I almost never pay attention to coupons because I don't get newspapers and the stuff that comes in the mail just hits the recycle bin as soon as it can. However, I like bargains like anyone but don't think of myself as cheap either. For me, it's not just the money but the time and effort and product.
I buy 40-roll packs of toilet paper; the quality is good but not of the ultra- soft variety brand names boast about. However, having traveled in Europe (including Eastern Europe at the time) and having experienced various types I have to say any American type is preferable. I also buy oversized packs of paper towels. I buy these crazy sizes because not because they are less expensive overall, though they are and that does matter, but because I hate to shop, I hate to run out of essentials, and I like having a couple of overflowing cabinets of these things.
But for me, "cheapskate" or "bargain hunter" refers to more than money. It's quality of life, however each of us defines that. I am a fan of Amazon where I can get my toothpaste and bar soap less expensively than in the stores--and have it delivered for no shipping cost! A major WOOHOO. I save in more ways than one. But I would never, ever drive around to multiple stores to "save" money. I consider that a complete loss.
I'm right there with you. I like a deal as much as the next person, but my time is worth a lot to me. I do the exact same things with toilet paper and paper towels ("...but because I hate to shop, I hate to run out of essentials, and I like having a couple of overflowing cabinets of these things.")
Generally, we don't eat processed food and the last time I checked a newspaper for coupons, they still weren't giving coupons for things like meat, cheese, produce or milk. These things go on sale or they don't and I try to plan menus around what's on sale, if I can.
My daughter is really into makeup now and is quite an artist at applying it. I've been purchasing cheaper eyeshadow sets for her to practice with, but when it comes to buying foundation and concealer and primer, I spring for quality brands I like. I buy Wet-'n-Wild's lip glosses at $1.68 each (gorgeous colors with a good deal of pigment that feel great on my lips), but it goes over a $10 primer and $8 lip pencil. With my makeup I do weird combos of cheap/pricey. I told my DD that the primers and foundation and mineral veils are what you spend your money on and then the inexpensive colors will look beautiful on top. Kind of like how a cheap paint looks great over the best quality primer or discount carpet performs well on a high-quality underlayment.
As far as clothes, I do a combo of thrift stores for dresses and blouses/skirts and jeans (you can find amazing stuff if you're an odd size) but my 'play clothes' usually come from Gander Mtn. All my Columbia clothes are in excellent condition, some more than 10 years old. My snowboarding pants, $150 ten years ago, look brand-new and now my 14 year old daughter is wearing them! I invested in a lot of Under Armour when I took up running and it looks great, fits great and I can't destroy it. I always snag shorts, running pants or a top on clearance when I can. My DD and I share a Columbia jacket that is a shell/liner combo that retailed for $190 at the beginning of the season and was on clearance for $45 when I bought it. We can't ruin it and we are hard on clothes. Bought it 4 years ago.
I try to be frugal in the sense that I try not to spend money unless I need to, but when I need to, I want to get the best quality I can afford so that it will last. We just spent $300 on a cooler. A cooler, I tell you. The same size in an igloo brand that went for $70. But for what my DH will use it for, it'll need to be replaced every year, whereas the $300 can probably be handed down to my grandkids.
Financial Advice Columnist Liz Pulliam Weston had an article on stinginess. There was a quote from it that I'm not sure is hers or someone else but I thought it quite profound:
Frugality is what you
are willing to do to save money.
Stinginess is what you are willing to do to others
to save money.
My own cheapskate story is about my friends Rick and Dina. Normally when they went out to eat, they'd share a meal, an appetizer and an alcoholic beverage. In the US food portions in a lot of restaurants make this quite doable even if there's a share charge. They always did this.
When we were going out with them we made it clear we were treating them to dinner to thank them for something and you'd have thought they won the lottery. Dina said to Rick, right in front of us, "Order whatever you want, they're paying." They each had a couple of drinks and each ordered the most expensive meals on the menu and each got dessert.
Now, I was unaware that when someone else is paying, it's not out of the norm that they might order for you. We never handled treating someone else that way. But for people so frugal when the bill was on them, to become quite lavish when your friends are paying...it just left a bad taste in my mouth. When someone is treating me I always go inexpensive to middle-of-the-line (and that's after asking them to recommend something). This is on top of the fact that they used to not tip and no one wanted to go out to eat with them so one of our other friends had to sit down with them and explain the importance of tipping. Dina was also the type to 'forget' her wallet...a lot. Throw that all together and they just left the impression of being cheapskates.