Our favourite cheapskates in history
Many words come to mind when describing a person whose fingers are clenched around his wallet – a penny pincher, a frugal man, a money hoarder and yes, even a cheapskate. If you know a person with this quality, you would agree that his money manners are definitely out of the norm.
It’s not just about skipping coffee breaks at work or holding back on a Foo Fighters concert ticket. A thrifty person believes his methods keeps the most of his money with him. He knows how to make every cent work, and save a couple more at the same time.
Value for money is everything, and in his eyes, it is a sensible notion.
Sometimes things do get a little (or maybe a whole lot!) overboard. The world has had its share of eccentric money savers, and perhaps they deserve a mention right here.
Say hello to some of the greatest money hoarders who have ever lived.
J Paul Getty (1892-1976)
Getty was presumably the richest private individual to have lived in his lifetime. The Anglo-American oilman and billionaire loved fashionable hotels, but not its bills. He would always go for cheapest and tiniest room available in every lodging he occupied.
Getty’s manor house in Surrey, England had a payphone which was installed for his guests to use. When asked about it, Getty maintained his stance by saying that his house was under the company’s name, and he was caring for the interests of the shareholders. All other phones in the manor were locked.
Cary Grant (1904-1986)
Born Archibald Leach, the ever-handsome Grant was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood back in the 1940s. Looks or stardom didn’t really make much of a difference to him. His frugal habits were deeply engrained within.
Tales were told about how Grant would mark his milk bottles to ensure his staff didn’t steal sips in between. Guests who lived with him were charged for their laundry as well as other bills. His autographs weren’t free either – each piece cost 25 cents. Even buttons from worn shirts were salvaged, with Grant telling a reporter that it was just a sensible thing to do.
Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
The man is a cornerstone in silent movie comics. His friends, however, let the cat out of the bag on how Chaplin always seemed penniless. He would never pick a tab to pay for a bill when he dined out with them. Orson Welles dubbed Chaplin as the “cheapest man who ever lived”, while Marlon Brando was more forgiving when he called the actor “an egotistical tyrant and a penny-pincher”.
Leona Helmsley (1920-2007)
The lady of New York had was touted as the Princess of Penuriousness. Despite being a hotel baroness, Helmsley didn’t think much of taxes, so much so that she said this; “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”
Helmsley was brought to trial for tax evasion, and was convicted for a sum of US$1.7 million. She spent 18 months behind bars for her crime.
Hetty Green (1834-1916)
Hetty Green was an investment prodigy who amassed a fortune of close to US$2 billion (in today’s currency) at her time. While this made her the richest woman in the U.S. at that point, Green was better known by the nickname Witch of Wall Street.
The woman always wore black, had a heart of ice when it came to all matters business, and was a well-known skinflint. She visited free clinics under a false name to dodge medical bills. If she paid a visit to a restaurant, she would haggle on the menu prices before going for an inexpensive meal. In fact, Green preferred to steer away from food establishments and always had a stash of oatmeal with her. As soon as she had access to radiator heat and water, she would cook her gruel.
Green owned prime real-estate in Chicago, Boston, New York and St. Louis.
H.L. Hunt (1889-1974)
Hunt was also a billionaire oilman, but like all frugal men, he had his own vices. H.L. preferred his suits off the rack rather than tailor-made. He trimmed his own hair. No driver was ever needed, as Hunt would drive to work daily and park his car blocks away from the office to save himself from a 50-cent parking fee.
In his own observation, Hunt said that, “a millionaire who throws his money around is stupid.”
Aristotle Onassis (1906-1975)
The Greek shipping tycoon does not condone wastages. Stephen Birmingham, a biographer talked about an occasion when Onassis made an impromptu visit to his yacht. He headed into the kitchen and uncovered the lids of the garbage bins. The man plunged his hands deep into its crevice and brought up fistfuls of uneaten spaghetti. Onassis then roared at the kitchen staff, saying “Why has this food been thrown away?”
His tips were miserable; if he could, Onassis would avoid it altogether. The shipping magnate also never wore a coat when he visited nightclubs; not even on a brisk winter night. He explained himself by saying this; “Since I am known as a rich person, I feel I have to tip at least US$5 each time I check my coat. On top of that, I would have to wear a very expensive coat, and it would have to be insured.”