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

By Samantha Simon
May 24, 2018 @ 9:00 am
Monica Ahanonu

Debi Mazar has been steadily working in Hollywood for three decades, but the Younger star’s budgeting struggles are more relatable than you'd imagine. "I’m trying to hold onto my money now more than ever," the 53-year-old mom of two tells InStyle. "I don’t make that much at this point in my career. I’m not a A-list actress, and other than the top 100 global stars who make millions of dollars, actors aren’t paid as much as we used to be. We work for a while and then we don’t, so we really have to stretch our money out. I’m always stretching." 

While building her career, the famously outspoken Mazar looked out for herself financially—which meant she wasn’t about to put the fate of her paychecks in anyone else’s hands. “I’ve always negotiated my own way to a degree, even early on as an actor,” she says. “I’ve fired agents and told them that unless they bring me material, they’re not getting a percentage of my other work. I know how things go in this business—and that’s why that I don’t currently have an agent.”

Many actresses would balk at the idea of taking meetings without an agent’s guidance, but Mazar—who also starred on Entourage for seven years—learned to be her own champion at a young age. “I grew up with a New York edge, and I’m very no-bullshit,” she says. “I keep it real, and that’s worked for me. It’s called street hustling.”

Her current gig on Youngerwhich returns to TV Land on June 5—may be the exception: “I’m part of an ensemble cast; I’m not the lead and I didn’t write it, so I play by the rules and I do my job,” says Mazar, who portrays fan-favorite Maggie, an artist who shares a Williamsburg loft with her BFF Liza (Sutton Foster). In real life, Mazar hasn’t been as lucky in the roommate department. “I once had the roommate from hell,” she says. “She slept with my boyfriend, constantly borrowed my stuff, and was just a mean, horrible girl. I’ve had others that weren’t as bad, but really, unless I’m sleeping with you, I don’t want to live with you. I love to have my space.”

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These days, Mazar splits her time between her native New York City and her home in the Italian countryside. She dreams of owning more real estate but has higher financial priorities at the moment—namely her teenage daughters' college expenses and her personal anti-aging fund. “I’m thinking about whether or not I’m going to want to facelift down the road or plastic surgery,” she says. “I’m pretty sure I’ll hit a certain point where I’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘Oh shit! When did that happen?’ I don’t know if I’ll age gracefully later on, so I have a little ‘fuck you’ beauty money put away. It’s just something I’m thinking about, but it’s definitely a possibility.”

Read on for Mazar’s biggest financial regrets, her frugal guidelines, and the craziest thing she’s done to get paid (it’s a shocker).

On conning her way into a job… I lied and became a dental assistant. I had seen an ad in the New York Times that said you could make a lot of money if you worked at this dental office on Madison Avenue. So I acted like I had experience and basically auditioned, like an actress. I got the job, I got my uniform—I pretty much cut my nurse's outfit up to my crotch. The dentist said, “Okay, pass the such and such instrument,” and I went blank. I said, “Um … the picker?” I did make some nice money in the end, but I couldn’t stay there because I didn’t want to see tooth extractions. It was definitely the most unappealing job I’ve ever had. Seeing people’s teeth is pretty gross, especially first thing in the morning. But, the truth of the matter is that I’ve cleaned people’s houses and scrubbed toilets to get paid, too. I don’t care; I have no shame.

On her financial upbringing… I didn’t learn anything from my parents about money. In fact, what I did learn from my parents is that I didn’t want to be like them—I wanted to save money and make money. My parents were hippies. My father’s dead—may he rest in peace—and my mother’s never been good with money. She even sold things in our home. But my grandmother was always smart. She invested, bought stocks, and was a workaholic.

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On what she invests in... I’ve always liked to be secure. I don’t want to depend on a man or anybody for my money. I just work and stash it away or I buy real estate, art, or jewels—things that I can flip.

