Frugal Living 
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Surprising Frugal Tips from Millionaires & Billionaires

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Even if you don’t follow Dave Ramsey, you are likely familiar with his famous mantra, “Live like no one else so later you can LIVE like no one else.” Apparently, Ramsey has taken his words to heart and after paying off a hefty debt many years ago and making his millions advising people how to do the same, he is now living like no one else in his new 13,000+ square foot home.

We often think of millionaires and billionaires building luxury homes like Ramsey and living rock star lives complete with catered meals, servants, outrageous shopping, personal assistance, and private jets, but the shocking fact is that many of them live a frugal life just like you and your fellow Bargaineering readers. Surprised? I was, too.

Yet here are some of the uber-rich and their frugal habits:

Hillary SwankHillary Swank (actress)—No stranger to hard times, Swank lived with her mother in a car before skyrocketing to fame in the movie, Boys Don’t Cry. Still, she admits she can’t resist coupons.  She says, “When you open up the paper and you see those coupons, it looks like dollar bills staring you in the face. . . It’s how I grew up. Why not?” (Kiplinger’s).

Jim C. WaltonJim C. Walton (son of Sam Walton, Wal-mart founder)—Sam Walton was notoriously frugal, and that has rubbed off on his son, who is also worth billions. He has the money to buy most anything he wants, but, according to ABC News, he drives a 15 year old pick up truck.

David CheritonDavid Cheriton (owner of Google stock; introduced Google founders to venture capitalists at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers)—You may have heard stories of John Edwards’ infamous $400 haircuts, but Cheriton, worth billions, saves time and money cutting his own hair. He also bikes where he can, and when he needs to drive, he drives his Honda sedan (ABC News).

Warren BuffettWarren Buffett (billionaire investor)—Buffett lives in the same house he purchased over fifty years ago (1958) for less than $35,000 in Nebraska and has made mention of this fact on numerous occasions. If you want to visit it, it’s at the corner of Farnham & S 55th St in Omaha Nebraska. He claims to love living the simple life in the middle of the nation’s heartland.

T. Boone PickensT. Boone Pickens (oil businessman)—Pickens says he buys three new suits every five years and only owns a total of ten suits (not sure how expensive each suit is… so frugality may be relative!).

He learned his frugality from his grandmother; he states, “She’d always tell me, ‘Don’t ever go any place with money in your pocket looking for something to buy’” (Kiplinger’s).

Sarah Jessica ParkerSarah Jessica Parker (actress)—Parker has appeared on several television shows (most famous of which was Sex in the City) and mentioned that her son wears hand me down clothing from his cousins.

Parker states, “Just because mommy and daddy are rich and famous that doesn’t mean he should ride the gravy train through life… I want James to be normal” (Daily Finance).

Leonardo DiCaprioLeonardo DiCaprio (actor)—DiCaprio is famous for driving his Toyota Prius, the only car he owns. He also avoids private jets, choosing coach instead. He says, “Money is very important to me because it allows me the freedom to choose what I want to do as an actor and most importantly because I want to accumulate enough so that one day I can do something really great and beneficial for other people, for the environment or for children” (Daily Finance).

The next time you scoff at the excesses of the rich and famous, keep in mind that there are plenty of celebrities and millionaires and billionaires still showing financial restraint and growing richer every day because of it.

What other frugal rich people can you think of?

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33 Responses to “Surprising Frugal Tips from Millionaires & Billionaires”

  1. DIY Investor says:

    These are really interesting comments from people who can afford to live much more lavishly. One point I think that gets glossed over is functionality. Do you want a car as a vehicle that gets you from point A to point B or do you want a car to impress people that you have money to burn (even when you don’t)?
    Do you need a different purse with each outfit to impress people or do you have a purse that is purely functional?

  2. I’m surprised that a couple of the people who are in this group are there. It is a wonderful list of comments and beliefs. Thanks for putting it together.

