I’ll admit that sometimes I’m just cheap, especially when it comes to hotels. First let me clarify that there is definitely a difference between being cheap and being frugal. Frugal means keeping the quality of a product or service in mind and opting for the best price while maintaining a certain standard. Cheap, in contrast, means paying the least amount for something without considering the quality and lowering the standard.

When it comes to selecting hotels, I definitely forgo quality and lower my standard. Case in point: On a recent trip to the San Diego area, I opted for a cheap hotel in San Marcos, which was the perfect location considering we had family staying at a resort in Escondido. Since we were only staying two days, I decided that cheap over nice would be just fine (especially since we’re saving money for a house!) However, when I saw our room, I was quickly reminded that a cheap hotel room borders on sleazy and there’s a threshold of just how cheap you can go before creepy sets in.

The room was incredibly tiny, perhaps 200 square feet if that, with bubbling wall paper setting the mood. The light switches, which at one time were automatic switches, were broken so the bathroom light kept coming on in the middle of the night. Most hotel rooms have a counter outside the bathroom area so two people can get ready at the same time, but not this one. One small sink, without a counter to speak of, was located in the bathroom, which meant we had to take turns getting ready in the morning. All I can say is I’m glad it was only two days.

I’ll confess that this isn’t my first experience with a cheap hotel. A couple of summers ago I had a similar experience and should have learned my lesson, but I just find it hard to pay more than $70 – $80 per night for a hotel room. Our relatives staying at the resort (which was a palace in comparison) invited us to stay with them, but frankly we like our privacy and turned them down. Had our trip been longer, we probably would have taken them up on the offer.

In the future, I might be willing to pay more for a hotel, but this is a hard one for me to justify the cost.

When do you choose cheap over frugal? Is there one product or service that you have trouble paying more for?