Sure, billionaires fly private jets, live in massive mansions, dine at the world's finest restaurants and shop at Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton. After all, they're rich. But some of the world's wealthiest people aren't so flashy. They're frugal--for billionaires, at least.
Take John Caudwell, who got his start as an auto-repair shop owner and went on to create a $2.2 billion fortune (when last measured by Forbes in March) by selling his 85% stake in cellphone outfit the Caudwell Group in 2005. An avid sportsman, he used to bike 14 miles to work every day. He cuts his own hair because going to a barber is a waste of time. He buys his clothes off the rack at British retailer Marks & Spencer.
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"I don't need Saville Row suits," he tells Forbes, adding that splurging on extremely pricey bottles of wine is often a waste. "I don't need to spend money to bolster my own esteem."
Caudwell does have his indulgences. He owns both a Ferrari and a Bentley.
Jim C. Walton, the Wal-Mart scion and member of America's richest family, has different taste in vehicles. He inherited his money--and spending habits--from father Sam. Worth $16.4 billion when we valued his fortune for the Forbes 400 list in September, Jim prefers pickup trucks to sports cars. Reportedly, he drives a 15-year-old Dodge Dakota.
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad built a $33 billion fortune selling affordable furniture to the masses. Yet the self-made Swedish tycoon drives a 15-year-old Volvo, flies coach, tries to avoid wearing suits and often eats meals at lower-tier restaurants.
Indian billionaire Azim Premji made his $17.1 billion fortune through tech-services giant Wipro. Despite being one of Asia's richest men, Premji drives a Toyota Corolla, flies coach and stays in company guest houses instead of five-star hotels when traveling on business. He even served food on paper plates at a lunch honoring his son's wedding.
Famously frugal investor Warren Buffett has been making headlines recently for railing against the Bush administration's tax policy and sticking up for the middle class. And he walks the walk: Despite earning $46 million in taxable income last year and boasting a net worth of $57 billion, he lives in the same home he bought for $31,500 nearly 50 years ago.
Stanford professor David Cheriton made his billions by introducing Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to the venture capitalists at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. He was rewarded with a sizable chunk of Google stock.
Canadian Cheriton says he prefers to ride his bike around his Palo Alto, Calif., neighborhood, and relies on an old Volkswagen van or a Honda sedan when he needs to get behind the wheel. He says he only flies commercial, prefers jeans to designer clothes and claims to reuse his teabags. He also cuts his own hair to save time going to a barber. His indulgence: two windsurfers.
When contacted about this story, Cheriton cited the Wikipedia definition of frugality: "The acquiring of and resourceful use of economic goods and services in order to achieve lasting and more fulfilling goals." He says, "That's certainly something I aspire to."