No kid dreams of becoming a professional athlete, scoring some big contract worth millions, then moving back home with mom and dad to save a few bucks. The dream usually consists of 14,000 square foot mansions, fancy dinners out, and luxurious cars purchased on a whim — just because you can.
There’s no shortage of athletes or celebrities that have gone broke after earning millions. That’s why so many wealthy athletes put a hard lock on their wallets and try to live a modest lifestyle. Even the royal family pinches pennies when they can. These 15 pro athletes are millionaires, but that doesn’t mean they act like one. From living in their parents’ basement to roughing it in a van at Walmart, these are the shocking things pro athletes do to save money.
1. Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins’ sneaking premonition that an NFL career wouldn’t last forever helped formulate his stingy money habits. “You don’t know how long you’re going to play,” Cousins told the Wall Street Journal. “You’ve got to save every dollar even though you are making a good salary.”
His habitual frugality consists of driving a dented GMC Savana passenger van he bought from his grandma for $5,000 and living in his parent’s basement with wife, Julie, during the offseason. They have plans to build a lakefront home, but only a modest four-bedroom property.
Next: A pro athlete willing to ride the train
2. Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch has made over $49 million playing in the NFL. But the money he makes from his contract goes directly into savings, according to a Business Insider report. The thrifty running back lives off endorsement deals and the profits he makes from his clothing company — which also ranges in the millions. Still, Lynch is not above taking public transportation to and from football games. He’s been spotted on the BART rail line in Oakland, packed inside like a sardine among the regular people.
Next: QB refuses to spend money on this gadget
3. Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck landed a $140 million contract in the NFL plus countless endorsement deals, but that doesn’t mean he’s a frivolous spender. When asked how he’d spend his mountain of cash, the QB nixed any big purchases saying, “Maybe, like, a robot ping-pong thing that can hit balls back at you. My buddy has one and he swears by it.”
Off the field, Luck still opts to use a flip phone rather than pay for a smartphone like the rest of the world. He told USA Today, “I don’t think I want to be connected 24/7, and this phone is maybe sort of a reminder that you don’t have to be connected. And it’s nice to get away. It’s nice to turn your phone off.”
Next: His teammates agree this pro athlete is a cheapskate
4. LeBron James
Other teammates have called Lebron James “the cheapest guy in the NBA.” He’s one of the world’s highest-paid athletes but refuses to spend money he can’t justify. James doesn’t use his cell phone unless it’s connected to Wifi and won’t subscribe to the music streaming service, Pandora, to gain access to commercial-free listening.
“No, I’m not doing that,” James says. “I’m not turning on data roaming, I’m not buying no apps, I still got Pandora with commercials.”
Next: Extreme couponing in the NBA
5. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo’s NBA career awarded him a net worth of $90 million. But he told CBS Denver that he still engages in a few stingy money habits from time to time. Among them is clipping coupons at the grocery store.
“I go to the supermarket, make sure I get the newspaper and tear the coupons out; save a dollar or two,” Anthony said. Of course, people look at him in shock when he does this. “I’ve got the paper open with coupons, ripping them, I’m human too,” Anthony said.
Next: A wise investment that paid off
6. Glover Quin
The Detroit Lions safety gets plenty of flack from his teammates for being so cheap — despite his multimillion-dollar signing contract. He drives the same Yukon Denali he owned when drafted in 2009 and still abides by the investing lessons he learned as a business major in college. Quin and his family follow the 30/70 rule, living off just 30% of his salary and investing the rest. That amounted to $6,000 a month during the first few years of his professional career. He’s managed to double his combined eight years of NFL pay this way.
Next: An athlete who chooses to live in a van
7. Daniel Norris
ESPN wrote a feature story on Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris when he was trying to break into the MLB via the Toronto Blue Jays. At the time, Norris was living in a 1978 Volkswagen van he bought for $10,000 and living in the Walmart parking lot — by choice. Rather than buying oversized homes and flashy Ferraris, he shared an apartment with two teammates in Florida and slept in a hammock. Then, with seven figures in the bank, he took a 40-hour a week job at home in the off-season to stay grounded. Even though he earned a one-year contract worth $545,500 with the Tigers in 2017, he continues to live well below his means.
