Somebody, such as a cheapskate or someone in financial trouble, needs to save money desperately. He does so by conserving his money ridiculously by refusing to spend any money or buying extremely cheap items.
If the company used to be generous, but has since downgraded to cheaper versions, or "BYO", that's a sure sign that they're in some kind of financial trouble. Bonus points if the things they're being stingy with are essential (and already cheap) items such as pens or pads of sticky notes.
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. See Doom It Yourself and You Get What You Pay For for examples of the possible consequences. Supertrope of the Kitschy Local Commercial, though that one is usually justified in that the commercial is most often for a small business which doesn't have the budget for high-quality ads that larger corporations do.
- High School D×D: Rossweisse 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.
- Noragami: Yato is a god who has been seen having Hiyori pay for his lunch, scrounging in dumpsters to find clothes, asking Kofuku for money and taking money from Yukine. He even considers free beer a type of payment. However, he is ridiculously broke as, since he is a god, thinks that people should only pay five yen for his services as that is a normal offering. This isn't helped by his odd belief that lucky charms will actually prove useful and constantly spends what little money he has to buy them. Subverted by the fact that, under no circumstances, will Yato allow Yukine to steal or demand money from people, since as a shinki, it would corrupt both him and Yato, eventually turning Yukine into an ayakashi.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
- 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. After all, Scrooge would rather swallow his pride and spend the money now instead of having to spend twice as much money later for repairs/rebuilding.
- 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 it's 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 Donald's assistance on his adventures.
- Dilbert used this trope as a joke during when Dogbert was CEO.
- 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.
- In Big Hero 6, Allistair Krei is described by Professor Callahan as this when he approaches Hiro about investing his microbots. While Krei did ignore an irregularity in his portal experiment that led to the assumed loss of Callahan's daughter, it's implied that no one involved in the experiment was actually worried at the time and Callahan is, of course, heavily biased and planning to murder Krei.
- In The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, the corrupt mayor heavily cuts corners when turning Liberty Park into Libertyland, creating what would probably have been an Amusement Park of Doom even without animal sabotage.
- 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 cutbacks 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 World: While it's clear that the park is being better managed than the way Ingen tried things, there are still some obvious places where corners were cut in park safety, primarily the lack of physical barriers such as dry moats around the park to keep dinosaurs from leaving their sections and a lack of any systems to recall the spheres or keep them from entering restricted areas.
- In the Disney TV movie Noah, Tony Danza's character works in construction and teaches his subordinates to cut corners in order to save money "for a rainy day". Then he learns from an angel that the rainy day is coming in a big way. He starts making waves in the construction company by forcing his people to redo shoddy work, resulting in him getting fired. When the flood actually starts, the company headquarters roof starts leaking. The boss angrily asks which idiot built the structure, and his secretary points out that he did.
- 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 number of employees (and thus the need to pay them) by having many 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 that 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 (giving them badly-made ground sheep instead of anti-biotic infused chicken like a real zoo would and thus risking infecting the animals with scrapie, a disease similar to Mad Cow Disease) 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 of 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.
- In the Dave Barry novel Big Trouble, a company known for this put in the lowest bid for constructing a prison. The automated cell doors have been known to open by themselves during a thunderstorm.
- In The Lost Fleet, this is a first indication that The Alliance is starting to crumble under the strain of its unending century-long war with the Syndicate Worlds. Before the war, ships were built to last 100 years, 150 with a refit. The horrific losses, coupled with the Attack! Attack! Attack! tactics employed by both sides, mean that shipbuilders no longer bother building ships to last any longer than their expected lifetime, so 3-year-old ships start to have breakdowns, as components reach the end of their lifetime and need to be swapped out for new ones. After returning to Alliance space, Geary is given several battlecruisers of the new Adroit class, which is about half the size of the previous class and is worse in every way (except, possibly, propulsion). The sensors on the Adroit class are so bad that the ship is virtually blind and must parasite its sensor data from others. The same thing is happening to the Syndics, and their ships actually lack repair crews because they're expensive, forcing ship CEOs to hire civilian contractors for the job.
- 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. This often results in a Vicious Cycle, especially if the reason they started cutting corners was because they started losing money, only to end up losing even more money as a result of lowering food standards due to a disappearing customer base.
- 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.
- The third episode of Orange Is the New Black shows the prison cutting corners with the prisoners' various medications.
