Save. Spend. Splurge.

The Difference between Minimalism, Frugality and Cheapness

What is the difference between minimalism, being frugal and being cheap?

Minimalism is all about priorities with a focus on having only the essentials and owning as little as is (comfortably) possible.

There is a focus on beauty and space as well as practicality because the aesthetics do matter in minimalism.

Money is not a consideration.

Frugality is also about priorities but with the focus on saving money, not necessarily on only having a few things.

Space is not a consideration, as long as the price, quality & functionality balance for getting the most out of the item.

Cheapness is only about focusing on not spending any money for any reason at all to the point of being a parasite.

If something is free, or if someone else foots the bill, they’re all over it.

Only money matters.

Buying a laptop to replace one that died

This is what would go through the minds of each:


Do I need this laptop or can I live without a laptop completely and go to the library instead depending on how often I need it?


Can I repair this dead laptop instead of buying a new one? What would be the cost between repairing it and buying a new one?


Am I able to get a laptop for free, such as asking someone to give me one for free somehow?

You’ve decided to replace it

You decide to replace it and buy a new one rather than using other ways to fulfill the need.


Let’s buy the slimmest, lightest, most unobtrusively portable laptop that is the most aesthetically pleasing so that it takes up little physical space (helps with the ‘de-cluttered’ look and adds to the space).


Let’s buy a laptop that has a balance between price and quality, because a laptop that will last longer and not die after a year will have a better cost-per-use.

Size is not a consideration, could even consider a good desktop computer instead of a laptop if my lifestyle allows it (won’t need to port it around).


Switching to a desktop instead of a laptop.

They’re cheaper, you get lots of parts that you can repair or swap out and I am sure others will be able to scrounge up old parts from their computers to make up half of it for free.

Or I can find these parts in used stores.

That’s the difference between minimalism, frugality and cheapness.


  • Squints

    A couple points:

    1. Minimalism and frugality are not mutually exclusive. While a minimalist would usually take the aesthetics of the item into account (and sometimes confuse aesthetics with quality), a frugal minimalist would consider the lifetime costs, resale value, and durability of the item. A macbook air for me meets both of these standards. I’ve had my air for five years and, for my needs, it’s still like having a new computer. Annual cost so far: ~$250. I’d much rather have that then a new shitty laptop every year or two. I’m still super happy with my purchase. Did I spend more than I might have on a similarly-outfitted PC? Possibly, but it was worth it to me.

    2. Let’s compare apples to apples. A cheap person *buying a laptop* would more likely look for a netbook or a chromebook or a lower-quality off-brand item at BestBuy, and shortly thereafter discover that it doesn’t meet their needs, then they’d have to get something else to replace it in a year (I did this once and really regretted it).

  • Miya

    great points

  • Kandice

    This is spot on.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance

    Interesting example. I consider myself to be frugal. But getting a desktop is also something I’d consider as well.

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