Recently Coupons.com posted the 2012 version of its annual list of top “cents-able” (I’ll pause while you groan) celebrities who still live relatively frugally despite their outsized paychecks. Not surprisingly, considering the source, the list of ten “frugalebrities” is weighted heavily toward avid coupon-clippers like actress Kristen Bell, American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, NBA star Carmelo Anthony, and Lady Gaga, of all people. But some of the other stars reveal how frugality has been deeply ingrained in their sensibilities by hard life experience.
Jay Leno, for example, despite owning a mind-boggling car collection, credits his smart money-management to his parents, who learned the value of a dollar the hard way during the Great Depression. Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria similarly says that her father taught her not to take fortune for granted. Longtime Law and Order actress Mariska Hargitay confesses that
I constantly worry about money. I make a lot now but I don’t feel that way because I was poor and had no money for a lot longer than I’ve had it. As an actor, if this show ends next year, then what? As an aging woman, then what? I’m saving money to live on, for the future.
This is not to criticize their spending choices; the wealthy can certainly do what they want with their own money, and if I could earn it like Beckham, God only knows what wasteful stuff I would bring home in the trunk of my brand-new, metallic blue Aston Martin One-77. The point is that what stars do or don’t do with their riches can reveal very differing perspectives on life.
For some celebrities, living large is practically a job requirement; rappers, for example, are often selling a fantasy lifestyle of decadent opulence in their music, and for them to pinch pennies would actually undermine their credibility for many fans. But the number of naïve young celebs who pushed that too far and woke up one bleary-eyed afternoon to find themselves in the poorhouse is legion. That’s what living for the moment – not in the moment, but for the moment – can do to you.
Frugality, on the other hand, reflects a sense of humility, realism, personal responsibility, and independence. “By sowing frugality we reap liberty,” said the Spartan king Agesilaus. Mariska Hargitay has the maturity to look at the long term and recognize that life is unpredictable and fortune is fickle. Wealthy or not, that’s a quality that keeps us grounded and free.
(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 3/14/13)