Maybe you think that if you were a Bill Gates-level billionaire, you’d sleep on a golden bed with diamond-studded pillows, dine only on gourmet meals prepared by a personal chef, and wear each article of clothing just once before discarding it. (And maybe he does some of those things — I’ve never actually been invited over, though he lives only 15 minutes from me.)
But delve into biographies of some of the super-rich, and the surprising thing is that many of them don’t live like Richie Rich of comic-book fame. They have the trappings, sure — enormous homes, fancy cars, hired help, private jets. But some of the mega-wealthy still practice thrifty habits. Maybe it’s just common sense, or they’re relying on the saving habits that helped build their bank balance. Here’s a look at some of the ways famous rich people keep their money in their wallets:
Ex-vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar
Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar landed the role of a lifetime at just 18, playing Buffy Summers in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She has also worked as a producer and entrepreneur, co-founding Foodstirs, a foodcrafting brand and e-commerce startup selling baking kits for kids. But the fat Hollywood paychecks never put a stake through her frugality. She told Self Magazine that while she and husband Freddie Prinze Jr. do shop at Whole Foods (nicknamed by some “Whole Paycheck” for its costliness), they are careful about what they buy.
“We shop at Whole Foods, but we ask which fish is on sale,” Gellar told the magazine. “On sale doesn’t mean it’s bad! It probably just means it’s overcaught. And I clip coupons all the time. Why should you pay more for something that someone else is paying less for?”
Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg
When you picture Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, is he wearing a tailor-made suit, an extravagance he could surely afford? Noooo. The Harvard dropout is almost always clad in a gray T-shirt, sometimes spicing it up by also pulling on a black hoodie. It may be a cheaper way to dress, but it also eliminates option paralysis. “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community,” he said in 2014.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett
The Kardashians may roll from mansion to mansion, but billionaire Warren Buffett still lives in the five-bedroom Omaha, Nebraska, home he bought in 1958 for $31,500.
“My life couldn’t be happier,” the Berkshire Hathaway chairman said in 2014. “In fact, it’d be worse if I had six or eight houses. So, I have everything I need to have, and I don’t need any more because it doesn’t make a difference after a point.”
Queen Elizabeth II
Maybe you had a mom who insisted you open birthday gifts carefully and save the wrapping paper for reuse. Was your mom Queen Elizabeth II? The monarch reportedly does just this, even though Buckingham Palace could surely afford to buy a few fresh rolls of gift wrap. “After Christmas, Elizabeth would collect up the wrapping paper and ribbons and would smooth them out to be saved,” author Kate Williams wrote in “Young Elizabeth: The Making of Our Queen,” People magazine reports. “It is a habit that continues to this day.”
And if you’re ever invited to visit the queen at the palace, you’ll notice another thrifty habit your parents perhaps also followed. Don’t leave the lights on when you’re not using them. According to a 2008 Daily Mail report:
The total ethos inside Buckingham Palace is saving money. If you don’t switch off lights in your office when you go to lunch, people will have a quiet word with you about wasting money.
IKEA mogul Ingvar Kamprad
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad is known for his frugality, although he does have numerous homes. Kamprad reportedly flies economy class instead of in a private jet, supposedly swipes salt-and-pepper packets from cafeterias to take home, and instructs employees to use both sides of a piece of paper when they’re working on something written.
Basketball player Kawhi Leonard
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has a $94 million contract, but Sports Illustrated reports that the player panicked when he thought chicken-wing restaurant Wingstop had stopped sending him coupons for free wings (they sent him more). He also spends his summers living in a two-bedroom apartment in San Diego, not a mansion, and often still drives a 1997 Chevy Tahoe he motored around in as a teen. “It runs,” Leonard told SI, “and it’s paid off.”
‘Frozen’ princess Kristen Bell
Anna from “Frozen” seems like she’d be a pretty practical princess, and so too is the actress who voiced her in the 2013 hit Disney movie. Kristen Bell told Conan O’Brien in 2012 that not only is she a fan of coupons, she has a specific favorite. “The best coupon you can get, possibly in the world, is the Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon,” she notes. “Because it’s like 20 percent off, and if you buy a duvet or an air conditioner, you could be saving upwards of $80!” (Bell even admits she might possibly have snuck some of the BB&B coupons out of her neighbors’ mailboxes.)
Wipro billionaire Azim Premji
Fine china can be costly, and breakable, and a pain to wash. Indian billionaire Azim Premji (at left, above), chairman of software importer Wipro, makes headlines for flying coach and driving a Toyota Corolla, but the most interesting thrift anecdote claims that he used paper plates for a luncheon celebrating his son’s wedding. Practical and recyclable!
Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens
It’s long been said that a good way to save money is to stick to a shopping list and avoid being led astray by impulse purchases. And that even holds true for oil magnate T. Boone Pickens, who famously shops with a list that he does not deviate from, and only uses the cash he has on hand, not credit. “I don’t go cheap on anything, but I’m not a shopper,” he told Politico in 2011. “If I want something, I look at it, decide what it is, but it will usually be the best product. I’ve got a pair of loafers that I still wear that I got in 1957.”
Football player Ryan Broyles
Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles might be the poster child for a professional athlete who manages his money like all our parents told us to. Broyles, now a free agent, made millions in his days as a Lion, but spent as if he made only $60,000, MarketWatch reports.
“I want to invest, and I want the investments to provide so I’m financially free,” he said. He drives a paid-for Chevy TrailBlazer, set himself a monthly budget of $5,000, and says he loves to use the budgeting website Mint.com.
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim
Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim has sometimes been ranked above even Bill Gates on the list of the world’s richest people. But he doesn’t live like it. Sounding a lot like Warren Buffett, Slim still resides in the six-bedroom Mexico City home that he’s lived in for over 40 years. He also doesn’t own a yacht or plane, and reportedly prefers home-cooked meals to the fancy restaurant spreads he could certainly afford.
Do you practice the frugal habits of these super-rich folks? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.