Created By: Lawman592 on November 6, 2015 Last Edited By: Lawman592 on June 18, 2017
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Affluent Ascetic

Bob is rich but chooses to live well below his means.

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An Affluent Ascetic is a character who is financially well off but chooses to live modestly or even spartanly. It can include misers who have an almost pathological fear of spending even one cent on anything but can also be people who simply have little or no interest in surrounding themselves in the usual trappings of luxury. In addition, people who are engaged in businesses of questionable legality may adopt a frugal lifestyle to keep their criminal activities from coming to the law's attention.

Sister Trope to Non-Idle Rich and Super Trope to Modest Royalty. Compare with Secretly Wealthy.

Examples

Films—Live Action
  • The mercenary / assassin Gelt from Battle Beyond the Stars has amassed a large fortune as payment for his reputation as The Kingslayer. Trick is, there's nowhere among the civilized worlds where Gelt can abide in safety, which means he spends his days hiding in an abandoned arcade world. Gelt actually spells this out to The Hero, stating "Your offer of a warm bed and a hot meal sounds very appealing to me right now."

  • The Godfather Part II features Hyman Roth who, despite being one of the captains of a criminal empire that—in his own words—is "bigger than U.S. Steel," chooses to live unostentatiously in a modest house in a Miami suburb.

Literature
  • Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol is the Trope Namer for the miserly example of this type of character. Scrooge lives a large house, but it's mostly unlit and unheated, with scant furnishings. Scrooge also collects his hoard of coins only to count them, rarely to spend them.

  • Played with in David Drake's RCN series. Adele Mundy's blue blooded family styled themselves as populists standing up for the common man, and deliberately furnished their estates in an austere style in the hopes of appealing to them. One of the things Adele learned during her exile from Cinnabar is that the lower classes don't actually decorate their houses that way.

  • Plyushkin in Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls is another miserly example. He owns several hundred souls, but lives as cheap as a beggar.

  • Jumper: David steals a small fortune from a bank, and, knowing he'll immediately become a fugitive for doing so, builds himself a cozy little one room loft in the side of a cliff only accessible by him. He also does not start dressing flamboyantly. He just uses his ill gotten gains to give himself power, plumbing and creature comforts in his little hideaway.

  • In Les Misérables, Bishop Myriel's position comes with a large salary and a palatial official residence. He allows the local hospital to occupy the palace while he lives in a small adjoining building, and donates nearly all his salary to charity.

Music
  • Lucious Clay, who's featured in the Charlie Daniels Band's song The Legend Of Wooley Swamp, falls into the miser sub-category of this trope. He's an asocial recluse who lives alone in swamp where he amuses himself by unearthing Mason jars full of money and running his fingers through it. Lucius is robbed and murdered by thieves after digging up thirteen such jars. The thieves, however, receive a Karmic Death for their villainy.

Television
  • On Graceland Briggs is taken to see the head of one of the biggest drug cartels in Mexico. He is surprised to discover that the guy lives on a small farm where he cooks his own meals and slaughters his own livestock for meat. This is contrasted with the guy's main rival who lives on a large opulent estate.

  • In The Wire, drug dealers tend to live that way due to the need to hide their wealth from the public. Marlo is a particularly sober example.

  • In Breaking Bad, Gus Frin lives very simply in public, while his home is very simple middle-class. Eventually, Walter White is forced into a similar lifestyle, to hide his wealth. He takes the trope Up to Eleven when he starts leading a life of poverty and hermitage in a cabin in the woods, with a literal barrel of millions of dollars in cash by his side.

Theater
  • Avenue Q: You'd hardly call him an ascetic, but Trekkie Monster has a million dollars lying around his room despite living in a one-bedroom apartment in a poor neighborhood.

Real Life
  • Jose Mujica, President of Uraguay 2010-2015, lived on his own rundown farm rather than the presidential palace, drove an old VW Beetle, and donated 90% of his salary to charitable causes during his tenure.
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • November 6, 2015
    DAN004
  • November 6, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    Well we have Non Idle Rich and Modest Royalty. This would be a Sister Trope to the first and a Super Trope to the latter (as most examples would be royals who could afford to be lavish but aren't).
  • November 6, 2015
    TheHandle
    In The Wire, drug dealers tend to live that way due to the need to hide their wealth from the public. Marlo is a particularly sober example.

