Wealthy people are rich for any number of reasons, but oftentimes it's because they are cheap tightwads who find ways to hold on to their money whenever given the opportunity. They're not always bad people, but they're not always all that great either.
The people in the following stories shared the ways they have witnessed rich people turn from being frugal to just flat out cheap. Whether it's finding loopholes in the system, cutting corners around the house and office, or just not paying their fair share, there's a little bit of everything. As always, all posts have been edited for clarity.
"My grandmother, as she didn't own a computer, had to mail in all her bill payments. One month, she didn't get her water bill or it was delivered to someone else by accident. Whatever the cause, her next bill was for both that month and the previous month and included a late fee that was less than the cost of a stamp.
For the rest of her life, she skipped the bill one month and then paid both the next because she saved a few cents by using just one stamp instead of two. This was a woman who had somewhere around a million dollars in the bank when she died."
"So I used to work as an assistant for this rich video studio owner, and he takes the cake in my book. One day, we were hosting a video shoot for a documentary, with some fairly famous people in attendance. He asked me to go down the street and pick up some sandwiches for the crew; sure, no problem. But right as I was about to leave, he called me back, and said, 'Oh, and pay with the money that's in the top drawer of the desk to your left.'
I opened the drawer, and there were no bills, just a bunch of loose change. I mentioned this and he just gave me a blank stare for a few seconds, then said, '...and? So what's the problem?' So yeah, I went and bought $50 worth of sandwiches, and had to spend 20 minutes counting out nickels and times to pay for it. Heard of CoinStar, ya jerk?
He also kept me for four years without a raise, despite quadrupling my responsibilities. I basically started as an intern and then rose to become his assistant manager, but was never offered a raise. I wasn't able to support myself on what he was paying, so finally demanded only a $2 per hour raise in order to stay on, which he refused. Shortly thereafter, I got a job that paid 3X what he was paying and got out.
I could go on about this guy. He also did stupid stuff like buying cheap equipment that later ruined shoots by not working properly, making the editors use outdated software, nickel-and-diming the labs we used, all this while being worth easily $50 million and the business doing very well. I think he started out poor, but his frugality never wore off, in an extreme fashion."
"My mom would wash out Ziplock bags and reuse them.
We weren't even poor. We weren't exactly rich, but we were well off to live comfortably. Yet, she still washed them out and reused them to save money. It was SO BAD that she would even wash bags she had stored raw meat in.
Thankfully, she stopped after I came down with a pretty bad stomach bug after eating food from one of those bags."
"So I live in a country where the libraries provide a service called book exchange. Basically, people come in and dump their old unwanted books at a bookshelf, and other people are free to take it home if they want to.
Works great right? Old books find a new home with a loving owner. Well... In theory.
My mom steals boxes of these books, literally hundreds and flips them on a secondhand app. Literally, she'll cart home heavy encyclopedias to sell them for a few bucks online.
Not only is this abuse of other people's kind-heartedness, we're not poor. My family's not that rich, but we definitely do not need to rely on book theft for pocket change. I've tried to talk her out of it, but all I got was a scolding, with her telling me that I should be more appreciative of her efforts to put food on the table."
"I live in England. A cup of coffee in a half decent coffee shop is usually in the range of £2.50 nowadays. I met up with a guy to talk about some work who was very wealthy. He has a Maserati and Range Rover sport and he owns a big PR company. Don't know how much money he has but many millions.
We met up in the lobby of my hotel in Cambridge which was close to where he lives for a coffee, as arranged. He came in said hello then said, 'Let's go find a cafe somewhere for coffee, this place is a rip off.' This surprised me! After we had met up, I had a look at the price of a coffee in the hotel and it was £3.40 for an Americano. Now that's about £1 more than usual. I found this quite amusing but it really stuck with me.
At first I thought how ridiculous it was that this man with millions of pounds would go to find a cheaper place for the sake of saving £2 (he was paying for mine too). But then I realized actually this is probably exactly why he is so wealthy. He knows the value of things. I never asked but I'm sure he had in his head what he thought a coffee was worth and didn't like the idea of being ripped off by a hotel, so he took his business elsewhere. I think the expression goes, 'Voting with your feet.'
We actually found a nice little coffee shop around the corner, probably not two minutes away."
"To me, there are choices you make because you're poor and choices you make because you're cheap.
Growing up, we were decently well off. Not millionaire status or anywhere close, but we lived comfortably in that money was never really a stress for our family. My dad once custom-ordered a new car without air conditioning to save like a hundred bucks maybe. The salesman thought he was out of his mind.
Growing up, we were always the last people to turn the A/C on in the house for the summer and the first ones to turn it off. And even when it was on, he'd set it to like 81 or 82, just high enough so it does trigger the A/C occasionally, but not enough to really drive out the humidity so it always felt like swamp-status.
