Ahh rich people… they conjure up images of living in massive mansions, driving super fast sports cars with armies of paparazzi following them to the blurring flash of cameras (which is why they always have those cool 5000$ sunglasses on) and then they go to massive pool parties where they fill up the swimming pool with expensive champagne and have ice statues that pee vodka (don’t laugh, someone actually did that), before they retire to a gold-framed bed that’s been stuffed with some exotic feathers of an extinct bird or something for added comfort.
And the following morning they get up to eat at the fanciest places and wind up with a tab of 500 dollars just for the juice that had to be made from imported oranges in Tanzania while eating fresh New Zealand eggs that were flown in that very day. Isn’t this the life? Like Weird Al Yankovic’s song this is the life where he describes someone who buys a dozen cars when he’s in the mood and hires someone to chew his food.
But the reality is, while there are many wealthy people with extravagant habits, there are probably more cheap rich people than there are fancy rich people. Because the extravagant types often never get to keep their wealth for too long, while the cheapskates often do.
So, here is a list of 15 of the cheapest rich people and their remarkably cheap habits despite having millions and billions of dollars to their name. We’re going to start with one contemporary wealthy person and one historic person just to spice things up. So come one, come all, commoners of the world, and let’s crank open our Pabst Blue Ribbon beers and McDonald’s burgers as we see what the finer folk do with their cash.
15.WARREN BUFFETT LIVES IN A $31,500 HOME
Warren Buffett is one of the richest people in the world. His name is a household name and is often compared to Bill Gates on the scale of obscene richness. You would think that one of the things that Buffett would have is a “buffet” of houses to live in depending on what mood he is in. Bad pun, I know, but the truth is, despite having a bazillion dollars, Warren Buffett still lives in the same humble home he bought for $31,500 dollars in 1958. Now granted $31,500 in 1958 is around $267,000 in today’s money, but even that isn’t spectacularly expensive by today’s standards. I’m guessing he just loves the idea of home sweet home.
14.CHARLIE CHAPLIN BASICALLY LIVED THE TRAMP LIFE
Charlie Chaplin is everyone’s favourite silent era star (and he’s probably the only one people can mention off-hand. I mean 90% of all silent era movies are gone, sadly), and he was best known for his tramp persona, who was a street-smart individual with a heart of gold… and due to not having money, had to jury-rig almost everything he had.
Despite making over $10,000 per week (almost $220,000 today) in 1916, he rarely carried any cash on himself, and whenever he dined with friends, he always let other people pick up the tab. Marlon Brando called him the biggest penny pincher he had ever seen, and there is even a rumour that Chaplin borrowed movie-set carpenters to build his home in order to save on the cost of hiring actual carpenters. Unfortunately for him, movie-set carpenters generally only build temporary structures, and that’s what they did to his home…resulting in his home being so fragile it fell apart so often it was called the Breakaway House. Either he was a literal Tramp in real life, or his devotion to his craft was unparalleled.
13.MARK ZUCKERBERG DRIVES LOW-END CARS
Look, shopping for cars can be tough. I never owned a car, I’ll be perfectly honest with you. But I have looked into the cheapest cars just to see what I can get for a simple $12,000 dollars. The cars were cool and all, but the thing I noticed was that not a single one of them had an automatic transmission. This made me wonder, just how expensive is an automatic transmission anyway?
But that’s not the point…the point is, Mark Zuckerberg, despite having a net worth of no less than $51.5 billion smackers, drives a $30,000 Volkswagen hatchback with a manual transmission. I don’t know what else he does with his life, but I wonder just what the point of having $51.5 billion dollars is if you don’t follow Weird Al Yankovic’s Song ‘this is the life’ at least once in your lifetime.
12.CARY GRANT MARKED MILK BOTTLES AND CHARGED HOUSEGUESTS
Cary Grant was one of the most famous movie stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age back in the 1930s to the 1950s. While he would go on to be one of the best-paid actors of the era, his childhood of growing up in modest circumstance in England carried over into his life of wealth… and they carried over HARD.
He allegedly marked milk bottles in his fridge to monitor their use, so that if any of his servants ever took a sip, he’d know about it. He charged for autographs and even billed his own houseguests for laundry. He was so cheap that by the end of his career, Time magazine said that he still had almost every dollar he ever made. He was an expensive actor, but a cheap man.
