Inside The Frugal Life Of Fmr. President Jimmy Carter

Credit: The Carter Center, YouTube / Good Morning America

The 39th president of the United States was born in a rural Georgia town – 96 years ago – and following his term leading the country, he returned there…to live a modest life unlike those of his colleagues.

The former president and his wife of 75 years, Rosalynn, returned to their beloved hometown after Ronald Reagan won the election in 1980. At the time, Carter was just 56 years old.

The Washington Post spoke with Jimmy and Rosalynn about their post-presidency lives in 2018. Upon returning home to Plains, Georgia, the Carters faced an immense financial burden.

“We thought we were going to lose everything,” Rosalynn explained.

The couple came home to a formerly-prosperous peanut business that had been burdened by over a million dollars in debt and had to be sold.

When Carter first entered the White House, he pledged to “free himself of any possible conflict” and turned over his successful peanut business to a blind trust.

The Eugene Register-Guard quoted him in 1977 when he shunned the idea of profiting off the Presidential Office – “I don’t want to have any decision I make as President have any effect on my income.”

Since leaving the office, Carter has taken a very similar stance, rebuffing the idea of incredibly profitable speaking engagements and other high-dollar positions often conducted by his colleagues.

Instead, he chose to write books and live a modest, but comfortable life. And both he and Rosalynn have found themselves to be incredibly happy and fulfilled by those choices.

Carter’s life after office is one filled with firsts. He is the first modern president to return home full-time, was the first president to be born in a hospital,  is the oldest living former president, and has lived longer than any other American president.

Having returned home over four decades ago, he and Rosalynn have settled into a simple, but joyful routine. A frugal person who grew up during the Great Depression, the pair still live in the home they built in 1961. Its assessed value is just $167,000 – even less than the median home in Georgia.

Their weekend enjoyment comes from their visits with friends and neighbors and they often walk half a mile to their close friend Jill Stuckey’s home for dinner. They talk and laugh and dine on paper plates and plastic solo cups. Having a glass of bargain-bin wine each and enjoying the company of one another.

Then, the Carters (joined by several Secret Service agents) dab on some bug repellant and make their way home, walking the half-mile length for the second time that night.

Among their frugal weekend dinners with friends, the couple also makes their own yogurt and even frequent the local Dollar General. Furthermore, they almost always fly commercial.

In the end, Carter’s presidency and his continued life after his presidency have been some of the most favorable for the American taxpayer. The annual bill for his time in office was estimated to be $456K, while Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama all drew bills of more than $1M each.

Watch PBS’ special in honor of The Carter’s 75th wedding anniversary below.