Picture life in Hollywood. Chances are, you just conjured up images of multi-million dollar cars, private jets, glamorous mansions, and designer clothes—and many celebrities choose that sort of luxurious lifestyle.
For some, however, frugality has its perks. Sure, you might make several million dollars from a starring role in a summer blockbuster, but why spend all that money at once? For that matter, why spend any of it?
We looked into the frugal habits of a few movie stars, comedians, and investors. Adopt a few of these stars’ habits, and you might find yourself on your way to a more comfortable financial life (even if you’re not getting that multi-million dollar car anytime soon).
Hugh Grant was his own agent (and faked an accent).
If you’re an in-demand actor, an experienced talent agent can help you get a fair salary for those once-in-a-lifetime roles. However, agents aren’t cheap—they typically receive 10-20 percent of the artist’s earnings, which can be a sizable amount for a blockbuster project.
For actor Hugh Grant, however, there was another option.
“I’ve never been very good about being agented, or with agents, and I fired them left, right, and center,” he told Graham Norton.
“I did … invent an agent for three or four years, called James Havilli, which was very—it saved a lot of money. People would send me a script, and James Havilli would say, ‘Thank you so much for submitting the script, I’ll give it to Hugh as soon as possible and get back to you.’”
“But I got caught out, in the end,” he continued. “…I’d [write], ‘Hugh’s read the script, and he’s really enjoyed it, and he’d like to meet up. Best wishes, Hugh.’”
He also ran into trouble when studios called Havilli to discuss projects.
“Then they rang, one time, and I thought, ‘I haven’t got a voice for James Havilli,’” Grant said. “And for some reason, I panicked, and I went with [the voice of a] genteel Edinborough old lady.”
Since then, Grant has gone back to more traditional representation. Sure, he’s not saving money on the commission, but he doesn’t have to adopt a terrible fake accent—or, at least, not unless he’s in front of a camera.
Warren Buffett took Bill Gates to McDonald’s…and things got weird.
With a net worth of nearly $85 billion, Warren Buffett is one of the world’s most successful investors. However, the 88-year-old didn’t amass his incredible fortune by indulging in luxury.
For starters, he still lives in the modest (but nice) house he purchased in the 1950s. That property has yielded a nice return for Buffett, as he purchased it for $31,500—today, it’s worth about $652,000. He also prefers to drive economy cars, and he doesn’t purchase new vehicles often. When possible, he chooses hail-damaged cars to avoid overspending.
Came to Omaha. Went to Warren Buffet's house. pic.twitter.com/VStZY6N43x
— Jeff Simon (@jjsimonCNN) August 30, 2014
“You’ve got to understand, he keeps cars until I tell him, ‘This is getting embarrassing—time for a new car,’” his daughter said in a BBC documentary.
His frugality doesn’t end there. In 2017, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, wrote an open letter to Buffett in which they recalled a trip to…McDonald’s.
“Remember the laugh we had when we traveled together to Hong Kong and decided to get lunch at McDonald’s?” Bill wrote. “You offered to pay, dug into your pocket, and pulled out…coupons! Melinda just found this photo of me and ‘the big spender.’ It reminded us how much you value a good deal.”
— 1075 The River (@1075theriver) February 20, 2017
However, as the letter noted, Buffett has no qualms about spending on charities. The investor gave the Gates Foundation roughly $24.5 billion, which Bill described as the single largest gift “anyone gave anybody for anything.”
To date, the Gates Foundation has saved an estimated 122 million lives, and Buffett has played a significant role. That’s quite the return on investment.
As of 2016, Jay Leno hadn’t spent a cent of his Tonight Show salary.
There are perks to being a late-night talk show superstar. Chief among them, you’d think, would be the enormous paycheck. Just ask Jay Leno. Even after a significant pay cut in 2012, he was still banking $15 million per year, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The operative word there is “banking.”