On her biggest money savers… I’m frugal. I do spend money on [fashion] pieces, but I always try to get the money back. Or I’ll be like, “I’m wearing this for press, you’ve got to pay for it.” I’m a bitch that way. I love the idea that I can go to a store like Zara or H&M and buy something that’s kind of in fashion. I’ve gotten very thrifty on food waste. I would fill up the fridge and then things would go to waste, so I’m very frugal with grocery shopping now. My kids are like, “There’s nothing in the house!” I save on energy, too. I use energy-saving light bulbs and turn things off when they’re not being used. I’ll tell the kids that they don’t need to sleep with the air conditioner on, and they’re like, “Yes, I do!” And I’m like, “No, you don’t! You’re not paying for this, I am!”

On her biggest money mistake… I hired an accountant who took my money. I didn’t grow up with money, so I had shame when I was younger. People would say, “Let’s go to dinner,” and I’d say that I couldn’t because I didn’t want people to have to pay for me. For many years, I would hide that. Really, my biggest mistake was not buying property earlier. It’s impossible to own anything in New York now. I did have the money to do it at one point, but I’m a bit of a gypsy spirit. I like to move around. Right now I own one property, a 12th-century villa in Tuscany. My husband’s from Italy, and that’s where I’m headed eventually.

On public transportation… I love the subway. I take it every day. I was with a famous graffiti artist for eight years of my life, so I have a real history with the subway. I want to be Miss Subway, which no longer exists. I have graffiti name plates, and I have subway tokens on my necklaces that are from the year that I was born, 1964. We take Ubers and Lyfts, too, and I love driving myself, but you can’t park anywhere. So I drive a lot on Sunday when parking is free. My kids get in the car early and we hit lower Broadway: Zara, H&M, American Eagle, or whatever so we can get some new outfits.

On her retirement plans… Hopefully this administration won’t destroy our social security and retirement funds and all that stuff. I’ve been working hard to put that money aside, and it gets taken out of each paycheck. Then I’m figuring out what to sell, how to size down, and what to buy for later. My husband was thinking about getting an elevator put in our house because my knees might be bad someday. I was like, “You’re a fucking asshole.” But he was like, “When you’re old, I don’t think you’re going to get up those steps.” I said, “Well, neither will you!” We ended up switching houses—his mom is going to let us have her house instead, and it’s one level.

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On the best thing money can buy… Travel and stability. Money can’t buy you health and money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you vacations, the ability to be a collector, the ability to help other people.

On her accounting neuroses… I like paper. I keep a check book. I keep track of everything. I’m like a bookie. I make my kids give me receipts. I go, “Okay, here’s 20 bucks. It’s going to last you at least two days and I want to see receipts of what you bought. I don't care if you got a sandwich. I want to know what you’re spending my money on, and I also want to know what you’re eating.” It’s a good way for me to keep track of what they’re doing. Well, it’s a little bit of a neuroses, but it works for me and they learn the value of the dollar.

On paying it forward… I give my clothes away to my girlfriends. I don’t have time to sell them myself, and I don’t want to deal with consignment. I don’t want to be an eBay best-rated seller or to deal with people in general, so I give my stuff away to people in need.

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On carrying cash… Always! I prefer to pay for things in cash. Of course I use my credit card sometimes, but if you pay with your credit card you’re putting yourself in debt. Or I whip that check book out. I never use Venmo, because then you have to disclose everything. I can hide stuff with cash—you don’t have to show everything and there’s no tracking when it comes to your taxes, and big brother looking at everything you do. I have nothing to hide—I just don’t like being watched.

On her most-regretted purchase… I regret most of the things I’ve bought, actually. I have so many things that I just don’t need, and they depreciate. For instance, shoes are the one thing I love. They’re beautiful. But I don’t want to deal with selling them. I’m trying to figure out how someone can sell them for me.

On seller's remorse... I sold a house in Los Angeles that I loved. It was my nest, and I wish I hadn’t sold it. But, like I said, I’m a gypsy. It was time to move, and I wanted to be back home in New York.

On demanding her worth... I’m a TV producer so I’m good at standing up for myself. I wouldn’t say that I’m cutthroat ambitious, but I write my own way of how I want to do stuff.