Zooey Deschanel Never Pays Late Fees and 5 Other Smart Money Lessons From Celebrities


When you're Angelina Jolie and have Brad Pitt by your side, you can make anything look good.

That's why Angelina spent a measly $26 on a velvet dress at a thrift shop for a major movie premiere. She is a good example of taking charge of your finances: while raking in the big bucks as the face of an American fashion brand, St John, she saved by dropping tags at the thrift shop. (See also: The Surprisingly Frugal Lifestyles of 12 Famous Superheroes)

So crank up the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and let's learn some smart money lessons from six of our favorite celebrities.

1. Winona Ryder

If you think that a $26 dress is cheap, wait until you hear the price range for Winona Ryder. The star of Beetlejuice and Girl, Interrupted confesses to wearing $10 dresses to star-studded ceremonies. But that's not at all. In an interview with Red Magazine she admits that she wore the same dress from a 2005 film premiere to Sean Penn's Haiti gala in 2014. Winona wears a dress until it falls apart.

Smart Money Lesson: In her own words, "I know that's kind of a no-no in the fashion world, but why wear something just once if you love it?" Don't become a fashion victim and avoid buying new clothes every single season.

2. Zooey Deschanel

If you're making $9 million annually (including a cool $95,000 to $125,000 per episode of New Girl), you'd expect to get an invitation from the ultra exclusive American Express Centurion Card, aka "The Black Card." Well, not Zooey Deschanel. In court papers from her 2012 divorce with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, the actress/musician revealed that she has three credit cards and all with zero balance. Even more, two of her cards have a maximum credit line of $2,000 and one just $1,000. With a monthly budget of $500 for dining out, Zooey must be paying all meals with cash.

Smart Money Lesson: Have a credit card for emergency uses only. If you have to use it, pay the balance in full every month.

3. Tobey Maguire

Not just the ladies are frugal. For example, take the original Mr. Spiderman. While Tobey Maguire is estimated to have a net worth of $75 million, he is just comfortable wearing jeans and T-shirts. Google for non-gala pictures of him and all you will see are clothes that your neighbor down the street would wear. Tobey got his frugal mentality from his rough childhood. The star of The Great Gatsby confesses that his family lived on food stamps, used government medical insurance, and even had to wander into shelters every now and then. This explains why he is so structured in his spending and doesn't spend in frivolities.

Smart Money Lesson: Don't live beyond your means. Tobey explains his frugal philosophy: "I just never wanted to put myself in the position where my spending was so huge that I had to keep making movie after movie."

4. Mindy Kaling

The super funny comedienne is a great example of how to tame shopping addiction. Like plenty of people, Mindy loves to shop 'til she drops. She confesses to have even memorized her credit card number so that she can shop online anytime, anywhere up to three times a week. However, she keeps herself in check by forcing herself to return about 75% of what she buys. Also, she is a big believer in sharing clothes with her girlfriends. In her book, Is Everyone Hanging Without with Me?, she insists that best friends can borrow from each other anything in their closet, no matter how fancy. (See also: Refresh Your Wardrobe for $25 or Less)

Smart Money Lesson: If you have a shopping habit, kick it by returning clothes as much as possible and sharing cool clothes with your friends.

5. Kristen Bell

If somebody has the highest probability of leaving Hollywood and becoming the next host of Extreme Couponing, that has got to be actress Kristen Bell. On an interview with Conan O'Brien, she reveals: "I shop almost exclusively with coupons". Like most of us, Kristen is a major fan of big box retailers, especially Bed Bath & Beyond and is a major fan of its 20% discount coupon. Just the thought of saving $80 on a purchase puts Kristen in an ecstatic mood!

Smart Money Lesson: Whenever you need to shop, first look for coupons to maximize your savings.

6. Vincent Kartheiser

Another famous male celebrity is mindful of living on a budget is Vincent Kartheiser. Even though he plays an upper class slick ad salesman in Mad Men, Vincent is one of the 10% of Angelenos that relies only on public transportation. Yup, this big time actor doesn't own a car. He believes using public transportation is wonderful. "Instead of driving and being stressed out about traffic, you can work your scene, you can do your exercises or whatever on the bus. Everyone's got their own deal." Vincent is not alone: the average American household now owns fewer cars, returning to the levels of the early 1990s.

Smart Money Lesson: Consider consolidating into a single car and increasing your use of public transportation. You'll save on gas, create an opportunity to relax, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Any thrifty celebrities I've missed? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

Don't return clothes. What a horrible, selfish idea. How is this idea in any way financially responsible or ethical? If you aren't going to want what you buy, don't treat checkout as a way to try them at home first. Just don't. buy. the clothes.

Now they've been stuffed in a bag, wadded up, wrinkled, and possibly gotten dirty. IF the retailer can resell them, they will have to clean them up or sell them at a loss on the clearance rack. And if you wait long enough, the retailer has spent the money you gave them to pay for more clothes (and this is especially true for smaller retailers and online shops where they may be a one-man show.) And now they have to pay out of a deficit to cover your return; a payment they will probably not recoup.

(For the record, I have a shop on Etsy, and more and more "Buy and then decide what I want" seems to be the shopping mantra. And some people have waited *days* to ask for a cancellation, in which case their items are already on their way. This costs me a lot of money out of pocket, between leftover processing fees and shipping fees, as well as the time that the product is unavailable to sell to someone else while it's traveling the US. Since my husband's income just covers the bills, this is our grocery and clothing budget I'm working for, so it's frustrating.)

Damian Davila's picture

Hi Guest, thank you for your comments. What are your current return policies? Would modifying them to your preference be helpful to establish clear parameters for processing returns with your buyers? I sell online as well through Amazon and eBay, and I provide them clear guidelines for returns and refunds so that we are all on the same page. Cheers, Damian

Guest's picture

Hi Damien,

Thanks for your response. My return policies are clear and fairly strict because of the nature of the items I sell, but as you well know, I have to go along with the rules of the site I use to host my shop as well as the rules regarding returns through Paypal and credit card processors, and often have to take returns on items my policies say I cannot return for sanitary issues even though I can't resell them (I sell personal care items and soap.) Thus the interaction costs me money.

My complaint was not that people return goods - I realize that sometimes it's not a good fit, or money issues cause trouble, or any other number of scenarios.

My complaint was that the article suggested that Ms. Kaling's habit of purposefully buying clothing with the intent of returning most of it was a good money saving trick. It may be for the buyer, but it doesn't take into account the other entity in the equation. Thoughtlessness or selfishness to save money isn't thrift, as other Wise Bread articles have often stated. And for small businesses, enough people with this mindset could cost a lot of money.

But, anyway, I did enjoy the rest of the article, and I found it interesting (and heartening!) that there are people out there I've admired for their acting/singing that have their feet on the ground and are planning ahead. :)

Damian Davila's picture

Hi Guest,
Thank you for sharing your story. I know what you mean about achieving the right balance between site policies and your own. Best of luck in your sale of personal care items and glad to hear you enjoyed the article. I appreciate the feedback.

Guest's picture

I agree with the first guest regarding "recycle by returning most of your clothing purchases." That is a really despicable idea.

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