Cutting Corners

"Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, we are canceling art, music and dance. Please evacuate the auditorium before it's bulldozed into a mini-mall."
Principal Skinner, The Simpsons, "HOMR"

Somebody, such as a cheapskate or someone in financial trouble, needs to save money desperately. He does so by conserving his money almost ridiculously by refusing to spend any money or buying extremely cheap items.

A subtrope of The Scrooge. Often result of a Money Fetish or No OSHA Compliance. Compare Thrifty Scot and All Jews Are Cheapskates. Related to Poor Man's Substitute, though here, the substitute is actually rich.


Comic Books
  • Surprisingly averted by Uncle Scrooge. He may be a miserly penny pincher and will ask the construction crew if each component is necessary, but he will not compromise on proper construction since obviously a building that is proven unsafe is a total loss financially.

Film - Animated
  • In Big Hero 6, Allstair Krei is described by Professor Callahan as this when he approaches Hiro about investing his his microbots. He speaks from personal experience, as it was him ignoring an irregularity in his portal experiment that led to the assumed loss of Callahan's daughter, something he tries to kill him for.

Film - Live Action
  • The film of A Sound of Thunder makes an important plot point of mentioning that the trope-making and trope-naming Butterfly of Doom situation from the original novella normally wouldn't happen because of a bio-filter that the Time Machine has, but the Corrupt Corporate Executive running the Time Safari company shut it down to save on electrical bill money.
  • The climax of Evan Almighty reveals that the prophesied flood that Evan was making his ark for was actually caused by the bursting of a dam overfilled with water. The reason for the dam failing was because the antagonist of the film cut corners in its construction.
  • The Towering Inferno has the contractors for the Glass Tower cut corners to save money, particularly in the electric wiring. This not only starts the fire, but the shoddy construction makes it harder for the people inside to escape.
  • Red exploits the fact that government bureaucracies contract out important work to lowest bidders who tend to cut corners. This leads to absurdities like a top secret file room being protected by a state-of-the-art security door while the surrounding walls are made of cheap drywall that can be broken through with a single kick.
  • In Backdraft a Corrupt Corporate Executive and a Corrupt Politician conspired to implement unnecessary cut backs in the fire department. This resulted in the closing of multiple fire stations and the two men then made lots of money redeveloping the buildings. However, this left the fire department critically undermanned and a number of fire fighters died as a result because they had to fight dangerous fires without adequate backup, and this triggers "Axe" Adcox's Kill It with Fire-laden Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Capricorn One: The reason why the astronauts are yanked out of their rocket to Mars right before launch, forced to pretend that they are flying to Mars (while being filmed on a studio) and will be killed by the Government Conspiracy is because of the Crooked Contractor who built the parts for the "Capricorn One" mission (who was also the lowest bidder) manufacturing a crappy life-support system and re-entry heat shield.

  • Jurassic Park: Even though John Hammond claims to have "spared no expense" when building his park, in truth he's actually done a lot of cost cutting. For instance, he tried to reduce the amount of employees (and thus need to pay them) by having much of the park's functions being run by computers, including animal care, tour guides, and security. Said computer is programmed by a single guy who Hammond also short-changes, leading him to develop a grudge and thus do a sloppy job. Both of these culminate in the main computer failing and thus the whole park falling into disarray.

Live-Action TV
  • On Kitchen Nightmares, Bar Rescue or any other Business Help show, one possible reason for the issues a restaurant might be facing is that the owner has been trying to reduce costs in ways that compromise food safety and/or quality.
  • On In Plain Sight an engineer is put into Witness Protection after he reveals that a major construction company used subpar building materials when constructing a bridge that later collapsed. This is subverted in the end when the engineer discovers that he made a crucial mistake when designing the bridge and the it would have collapsed no matter what materials were used.

Newspaper Comics
  • Dilbert used this trope as a joke during when Dogbert was CEO, as seen in the page image.

Video Games
  • In the Sierra Madre DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, the Apocalyptic Logs scattered around the villa reveals that the construction crews hired to build the villa cut corners all over the place. All over the area, you can see shoddy drywall, collapsed ceilings due to poor load-bearing supports, and cheap concrete. The Sierra Madre Casino was built with no expense spared, but the construction crews didn't like the fact that they were tricked into accepting the owner's Company Town standards of currency.
  • While Adapted Out of the movie, both the book and the Telltale Games game of Jurassic Park make an explicit mention of the fact that the technique of using any type of DNA to "patch up" the missing sequences of dinosaur DNA without double-checking compatibility was a cheap option which was pretty much doomed to cause unpredictable mutations (the movie shows one of said mutations, causing some female dinos to become male because of the usage of frog DNA, but it doesn't mentions that it was the cheaper option).
  • Portal bit above, as insane CEO Cave Johnson's funding ran out from buying $70 million worth of moon rocks, he was forced to turn from astronauts and olympic athletes to homeless people as test subjects in his endless quest For Science!.

Web Comic
  • A very literal example happens in Bruno the Bandit. During an adventure involving Bruno overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins, he tries to cheat his way out at Sloth when it makes him an offer. The offer has him presented with the four-panel format of the strip, representing his life, and is told the way out is to cut off the corners that the demon he's after is hiding in. Until he fixed it, the strip's corners were cut off and the artwork was intentionally much more poorly drawn and written.

Web Video
  • This is spoofed in the LoadingReadyRun sketch "The Dark". Rob tries to save money on their utility bill by covering all the windows with blankets to prevent heat loss which results in the entire apartment being pitch black dark. He then refuses to turn on the lights in order to save on electricity. Since he is an idiot he tries to compensate for not seeing anything by bringing in bats to use as "seeing-eye bats". When that fails, he buys night vision goggles. The cost of the goggles is large enough that his "cost saving" measures will not actually save him any money for at least a decade.

Western Animation
  • An episode of House of Mouse has Scrooge McDuck buying the club and performing all kinds of cost-cutting ways to save and make money, including having the lights become coin-operated, greatly decreasing the food supply and seating all the guests at one table. Later, Mickey tries to give him a taste of his own medicine by having the cartoons shown a tiny television and cutting off the electricity, but it backfires when Scrooge commends him for it.
  • The Simpsons has had many, many running gags involving this trope. To wit...
  • Spongebob Squarepants. Mr. Krabs is notorious for this, especially after Seasonal Rot kicked in.
  • The South Park episode "Sexual Harassment Panda" has the school cutting its funding sharply due to various lawsuits, including the absence of desks and Mr. Garrison writing on the blackboard with a rusty nail.
  • Principal Pixiefrog from My Gym Partner's a Monkey sometimes does this, one example being having the school's Arctic wing melt and flood the halls because he cut off their air conditioning during a heat wave.
  • On Hey Arnold!, this is the cause of a teachers' strike at P.S. 118.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch has NASA reciving only $1 for their annual budget, so they "go back to basics" by trying to send monkeys into space in various ways.