Jonathan Van Ness Always Asks Himself This One Question Before Making a Purchase
Money Talks, and so should we. Here, powerful people get real about their spending and saving habits.
Does the thought of purchasing a house or saving for retirement make you feel a tad overwhelmed? Well, then it’s likely you’d find a friend in Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness, since the star felt the exact same way throughout his early 20s. In fact, he still doesn’t feel completely comfortable talking all things money — which is part of the reason why he's pushing himself to learn more. The star recently partnered with Credit Karma, a site and app helps you keep track of your credit score, organize personal finances, and file your tax returns among a bunch of other sometimes-intimidating, always-important stuff.
"It's nerve wracking, and I was like, I'm not the most experienced one," Van Ness admits to InStyle over the phone, discussing his new gig. "Like, I definitely would not be the one to ask, ‘Should I put this money down for like shoes or for my retirement?’ Ask Suze Orman about that — I'm obsessed with her."
However, it was actually Van Ness's time on his hit Netflix show that convinced him to give it a go.
"I think one thing I've really learned from my experience with Queer Eye is, like, knowing that we can use our strengths from different areas to strengthen a weak spot," he explains. "For me, wanting to talk about finances and knowing what was happening with my financial life, that was something I kind of didn't want [to deal with]. I was like, ‘Oh I'll figure it out later.’ But something like self-care always came naturally to me and wasn't really a negotiable. But then I was like, let's bring a little self-care into this financial space and maybe we can, like, cross both of the wires in our brain. Like, ‘Oh, we can just think of it like how we think of self care.’ Like, it's just something that we do.”
Having Credit Karma's tools at hand has helped him keep track of overspending, and save for the future.
"Once you have everything in one place, you can see, 'Ok, I need to save this percent, this is where this is going, this is what this is doing. It feels less intimidating and less threatening," he says.
Of course, while Van Ness says he's far from a financial pro — he says he "just developed a checking account like, last year" — he did chat with us about his money mistakes, why (and what) you should tip your hairdresser, and the items he can't stop splurging on.
On the lesson he learned as a small business owner... “I think that my biggest issue [when opening my salon], and still continues to be, was splurging on things for now that are fun, but that take away from your ability to save for a house or save for retirement — both of which I've made really, really tremendous progress on.
"Part of that is because I've worked really hard and had success, but I still feel like that’s something I struggle with. Like, I can totally see myself spending all my money on shoes and ending up in my mom's basement. Not literally, because I have grown up. But, you know, you've got to keep your eyes open on that. I think before I started working so hard, like in my earlier twenties, I would be like, ‘Oh my gosh I really need a vacation on my credit card.’ And I don't do those things now.”
On what he cuts back on to save money... “Cooking at home is a major way to saving money. I love having, like, a little beer or a little drink here and there, but alcohol is so expensive when you eat out at a restaurant and go out. So, I think limiting eating out and drinking is a great way to kind of limit splurges."
On keeping shopping under control... "I mean, I love to shop, but I just don't go as often, and I don't flash back and say 'I'm going to get everything I love.' It's like, ‘Do I really need that?’ I just try to think critically, because obviously when we splurge and we do things, it does feel good. But there's a chemical reason in our brains for why that feels good, and it's like a cycle, and it's short-lived.”
On being a homebody... “As far as balance goes, I know how to go out and have social time when I need it. Some of it is necessary, like for work. But if I'm done with work at like 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., as many nights as I can, I will definitely go home and get that alone time, and spend time with my cats, cook, and watch TV. Just kind of have that unplugged, quiet downtime. Nothing against going out, but it's definitely something I can't work into my schedule. You don't see me on every single red carpet and at every single party. I definitely am someone who, at 10 p.m. at night, is fighting to stay awake if I'm out in public for some reason. Unless I'm doing a show, because then I have so much adrenaline. But I really leave it on the dance floor every day, because I do have so many projects going on. So getting that quiet time at night is important.”
On the items he can’t stop splurging on... “A good shoe. Or a good dress. Or a good skirt. Or a good piece of fashion. Ohh! Really, stuff to make me feel gorgeous — it's just hard to say no.”
On his investment pieces... “There have been certain things, like that gorgeous rainbow Burberry poncho that I wore on Queer Eye. That kind of feels like an investment piece. I don't really wear that out and it’s something that's really special to me. I saw it and I loved it, and Burberry was always so iconic to me. I never thought it would be something that I would be able to splurge on — but also, I would never splurge on it twice, so I'm not real hard on her. But there are some things that I actually splurged on when we were doing Queer Eye in Japan — finding these vintage, beautiful Celine bags and Chanel bags in a lot of these really cool vintage stores in Tokyo. And giving that to my mom was really fun. I think bags and shoes. But I'm harder on my shoes than my bags, because I'm a six-foot-tall person who likes to wear designer heels that I think were made for…people that have feet as big as mine, but like maybe aren’t 200 pounds. Or maybe I just need to find a better made heel.”
On secondhand shopping... “Love a secondhand shop. Always have, always will, still do. But even that can get kind of out of control if it's like, unique secondhand stuff, you know? Like a hard to find item. All those secondhand stores, even when they're just a baby basement one, it can still be like Target in the sense that you're like, ‘I came in here for a top, but I like, I accidentally got a whole garden of clothes.’ That's the great thing about Credit Karma — you can see where your money is going, so you can see what you really need to peel back on.”
On whether he's inspired others to shop:
“Definitely, yes. Whether it's like sulfate-free shampoo, or a green stick, or self-care items, or sunscreen, or heels. A lot of people have been like, 'Oh, I bought my first pair of heels,' which always warms my heart.”
On the trends he’s loving for summer... “I definitely think that the longer I've been in the beauty industry, the more that I realize there are always different people that are into different trends, and fashions, and different ways of expressing their style, whether that's through hair and makeup, through fashion, or whatever. Being on camera more, I’ve just been styling [my hair] a lot, so I'm trying to do more air drying, more wavy, and kind of embrace my natural texture more. Also, like, I'm really into my [stache] still, but sometimes I'm like, I don't know, do I feel like having less for summer? Like, who knows?”
On tipping your hairdressers... “Hairdressers are such hard working people, and it is definitely a business where people are like, ‘Well, why do I need to tip them?’ Well, it's because as a hairdresser, you don't get paid just for showing up to work. You’re self-employed. You're only making money if there's a butt in your chair. I love working with people, I love doing hair, but if you could imagine, like, people have tough hair, you know? People have really dark hair, they want it really light and they want it really quick. People have a lot of expectations of hairdressers. We're friends, we're your therapist, we're your confidante. We're also your personal chemist to make sure that your hair is in good working order. I also think that — this is the same topic, but different — when I did hair 24/7, behind the chair for 13 years, I always said once I've done your hair two or three times, that's when we really got it perfect. You have to remember that if you have hair that's down to your chin or lower, we're talking about hair that's been on your head for years, and it went through several other hairdressers prior. So, giving your hairdresser time to learn your hair and having a consultation is really important to being happy with your hair long-term. Now I don't even remember what the original question was. Tip your hairdresser, damnit! Tip them better, henny!”
On how much to tip in general... “Never below 20 percent. But I also I just like to pass it forward, so I like to give good tips.”
On splurging on a big vacation... “I want to take my whole family somewhere for, like, Christmas and New Year's. It's really kind of selfish, though, because I live here in New York. I used to live in L.A., so when I would go home, that would be my winter blast. Now I'm in New York and I'm like, let's go like, let's go to Florida. Let's go to Hawaii or something.”