Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, 82, was born into a family with a lot of love, but not a lot of money. His father, who only made it to the eighth grade, was a plumber and his mother, who made it to the seventh grade, worked in the school cafeteria as a cook. They lived "paycheck to paycheck," in a house that was warm in the winter but hot in the summer because they didn't have air conditioning, Langone tells CNBC Make It.
But despite his outsized financial success, Langone still is careful with his money.
"I won't spend money frivolously ... Yesterday, I happened to challenge my cable bill for my apartment," Langone told CNBC Make It on Thursday.
Langone thought the total was high and wasn't sure how his cable company calculated the bill.
"It looked to me like a staggering amount of money and — it was a couple of hundred bucks — but I was just thinking, 'My God, I watch one television in the bedroom!'" says Langone, who admits his "beautiful apartment on Fifth Avenue" in Manhattan does have a number of other televisions that he doesn't watch. (The issue had not yet been resolved as of the writing of this story.)
"The point I'm making is it's not that I'm cheap, it's just that I want to make sure I don't squander money," Langone says.
"I don't think there's anything inconsistent with having been successful and also being frugal," says Lagone, whose new book, "I Love Capitalism!" was published in May.
And Langone is generous with his money in many ways. In 2010, he joined The Giving Pledge, a commitment launched by billionaire buddies Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to inspire billionaires to give away half their net worth. Langone has donated generously to the New York University Medical Center; his alma mater, Bucknell University; and the Harlem Children's Zone and its charter school the Promise Academy, among other causes.
Langone also likes to treat his wife of more than 60 years, Elaine, and he enjoys good entertainment.
"I love to buy my wife nice things. I love to do things with my family. I love to travel. I like to go to nice restaurants. I love the theater. … We're going to go see Bruce Springsteen ... we're going to go see 'My Fair Lady.' I love a good movie and we — thank God — we've got a nice screening room in our home out on Long Island. I can go down there and go on Roku and I can go to Amazon or Apple or Netflix and see almost any movie that's out there," he tells CNBC Make It.
Langone and his wife, Elaine, on their wedding day, September 15, 1956. Photo courtesy Kenneth Langone
But for a billionaire, Langone still has some remarkably simple tastes.
"I like candy — cheap candy. Jujyfruits. Good & Plenty. Nibs. Licorice nibs," says Langone.
"My my palate is pretty simple. I like meatball loaf. I like meatballs and pasta and a bagel with olive cream cheese on it. Chicken and dumplings."
Most days, says Langone, he has coffee either at his apartment or his office. And if he does want a cup while he's out, he goes to a diner.
"I'm not a Starbucks guy. I'm not a — you know these guys are coffee aficionados — I'm not. I just I'll go to a greasy spoon to get a cup of coffee. Taste good," says Langone.
So what's his favorite thing to spend his hard-earned dollars on?
"Going out and getting a pizza and seeing a good movie," he says.
While Langone checks on his cable bill and buys cheap coffee, the billionaire is not about to pass judgement on how others spend their cash.
"It's none my business. None of my business," says Langone. "I don't think it's my lot in life or my right to judge how somebody else spends their money."
— Video by Mary Stevens
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