The NFL's 5 Most Frugal Players

By Carrie Kirby on 29 October 2014 2 comments

Professional football players are among the highest-paid people in America, and yet the story of the bankrupt NFL retiree is so common it's become a stereotype. Sports Illustrated reported that 78% of former NFL players experience financial hardship after just two years of retirement.

That's no great wonder, when you read about rampant spending of newly rich players, like Chad Ochocinco spending $100,000 for his own personalized semi truck. Other players lend to friends and family who see their new salaries as limitless lending accounts, or, as inexperienced investors, sink money into ventures that never pay off.

So it's refreshing to hear these five players — well compensated all — talk about gas mileage, retirement accounts, and distinguishing "needs" from "wants." Read on to see who makes the list of the NFL's Most Frugal.

1. Aaron Rodgers

Team: Green Bay Packers

Position: Quarterback

As one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, Rodgers earns about $22 million a year in salary and endorsements. Yet he lives in a relatively ordinary — some might even say ugly — home in a suburb of Green Bay. He mows his own lawn, shops at Piggly Wiggly, and likes to hang out at a modest-looking place called Chives Restaurant.

2. Giovani Bernard

Team: Cincinnati Bengals

Position: Running Back

Bernard signed a $5.253 million dollar contract in 2013, plus a $2.2 million signing bonus — hefty for a rookie. But instead of buying a custom Hummer with his first paycheck, he drives a minivan he borrowed from his girlfriend's mother. He lives in a modest apartment near the stadium.

Bernard knows how unexpectedly hard times can turn life upside down. After his mother died when he was a child, Bernard lived with his father, who owned a dry cleaning business. But when Bernard was in high school, his dad lost the business — and the two lost their home. Bernard moved in with the family of his best friend, James White, now a running back for the New England Patriots.

3. Antonio Cromartie

Team: Arizona Cardinals

Position: Cornerback

After blowing an estimated $5 million in his first two years playing football on nine (NINE!!) cars, lavish jewelry, and two homes, Cromartie realized he had spent everything he had coming to him. Instead of spiraling into debt, though, Cromartie wised up, sold the excess stuff, and bought a Prius.

"I'll fill it up every two and a half weeks or so, and I'm only spending 33 bucks, while everybody else is spending 80 or 90 bucks a tank," he told Newsday. "Right now, I'm all about saving money."

He'll need it: Cromartie is the father of 10.

Cromartie now has his retirement account fully funded through age 100, and he advises younger teammates on how to avoid making the same mistakes he did.

4. Rod Smith

Team: Denver Broncos (retired)

Position: Wide Receiver

Smith told Forbes that he lives well in retirement because he always kept his post-NFL life in mind during his playing days, which led him to avoid spending like some of his teammates did: "The most luxurious thing I bought was my house. I wasn't a big jewelry or car guy. I don't have Ferraris and Bentleys. I had a motto that I lived by, 'There are two places I want to look good at: home and practice.'"

5. Prince Amukamara

Team: New York Giants

Position: Cornerback

Amukamara isn't just a professional football player, he's also Nigerian royalty. Really. And no, he didn't email me about how I could get $100,000 if only I helped him transfer some money.

Despite his paycheck and his pedigree, Amukamara isn't a wild spender.

Back in 2011, just after leaving the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the NFL, he tweeted that he was "looking at getting a good deal at Husker Auto." Apparently he proceeded directly to the used car section and successfully bargained for a lower price on an SUV by paying cash.

A subsequent "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit revealed more signs of Amukamara's frugal nature. He said the most common mistake NFL rookies make is "Spending their money on 'wants' and not 'needs'." He also said that his favorite place to visit when he plays in California is In-N-Out Burger, where meals are under $10.

Being thrifty is not the same as being a tightwad, though. Amukamara once spent $10,000 outfitting a Nebraska high school football team.

Have you heard any tales of frugal-minded sports stars? Please share in comments.

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Guest's picture
Isabelle La Vosgienne

This is really refreshing to read that some top-rank Football players have their head securely screwed on right when it comes to money and lifestyle.

As for Aaron Rodger's house, wow! If THAT's what some people call an ugly house, blimey, I'd love to have a house as ugly as that!

Guest's picture
Nancy

In addition to resisting the lure of luxury homes and cars, I'm sure it's very difficult for newly affluent young men to say no to all their hangers-on from the old neighborhood. Good for Cromartie--players need sound financial mentoring.