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Lifestyles of the Rich and Frugal

“If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need.”

That sounds like something any one of the hundreds of proud, self-proclaimed “cheapskates” I’ve written about over the years would say. And it is a major tenet of living a frugal, simpler life — one which, I would argue, is ultimately happier, less stressful and more rewarding.

But it may surprise you to learn that those words were actually spoken by none other than Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” who is currently the second richest person in America and one of the most philanthropic. Buffett is just one of a surprising number of the super-rich who continue to live according to a frugal credo, even though they could obviously afford to spend and live far more lavishly. In fact, Buffett still lives in the same relatively modest house he bought in 1958 for a little over $30,000. (He does claim to buy expensive suits, though, adding, “They just look cheap on me.”)

I’ve often wondered if having an abundance of wealth makes it all the more apparent that many of the best things in life are those that come without a price tag. I’ve written here before about the importance of asking yourself one simple question throughout life: How much money and how much stuff is enough for me? I call the process of answering that question “Slaying Your Enoughasaurus.” Of course, everyone’s answer will be different and it may change over time. But until you’ve answered that question for yourself, how will you know how best to go about achieving your financial goals and, more important, when you’ve finally “arrived” and can call off your war-for-more?

>> See Also: Celebrity Money Mistakes

For an article in AARP The Magazine I wrote a few years ago, I interviewed Juliet Schor, a Boston College sociology professor and author of The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need. Schor shared a very interesting observation which I’d never thought about before, but which makes sense and helps to explain why so many Americans seem hell-bent on living beyond their means. According to Schor, while previous generations of Americans strove to “keep up with the Joneses,” today the bar is set much higher — in part because of overexposure to mass media — to the point where we now aspire to live like the wealthiest of the wealthy.

>> Get discounts on financial services with your AARP Member Advantages.

So now we want to “keep up with the rich and famous.” But maybe instead we should look more closely at how at least some among their ranks, including Warren Buffett, choose to live despite their fabulous wealth. It’s worth thinking about.

Check out the latest episode on my weekly Web show, The Cheap Life, for a behind-the-scenes look at celebrity cheapskates.  


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