September 24, 2022


  • Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has led a frugal lifestyle since his early days as a climber and surfer.
  • These include eating cat food and taking soda bottles from trash cans to redeem them for money.
  • Even now, Chouinard still wears old clothes and drives a run-down Subaru, the NY Times reports.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard saves money wherever he can.

Despite founding a company that prides itself on prioritizing employee well-being and sustainability over profit, Chouinard grew up scrimping and saving throughout his career as a professional climber.

Patagonia, which he founded in 1973, is now worth $3 billion. Earlier this month, Chouinard announced plans to divest the clothing retailer to an open-ended trust and nonprofit organization.

Chouinard lived an unusual lifestyle in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, partly because the nature of living in the wild as a climber and in beach huts as a surfer deprived him of modern comforts, and partly because he wanted to save money. , especially during the early days of Patagonia.

Here are some of his craziest budget tactics during his earlier years, as described in his 2005 autobiography, “Let My People Surf: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman.”

As a young adult, Chouinard had to adapt his life to nature in order to get the best climbing and surfing opportunities. For example, in 1957, Chouinard and his friends lived in a beach hut in San Blas, Mexico for a month, eating fish and tropical fruit and using candles from a local church to wax their surfboards, he wrote.

He also got gas money “diving into dumpsters and buying up soda bottles” in the late 1950s.

“I once found an entire freezer of partially frozen meat,” he added.

Before founding Patagonia, Chouinard made a living selling climbing equipment out of the back of his car.

“The profit was still small,” he wrote. “I would live on fifty cents on the dollar a day for weeks.”

One year he and a friend bought several boxes of damaged cans of cat food in San Francisco and took them to the Rockies for the summer, where their diet consisted of oatmeal, potatoes, ground squirrel, grouse and porcupines they had killed. with an ice axe, he said.

He didn’t only save money on food. When he traveled with his friends in the late 1950s, “we were always sick from bad water and couldn’t afford medicine,” he said.

He said he would take charcoal from a campfire, mix it with half a cup of salt in a glass of water and drink the mixture to make him vomit. Over time, he gradually acquired a natural “immunity” to poor quality water, he claims

Even as his business grew, Chouinard continued to minimize both personal and business expenses.

In 1966, Chouinard established a base for his equipment business, Chouinard Equipment, in the rented tin boiler room of an abandoned slaughterhouse of a packing company in California. The company’s first retail store was in an “ugly tin shed” decorated with old wood, he wrote.

Chouinard also had some unorthodox living arrangements.

“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 rocks and low-hanging alpine fir branches.”

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 battered Subaru and has two modest homes in California and Wyoming, the New York Times reported. He doesn’t even own a computer or a mobile phone, according to the publication.



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