    In Breaking Bad, Gus Frin lives very simply in public, while his home is very simple middle-class. Eventually, Walter White is forced into a similar lifestyle, to hide his wealth. He takes the trope Up To Eleven when he starts leading a life of poverty and hermitage in a cabin in the woods, with a literal barrel of millions of dollars in cash by his side.
  • November 6, 2015
    JoeG
    • Avenue Q: You'd hardly call him an ascetic, but Trekkie Monster has a million dollars lying around his room despite living in a one-bedroom apartment in a poor neighborhood.
  • November 6, 2015
    Chabal2
    Discworld: Sam Vimes notes that only the extremely rich can afford to look very poor (his wife Sybil Ramkin, the duchess of Ankh-Morpork, raises dragons and dresses accordingly in clothing that won't mind getting burned, while the dowager duchess of Quirm dresses like a gardener), partly by buying stuff that lasts (the Ramkin family motto is "What we have we keep"). Sam Vimes himself is the Duke of Ankh-Morpork (and very much resents it), and dresses like a common copper (both because his job gives him a lot of enemies and he hates dressing in the Bling Of War the upper classes like to wear).
  • November 6, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ That's not this trope. That's Simple Yet Opulent.
  • November 9, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    Defector From Decadence is related somehow.
  • November 10, 2015
    Lawman592
    ^ I'm not sure about that. A Defector From Decadence is usually someone who becomes morally repulsed by the values and ethos expressed by his old group. An Affluent Ascetic is just someone who could live rich but doesn't because he's not interested in or attracted to that particular lifestyle.
  • November 11, 2015
    Exxolon
    Real Life example - José Mujica, President of Uraguay 2010-2015 lived on his own run down farm, not in the presidential palace, drove an old VW Beetle and donated 90% of his salary to charitable causes during his tenure.
  • January 3, 2016
    Gideoncrawle
    add to description:

    Truth In Television, as consistently living below one's means and investing wisely (or even competently) is an effective way to become affluent in the first place.
  • January 3, 2016
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Only if one has sufficient means in the first place. At or below the poverty line, it's a lot harder to save up when you have to choose between things like utility bills and groceries.

    Also not sure about the name. It's alliterative, but uses a pretty obscure term. They may still work with it, but I think it's best to go with terms in more common use.
  • January 4, 2016
    DAN004
  • January 4, 2016
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • Played with in David Drake's RCN series. Adele Mundy's blue blooded family styled themselves as populists standing up for the common man, and deliberately furnished their estates in an austere style in the hopes of appealing to them. One of the things Adele learned during her exile from Cinnabar is that the lower classes don't actually decorate their houses that way.
  • January 5, 2016
    Gideoncrawle
    ^^^ Whether it's difficult or easy to follow a method is a separate question from the method's effectiveness. This trope isn't about ease or difficulty.
  • January 5, 2016
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Still not this trope though. That's trying to become wealthy by saving up. This is being already wealthy but living well below those means.
  • January 5, 2016
    Gideoncrawle
    You miss the point. The point is that affluent people living modest lifestyles (the trope under discussion) is Truth In Television, for reasons which I explained. Do you deny that this trope is Truth In Television? If so, on what basis? Or would you prefer a Truth In Television mention with no explanation? If so, on what grounds?
  • January 5, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ It is Truth In Television, but NOT for the reasons you explained.
  • January 5, 2016
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    Truth In Television is a useless shoehorn 70% of the time and rampant speculation 45% of the time. Just leave it off.
  • August 8, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
    • Charles Dickens created Ebenezer Scrooge in his tale A Christmas Carol, and describes Scrooge as living a large house, but it's mostly unlit and unheated, with scant furnishings. Scrooge collects his hoard of coins only to count them, rarely to spend them.
  • August 9, 2016
    nielas
    • On Graceland Briggs is taken to see the head of one of the biggest drug cartels in Mexico. He is surprised to discover that the guy lives on a small farm where he cooks his own meals and slaughters his own livestock for meat. This is contrasted with the guy's main rival who lives on a large opulent estate.
  • March 1, 2017
    Lullabee
    In addendum to the Discworld example, this is particularly emphasized with Sybil in Guards Guards, much to Nobby's disapproval:
    "Disgusting, really, her livin' in a room like this. She's got pots of money, sarge says, she's got no call livin' in ordinary rooms. What's the good of not wanting to be poor if the rich are allowed to go round livin' in ordinary rooms? Should be marble."
  • March 2, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Music
    • The Charlie Daniels Band released the single The Legend Of Wooley Swamp in August 1980, describing an asocial recluse named Lucius Clay living alone in swamp, where he amuses himself by unearthing Mason jars full of money and running his fingers through it. At the time Lucius was robbed, he'd dug up thirteen such jars; the thieves received a Karmic Death for their villainy.
  • March 3, 2017
    Chabal2
    Judge Dredd's cleaning lady left him her vast fortune when she died, despite never showing signs of being rich.