- Later, after Litchfield underwent privatization, they cut corners with the food, and that was just the beginning.
- One of Basil's more notable vices in Fawlty Towers. Given the nature of the series, it usually comes back to bite him later in the episode. In one episode, he hires a drunken handyman to install a new door between the dining room and the lobby. The door goes through a load-bearing wall, but he uses a simple 2x4 for the lintel instead of a more substantial beam. A more competent builder hired by Basil's wife panics and runs for a prop when he hears about this.
- At least two of the marks targeted by the Leverage crew are criminally guilty of this:
- Mayor Culpepper in "The Three Strikes Job" obtained $20 million of federal antiterrorism money for use in upgrading the security of the Belbridge ports. When Eliot and Hardison go to the waterfront intending to tap into the port surveillance, they discover that none of the claimed upgrades were actually made. Instead, Culpepper pocketed the money and invested it in the guns being smuggled through Belbridge by the illegal arms dealer he's in business with.
- Similarly, Don Blackwell in "The Underground Job" received a check from the government to make safety improvements in his mine after an accidental explosion killed twelve miners. Rather than actually make any improvements, he put the funds into the campaign of an attorney general who makes sure that any citations against him never have to be paid.
- On Shameless (US) Fiona buys an apartment building and struggles with being a landlord. She has to deal with tenants who refuse to pay their rent and/or wreck their apartments which causes her costs to balloon and her profits to disappear. When the roof starts leaking, she cheaps out and hires an unlicensed contractor to fix it. He in turn hires some unskilled laborers to do the job and leaves them unsupervised. One of the men falls off the roof and is severely hurt. The ensuing lawsuits threatens to bankrupt Fiona since by hiring an unlicensed and uninsured contractor, she made herself liable for all the ensuing damages.
- In Chernobyl, Legasov explains this as a key reason why the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded. He compares RBMK reactors to those made by the West and lists a number of safety features that aren't implemented in the Soviet-made reactors because they're expensive. And when it became known that having graphite tips on boron control rods can temporarily increase nuclear reaction before boron shuts the reaction down (in case of Chernobyl, the core was so hot that the control rod channels fused with the graphite, keeping it in contract with uranium instead of allowing boron to stop the reaction), the Soviet government buried the information as it would be too costly to fix the problem. Of course, the terrible irony is that the Soviet government ended up spending billions on containing the aftermath of the meltdown and losing an entire city to radiation. The disaster has been cited as one of the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union 5 years later.
- In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Wayne's boss H. Gordon Jennings does it constantly. It comes to a head, when an EPA inspector threatens to expose his dumping of toxic waste, he feeds the waste to Wayne's garbage-eating bacteria, causing it to mutate and turn people into garbage-eating zombies. When they're cornered by zombies in an underground lab, Wayne claims they can escape through the Air-Vent Passageway, which leads to the surface, only for Jennings to point out that there is no vent, it's just a grille on a bare wall to fool the safety inspectors.
- The engineering podcast Well There's Your Problem is about engineering disasters. Once the hosts start digging into the history and context behind the disaster, eight times out of ten (the other two usually being Failsafe Failure or just plain rotten luck) the fault can be attributed to warnings being ignored or safety features not being installed because it was more cost-effective to leave things as-is. Needless to say this is a sore point for the hosts.
- 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. Ironically, the highly corrosive Cloud is the main reason why the whole facility had not fallen into ruin after the bombs fell but also the main reason why the owner had enough money to even pay for the shoddy hotel and caused his workers to turn into mutants sealed within their suits.
- 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).
- The UNN Von Braun in System Shock 2 emerged this way, with Tri-Optimum trying to beat everyone to building the first faster-than-light ship. Because of this, among other things, the ship's computer was badly unprotected from being hacked into singing Elvis Presley songs for 3 hours, and its engines constantly leaking radiation. The audiologs you find lampshade much of this, and you spend a majority of the game getting around these obstacles.
- 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!.
- The Perpetual Testing Initiative is one of the few things of Aperture Science that really does work and it was made for the sole reason to have "backwater universe yokel" to build test chambers on the cheap and ends with the company finding a universe made of U.S. dollars and solving their money issue.
