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.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Rossweisse from High School DD is one cheap Valkyrie. She only shops at 100 Yen stores ($2 Shops) and considers them a good first stop on a date, is seen fighting with old ladies for sale items, and only ever buys clothes on clearance - when Issei hits her with Dress Break, she's so upset she can't replace her outfit at the same price she forgets to cover herself. This is eventually revealed to be because Odin pays his Valkyries (or the underperforming Rossweisse, at least) a criminally miserly wage; Rossweisse is easily enticed to formally defect when Rias simply offers her a better benefits package.

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.
    • He seems to pay a fair wage to his employees as well- save Donald, whom he always employs for 30 cents an hour. Depending on the writer, this can vary from the Italian comics where its portrayed as basically indentured servitude (the Italian Scrooge is a far bigger Jerkass than his American counterpart), to the beloved Don Rosa version who treats it as more a humorous afterthought for Donalds assistance on his adventures.

Fan Fiction
  • In Soul's Light, an Evangelion and Dresden Files crossover, Harry is sent to sabotage the Jet Alone demonstration. In the ensuing chaos it comes to light that, to save money on the prototype, the company had used a cheaper nuclear reactor. One which lacked an automatic safety system and was currently overheating while refusing to accept orders. Harry chose to hoof it on hearing that.

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. Unfortunately, the film doesn't make it clear how bio-filters would eliminate the problem, since the issue is someone stepping on a butterfly in the past, not bringing it back to the future.
  • 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.

Literature

  • Jurassic Park
    • Even though John Hammond in Jurassic Park claims to have "spared no expense" when building his park, in truth he's actually done a lot of cost cutting in areas that won't be immediately visible to the tourists. 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 take a bribe to steal dinosaur embryos from the park. This robbery involves shutting down the main computer, which the park can't function without.
    • It is eventually showcased on its continuation The Lost World (1995) that InGen couldn't do things well even on Site-B: for starters, the computers installed on the Site have security so lax than anybody who fails repeatedly on hacking them will be pretty much provided with a free user password via the computer allowing them to reset it, and the biggest doozie on the novel: InGen was so cheap and careless in the feeding of the dinosaurs and in the disposing of the bodies of those dinosaurs that died at some point of the incubation process (they just dumped the bodies somewhere without even bothering to burn them), that all of the dinosaurs on the island are doomed to die by prion disease (the carnivores gorged themselves on the dead, rotting bodies and the disease will eventually reach the herbivores via infected wounds).
  • In Lock In, it's mentioned as the reason why FBI agents drive their Automated Automobiles manually.
    Vann: This is a Bureau car. Lowest-bidder autodrive is not something you want to trust.

Live-Action TV
  • On Our Miss Brooks, Mr. Conklin periodically subjects Madison High School to economy drives. One such drive occurs in the episode "Blue Goldfish", where his miserly apportionment of coal causes the school to feel like a refrigerator.
  • 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' Jurassic Park The Game 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.
  • A sympathetic example in Godslave. As the summer high season ends, Edith's boss at the restaurant she works at is forced to lay her off - autumn means less clients, meaning less money, which in turn means he can't afford to hire more than the absolute minimum.

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...
    • The episode "Mobile Homer" has Marge cutting the family's budget and keeping a nest egg after Homer is denied life insurance, such as buying imitation cereal and coffee, having Maggie conserve her pacifier and not allowing Homer to use even fake money to buy beer at Moe's.
    • This is the basis for many gags regarding Springfield Elementary (like having a cinderblock in place of a tetherball and giving the students "malk" at lunchtime) and the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant (where emergency escape exits are painted onto the walls).
    • The episode "The President Wore Pearls" has Skinner trying to cut art, music and gym, using student body president Lisa as a scapegoat, but eventually cut corners by cancelling flu shots and selling cigarettes.
    • "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" has the family attending a seminar to help them save money after Snake robs their digital bank account. The host shows a photo of him on a fancy yacht with beautiful women and notes that he got the yacht on a bargain because it smells like cat pee, and that the women used to be men. The family follows his advice by grocery shopping at a 39 cents store, where Homer immediatly gets red tide poisoning from a can of expired plankton.
    • While it was more about cleaning their room than saving money, Shary Bobbins sang an entire song to the tune of "Spoonful of Sugar" about cutting corners. Though at one point in the song, she does sing about Apu increasing his prices for long-expired meat and milk.
    • "Marge vs. the Monorail": As part of his swindle, Lyle Lanley cut corners everywhere on the monorail: it had bad brakes, bad wiring, no fire extinguishers, the vehicle was itself recycled from a World's Fair and the celebrity guest of one of the previous openings was pretty lousy.
  • Spongebob Squarepants. Mr. Krabs is notorious for this, especially after Seasonal Rot kicked in.
    • Referred to by name in "The Sewers of Bikini Bottom", where the sewer pipes underneath the Krusty Krab Stadium are made of cardboard (which Mr. Krabs says was also used for his grandmother's dentures) and ended up almost flooding the stadium.
  • 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 reviving only $1 for their annual budget, so they "go back to basics" by trying to send monkeys into space through various methods like a giant slingshot.
  • Gravity Falls: Grunkle Stan, all over, especially in "The Time-Traveller's Pig":
    Stan: There she is, the cheapest fair money can rent! I spared every expense!
    [cable car with Dipper in it lands next to them, having fallen off the cable]
    Dipper: I think the sky tram is broken. Also most of my bones.
    Stan: Hah! This guy!