A lot of families are facing tighter budgets right now. It’s not just rising gas prices. It’s mortgages they didn’t realize they could afford. It’s jobs lost to downsizing. It’s a tough economy in many places right now.

Times like these make living a more frugal lifestyle not only more appealing, but more necessary for many families.

Frugality is not just about being cheap. In fact, being cheap is one of the traps of trying to be frugal. Choosing things that really aren’t of a reasonable quality can quickly derail your frugal efforts to spend less.

Sometimes the situation is urgent enough that it makes sense to buy flat out cheap. If money’s tight and that’s the only way you’re going to get what you need, what other options are there, really? But when you can afford to spend the extra to buy something that will last, and that’s reasonable to your need, it makes a lot of sense to do so.

You should also figure out what you’re paying for that you aren’t making enough use of. Long distance phone plans, for example. You may have one and not be making enough use out of it, or you can find one that better suits your needs. Go through your phone records to figure out how much you really need. Don’t under buy, but don’t get the biggest plan just because it has the most minutes.

Being organized can also help you to be frugal.

For example, running as many errands as possible on one day can help you to save money on gas. If you do as I do, and try to have that day be on the day you know you can get your best discounts on shopping, you’ll save even more money. My local grocery store has double flyers on Wednesdays, so there are more specials to choose from.

Keeping your home organized means that you will have a better idea as to what you really need to buy when you shop. It can also help to keep things around the house in better condition. And of course being organized can save you tons of time in just looking for something that isn’t where it belongs.

Buying clothing is a great area to remember to be frugal rather than cheap.

Which is better? A $10 shirt from Walmart or one bought from a thrift store? If you’re good at shopping, you can get some amazingly inexpensive clothes from thrift stores that look like new and are higher quality than you would get buying “cheap” elsewhere. You may even pay less. It’s just a matter of finding the right thrift stores for your area. Some carry amazing merchandise at great prices. Others have those gems more rarely.

It can be either frugal or cheap to try to get a better price on some of the things you buy. If you’re making other people miserable about it as you ask for a better price, you’re probably pushing too hard. But there is no harm in asking politely or doing reasonable negotiations.

Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that if it’s impacting people around you negatively, you might be cheap and not frugal. Being frugal can sometimes mean depriving yourself of something. It doesn’t mean causing other people to pay more.