Patagonia's founder, who just gave his company to a non-profit, loves saving money. From eating cat food to living in beach shacks, here are some of the wackiest examples.
- Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has had a frugal lifestyle since his early days as a climber and surfer.
- This includes eating cat food and taking soda bottles from trash cans to redeem for money.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard saves money wherever he can.
Despite founding a company that prides itself on prioritizing employee wellbeing and sustainability over profits, Chouinard grew up scrimping and saving during his career as a professional rock climber.
Patagonia, which he founded in 1973, is now worth $3 billion. Earlier this month, Chouinard announced plans to give away the outdoor-apparel retailer to a trust and nonprofit.
Chouinard lived an unusual lifestyle in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, in part because the nature of living in the wilderness as a climber and in beach shacks as a surfer deprived him of modern comforts, and in part because of a desire to save money, especially during the early days of Patagonia.
Here are some of his wackiest budget tactics during the earlier years of his life, as recounted in his 2005 autobiography "Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman."
As a young adult, Chouinard had to adapt his life to the great outdoors so that he would get the best opportunities for climbing and surfing. For example, in 1957, Chouinard and his friends lived in a hut on the beach in San Blas, Mexico, for a month, eating fish and tropical fruit, and using candles from the local church to wax their surfboards, he wrote.
He also got gas money "by diving into trash cans and redeeming soda pop bottles" in the late 1950s.
"One time I found an entire freezer load of partially frozen meat," he added.
Before founding Patagonia, Chouinard made a living selling climbing equipment from the back of his car.
"The profits were slim, though," he wrote. "For weeks at a time I'd live on fifty cents to a dollar a day."
One year he and a friend bought a couple of cases of damaged cans of cat food in San Francisco and took those out to the Rockies for the summer, where their diet consisted of oatmeal, potatoes, ground squirrel, blue grouse, and porcupines they killed with an ice ax, he said.
It wasn't just food that he saved money on. When traveling with his friends in the late 1950s, "we were always sick from the bad water and couldn't afford medicine," he said.
He said that they would take charcoal from the campfire, mix it with a half cup of salt in a glass of water, and drink the mixture so that they would vomit. Over time he gradually gained natural "immunity" to poor-quality water, he claimed
Even as his business grew, Chouinard continued to minimize both personal and business costs.
In 1966, Chouinard set up a base for his equipment business, Chouinard Equipment, in a rented tin boiler room of an abandoned packing company slaughterhouse in California. The company's first retail store was in an "ugly tin shed" decorated with old wood, he wrote.
Chouinard had some unorthodox living arrangements, too.
"I slept two hundred days a year or more in my old army-surplus sleeping bag," he wrote. "I didn't buy a tent until I was almost forty, preferring to sleep under boulders and the low-hanging branches of an alpine fir."
In the early 1970s, he and his wife lived in a beach shack for half the year and spent the summer months in the back of an old van until his wife converted the basement under their retail store into a makeshift apartment.
Even now, Chouinard still wears old clothes, drives a rundown Subaru, and has two modest homes in California and Wyoming, The New York Times reported. He doesn't even own a computer or cellphone, according to the publication.
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