Zooey Deschanel's Budget: What She Could Do Differently

Zooey Deschanel's Budget: What She Could Do Differently

It’s bad enough having your divorce discussed in weekly magazines, but the way you set up a budget, too?

When Zooey Deschanel and her husband, Ben Gibbard, lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie, filed for divorce last month, her lawyer filed an income and expense declaration—revealing, in other words, her current budget and overall net worth. (You can see your own numbers by signing up for free in the LearnVest My Money Center.)

To see how the “New Girl” star was faring financially—and give her some helpful tips—we sat down with Mina Black, a LearnVest Money Coach and Financial Planner, and had her analyze the actress’s budget.

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The Stats

Zooey was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her role on the sitcom “New Girl.” Here are the basic details about her finances:

  • $95,000 per month in income
  • Owner of property worth $693,000
  • $48,000 was paid toward her mortgage this year
  • About $1.6 million in the bank
  • $1.6 million in stocks, bonds and investment accounts
  • Monthly expenses of about $22,500
  • Three credit cards, all of which are paid off in full each month

What Mina Says:

As a LearnVest Financial Planner, I tell my clients that a healthy budget is split up into a 50/30/20 ratio: 50% toward essentials like housing, utilities and transportation; 30% to discretionary (or “fun”) spending that we call "lifestyle choices"; and 20% toward financial priorities like savings and debt repayment.


My general assessment is that Zooey is a very frugal and smart young star. As you can see, Zooey is keeping her lifestyle choices, essential expenses and financial priorities to less than 50% of her budget. The rest, which is unaccounted for by the documents released, is probably being put toward savings and investments. And she's already made big steps in building up those categories, discussed below.

Of course, people will say it's pretty easy to keep your expenses to such a low percentage if you're a celeb making $95,000 each month. But to put this in perspective, it was revealed in 2007 that Britney Spears made over $700,000 per month ... and spent every penny of it. Not so frugal.

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Her Housing

Zooey's only debt is her mortgage. And despite bringing home a major salary—$1.1 million this year—she appears to have been very conservative on the real estate front. She’s not living in one of those crazy palaces you see in People magazine ... a $693,000 home seems pretty reasonable for a celebrity living in Hollywood. Frugal decision-making like that allows her to keep her essential expenses to a minimum.

Food and Dining Out

Zooey has declared that she only spends $125 each week on dining out—which is a lot lower than some of the numbers I see for clients who are not celebrities! But she spends $1,000 per month on groceries. That’s far higher than LearnVest recommends (no matter what your income, we generally advise that people spend no more than $300 for one person on groceries each month). Maybe she's buying a ton of truffles (of the mushroom variety, not Lindor) or entertaining at home a lot, since she's not spending that much money dining out. Alternatively, she shops at very pricey grocery stores—possible, given that she lives in an expensive city.

RELATED: How to Set Up a Budget for a Divorce


Another number that surprised me: Zooey reportedly spends only $2,000 on clothing per month. Her monthly net income is somewhere around $48,000, so that's 4% of her income. Given that showing up in designer clothes to events is practically part of her job description, I would have thought she would be spending more on clothing. Mind you, for a normal person, 4% on clothing each month would be absolutely exorbitant. But since she's so frugal in other categories, for her, it's OK.

How Does Your Life Balance Out?

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Zooey gives $1,500 to charities each month. While that’s a significant chunk of change, it doesn’t add up to a huge percentage of her yearly income—just 2%. The average high-income individual in the U.S. donates about 3-4% to charities each year. Zooey is clearly devoted to giving, as her donations add up to $18,000 each year, but she could still afford to give a little more. That said, charity is definitely a personal choice! (Here's a way you can budget for giving all year long.)


As we mentioned above, Zooey has 51% of her income left over each month after her expenses. She already has over $3 million in savings and investment accounts (so we can pretty safely assume she's also maxing out her retirement accounts). Because she's in such a volatile industry, it's smart for her to continue saving for a rainy day when she might not be such a hot new star. That said, she can start having a little more fun with her money and keep saving.

RELATED: How to Set Up a Budget With the 50/20/30 Rule

With the 51% left over, she could put 20% toward savings and investments, which would still be significant. Then, with the other 31%, she could start having a little fun. Remember, at LearnVest, we're all about living life richly and getting the maximum from your money.

RELATED: How Much of My Paycheck Should I Save Each Month?

Clearly, she's already built up her emergency fund. Now, as long as she keeps hitting her target savings goals, she can stand to spend a little more ... and enjoy it!

More From LearnVest

Check out the one thing Kim Kardashian did right with regard to her divorce.
Did Heidi Klum's success lead to her breakup with Seal? Find out.
See the $3.65 million home that Scarlett Johansson put on the market after her divorce from Ryan Reynolds.

Image Credit: Flickr/breezy421


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