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Both the words "thrifty" and "stingy" have obviously different meanings - for example, the fictional character Scrooge is stingy, while someone following a budget is thrifty.

Both imply saving money; how could I explain to someone what the difference is between these words, say, in a single sentence?

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Well, one way to explain the difference between two adjectives is to describe contrasting situations where they would be apt - much as you've done in your first paragraph. –  Asad Jul 22 '13 at 4:35
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7 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

It is not exactly the case that they both imply saving money. Thrifty does imply that one tends to save money, by means of careful attention to judiciousness in one's expenditures, particularly by always trying to buy things at the lowest possible cost, but also by keeping an eye on getting the highest possible quality for the given cost. Stingy, on the other hand, means miserly, not generous, tending to hoard one's money, and tending to avoid spending one's money at all, not merely injudiciously. So stingy isn't really saving money in the sense of not spending more than one should, but rather keeping money by just hanging onto it at all costs.

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+1. There's a line crossed somewhere from being thrifty to being stingy, where a stingy person begins to value money more than what it can buy. –  KeithS Jul 22 '13 at 18:52
    
+1 I associate a level of meanness with stingy... thrifty might mean giving a small tip at a restaurant, whereas stingy might mean giving no tip at all. –  fuzzyanalysis Jul 24 '13 at 2:44
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Stingy is pejorative, thrifty is not.

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The correct spelling would be "pejorative", without an "r". –  Asad Jul 22 '13 at 4:51
    
@Asad, Thanks for that. I've been spelling it wrongly for years. –  Brian Hooper Jul 22 '13 at 7:39
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One can be stingy and not be thrifty, vice versa.

An employer could stinge on the wages they pay their employees, but that might be because they are not thrifty on the splurging on ineffective investments and pet projects.

An employer who manages their project well and are thrifty to eradicate unnecessary and ineffective expenses, can afford not to stinge on the wages they pay.

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Stingy is not wanting to spend money at all, while thrifty is only wanting to spend the absolute minimum needed for something.

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Thrifty

You watch your money carefully;

Stingy

You watch it too carefully.

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There is more nastiness associated with stingy, I agree. –  fuzzyanalysis Jul 24 '13 at 2:45
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At its core, the difference is in the individual's inherent value of money as compared to material goods.

Someone who is "thrifty" values money, but not more than what it can buy. A thrifty person is smart about money, and is frugal, but not to the point of undue sacrifice. Such a person may, for instance, purchase a generic or store brand of food that is similar in taste and nutrition to a name brand. They may be more apt to spend time than money by undertaking "do it yourself" projects around the home.

Someone who is "stingy" values money itself more than what it can buy, and seeks to save money in ways that are socially or morally unacceptable, or that induce undue hardship on themselves or others. A stingy person may tip poorly or even not at all at a restaurant, or may insist on using an inferior or even unsafe product or amount of same in a situation, because it is cheaper than using the proper amount of a more effective or safer product.

The distinction is almost always in the eye of the beholder, and there can be significant differences in viewpoint. A person who saves plastic food containers - such as for ice cream or margarine - to reuse around the home may be viewed as thrifty by one observer but stingy by another.

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From my understanding: Thrifty is someone who doesn't have a lot of money, so he tries to save up by buying cheap and(or) second hand things, whereas stingy is someone who has money but isn't willing to spend them.

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-1 Thrifty does not imply being poor. You can be thrifty with your money even if you have a lot - it merely reflects how 'well' you spend it. –  TrevorD Jul 22 '13 at 12:36
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