11.CHARLIE ERGEN, CHAIRMAN OF DISH NETWORK, PACKS LUNCH EVERY DAY
Charlie Ergen is the chairman of Dish Network, and while he isn’t too old, his mother did grow up in the depression era of the 1930s, and as such she instilled a lot of frugal habits into her son. Despite having a net worth of $14.4 billion dollars, he claims he does not have a mahogany desk and he insists on packing a brown bag lunch of a sandwich and Gatorade before going to work, and he also shares hotel rooms with colleagues whenever he goes on business trips. He doesn’t just carry this attitude in his daily life, but his business life as well, which is why he seems to really make some good business decisions… or does he? I don’t know. I don’t follow up on the guy.
10.HETTY GREEN, FIRST FEMALE BILLIONAIRE, DIDN’T PAY HER CHILDREN’S MEDICAL BILLS
Hetty Green is not someone you might have heard of, but I personally remember her being featured in a cheap book entitled The World’s Richest Losers or something. Basically she was one of the first ever female billionaires and one of the most legendary cheapskates in the history of New York. Her ride was an old chicken wagon that was barely renovated (remember she got it around the 1890s, cars weren’t really a thing yet) and despite being worth 2 billion dollars she and her family lived in the cheapest tenements possible in New York city… and she fed her children a healthy diet of crackers and not much else (she bought crackers by the barrel to save on costs).
Her stinginess was so legendary that when her son had an injury to his leg, she refused to even have him see a doctor, believing that it would fix itself… it didn’t, and he lost his leg. But he got the last laugh. After she died and her son inherited the money, he became one of the biggest spenders in American history. He bought nothing but the most expensive items and elaborate everything for himself… he even had jewel-studded chamber pots for crying out loud. Chamber pots were stuff you did your business in if you couldn’t go to the bathroom… and they were worth more than some people’s cars today! I guess he really got back at her.
9.AMANCIO ORTEGA, FOUNDER OF ZARA, EATS LUNCH WITH REGULAR EMPLOYEES TO SAVE COSTS
Amancio Ortega is the founder of Zara, the clothing retailer, and apparently doesn’t have to worry about money too much, given his net worth of $71.1 billion dollars. I wonder if he even shops at his own store, since he has a Mark Zuckerberg habit of wearing very simple clothes and basically lives in a simple apartment. He also eats lunch with his employees at the local cafeteria and probably enjoys the simple fare that they have. Of course he does have his own private jet, so it makes me wonder just how frugal he really is at times.
I wonder what position his employees have. I mean if they are low-level workers, then I guess it must be awesome being able to rub elbows with your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss or something. I guess those people would either have to mind their Ps and Qs or have some really kick ass ideas for fashion wear.
8.H.L. HUNT, BILLIONAIRE TYCOON, CUT HIS OWN HAIR
H.L. Hunt was a billionaire oilman who allegedly was the model for J.R. Ewing, the scheming patriarch from the classic TV show Dallas. Unlike his TV inspired character, Hunt was a notorious cheapskate who not only bought the cheapest suits he could find, but also having the same brown-bagged lunch that Charlie Ergen did, and drove an old Plymouth to work, which he was so cheap with that he would often park blocks away from his office to avoid a 50 cent parking fee, and rarely ever tipped.
Of course, while he was stupendously cheap, he also had his indulgences. For one thing, he was alleged to have had no less than three families…one ‘official’ one, and two secret families that never met each other. I think maybe he was so cheap with everything because he wanted to provide for his little harem and children. People tend to be weird at times, especially billionaires.
7.INGVAR KAMPRAD, FOUNDER OF IKEA, FLIES ECONOMY AND USES PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Ingvar Kamprad is the founder of IKEA, and so it makes sense that he would want an inexpensive, uniform lifestyle. I’m writing this article on an IKEA table and sitting on an IKEA office chair, and my bed is from IKEA…OK you get the picture. Anyway, despite a massive $39.3 billion dollar net worth, he loves to fly economy class, uses public transport most of the time, and lives in the cheapest manner possible. With the sole exception of a single spending spree in the 1960s when he wore a few custom-produced suits and drove a Porsche, he has since lived probably so cheap I’m not even sure if his own IKEA furniture is cheap enough for him.
Perhaps the biggest cheapskate thing is when he lived in Switzerland for more than 40 years in order to avoid paying the superbly high Swedish taxes. Though he did return to Sweden where he went back to his old one-story ranch home.