“When I got The Tonight Show, I always made sure I did 150 [comedy] gigs a year so I never had to touch the principal,” he told CNBC in 2016. “I’ve never touched a dime of my Tonight Show money. Ever.”
This habit of frugality followed Leno from his early days eking out a living at a car dealership, doing stand-up comedy on the side. He lived on his comedy and saved his day-job profits. As his day job and his night job swapped places, in terms of income, he started spending the dealership wage and banking his (much higher) comedy windfall.
— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) October 25, 2012
Leno retired from his high-paying late-night spot for good in 2014, so hopefully he’s starting to spend some of that money he’s saved up. He’s certainly earned it—and that’s an important lesson about frugality. Live on the cheap today, and you won’t have to struggle tomorrow.
Jennifer Lawrence lived with her parents while filming The Hunger Games.
It’s hard to believe that Oscar-winning actor and dream bestie Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t live wherever she wants. Even when her career was heating up with the iconic role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games trilogy, though, she apparently preferred the comforts of home…her parents’ home, that is.
“Ten million dollars and I’m still living in my parents’ condo,” she told reporter Maggie Coughlan in 2012. “I’ve always lived in a tiny rat-infested apartment in New York or a little condo in L.A., or a normal house in Kentucky. I think it would be very bizarre to live in a big mansion by myself.”
Of course, that was then. As of 2016, Lawrence reportedly moved into an $8 million mansion in Los Angeles, right alongside fellow celebs like Mila Kunis and Cameron Diaz. But with her 2019 engagement to art dealer Cooke Maroney, her earlier statement still stands. She won’t live in a big mansion by herself. She’ll have Maroney by her side.
Whatever she does, though, Lawrence is still the down-to-earth celebrity we’d most like to take to lunch…somewhere affordable, preferably. That shouldn’t be a problem. We hear she likes McDonald’s. Maybe she could ask Buffett for some of his coupons.
Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard had a…modest wedding.
Celebrity weddings are often massive affairs. When George and Amal Clooney tied the knot, they spent a reported $4.6 million, including $250,000 on Munaretto flowers. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West spent about $2.8 million, including $6,685 on their seven-foot-tall cake.
Actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard went another direction: They spent a grand total of $142 on their nuptials.
“We got married in a tiny room in the Beverly Hills courthouse, and it was still one of the best days of my life,” Bell said of their 2013 wedding.
“We went to the Beverly Hills courthouse, and all in, with fuel to get there, $142 out the door,” Shepard told Jimmy Kimmel.
“Friends of ours came to the courthouse, and it was just Kristen and I at this lonely courthouse, so they brought us this cake afterwards [that read] ‘World’s Worst Wedding.’ How many people can say they threw ‘The World’s Worst Wedding?’”
The couple takes a practical approach to their marriage, and maybe that’s why they’re still together six years later—they understand that relationships take effort, and they seem to share important values. They say that they rarely have “date nights,” preferring instead to spend time at home with their children.
“We’re behind on laundry, our house is a mess, there’s dog hair that we’re trying to constantly Swiffer,” Bell told Parade. “…This [relationship] isn’t a special fairytale.”
Don't forget Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard pic.twitter.com/bDCpyoz5hu
— 𝒂𝒎𝒊𝒓𝒆𝒚👽 | ✨🦋 (@cosmicbensolo) August 13, 2019
“This is two people who worked really hard,” added Shepard. “It’s attainable for you if you work really hard in your marriage, too.”
Dave Grohl avoids spending money on frivolous items (with a few exceptions).
The Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer says that he avoids spending money—or even thinking about it. That’s largely due to an experience he had as a child: His mother, a public school teacher, suffered a stroke while preparing her taxes.
“I remember coming back to the house that night, alone with my sister and looking at the piece of paper she was writing to the IRS on as she started to have her stroke,” he told The Guardian. “And it left this indelible mark on me that was ‘Money will kill you,’ that people spend their lives dying inside because of money.”
