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 for free, Cuban told Bill Maher during a December episode from the Club Random podcast. One of his first cars, a 1977 Fiat X1/9 with holes in the floor, died after moving across the country from Indiana to Dallas in 1982, he said. He had to hitchhike with friends until one day they found an abandoned car on the side of the road.
He made his friends stop. The car wasn’t locked and he noticed an envelope filled with loan papers sitting in the front seat.
“I knew from my own personal experience that someone had given up [the car]because they couldn’t make the payment,” Cuban said. The next day, he called bank officials, told them he had found a car they were looking for, and offered to take over the payments. They accepted, 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 now harder to call a bank and actually talking to a real person.
Other money-saving tricks from the Cuban 20s remain usable for young adults today. At 24, Cuban was living 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 get discounts on groceries, he told Maher.
“I used to go to the grocery store at midnight because they lowered the price of chicken and those big [bags of] $1.29 fries,” he said on the podcast. “And I would buy a bunch of them.”
Cuba’s youthful frugality, especially when it comes to cars, stemmed from his desire to avoid having to work, he said Money in 2017.
“I was determined to be able to retire,” he said. “I valued time more. I wanted enough money to be able to travel, have fun and party like a rock star, while living like a college student. That was my motivation.”
Cuban was lucky to retire early after becoming a millionaire at 32. He decided against it after realizing he was “too competitive” to leave the corporate world, he told the “Re:Thinking” podcast last year. Wharton psychologist Adam Grant.
Yet his wealth hasn’t changed his spending habits “that much,” he told Money.
“I bought a plane…because the asset I value most is time, and it saved me time,” Cuban said. “Other than that, I lived in the same house for 18 years and I still have the same cars.”
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