8 ways Warren Buffett’s frugal habits can save you money
He might have billions of dollars to his name, but unlike other celebrities and financial gurus, Warren Buffett prefers to live life simply.
The Oracle of Omaha has several tips when it comes to financial discipline, saving and paying off debt — you can catch the livestream of his annual shareholder meeting on May 1 for more advice — and he certainly practices what he preaches.
Here are 8 ways Buffett’s frugality can help you save and spend wisely:
1. He lives in the same home he bought back in 1958
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While most billionaires bulk up on expensive real estate, Buffett originally paid $31,500 for his Omaha, Nebraska home — that’s around $288,700 in today’s dollars — and he’s lived there for over 60 years.
His home is by no means tiny, however. The 6,570-square-foot, five-bedroom home has had plenty of renovations and additions over the decades and is worth about $1 million today. It’s also protected by fences and security cameras and most likely has a good homeowner’s insurance policy as well.
Buffett has no plans to move out, calling it “the third best investment I ever made,” in a 2010 letter to Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders.
2. He takes out loans when appropriate
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Buffett’s one-and-only mortgage was on a vacation home in Laguna Beach, California, which he purchased in 1971, although he certainly had the cash to afford the $150,000-listed seaside property.
He decided to use the extra cash on-hand for shares in Berkshire Hathaway — the company that made him billions — instead.
While U.S. real estate has gone up in value since, mortgage rates remain at historically low levels currently and it could be an excellent opportunity for homeowners to refinance and save thousands of dollars a year.
3. He buys breakfast cheap
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While Buffett could simply hire a personal chef to cook him gourmet meals,, he often grabs his breakfast from Mickey D’s on his way to work. He doesn’t spend more than $3.17 on his morning meal.
“When I’m not feeling quite so prosperous, I might go with the $2.61, which is two sausage patties, and then I put them together and pour myself a Coke,” he says in HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett.
Instead of going out for big meals or buying a latte from Starbucks everyday, just make your meals and coffee at home. You can even get rewarded for buying your groceries and earn cash back.
4. He buys marked-down cars
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Many billionaires and millionaires keep a collection of flashy sports cars and vintage models in their garage, but Buffett allegedly prefers fixed-up automobiles that he can acquire at reduced prices.
He upgraded from his 2006 Cadillac DTS to a Cadillac XTS for just $45,000 in 2014. “The truth is, I only drive about 3,500 miles a year so I will buy a new car very infrequently,” he admitted to Forbes.
Whether you’re opting for a brand-new car or a slightly-used model, you shouldn’t overspend on vehicles, so don’t go for the first loan you spot and look around for better deals. Make sure to shop for auto insurance rates every six months as well.
5. He still clips coupons
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Buffett’s a sucker for a good deal and once treated his buddy and fellow billionaire Bill Gates to a meal at his favorite fast-food restaurant with — yes — coupons.
“Remember the laugh we had when we traveled together to Hong Kong and decided to get lunch at McDonald’s? You offered to pay, dug into your pocket, and pulled out … coupons!” Gates wrote in a 2017 annual letter. “Melinda just found this photo of me and ‘the big spender.’ It reminded us how much you value a good deal.”
While most people have taken to shopping online in the past year, there are still ways to find better deals and discounts instantly on everyday items.
6. He doesn’t splurge on brands
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Buffett doesn’t much care for designer suits or the latest iPhone model — he relied on his $20 flip-phone for years before swapping it out for the Apple smartphone in 2020. And despite the upgrade, he doesn’t use any of the iPhone’s fancier functions.
Buffett avoids unnecessary spending and once said, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”
Park your funds in a high-yield savings account so they can accumulate interest and grow over time. Set aside your extra cash for an emergency fund or retirement instead of blowing it all away on big purchases.
7. He doesn’t invest with borrowed money (anymore)
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“I’ve never borrowed a significant amount of money in my life. Never. Never will. I’ve got no interest in it,” he told students at Notre Dame in 1991.
Although a young Buffett once borrowed 25% of his net wealth to buy shares, he warns investors against repeating his mistake.
You don’t need to borrow big to invest in the stock market, especially when there are apps that let you invest your spare change and automated investment services that make you money while you sleep.
8. He uses cash not credit
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While most of us prefer the convenience of a credit card for our everyday purchases, Buffett uses hard cash.
In fact, he told Yahoo! Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer in 2019 that he uses cash “98% of the time. If I’m in a restaurant, I’ll always pay cash. It’s just easier.” While the method may sound a bit old-school, relying less on your credit card can help prevent spending money you don’t have.
Using most of your available credit and falling behind on your monthly payments damages your credit score. If you’re struggling to pay off your credit card debt, you might want to consider getting a debt consolidation loan with a lower interest rate.