Shortcut Navigation:

The Frugal Habits of Millionaires

The word "millionaire" typically conjures up images of a lavish, jet-setting lifestyle, but behind the scenes, that may not always be the case. Like Warren Buffett, who famously still lives in the relatively modest house in Omaha, Nebraska, that he bought in 1958 for $31,500, many millionaires (and billionaires) live a modest, if not downright frugal lifestyle--a lifestyle that may have helped them become millionaires in the first place.

We've all heard the saying "It takes money to make money." So how can you find extra dollars to save and invest? If you're looking to improve your financial position, consider putting some of these habits into practice.

Cultivate a frugal mindset

Many people equate being frugal with being cheap, but that's not really correct. Being frugal means carefully watching your dollars and not spending more than you need to--a trait many millionaires employ. To help cultivate a frugal mindset, get in the habit of asking yourself this question: "With a little extra effort and/or sacrifice on my part, is there any way I can save money here?" Having a frugal mindset can really help when it comes time to playing the role of American consumer, where temptation is everywhere.

Buy wisely and sparingly

We all need "stuff" now and then; the key is not overdoing it or overpaying for it. Try to buy mostly what you really need, not what you really want. Money you save can then be used to build your savings and investment accounts.

Don't let the price tag of your car, home, or designer suit define your character. For example, a reliable car that safely gets you from Point A to Point B may be completely sufficient for your needs. According to the book The Millionaire Next Door, the top car brand among millionaires is Toyota, not Mercedes or BMW. Even Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook, has been spotted driving an Acura TSX, an entry-level luxury car whose base price is about $30,000. The bottom line? As you move up the net worth ladder, avoid the temptation to elevate your "status" by overspending on luxury goods.

You can be smart about everyday consumer purchases, too. You might be surprised to learn that many millionaires clip coupons, buy in bulk, wait for sales, scour eBay and Craigslist for deals, limit clothing purchases, fly coach, avoid credit cards, and save half their restaurant meal for lunch the next day--habits that can free up cash for the occasional splurge.

Shun debt

Debt is bad. Well, mostly. At times taking on debt is necessary, for example when buying a home or attending college, because without it, many people won't have saved enough money. But generally speaking, you should be leery of taking on debt for things that cause you to live beyond your means. Remember, every dollar you borrow today is a dollar you'll have to pay back tomorrow, with interest.

People who turn a modest financial base into wealth often do so by living frugally, saving regularly, investing wisely, and avoiding debt. By contrast, people who end up in a perpetual cycle of debt are often those who spend and borrow excessively to support an unsustainable lifestyle.

Take action

What do CEOs Tim Cook (Apple), Ursula Burns (Xerox), Robert Iger (Disney), and Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo) have in common? They're all up by 5:00 a.m., hitting the gym, reading, working. As Benjamin Franklin famously quipped: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." And indeed, many millionaires and leaders aren't couch potatoes. They don't sit around waiting for things to happen; they make things happen--by getting up early, working hard, looking for opportunities, constantly educating themselves, taking calculated risks, networking, staying active, and generally trying to improve themselves day in and day out. And with the explosion of information online 24/7, learning new things has never been easier.