Wealthspike: Billionaire thriftiness - a guide

Is Kamprad wearing a secondhand suit? Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Is Kamprad wearing a secondhand suit? Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Are billionaires thriftier than the average person? Snippets of a recent interview with the billionaire founder of IKEA Ingvar Kamprad might suggest that they are.

Last week the long-time world record holder of billionaire thriftiness Kamprad told Swedish TV that he mostly buys his clothes second hand from flea markets. “I don’t think I’m wearing anything that wasn’t bought at a flea market. It means that I want to set a good example,” he told Swedish channel TV4.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
— Warren Buffett

The soon to be 90 year-old also once said then that he likes getting cheap haircuts and tries to get them in developing countries as much as possible. Apparently, his thriftiness has got something to do with where Kamprad is from - Smaland, the agricultural region in southern Sweden is known to be “thrifty”, so he has said.

The other well known thrifty billionaire is of course Warren Buffett. The Sage of Omaha lives in the same modest house in the Nebraska town he has owned since 1958 when he paid $31,500 for it. The third richest man in the world, according to the latest Forbes billionaire list, pays himself $100,000 a year and until very recently drove an eight-year old cadillac. As he famously said once: “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Of course, being thrifty towards your own material desires is one thing, but extending that quality to others might not be so endearing. That speciality in the billionaire department was perhaps best exemplified by John Paul Getty, the oil magnate, who founded Getty Oil. Getty wasn’t personally thrifty - he amassed one of the biggest art and antique collections ever by a private individual. But he was a notorious miser when it came to others. He installed a pay phone for his guests at his huge sprawling manor house in England and tried to negotiate the price down of the ransom demanded by kidnappers of his grandson.

No doubt there are other examples of billionaire thriftiness - but not a lot. In fact, the above cases are the exception that might just prove the rule - which says that most billionaires aren’t so thrifty, neither with themselves, nor with others. Just get invited to a billionaire party to see how they can lay on the lavishness.