Will Clark Ever Stop Being Frugal and Enjoy His Money?

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His spending habits command respect and create frustration.

Money expert Clark Howard considers himself cheap. He sometimes says his time is worth nothing and will spend endless minutes chasing a small discount.

Given that he’s been a lifelong saver, he can afford to “splurge” on a $10 shirt or, when he still used disposable razors, go through more than one in a year.

Yet to Clark, the art and science of finding the best deal brings joy.

It may be rooted in his childhood when he returned home from school one year. His forlorn father had lost his job and told Clark there wasn’t enough money for him to reenroll next semester. In any case, pinching pennies, nickels and dimes has been part of who he is for a long time.

Will Clark Ever Let Loose Financially?

When will Clark start spending his money more frivolously?

That’s what a Clark Howard listener recently asked.

Asked Mike in Michigan: “Does Clark ever plan to actually use his millions of dollars to enrich his or his wife’s life? Or will it ALWAYS be run-down hotels, hours searching for the cheapest flights, $3-dollar T-shirts, etc.?”

It’s true. Clark will go to the end of the earth to avoid spending extra pennies on clothes. And who knows how many thousands of hours he’s spent in his life tracking down hotel and flight deals?

He smiles when he calls himself a “cheapskate.”

But remember, this man was one of the original Tesla drivers. He travels around the United States and around the world often with his family. And his charitable donations are prolific, having just finished sponsoring his 100th Habitat for Humanity home.


He’s willing to spend to watch the NFL on Sundays and to install big flat-screen TVs. So it’s not as if his monthly burn rate is $1,000. If you ask him, though, he relishes talking about the areas where he goes as cheaply as possible.

“First of all, on the $3 shirts, I’m insulted. My T-shirts I use to work out in, I paid $2.80 for,” Clark says. “Yes, I will continue to do that, because I don’t care about the quality of clothing at all.”

Clark’s Wife Convinced Him To Start Upgrading Their Hotels

Christa, who produces the podcast, said someone wrote in after witnessing Clark in the wild at a subway station. This witness claimed Clark “looked like a vagabond,” Christa says.

However, Clark has opened the pocketbook more with time. He cited the quality of the hotels he and his wife book while on vacation as one such example.

“My wife and I had that couples meeting years ago and we don’t stay in run-down hotels anymore,” Clark says. “She made it clear I was taking the fun out of vacations when we’d be somewhere and we’d be in a real dump. And so now we stay in decent hotels always.

“And I’ve actually twice left a hotel. One time I had to forfeit my money. The other time I got a refund of my money. When the hotel was flat-out unacceptable. And so we have made that change. I have flexed on that.”

A leopard can change its spots after all. But not all of them.

“As far as cheapest flights, I mean, that’s who I am. I’m gonna do the cheapest flights,” Clark says.

“But we do really live a nice life. And we spend money on what matters. Which is enjoying ourselves, our kids, for charities. And I would say I am not in the least deprived at all. But I am thrifty.”

Final Thoughts

Clark loves to be smart with his money. He’s a lifelong saver who has always lived on much, much less than he makes. But he’ll pick and choose areas where he wants to splurge.

It’s a good lesson even for those of us who have fewer assets than Clark. You don’t have to feel guilty if you, within reason, spend money on what you’re most passionate about. But it’s possible to balance that out by spending as little as possible on things that aren’t priorities.