Next: A man who’s downright uncomfortable spending money
8. Jordy Nelson
Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson is a self-proclaimed cheapskate. His history of frugality stems from growing up on a farm in Kansas and performing strenuous agricultural labor for paid work. He confessed to only eating NFL-provided snacks when staying in hotel rooms and pocketing the per diem money he receives for dining expenses. He also flies into Milwaukee and drives to Green Bay for games because it’s cheaper than a direct flight.
Next: A millionaire with frugal tendencies
9. Madison Baumgardner
The World Series MVP still chops down trees and performs farm labor for fun in the offseason. Rather than splurge on a Hollywood mansion after turning pro, Madison Baumgardner chose to buy a ranch in the North Carolina Appalachian foothills where he grew up. He said he’d gladly forgo fancy cars and expensive houses for an outdoorsy lifestyle that requires him to work for a living. And forget about hiring a staff to maintain the 100-acre during the Giant’s baseball season — that’s what family and friends are for.
Next: Tom Brady’s frugal ways
10. Tom Brady
Tom Brady once gave up $24 million from his personal contract to give the New England Patriots more cash to spend in the offseason. Of course, he probably barely even noticed the difference, considering he’s racked up a $180 million net worth throughout his career. He and Gisele still farm their own eggs at home and limit extravagant spending to smart real estate investments only. He famously flipped an LA mansion, selling it to Dr. Dre for $40 million. Still, Brady raised eyebrows by losing his mind over having to fund an $8,540 expense for a new pool cover when he was hoping for a bargain.
Next: This athlete likes to earn free miles on airplanes
11. Kyle Larson
Most athletes who are deemed as the next “up-and-comer” let that notoriety go their heads. But NASCAR driver Kyle Larson keeps a tight watch on his million-dollar race day winnings and strives to never lose his penny-pinching lifestyle. He admitted to flying commercial to races to save money, often opting to fly with the team for $120 in coach versus $500 for first class. Larson tells reporters, “I’m cheap with my money when it comes to flying. And, I like to rack up the miles so I can maybe get some free trips.”
Next: How Victor Cruz hopes to buck an NFL trend
12. Victor Cruz
About 78% of ex-NFL players end up broke. Victor Cruz manages his money smartly so he can be comfortable even without an NFL salary. Rather than celebrate his fancy new lifestyle, he put his entire first NFL paycheck into savings. This enabled Cruz to launch the Victor Cruz Foundation, which helps exposes inner-city students to STEM subjects.
Next: Living at home is a choice
13. Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague makes $8.8 million as a professional NBA player, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to cut the cord with mom and dad. He still lives at home. But the 28-year-old’s situation is not exactly like the countless other millennials who chose to live with their parents. Teague actually owns the home but gave it to his parents when he went to play in Atlanta. Now that he’s back home with the Indiana Pacers, he chose to move back in, saying “They got the master [bedroom]. I just got the basement.”
Next: A surprising meal for a rich man
14. Joe Flacco
When most players sign a record-breaking contract, they celebrate. But when Joe Flacco nailed a massive six-year, $120.6 million contract extension with the Baltimore Ravens, he headed straight to McDonalds for a McNugget meal. No personal chefs and fancy dinner plates for this Super Bowl-winning Quarterback. He’d rather eat for cheap.
Next: A seriously thrifty man
15. Warren Sapp
Despite being an NFL Hall of Famer and previous Dancing With The Stars Contestant, Warren Sapp is also among the worst celebrity tippers of all time. He once left absolutely nothing for a waitress during the 2014 World Cup game between the USA and Belgium. Sapp filed for bankruptcy in 2012 owing more than $6.7 million to creditors and could account for the need to skirt payment at restaurants — which makes his spending habits less about frugality and more about human decency.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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