Before Mark Cuban splurged on sports teams and private jets, he drove cars that didn’t cost him more than $200.
He even got one with a $0 down payment, Cuban told Bill Maher on a December episode of the Club Random Podcast. One of his first cars, a 1977 Fiat X1/9 with holes in the floorboard, died after his cross-country move from Indiana to Dallas in 1982, he said. He had to hitch rides with friends until, one day, they found an abandoned car on the side of the road.
He made his friends pull over. The car was unlocked, and he noticed an envelope stuffed with loan papers sitting on the front seat.
“I knew from my own personal experience that someone had abandoned [the car], because they couldn’t make the payment,” Cuban said. The next day, he called officials at the bank, told them he found a car they were looking for and offered to take over the payments. They agreed, he said.
The strategy isn’t exactly replicable, Cuban noted: You can’t rely on finding a working abandoned car and acquiring it legally, and it’s harder now to call up a bank and actually speak to a real person.
Other money-saving hacks from Cuban’s 20s remain usable for today’s young adults. At age 24, Cuban lived in a three-bedroom apartment with five roommates, he wrote in a 2009 blog post. He also went to supermarkets in the middle of the night to score food discounts, he told Maher.
“I used to go to the grocery store at midnight because they lowered the price of chicken and these big [bags of] French fries to $1.29,” he said on the podcast. “And I would buy a bunch of them.”
Cuban’s youthful frugality, particularly when it came to cars, stemmed from his desire to avoid having to work, he told Money in 2017.
“I was determined to be able to retire,” he said. “I valued time more than anything. I wanted enough money to be able to travel, have fun, and party like a rock star, but still live like a student. That was my motivation.”
Cuban got his chance to retire early after becoming a millionaire at age 32. He decided against it after realizing he was “too competitive” to exit the entrepreneurial world, he told Wharton psychologist Adam Grant’s “Re:Thinking” podcast last year.
Still, his riches didn’t change his spending habits “all that much,” he told Money.
“I bought a plane … because the asset I value the most is time, and that bought me time,” Cuban said. “Other than that, I’ve lived in the same house for 18 years and still have the same cars.”
This story has been updated to clarify that Cuban obtained the car with a $0 down payment.
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank,” which features Mark Cuban as a panelist.
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