6.JOHN F. KENNEDY SKIMPED ON GROCERIES
John F. Kennedy is someone you probably didn’t expect to be on this list, and he’s probably the only US President to be known for this… and given his reputation as a carefree playboy president, it’s rather surprising. As a young man fresh out of WW2, his father gave him a trust fund of $170 million dollars (in today’s money. Not billions, but still more than most people will ever make), and despite this, he was a massive tightwad. He rarely ever carried any cash, and even as the president, he almost never paid the tab wherever he went, instead preferring to let his friends, tag-alongs, and even his bodyguards pay foot the bill. His wife even had a major argument over simple clothes spending and the White House grocery bill.
Despite being a legendary tightwad, he was paradoxically the most generous president since he actually donated his entire presidential salary to charity. That’s good I guess.
5.AZIM PREMJI, INDIA’S RICHEST TECH TYCOON, DRIVES SECOND HAND CARS
Azim Premji is India’s richest tech tycoon with a net worth of $16.6 billion dollars. He is also has been nickname The Bare-Bones Billionaire by his friends and someone even remarked that he made ‘Scrooge McDuck look like Santa Claus’. I actually resent that, while Uncle Scrooge was a tightwad, he did at least live in a nice house, drive a nice car, and wore nice clothes.
Among his known tightwad habits are driving cheap second hand cars, riding in India’s famous three-wheel auto rickshaws, and keeping tabs on toilet paper usage in his office, where he also reminds people to turn off the lights. Oh and he flies economy, but I’m surprised he doesn’t hire a bunch of swallows to carry him to his destination.
4.ARISTOTLE ONASSIS, GREEK SHIPPING TYCOON, REFUSED TO TIP…EVER
Aristotle Onassis was a Greek shipping tycoon with a net worth of around $500 million dollars in 1970s money. He had a bad start to his life with an uncle being lynched by the Turks in 1922. He eventually learned multiple languages by working as a telephone operator and got into tobacco importing, which made him a millionaire by 1930…and during the depression, he used the crashing prices for ships to buy a fleet of merchant vessels to begin his mega lucrative shipping business.
So after making millions and millions you would think he might loosen up his tightwad habits. Wrong…what he did was become even cheaper towards people. He refused to have any food be thrown away, even admonishing his Yacht crew members for throwing away uneaten spaghetti, and he never, ever tipped. Not only that, but whenever he wanted to go out to nightclubs, he never wore a coat. Why? He didn’t want to pay the 5$ coat check fee.
The irony is, he married JFK’s widow, and she was in a world of hurt when she realized that she went from one tightwad to another cheapskate.
3.JUDY FAULKNER, FOUNDER OF EPIC SYSTEMS, NEVER LET MONEY CHANGE HER Judy Faulkner is the founder of Epic Systems, a healthcare company that sells medical-records software. She got her start in the 70s like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and she ended up becoming quite rich with a net worth of $2.5 billion dollars. Despite her massive wealth, she said that absolutely nothing about her life or her spending habits have ever changed. She has still lived in the same home with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin for over 30 years, and she even pledged to give away half her fortune in 2015 to charity.
I guess she wasn’t really a cheapskate since she doesn’t have any weird habits, but it’s still interesting on how she came into such wealth and still didn’t let anything about it change her. I think she’s actually pretty admirable for that.
2.THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF WINDSOR NEVER PICKED UP THE TAB
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were British Royal Family members. Well at least the Duke was. In 1936, King Edward the VIII gave up the British throne in one of the most notorious chapters of Royal Family history, and he married Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. The result of which he was demoted to the Duke of Windsor. Despite his demotion, he was still Royalty and still a very wealthy individual with a fortune of 80 million to 250 million dollars in today’s money.
But like you have already seen and probably guessed, he and his wife refused to pick up the tab for dinner, and played a game of wills until their guests picked up the tab. Despite having homes all over the world, they travelled in the cheapest possible manner and frequently haggled with ocean liner managers to get them massive discounts for tickets, up to 70% in fact. Despite having so much stinginess, the Duchess did indulge in her habit of expensive clothes and jewelry, often going to as high as $800,000 dollars per year in today’s money. Just how expensive was there dinner checks again?
1.DAVID CHERITON HATES BEING A BILLIONAIRE
David Cheriton is a Stanford professor who invested a lot of money in Google. His investments clearly paid off since he has a net worth of 1.1 billion dollars. Despite his immense wealth, he actually hates the very idea of living like a rich person. He mocked some wealthy people who live in large homes with unnecessary luxuries and he proves that by living in the same modest house he bought in 1981 and he still drives his 1986 Volkswagen. Also, he apparently hates money so much he donated $25 million dollars to the computer science school in The University of Waterloo in 2005… no wait, that’s a good thing. You go, Dave!