  3. matt says:

    NBA player Kevin Love – Old article, but saved 75% of his huge salary his first year and has upped the percentage since then. talks about reducing monthly bills before the lockout and being prepared for the worst. Smart kid in a league filled with a lot of broke people.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=6405632

  4. Sean says:

    I think that this is also funny, T. Boone Pickens won’t buy a few extra suits but he takes a jet back and forth to Oklahoma State whenever he makes an appearance. And he will fly back home to stay in his own bed instead of staying overnight

  5. Interesting to see the frugal sides of some stars. I bet they have extreme extravagant sides too!

  6. Vane says:

    I was fortunate to meet and converse with Jim Walton. His desk at the Arvest Bank group was an old door on sawhorses and he saves his old calendars (you only need 14 to have a complete set). His dad was the original Every Day Low Cost champion!

  7. Vane says:

    I was fortunate to have met and conversed with Jim Walton. He is a master bargaineer. His desk at the Arvest Bank group was an old door on sawhorses. He saves his old calendars (you only need 14 for a complete set). His dad was teh original Every Day Low Cost cahmpion.

  8. JR says:

    How much of the above quotes are just for public consumption and basically advertising? Methinks this isn’t what it appears…

  9. RL says:

    These people can pick and choose to tell you about a particular frugal habit. What would be more interesting is to see how much money they spend in a year on their total lifestyle.
    DiCaprio’s comments make the most sense to me. But at some point money is only paper if you don’t spend it. Insecurity with wealth is also a problem some people have.

  10. George says:

    Let’s have an article on “How the most STUPID financial decision I ever made. And…how I did NOT go to others to save my bacon!”

  11. Anonymous says:

    every thing is relative i promise you your examples are to. bj

  12. Best frugality tips ever! I most agree with Boone Pickens “Don’t ever go any place with money in your pocket looking for something to buy.” True, I only use cash when I go to the mall or grocery. But I make sure that I have my own list of what to buy and I stick with them.

    When Sarah Jane Parker said, “Just because mommy and daddy are rich and famous that doesn’t mean he should ride the gravy train through life.” I was so impressed. Isn’t it amazing how these millionaires who can afford all the luxuries are actually frugal? Something that many of us never thought.

  13. John says:

    Thanks for the post. It really does come down to priorities when speaking of money. Sure, all of the people listed are very well off, but that does not mean that they have to throw money around either.

  14. Bill Porter says:

    These little tales amount to nothing and have less to do with frugality than with the need of wealthy and famous celebs to prove yet again, by whatever means available, how different they are from us plebes and, again, how special it makes them. Since America has no royalty nor hereditary aristocracy, it’s all and only about their need to make the distinction in the public mind, aided and abetted by a fawning media, between themselves and the despised bourgoisie.

  15. Boiler says:

    I think it would be pretty cool to have Leo sit down next to you in coach. Not quite sure how he could handle 6 hours of stares and questions on a transcontinental flight. Since I never hear stories of Leo in coach and the subsequent interaction with fans and admirers I have to second guess that frugality. However his stated goal is admirable and I personally believe he has grown up to be a classy movie star cut from the old Hollywood cloth.

  16. I love it that Buffet lives in a $35,000 house. That’s awesome!
    Chase

    • jim says:

      It is a lot less awsome than you think because Buffett doesn’t live in a $35,000 house. He lives in a house in Omaha, Nebraska that he purchased for $35,000 in 1958. What would it be worth today? Nowhere near $35,000. I’m guessing between $700,000 and $800,000, maybe less, maybe a lot more.

      Despite what a bunch of know-nothing journalists tell us, house prices have increased greatly over the years. In 1958, $35,000 bought a small (or maybe a large) mansion.

      • Jim says:

        I’ve seen Google Maps images of the house, it’s not a mansion…

        • Melissa says:

          Many people feel the need to move up to a bigger house as they make more, especially if they have a fortune like Buffett. Even considering the appreciation of the home, I find it impressive that he didn’t feel the need to move up.