The power company for their subdivision gives out a ranking on power usage and him and my mom are always in the bottom 5 in terms of usage, and there are several houses in that neighborhood that don't even have people living in them at the moment..."
"My grandmother lived very meagerly. She had a rent-controlled, one-bedroom apartment in the 'projects' of Brooklyn.
Some of the things I remember her doing:
She would grab napkins from restaurants and bring them home so she didn't need to buy napkins or paper towels herself.
At fast-food places, she would put 30 packets of ketchup into her purse and bring those home, too. She filled her ketchup bottle at home with them. The same for mustard, mayonnaise, many other things.
She never, EVER, failed to stop and pick up a penny if she found it on the ground.
She saved and re-used EVERYTHING, from paper bags, to newspapers, somehow she found another use for them.
When I became a young teenager, I started to realize just how thrifty she was. At times, it embarrassed me, at times I begged her not to bother with that penny in the middle of the busy street. But when she died in 1988, she left us enough money to put me and my brother through five years of college each, including room and board, books, and incidentals. The total was over $80,000.
Thanks, grandma. I now realize it took you a lifetime to save that much."
"I lived in Australia for awhile. My wife is the type of person who will talk and make friends with literally anyone from any social or economic caste. She is Chinese and in Melbourne, she met the wife of this guy that owned several Asian media outlets like newspapers and local cable companies.
We were invited to their house, and let me tell you, they were rich. Like really rich. She really liked my wife and they had a daughter of a similar age to mine so we decided to take all the kids ice skating. We went to this place and because adults could also skate, they required everyone to pay $5. This super rich lady was adamant she wasn’t paying the $5 because she wasn’t skating. She made a huge scene then said she wasn’t going in then later snuck in.
My wife was really turned off by this display from someone who could clearly afford the $5. Decided not to interact with them anymore after that."
"My evil stepmother owns a restaurant and attached convenience store. I will give a few examples of her cheapness.
If she eats breakfast at a restaurant with my dad, she will steal all of the little jams and jellies that she can get. Also sugar packets. These get tossed in her purse and used at her restaurant.
I have seen her eat leftovers from her customer’s plates when she is clearing the tables.
She has charged more for soft drinks if they are taken from the restaurant. This is because she loses the deposit ($0.10).
She is diabetic. Usually when you get a new blood glucose meter, it is free because you have to buy the strips. She found out that the glucometer comes with ten free lancets to poke your finger for the blood sample. She tried to get another glucometer just to get more free lancets. If you buy the lancets, they are about $10 for 100.
She is originally from another country and still has family there. A couple of times a year she sends a box of stuff over for her family. She always sends clothing over. This is clothing that she has worn, but she leaves the price tags on so that her sisters think she is sending new clothes. Her last box wasn’t quite full enough, so she took the half empty bags of cereal from the restaurant (Think corn flakes and Rice Krispies) that will definitely be stale when they arrive.
When my son was little, he accidentally left his wallet in my dad’s car. She was the only person who could have had access. When he got the wallet back it was empty. It had his name written on the wallet in marker, so it’s not like she didn’t know it was her step grandson’s.
She got access to my gasoline rewards card. Basically you get points for every liter of fuel and can redeem them for convenience store items. She used up about $500 worth of points on stuff for her own store. She didn’t tell me that she had done it. Next time I used the card and saw it was cleaned out, I asked the gas station staff what had happened. I was told that she told them it was okay with me and no problem at all.
When my sister was growing up with this step monster, my sister had a leather jacket she wanted to sell. Step monster wanted to give it to her sister. A deal was negotiated for $50. Step monster never paid and sister got my dad involved. Step monster claimed the deal was for $5 and my dad got mad at sister for lying, so step monster never had to pay a penny.
Multiply all of the above for the last 27 years and you have a real contender for the cheapest person in North America."
"My best friend's mom would not buy us pumpkins to carve for Halloween. Keep in mind, this is a woman who, when she found out about a building in town that was up for sale for $80,000 said, 'Oh wow. I could buy that.' But she couldn't give us $10 for pumpkins.
She's the single richest person I've ever met. Just blew my mind. My mom, who maybe had a total of $50 to her name, bought us the pumpkins.
I don't have anything against my best friend's mom, I love her dearly, and I understand rich people don't stay rich by spending their money, but like I said, it was just crazy to me."
"Years ago, before we had fun things like e-mail and voicemail, I had a very, very cheap boss (the CEO). The business was making plenty of money, but he tried to squeeze every single penny out of everything. He was the type to spend an hour figuring out how to save a dime. Couldn't see the forest for the trees.
I could mention that he would count orders coming in from our printing company to make sure he got as many as he paid for (he always did). Or I could mention that he once wanted to return a laptop because he had stepped on it (no chance). But I think my all-time favorite was this: Little pads were common for taking phone messages. They cost essentially nothing. He insisted that people not throw them away, but instead use the back if the front had already been used.
