Affluent Ascetic

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. Not to be confused with a wealthy person who goes for a Simple, yet Opulent Ascetic Aesthetic, which is just a subtler form of Conspicuous Consumption.

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 he says 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 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 (that's Russian noble lingo for serfs), 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 MisÚrables, 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.
  • One of Aesop's Fables concerns a miser who lives simply and keeps all his wealth buried in his back garden, occasionally digging it up to gloat over it. One day he goes out and finds that thieves have discovered and stolen the hidden treasure; he calls on the gods for vengeance, but they take the view that, since he was never going to use the treasure, he hasn't really lost anything of value.
  • In The Millennium Trilogy, Lizbeth Salander earns a fortune from the Vanger case, then increases her money through careful investments, but she barely spends any of it.

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 Fring 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.
  • In Fargo Season Three, V.M. Varga has made a considerable fortune from his criminal enterprises, but deliberately plays down his wealth to avoid drawing attention to himself, in part because he's a paranoiac who thinks the poor are a threat to the rich.
  • Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation secretly has a huge amount of money obtained through unspecified means, but doesn't spend any more on himself than the average person. While he is a bit miserly (most of his fortune is in the form of buried gold), this is mostly because Ron is man of simple pleasures with a great value of self-dependence, to the point he prefers to build things instead of buying them whenever possible.

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.

Western Animation
  • Steven Universe's father Greg has spent most of his adult living in his van and working at (later owning) a carwash. Early in the third season, he gets a 10 million dollar royalty check for a song he wrote during his brief musical career... and continues to live in his van, run his carwash, and wear the same clothes. He did take his son and Pearl on a night on the town after getting the check, but the sticker shock put him off making a habit of it. After that, Greg buys a (reasonably-priced) car he always wanted, but his major purchases are infrequent and usually for Steven or his friends (renting a boat for Lapis to ride on, giving Peridot a tablet he decided he didn't want).

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.
  • Taken Up to Eleven by Jonn Elwes "the Miser", an 18th-Century English Member of Parliament. Despite being very wealthy and famously generous to other people, he had such an aversion to spending money on himself that he forbade repairs on his multiple country estates, wore clothes until they fell apart on him, and went to bed at dusk rather than spend money on lighting. While his barrister was preparing his will — roughly £50 million of assets in modern currency — the dying Elwes forbade him from wasting a candle to see better.

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