        • smokey says:

          Yes, Buffets house is more like one of those old barn style houses. Where he lives, his friends would immediately get on his case if he got “uppity”. Midwest values keep him in check. If he lived in Hollywood, the social environment would pull him in the other direction. Much harder to stay sane in Hollywood.

      • Seth says:

        I drove by Buffett’s house last year. It’s not a mansion, but it’s certainly not a small place either. It’s still really impressive that he continues to live there despite being able to buy the whole town.

  17. Mike says:

    The current crop of rich like to pretend to be frugal “every day folks” because they know history and how poorly things often go for the elite once nearly all of a nation’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few dozen Aristocratic families. So while today’s billionaires are richer than any other humans throughout history in relative terms, they mostly do not build fabulous estates and castles or show off their wealth with extravagance. They prefer to live in seclusion, away from the eyes of the common man.

    They are afraid. They should be.

    But don’t be fooled by these silly stories. The rich do what they want, when they want. They are free, while we slave away in the modern day salt mines, our cubicles. Putting in 14 hour days so they can play golf and gallivant around the world on jets.

    Walton’s saw horse desk and pick up truck just reek of absolute terror. It’s like a big sign, “see guys, I’m just like you, please don’t hurt me.” So the neo-feudal aristocratic elite have learned to live discrete, shrouded lives. But rest assured, they aren’t just like you and they aren’t afraid to spend their money living lives you can only imagine.

    • smokey says:

      Mike,there are 2 kinds of rich.

      The really rich have everything they want and are more normal. It doesn’t matter how much money they have, a million or a billion, their needs are frugal to begin with. You’d hardly notice them in a crowd. The majority are this way and do a lot of good for us with their wealth. But the press finds them dull.

      The rich wanna-beez never have enough and are always out to impress. They are out for themselves. These are the ones always trying to grab the spotlight, and the press is happy to make them our “royalty”. How they live, what they wore, what they drive – the shallow stuff. As long as enough shallow people buy into it, they will sell us on it.

  18. therealguyfaux says:

    Nelson Bunker “Bunkie” Hunt, heir to the H.L. Hunt fortune, who tried to corner the silver market in the 70′s, was well-known for driving down-market cars and dressing in polyester jackets, his reasoning being that anyone who knew who he was, he didn’t need to impress, and those who didn’t know who he was wouldn’t try to rob him or kidnap him based on the way he appeared (at the time, J. Paul Getty’s grandson and Patricia Hearst, the newspaper heiress, had been kidnapped).

  19. mark says:

    maybe it’s just me but why would you want to be rich and not have the things you’ve always wanted that you worked hard for? doesn’t make any freaking sense to me. I want to be a and live rich. money is to be enjoyed not hoarded. I guess I get the general idea but I am not working my but off to live like a normal Joe sixpack down the road

    • daenyll says:

      who’s to say they aren’t enjoying things just the way they have them. not everyone has to derive their happiness from having the newest, biggest, most expensive thing.

  20. Last week, I watched the documentary “Lemmy” about Motorhead’s bass player. I wasn’t able to find any sales figures right now, but legendary Motorhead is going strong after 35 years with a world-wide fan base. Lenny lives in a $900 a month apartment in LA because he likes it there.

  21. Irishmike says:

    Most of today’s rich aren’t an aristocratic few, but started life fairly low on the economic ladder. Hard work, innovation and, yes, a little luck enabled them to climb up that ladder. If they spend lavishly, great for them and for the people who supply them goods and services. More importantly, most of them are employers and contribute much to their communities. I’m not rich, don’t want to be rich, but have nothing against those that have earner their wealth–and that is most of the currently rich.

  22. ace carolla says:

    ever watch Extreme Cheapskates? that retired 50+ accountant women that pees in a bottle to save money on flushing the toilet is literally, literally a millionaire.

    literally.


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