As you could imagine, this caused a lot of confusion. Far more money was spent on wasted labor trying to clarify things than was ever saved by not buying more pads.
Keep in mind these were a lot cheaper then. They cost more now because they are a relic."
"I had a great-great aunt named Lola who lived in a crappy little town in New Mexico. Lola and her husband would rinse out paper towels and leave them to dry. They would fly into a rage if they found change lying around their house, because that's ungrateful and when they were children, five cents was actually worth something. They re-used ice, refused to flush unless it was a 'BM,' and worked 60 hour work-weeks apiece. They had decent jobs, too.
Eventually the husband died, and Lola did too. They left no children. My grandmother was the only relative who still made a bi-yearly trek down to that little town, and spent several months caring for Lola at the end of her life. When Lola died, my grandmother arranged the funeral. She was the executor of the will. We found out that Lola had over $1,000,000 saved in various bank accounts, and had bequeathed it all to Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen. In case you aren't familiar, these are two of the worst for-profit televangelists out there.
My grandparents were good people, but very poor. They had extensive health problems and a variety of worthwhile, charitable pursuits. They helped real people. It still irritates me that not one dime of that money went to the only relatives who still put up with Lola and her terrible personality."
"I went to a birthday dinner for my mother-in-law at a Filipino restaurant. Along with my wife and I, four of her friends were there. The friends ordered a MOUNTAIN of food for the table. There were seven of us there, but if there were a dozen, we couldn't have finished it all. This was a bit irritating right off the bat because while I was happy to pitch in for her birthday dinner, I didn't want to pay twenty percent of a feast from Westeros. It would up being over $200 worth of food.
So then the check comes, and I pitch in my credit card, and three out of the four friends turn into statues, except the oldest gentleman, who offers something like fifteen bucks. I grab the bill and divide it by five leaving out the dishes and drinks that my wife and I ordered for ourselves and tally it up, saying what everyone owes. Crickets. I remind everyone that they were the ones who ordered this giant mound of food in the first place, half of which is going to go to waste.
To prevent awkwardness, my mother in law grabs the bill and runs off (leaving my credit card) to go pay it. My wife prevents me from stopping her and causing a scene. I quietly lay into the three deadbeats at the table, for letting an elderly woman on a fixed income pay a $200+ bill for her own birthday dinner. I lose it and call them 'moochers,' and whoah, suddenly there's that scene everyone was working so hard to prevent, with them screaming at me and me screaming back. The restaurant owners understandably intervene and toss all of us out.
I go back in and apologize and explain what happened. The restaurant, to their credit, knock 40% off the bill out of nothing more than kindness (Salo-Salo Grill in Las Vegas, y'all) and cancel the charge on my mother-in-law's card, and I picked up the rest (which was still quite a bit, but I felt a lot better about it)."
"At Pizza Hut where I work, customers will do just about anything to get free or very very cheap food (as if it isn't already cheap). Sometimes, we make a mistake, and they are absolutely entitled to compensation, but some of these people will complain about ANY little detail of their pizza to get it for free.
Oh but my favorite is a group of ladies who come in every Sunday morning after church. They all order on separate checks, and they all get water and one small item like a personal pan pizza, or a cup of soup. Their checks only turn out to be about $4 or $5 apiece, but they still, every single weekend, feel the need to announce and remind me 'we're seniors so we need our senior citizen discount, too.' That makes their checks even cheaper, so they feel entitled to leave a few nickels and dimes on the table as a tip.
My friends called me out saying that I shouldn't be judgmental because they might live on a fixed income, I should have clarified that they aren't elderly by any means. They are all in their late fifties at most, and only one of the ladies (someone's mother) appears to be over 75 or so. The rest of them are all well-dressed with nice jewelry and drive nice cars and not technically seniors, but we give them the discount anyway because my boss goes by the "the customer is always right" motto.
Also, even if they are on a fixed income, they shouldn't be eating at a restaurant that has servers living off of tips. They could just as easily get fast food somewhere that doesn't have waitstaff that are making $2.83 an hour."
"My grandfather has some frugal methods. He used to hang up teabags to dry and would only allow people to have one biscuit when they visit. This has been solved by people taking him biscuits and teabags when ever they visit. However visitors must make their own tea if they want a good cuppa. He will use the same teabag in as much as 10 cups if he is making them at the same time. He now has a massive cache of tea and biscuits. You can still only have one biscuit unless you bring a packet. He also wears clothes until they're falling apart. He has a wardrobe full of new clothes family have given him over the years but he hasn't yet got round to wearing them he won't waste them.
Me, my cousin, and aunt were helping him tidy up one day when we found carrier bags full of money under his bed. The old dude said, 'That's for you all when I'm gone!'
We made him put it in a bank and spend it. We convinced him that if the family fell out over the inheritance, leaving nothing was the kindest thing he could do."