  • March 7, 2017
    Lawman592
    ^ That's a story from the comic right?
  • March 7, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • The mercenary / assassin Gelt from Battle Beyond The Stars has amassed a large fortune as payment for his reputation as The Kingslayer. Trick is, there's nowhere among the civilized worlds where Gelt can abide in safety, which means he spends his days hiding in an abandoned arcade world. Gelt actually spells this out to The Hero, stating "Your offer of a warm bed and a hot meal sounds very appealing to me right now."
    • The legendary pirate Nathaniel Flint from Disney's Treasure Planet had successfully raided so many merchant starships, that he'd amassed "the loot of a thousand worlds." However, being a ruthless pirate, there was no place where he could show himself safely to spend his wealth, and his skeleton is found sitting amid a glorious treasure trove that availed him naught.
  • March 15, 2017
    PaulA
    ^ I think the Treasure Planet one is a different trope.

    Literature

    • In Les Miserables, Bishop Myriel's position comes with a large salary and a palatial official residence. He allows the local hospital to occupy the palace while he lives in a small adjoining building, and donates nearly all his salary to charity.
  • March 16, 2017
    Skylite
    • Jumper: David steals a small fortune from a bank, and, knowing he'll immediately become a fugitive for doing so, builds himself a cozy little one room loft in the side of a cliff only accessible by him. He also does not start dressing flamboyantly. He just uses his ill gotten gains to give himself power, plumbing and creature comforts in his little hideaway.

  • March 16, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    ^^ Well, if Gelt from Film.Battle Beyond The Stars qualifies, then Flint from WesternAnimation.Treasure Planet does, too. Both characters attained their huge fortunes through criminal enterprises: Gelt as a hitman, Flint as a pirate. Neither can show his face in civilization for fear of being apprehended and likely executed. Both live a hobo's existence in a hideaway surrounded by riches that neither can exploit. It's an ascetic perforce.

    Literature
    • The concluding story in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book opens on the British province warden (akin to a park ranger) preparing to conduct another tour of the jungle and its villages. He has a nice home and headquarters with enough amenities that much of his warden's salary sits idle in his desk. This goodly pile of cash proves too much temptation for his housekeeper, which triggers the plot.

    Film
    • Michael Sullivan from Road To Perdition robs banks in the midwest, ultimately amassing a suitcase full of cash. Every dollar, though, was drained from just one account: that of Connor Rooney, son of an Illinois mob boss. Connor tried to execute the entire Sullivan family to hide his embezzling, but hitman Michael and his older son escaped. The Sullivans mainly live in their automobile, but also take an occasional boarding house room, and once, a lonely farmhouse.
  • June 18, 2017
    theNerdytimes
    There is a rather severe lack of Scrooge Mc Duck in this thread.
  • June 18, 2017
    PaulA
    ^ Scrooge McDuck lives in an enormous house with a housekeeper and butler, which isn't a very ascetic existence.
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