His mother survived the stroke, but the event gave Grohl an apprehensive attitude toward spending. He didn’t own a credit card until his years with Nirvana, and he spent sparingly (reportedly using the card for a dinner at Benihana).
So, what does he do with his cash?
“It goes straight into my bank account, where it turns all moldy and smelly,” Grohl said. “I don’t waste my time thinking about how I could make more when I already got enough. I’m not a banker, I’m a musician.”
“I drive a family car—not a monster SUV, but a family car that fits five people,” he says. “I’ve got a house that is just big enough, too.”
Granted, he does own a $140,000 Tesla, which he acknowledges is impractical.
“It really is the stupidest thing,” he told Rolling Stone.
He also spent heavily on his music production studio, which is modeled after the studio used by pop-disco group ABBA. Yes, seriously.
“I heard ABBA was doing more music, there’s an ABBA comeback, and I flipped out. Who doesn’t love ABBA?” the rocker told Jimmy Kimmel. “Everybody loves ABBA!”
The takeaway: Live within your means, but don’t be afraid to splurge occasionally. Especially if you’re splurging on ABBA.
Lady Gaga still uses coupons (and she’s not the only one).
Lady Gaga is known for her over-the-top outfits on the red carpet—and heck, she spent $60,000 on fish to put in her $20 million house—but the singer still appreciates a good bargain, too.
“Why do people look at me like I’m crazy when I use coupons at the grocery or try bargaining at retail,” she tweeted in 2012. “I’m from New York, where is the sale rack?”
why do people look at me like I'm crazy when i use coupons at grocery or try bargaining at retail, IM FROM NEW YORK WHERE IS THE SALE RACK
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) December 21, 2012
She’s not the only celeb who looks for deals. NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony told CBS Denver that he still budgets carefully for grocery trips.
“I go to the supermarket, make sure I get the newspaper and tear the coupons out; save a dollar or two,” Anthony said. “I got the paper open with coupons, ripping them. I’m human too.”
As actor Sarah Michelle Gellar notes, a dollar’s still a dollar—no matter how many millions you’ve got in your bank account.
“I clip coupons all the time,” she told Self magazine. “Why should you pay more for something that someone else is paying less for?”
Of course, some rumors of frugal celebrities aren’t true.
We researched a bunch of stories of celebrity frugality, and we learned something important: Many of the stories aren’t accurate. Maybe we all want celebrities to live like us, but for most of them, that’s not the case.
In 2014, several major media outlets reported that actor Keira Knightley lived on a mere $50,000 per year. That likely started from a Glamour interview in which Knightley noted that “living an [expensive] lifestyle means you can’t hang out with people who don’t live that lifestyle.”
The magazine ran with the story…but the $50,000-per-year allowance had no basis in reality.
Keira Knightley at the premiere of “A Dangerous Method” in the 68th Venice Film Festival (2011) pic.twitter.com/wdOWTcWMQ7
— keira knightley source (@KeiraKsource) August 31, 2019
As Knightley told Time, she’s never given herself an allowance.
“No, it’s not true,” she said. “I don’t know where that rumor comes from. I mean, I wish it were true—It’s a good amount of money to live on, but no, it’s not true.”
And in 2016, several sites reported that Keanu Reeves—who’s worth about $350 million—still rides the subway everyday. That’s only partially true. The actor takes the subway on occasion, but he also has a Porsche and several classic motorcycles, and as Snopes points out, he’s regularly seen getting into fancy limousines.
keanu reeves riding the subway pic.twitter.com/k4vr00vVxv
— keanu doing things (@keanuthings) July 9, 2018
Granted, Reeves is a charitable person, and he seems to live reasonably, given his enormous net worth, but he’s certainly not living a miserly lifestyle. Nor should he—if you’ve got the money, you might as well spend some of it.
“It’s a cliché that money doesn’t buy you happiness,” Reeves told The Daily Mail in 2008. “But it does buy you the freedom to live your life the way you want.”