to others for not following their own profligate manner.

Unfortunately the only counter-phrase I can think of to throw back is the word ‘spendthrift’ and as I’ve written before, many people don’t understand this word (see Spendthrift – do you know what it means?).


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=286800251 Nicki J. Fagan

    I would say Im “savvy” not a “cheapstake”. I think there is a difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=36922896 Kevin Symonds

    I don’t vote on such shows because it’s more like a tax on the stupid.
    The response is wrong as someone wouldbn’t be tight, a skinflint or anything for not voting as voting or not voting might have nothing to do with money. Just common sense ;)

  • Simon White

    Labels such as “cheapskate” and “tight” are not flattering at all

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1418476651 Mad Welsh Mam

    I always describe myself as a money-stretcher. Most people would find it hard to deliberately set fire or rip up a £20, yet when they don’t look for the best deals or be careful with their money, then they may as well do that as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1418476651 Mad Welsh Mam

    I forgot to say that I have to admit, I think of a cheapskate more as someone who may not
    care about the quality just to save a few pennies, rather than someone
    who is money savvy, iyswim.

  • Polly Jackson

    I think there’s a difference between being financially savvy (looking out for deals, not throwing money away on things you don’t need) and being a cheapskate. When I think of a ‘cheapskate’ I think of the person who leaves the pub just before it’s their round after having several drinks bought by others, or who will pick you up something from the shops and instead of calling it a quid will dig around for the receipt and make sure they get the exact £1.07 they paid etc…