Economic or Economical: What’s the deal?

Sometimes there is an economical choice
What to Know

Economical usually means “thrifty” or “operating with little waste” (as in “the store brand is the economical choice”). Economic is typically used in the context of an economy, or to refer to the production of goods and services (as is “she served on the council for economic development”).

shopper inspecting sale prices

This is the behavior of an economical shopper

Economical and economic are closely related, and sometimes have the same meaning. But their overlap does not mean they're the same.

Economical can describe using money or resources carefully, or using them in a thrifty manner.

I have been trying to be more economical when shopping for groceries.

This cereal doesn’t taste very good, but it's the economical option.

Economical can also be used to describe a product that is not expensive to own and use.

The company is making smaller, more economical cars.

Economic can be used in a way that is essentially synonymous with the above meanings of economical, as in “We're looking for a more economic way of doing business.” But more often it means “relating to an economy” or “relating to the process or system by which goods and services are produced, sold, and bought.”

She spent the last three years as the President's chief economic adviser.

The jobs report indicated that the economic forecast was looking better.

They were warned that too much inflation could have a disastrous economic effect."

Remember, if you are referring to something related to the social science of economics, or are writing about the policies of a town, city, or state as they relate to goods and services, the word you want is economic. If you specifically need to describe someone as frugal or thrifty, or, say, to describe the no-name cereal that you buy when money is tight, economical is the better choice.