- In Starship Titanic, this was invoked when the titular space cruise liner was under construction. The project's managers reduced its construction budget several times over, sabotaged its AI, and hid a bomb on board to scuttle it, since the ship cost so much to build that it financially ruined an entire planet's civilization. As such, when the ship launched, it randomly teleported to your house at the beginning of the game, leaving you to fix what went wrong with the cruise liner.
- Thaddeus Wishingbone from the Battleborn DLC Toby's Friendship Raid cut corners in his evil plan. Rather than give his factory ships the best defenses against intruders and the like, he decided to simply hire cheap Thrall contractors whose works can be shoddy at times and use the budgetary surplus to purchase petty luxuries such as an additional underwater castle for his pet fish.
- 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 fewer clients, meaning less money, which in turn means he can't afford to employ more than the minimum number of staff.
- The World is Flat depicts this here.
- Part of the premise of Stand Still, Stay Silent. The expedition is underfunded, which has caused Mission Control to make a few adjustments. This includes headquarters actually being the Impoverished Patrician's house with a used communication radio (and three very unruly children) in the living room. They intentionally hire Bunny-Ears Lawyer types because no completely right-minded person would take the job for the low salaries they are offering. They are also relying on their hirelings to bring some of their own supplies and hunt "a little" to defray costs on that front. And of course, anything that is not the team's custom-designed Non-Uniform Uniform is used and looks like it will be lucky to last until the end of the expedition. They also gave up on having a cat on the expedition. In this world, cats are used as an alarm system to tell when Plague Zombie monsters are approaching and the expedition is in an area ridden with such monsters.
- Ozy and Millie: Principal Vine gets into a standardized testing craze, and tries to cut anything that can't evaluate a student's knowledge with a multiple choice test, including recess and going to the bathroom. But not the football team.
- 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.
- In the SuperMarioLogan episode, "Bowser's House Fire!", when Bowser's house catches fire thanks to a candle Bowser Junior lit after watching an episode of Doofy the Dragon where Doofy lights himself on fire, The Brooklyn Guy has to put the fire out. However, because the Fire Department cut its funding the month before, he couldn't afford a fire truck, so had to use his own car to rush to Bowser's house, and Bowser's garden hose to put out the fire.
- 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 on 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...
Park ranger: I'm afraid that's no longer true, ma'am. Budget cutbacks have forced us to eliminate anything the least bit entertaining.
- 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 loose 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, Chuck Garabedian, 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, and his motto is "Ya gotta squeeze every penny!". The family follows his advice by grocery shopping at a 33-cent store, where Homer immediately gets red tide poisoning from a can of expired plankton.
- While it was more about cleaning their room than saving money, Shary Bobbins from "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" 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.
- Went meta in "The Front" where Bart and Lisa visit the animation studio that produces Itchy and Scratchy: the producer tells them animation is expensive, and they cut corners where they can, such as looping backgrounds. They pass the same cleaning lady and door several times as this is said.
- In "Bart the Fink", Krusty gets nabbed for tax evasion and the IRS seizes his assets. As a result, his show is renamed Herschel Krustofsky's Clown-Related Entertainment Show, there's no longer money for sets, costumes, or even banana cream pies. Or somebody to throw them.
- In "Mountain of Madness", Marge tries to cheer the kids up when they learn they're not allowed to join Homer on the race to the mountain cabin by reminding them that there's all sorts of fun things to do at national parks. Unfortunately...
[Awkward, disappointed pause]
Park ranger: Well, uh, see ya.
- 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.
- In "Krabs vs. Plankton," when Plankton slips on a slippery floor while trying to steal a Krabby Patty, he's told by some customers to sue Krabs since there is no "Caution— Slippery floor when wet" sign. At the trial, Krabs admits that he didn't buy the sign because he though it was a "superflous" business expense (actually he was just too cheap to buy it). The only reason why Krabs won the case is because Spongebob tricked Plankton into admitting he was faking an injury, and Spongebob gives Krabs a homemade sign that looks like a tetanus lawsuit waiting to happen, but Krabs says he likes is since it's free.
- In "Drive Trhu," Krabs get the idea to operate one when a costumer mistakes hole in the wall for a drive through window. However, Krab's greed gets the better of him and he smashes more holes to make Spongebob and Squidward, who are already overworked, service more customers and earn more money,which results in the Krusty Krab collapsing due to a lack of structural support.
- 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 receiving 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!