Money Talks, and so should we. Here, powerful women get real about their spending and saving habits.

Ashley Benson
Credit: Monica Ahanonu

If you need a thrift-shopping wingwoman, call Ashley Benson. The 28-year-old Pretty Little Liars actress is a second-hand fashion savant. “When it comes to shopping, I’m usually at vintage store or consignment stores, and I try to bargain them down to the penny,” she says, explaining that she’ll rarely overspend on clothes. “I’m very careful with my money.” (Though her first paycheck at age 6? She blew it all on Barbies.)

Best known for her role as Hanna on PLL — and about to make her directorial debut this fall on PLL spinoff The Perfectionists — Benson also makes a point to share posts about brand partnerships with her whopping 18.6 million Instagram followers between projects, including a new collab with SmartyPaws dog supplements. “Being able to partner with great companies is a great way to make money,” she says. “But also one of the reasons I partnered with SmartyPaws is because I’m a weird dog lover obsessed with my dogs, and for every bag purchased, they make a donation to the Humane Society to help other dogs.”

Benson’s own beloved pups, Olive and Walter Gene (yeah, he’s got a middle name, so what?) are no strangers to the Internet either. The actress routinely shouts them out on her social media channels and admits that they’re probably her biggest expense (dog clothes are just too good).

Her #influencer side hustle has also granted her more freedom to pursue passion projects. “I kind of steer more into indie films,” Benson says. “I get to play very different than what people have seen me on PLL.” When it comes to her screen career, she’d rather be selective than take every job that comes her way. “I’d rather just focus on one that makes a big impact.”

Here, Benson opens up about her money-making philosophy, thrift-shopping hacks, and the “weird” frequent luxury she’ll never quit.

On what her family taught her about money… My father never spent his money, nor did my grandfather, so I’ve always had that kind of mentality. I don’t really splurge at all. If I do, it’s very out of the blue.

On her thrift-shopping rule... I wear a lot of black, a lot of band T-shirts and cool jackets, but it just depends on what I like. If I can get a really cool thing for $30-$40 that would normally be over $100, then I’ll take it. I love a good bargain. I love Marshalls and TJ Maxx, or a great find at Goodwill. I always want to look great, but I don’t have the time or energy and, frankly, desire to spend money on clothes. I do, however, splurge on bags. I just bought this Givenchy purse – it’s really chic. I love it and wear it every day. If I make a big purchase, I will really use it.

On her first paycheck… My first paycheck, I think, was about $100 for modeling [when I was 6 years old]. I went to Toys R’ Us and bought a bunch of Barbies with it.

On her biggest money mistake... Let’s just say, don’t make a big purchase when you’re going through a rough time – like a break up, for example. I ended up making a bad investment and lost a lot of money. It wasn’t a wise decision; I should have just cut my hair.

On her biggest splurge... I splurged on a house in LA. I bought it because I missed living in LA, and I love to invest in real estate. That’s basically where I invest all of my money. I don’t spend on clothes, but real estate, I think, is a great investment. I like to buy houses and flip them. I bought a place in New York and am looking to buy another place in NYC somewhere and flip it. My grandfather and I have bought apartment complexes; we’ve bought a few houses in the South, and it’s kind of a fun family thing to do with my grandfather. It’s taught me a lot about building equity in something.

On balancing blockbusters with passion projects... One [film] that I didn’t get paid for — really, at all — was Spring Breakers, which turned out to be one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done. In the indie film world, I would rather get paid [next to] nothing to work with someone like Harmony Korine and have an amazing experience and the outcome be an incredible film I’m really proud of.

On negotiating… I have a lawyer who does that. I wouldn’t know what to say. I’m very much involved with the whole process, but they do all the wording and negotiating.

On her oddest money habit… I spend a lot of money on my dogs, weirdly. I got them little raincoats, and I go to these really chic stores in New York that are way too expensive. If my dogs can walk outside in a raincoat that looks super chic, then I’m happy.

VIDEO: This Health Condition Caused PLL Star Sasha Pieterse’s 70-Pound Weight Gain

On her spending philosophy… I’m very careful with my money. I spend it on things that are more profitable, rather than clothes or bags. I’d rather save everything.

On what she wishes she knew 10 years ago... Money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to work hard for it and save! And have smart people around you that will help guide you about investments.

On what’s next… The movie I just did, called Her Smell. It’ll come out some time next year, I assume, for the festival circuit. And I’m actually directing an episode of the PLL spinoff The Perfectionists in the fall, which will be my first time directing, which is super-exciting.