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

Priyanka Chopra
Credit: Monica Ahanonu

Priyanka Chopra’s mother is the financial advisor we all need. “Since I was 13 years old, my mom told me, ‘A girl always needs to be financially independent.’ That stuck with me,” the Quantico actress says. Her first modeling paycheck is still framed, and when she began signing major deals as one of India’s most in-demand stars, the elder Chopra insisted that her daughter learn how to invest young. Fast forward: It paid off, big time.

Now, Chopra is an outspoken advocate of pay equality who’s not afraid to ask for what she’s worth. Chopra has seen the wage gap up close—she lost a movie role because of the color of her skin and was once flat-out told she was being paid less than her male costar because she's a woman. "I think negotiating is important," she says. "When I talk money, it starts with me being logical and saying, ‘I deserve that much in remuneration. These are the returns that I see myself bringing to the table.’ And, usually most people come around when you place it like that.”

As hard as she works for her money, Chopra is no ascetic. Her biggest expense is treating herself, “'Cause ain’t nobody else gonna do it!” she says. In her view, that means lots and lots of room service. Here, the actress gets candid about her spending habits—including emotional shopping, that awkward time her credit card was declined, and the indulgences she tends to go a little overboard on.

On her upbringing… I grew up in an environment where a woman led the household when it came to taxes, finance, legal. My mother is very financially acute. My dad wouldn’t even know how much money he made in the month. He was man enough to say, “Listen, my wife does this way better than me.” And nobody even questioned it. So when I came out into the big, bad world of entertainment, I was like, “Oh, well the world’s different than my house!”

On her first paycheck… Babysitting! When I was 12 or 13, I had to babysit her my neighbor's daughter for like an hour after I came back from school. She was 7 and we got along really well, so I was getting paid literally to hang out with my friend. It made me feel really, really important, but I was basically watching TV and gossiping.

On the big spender in her family… My brother, definitely. He’s the youngest and brattiest. He gets away with everything.

On investing… My first few years of working, [my mom] always insisted that you save and you invest for a future. When I was starting my career, she was like, “Let’s buy small properties and rent them as office spaces.” It really paid off for me. Every month, you take a little bit out and invest it. It doesn’t have to be big investments, because I know how hard it is. Five years later, I was like "When did this happen?!"

On emotional shopping… I’m actually really careful with my money. I like to give myself a good life because I’ve worked really hard for it—I like having good homes, good cars, good clothes and shoes. I treat myself, ’cause ain’t nobody else going to do it! Maybe I’m a little too indulgent sometimes. I burn a little bit of plastic if I’m feeling emotional. And when I mean burn plastic, I don’t go, like, shopping at Saks. I’ll buy a car.

One being the well-off one in her circle of friends… What I don’t do is apologize for where I am or patronize them by suddenly not having my car and my driver. But at the same time, I’m not someone who flashes my money. I won’t be, like, “I want to go to blah, blah for a holiday,” knowing that my friends won’t be able to. I won’t travel first class knowing that my friends won’t be able to. We find things we all can do together on the same level.

On her most frequent luxury… Incredible room service and housekeeping. I’m blessed—it’s a very frequent luxury. Yeah, I get it very frequently.

On splitting the bill on a date… That’s so tricky. I don’t, and I’ll tell you why. As much as I’m a feminist and I don’t want to walk into a date assuming that a guy should pay, you don’t know where the other person is coming from. I don’t know if I would emasculate his whole vibe if I’m like, "Here’s my credit card." I’m a little old school, so I would say no. Once you get to know someone, then it’s absolutely cool.

On her credit card being declined… It was very embarrassing because I spent a lot of money. I was traveling between countries, and I was mortified. Thankfully, I have more than one credit card. Otherwise I’d be washing dishes somewhere.

On the best thing money can buy… Security. And for me, my money buys me my indulgence.

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On who checks her credit card statements… I do. And because my mom is the CFO of my company, she does. I’ll get a call from my mom sometimes, and she’s like, “Ohh new shoes, huh?” if it’s ginormous. She’ll never say no, but she’ll flag it to me so I know that she knows!

On her first savings account… When I was 16 or 17, I was just about to start working and I got one modeling job. I got a check, and my mom was like, “There’s no way in the world I’m cashing this.” I was very proud. I still have that check. It was framed in my mom's house for a very long time. I don't know where it is now. But that’s when we went to the bank, and she’s like, “This is your first savings account.”

On retirement… Girl, I’m in my 30s. I haven’t even thought about that yet! No, I do. I started when I started working because my mom is very sensible when it comes to money so there was always a we’ll-touch-it-later fund. It happens automatically now because the system was put in place, but it’s not something that’s prevalent in my mind.