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Frugal vs. Parsimonious: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 6, 2023
"Frugal" describes someone economical in use or spending, while "Parsimonious" implies extreme reluctance to spend money or use resources.

Key Differences

"Frugal" is a term often used positively to describe individuals who are prudent with their resources, especially money. It encompasses those who avoid waste and unnecessary expenses, prioritizing value and efficiency. On the contrary, "Parsimonious" carries a more negative connotation. It denotes an excessive level of thriftiness, sometimes to the point of stinginess.
While both "Frugal" and "Parsimonious" relate to the careful use of resources, their implications diverge. A "Frugal" person might clip coupons, search for sales, or buy items in bulk to save money. Conversely, someone described as "Parsimonious" might be seen as overly tight-fisted, potentially foregoing even essential or beneficial expenditures to hoard money.
Cultural context also plays a role in the reception of these terms. In societies that value thrift and see it as a virtue, being "Frugal" is commendable. However, even in such contexts, being "Parsimonious" might be frowned upon as it could indicate a lack of generosity or an unhealthy obsession with saving.
In essence, while "Frugal" lauds the wisdom of economical living and conscious consumption, "Parsimonious" warns of the pitfalls of taking such thrift to an extreme. It's the difference between being prudently economical and excessively miserly.

Comparison Chart


Generally positive, prudent.
Negative, overly stingy.

Scope of thriftiness

Economical but balanced.
Extreme thriftiness, often excessively so.


Praises judicious use of resources.
Criticizes stinginess and reluctance to spend.


Wisdom, value-consciousness.
Miserliness, lack of generosity.

Typical behaviors

Buying on sale, avoiding waste.
Avoiding even necessary expenses, hoarding money excessively.

Frugal and Parsimonious Definitions


Avoiding waste.
Being frugal with water can benefit both the environment and your bills.


Grudging allocation of resources.
The parsimonious funding of the project hindered its progress.


Exercising prudence in resource utilization.
His frugal approach to budgeting helped him navigate tough financial times.


Excessively reluctant to spend money.
His parsimonious nature meant he never tipped generously.


Economical in spending or use.
Her frugal habits allowed her to save a substantial amount.


Stingy; miserly.
The parsimonious old man hesitated to replace his worn-out shoes.


Seeking maximum value with minimum expense.
Traveling off-season is a frugal way to enjoy destinations without the hefty price tag.


Displaying extreme economy or thrift.
Her parsimonious habits bordered on deprivation.


Living simply and economically.
Their frugal lifestyle enabled them to retire early.


Excessively sparing or frugal.


Practicing or marked by economy, as in the expenditure of money or the use of material resources.


Accounting for observed data with a relatively simple explanation
The physicist argued that her new theory was more parsimonious than the standard model.


Simple or costing little; meager or inexpensive
A frugal lunch.


Exhibiting parsimony; sparing in the expenditure of money; frugal to excess.


Avoiding unnecessary expenditure either of money or of anything else which is to be used or consumed; avoiding waste.
Frugal advice


Using a minimal number of assumptions, steps, or conjectures.


Economical in the use or appropriation of resources; not wasteful or lavish; wise in the expenditure or application of force, materials, time, etc.; characterized by frugality; sparing; economical; saving; as, a frugal housekeeper; frugal of time.
I oft admireHow Nature, wise and frugal, could commitSuch disproportions.


(sports) Not conceding many goals.


Obtained by, or appropriate to, economy; as, a frugal fortune.


Exhibiting parsimony; sparing in expenditure of money; frugal to excess; penurious; niggardly; stingy.
A prodigal king is nearer a tyrant than a parsimonious.
Extraordinary funds for one campaign may spare us the expense of many years; whereas a long, parsimonious war will drain us of more men and money.


Avoiding waste;
An economical meal
An economical shopper
A frugal farmer
A frugal lunch
A sparing father and a spending son
Sparing in their use of heat and light
Stinting in bestowing gifts
Thrifty because they remember the great Depression
`scotch' is used only informally


Excessively unwilling to spend;
Parsimonious thrift relieved by few generous impulses
Lived in a most penurious manner--denying himself every indulgence


Limited in means or extent.
His parsimonious contributions to charity were puzzling given his wealth.


Is being "Parsimonious" a good quality?

It can be seen negatively, as it suggests excessive thrift and a potential lack of generosity.

Does "Parsimonious" have a negative connotation?

Typically, yes. It implies an excessive reluctance to spend.

Can a "Frugal" person be generous?

Absolutely. Being frugal is about wise spending, not withholding generosity.

Can a "Frugal" lifestyle lead to financial freedom?

Often, yes. Frugal habits can lead to significant savings and financial security.

Can parsimony harm relationships?

Excessive parsimony can be off-putting, potentially straining relationships.

Are "Frugal" and "Parsimonious" synonyms?

While related, "Frugal" is prudently economical, whereas "Parsimonious" implies extreme thrift.

Is "Frugal" a positive term?

Generally, yes. It suggests wise and prudent use of resources.

Why might someone be "Parsimonious"?

Reasons vary; some might fear poverty, while others could simply be habitually stingy.

Is it trendy to be "Frugal"?

In many circles, yes. Conscious consumption and frugality are often lauded.

Do "Parsimonious" individuals enjoy their wealth?

They might accumulate wealth but might not spend it freely or enjoyably.

Is being "Frugal" about being cheap?

No, it's about maximizing value and avoiding waste, not merely spending less.

Is minimalism related to frugality?

While distinct, both value simplicity and conscious decisions about possessions and spending.

Is a "Parsimonious" approach sustainable?

It might lead to savings but can also mean missing out on experiences or straining relationships.

Are there frugal communities?

Yes, many online and offline communities celebrate and share frugal living tips.

Are "Parsimonious" people always wealthy?

Not necessarily. While they might save a lot, wealth accumulation depends on income and other factors.

Is being "Frugal" about deprivation?

No, it's about making wise choices, not depriving oneself.

Can parsimony be a defense mechanism?

For some, extreme thrift might stem from past financial trauma or fears about the future.

Is "Parsimonious" used frequently in daily English?

It's less common than "Frugal" and is often used in formal contexts.

How can one cultivate "Frugal" habits?

Budgeting, mindful spending, and valuing experiences over things can help.

Can businesses be "Frugal" or "Parsimonious"?

Yes, businesses can exhibit both traits in their spending and investment behaviors.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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